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Accusations of treachery, rape, incest, and murder: almost five centuries have passed since Cesare Borgia's death, and his reputation still casts a sinister shadow. Yet the real man was a mesmerizing figure who inspired Machiavelli's classic The Prince. During the brief space of time when he occupied the stage, he shocked and stunned his contemporaries with his lofty ambitAccusations of treachery, rape, incest, and murder: almost five centuries have passed since Cesare Borgia's death, and his reputation still casts a sinister shadow. Yet the real man was a mesmerizing figure who inspired Machiavelli's classic The Prince. During the brief space of time when he occupied the stage, he shocked and stunned his contemporaries with his lofty ambitions and daring, becoming the most feared, hated, and envied man of his day. By 31 he was dead: his story assumes the proportions of Greek tragedy....

Title : Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times
Author :
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ISBN : 9781842124529
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Cesare Borgia: His Life and Times Reviews

  • Caroline
    2018-10-06 14:09

    I am probably the most biased person to ever review any book concerning the Borgias. I think that they were a magnificent, fascinating, and amoral family; a family capable of intense love and intense brutality. They might be my favorite historical family of all time--and believe me, I take a great interest in many, many dynasties. The two most famous Borgias, Cesare and Lucrezia, are particularly captivating, for me and the rest of the world. I can't seem to shake this fixation on two such mercurial, tragic figures. And yes, even Cesare, for all of his deplorable acts, was tragic. Perhaps he was the most tragic of them all, and this biography does an excellent job of illustrating why.When we think Cesare Borgia, we think of evil, of incest, of Machiavelli's "The Prince". We as a society have come to despise ambition--and ambition was Cesare's principle trait. He wanted more for himself than anyone else in the world; and he genuinely believed that he was the right person to unite and rule Italy. (In that respect, he may not have been off. For all of his evils, Cesare was immensely capable.) Cesare was a walking contradiction. He was likely an atheist, yet seemed to believe almost religiously in Fortuna, and in his own ability. He was known for being cold and detached, not blinking an eye at betraying men he'd known for years, or keeping his father in the dark about extremely important events. Yet at the same time, he adored his sister above all others, and would disregard his plans to spend hours at her sickbed. He could go his whole life confident and sure of himself, and within hours dissolve into a nervous breakdown that would leave Machiavelli wondering if he'd completely misjudged him.This man--above any other individual in his family--experienced such a Shakespearean rise and fall that it doesn't seem real. How could someone reach such meteoric heights--only to fall in even less time? How could someone the world feared die in obscurity, with only his devoted sister to truly mourn him? How could someone so feared and hated retain the loyalty of servants and those he'd harmed? Machiavelli himself was stumped by Cesare, by the irrationality of his fall--he could only chalk it up to fate.Sarah Bradford approaches the subject of Cesare Borgia as both a historian and a storyteller, and that is why her biography is so good. She peers into the baffling pyschology of this man, of his wants and desires. She appreciates what he could have been--the greatest man in Italian history--and what he is--someone who left virtually no mark on the world. She misses no part of Valentino's life. "Cesare Borgia" is not only extremely readable but valuable to anyone wishing to study this remarkable man and his family.

  • Marquise
    2018-10-01 10:52

    I wasn't planning on reading anything related to the Borgias this year, because I lean towards shying away like a scalded cat from this topic due to the lack of seriousness and sensationalism surrounding this family in HF. But then, I found Fuyumi Soryo's excellent historical Manga series Cesare, and felt the need to go back into the true story to complement the fictional one, and this thorough biography by Sarah Bradford crossed my path. And it turned out to be more enjoyable and informative than suspected from the sample I'd read before deciding to pick it up. Cesare Borgia is, beyond whatever reactions his controversial figure may arouse, a truly interesting man with a life worthy of a novel, and Bradford has done an excellent job of presenting him as a fascinating if imperfect and ruthless man, charismatic and brilliant if not always politically astute, a ruler apt for the times he lived in and that achieved considerable feats though in the end he was far from successful, and had a short life that ended tragically. The style this book is written in is detailed, with plenty of primary sources cited, including some the author went to consult personally in Spain that aren't usually named in other Borgia biographies, and she provided some bits of information on aspects I didn’t know about Cesare. Bradford also doesn't hesitate to call a spade a spade, and goes into elucubrations over the sources for confirming or debunking the most salacious gossips that have survived into our day, like his supposed romantic involvement with his sister Lucrezia. In some cases, her conclusions are ambiguous, of the "It's perfectly possible that..." sort that tend more towards educated guesses than straight stating what the people of the time thought or felt, which is always appreciated. As a downside, I'd cite that the amount of info Bradford packs into this medium-length biography is overwhelming, more so if you: a) don't feel genuine interest in Cesare and/or the Borgias, b) aren't fascinated by Renaissance Italy, c) don't have some basic idea of the Italian establishment at the time. But fortunately, I should also mention that, to offset all this, Bradford writes in a fast-paced style, or maybe it's that Cesare's life was fast-paced and tumultuous itself, so you won't be bored if you can cope with the flood of information. Also, if you find Cesare interesting, then that's what you need to motivate you through this, you don't even need to have a basic idea of the time period's political ups and downs, Bradford will enlighten you, the "and times" part of the subtitle isn't there for sounding pretty, after all!

  • Sara Poole
    2018-09-27 13:08

    The companion work to her superb “Lucrezia Borgia”, Bradford’s exploration of the life of Lucrezia’s highly controversial brother offers an insightful look into the world of late 15th century/early 16th century Rome and Europe in general. Born the illegitimate son of Rodrigo Borgia, who rose to become Pope Alexander VI, Cesare was originally intended by his father for a career in the Church. Within the confines of filial loyalty, he resisted but was made a cardinal at the age of eighteen. Several years later, when Cesare’s brother, Juan was murdered, Cesare not only became the chief suspect but he also finally acquired the life he wanted, replacing Juan in their father’s plans. Resigning his cardinalate, he went on to become a brilliant diplomat, feared war leader, one of the most envied men of his time, and quite probably the inspiration for Machievelli’s “The Prince”. His fall, when it came, was as spectacular as his rise. With the destruction of the Borgias, they have faded from history, remaining little more than caricatures attached to scandalous accusations. Bradford makes clear that the truth is very different and far more fascinating.

  • Karen
    2018-10-16 09:53

    Cesare Borgia: controversial, compelling and fascinating. This is the story of the man who should have been the greatest man in Italian history... and how and why this is not how he is remembered.It is such a great read and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period or the Borgias.

  • Stephy
    2018-09-25 13:54

    READ THIS BOOK! I recently re-read this amazing book. I confess to having been unimpressed by it years ago, but the more I read about Cesare Borgia, the more interesting I find him to be. Yes, he was ruthless, but also a brilliant tactician. Having recently finished Paul Strathern's "The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior" I was put into a more open frame of mind as I approached the book this time. I suspect that being older and better read in history gives me a greater appreciation for this book.

  • Roman Clodia
    2018-10-08 11:08

    'Here, in a scant piece of earth, lies he whom all the world feared'Bradford's biography of Cesare Borgia is balanced and straightforward: she quotes from primary sources but they're not referenced fully in the text itself (annoying!) and gives reasons for her readings of events and actions. Like other biographies of Renaissance people, this is offers up an essentially external view of Borgia and places him in his historical and political context: while Bradford gestures to some superficial psychological readings, she sticks to what can be known from the way Borgia acted throughout his life - she doesn't try to psychoanalyse him given the lack of internalised material.What we're left with is an energetic portrait of Italy in the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth centuries, and the way Cesare Borgia exploited the opportunities of internal conflicts between the city-states and external pressure from, especially, France and Spain. He emerges as a dangerous man, ruthless, highly intelligent, eloquent and persuasive when he wanted to be, secretive and subtle, described as the most handsome man in Italy and one who believed utterly in his own will. By the time he dies, a victim of his own reckless physical courage, at the age of just 31, the Renaissance world feels a less thrilling place due to his loss. For all his brutality, Cesare Borgia lived up to both his classical namesake and his own axiom: 'Better to die in the saddle than in bed'.

  • Kelly
    2018-10-14 10:56

    I am really interested in history, particularly renaissance history and have read a fair few biographies of this era, but this one I found totally engrossing. It is written beautifully, but even more importantly, it deals with Cesare Borgia in a very even handed manner. So much that is written about the Borgias and Cesare in particular is based on rumour and reputation rather than evidence. He is either portrayed as the devil incarnate (e.g. in Dumas) or as impossibly romatic figure that really didn't do anything too terrible (e.g. Sabatini). This biography covers the controversial events in Cesare's life based on the evidence available to us and actually explains the authors point of view so that the reader is able to form their own opinion. He was such an amazing and complex character - I was quite blown away by the man as portrayed in this biography. What an amazing life - starting in the church and then coming so close to potentially ruling Italy while terrorfying the ruling elite as he swept across the country. He was not only a natural leader, extremely intelligent and increadibly cunning, utterly charming, exceptionally handsome, totally debauched and seemingly irresistible to women, but also totally ruthless, unusually secretive, incredibly daring and breathtakingly ambitious. This book is able to bring the character to life despite it being 500 years since his death. I would recommend this very highly to anyone interested in history and/or biographies - I really enjoyed it.

  • L'aura
    2018-10-04 15:53

    I found this book to be kind of lacking. Granted, it's more good than it's bad, but Bradford's research doesn't seem to be really thorough in some points and one feels like she's been too lazy to check her sources. When she mentions the infamous cantarella, for instance, it's crystal clear that she didn't even bother to find out that said cantarella possibly (likely, in fact) never existed. And it's just one of the things that left me underimpressed. Bradford also has a soft spot for the Cesare/Lucrezia pairing, which she almost gushes over here and there, but a reader who cares to find evidence of the alleged love between the two will have nothing. It's upsetting because it almost proves Starkey right when it comes to his hostility for the romanticism of "female biographers" and makes the rest of her work a little less authoritative.

  • Anissa
    2018-10-15 11:05

    This bio is honestly amazing, coming from someone who doesn't usually find biographies very interesting. It's clear that Bradford put in a lot of research, and that she adores her subject, the enigmatic Cesare Borgia. He's such a fascinating figure, one who gained Machiavelli's admiration - extremely cunning and resourceful, rising above his station in life, yet dead before his time.

  • Jessica
    2018-09-23 11:46

    Sarah Bradford did a wonderful job of staying as unbiased as a biographer possibly can. While she debunking some myths about Cesare and the family, she also wasn't slow to admit that he was a very ambitious, vindictive, and hard person. Parts of the beginning were a little slow, but once I got past them I flew through the rest.

  • Jo Walton
    2018-10-11 08:47

    At first I thought that it was just that I knew it all, and then I realised my problem with this book was that Bradford just isn't very good at understanding the period mindset.I can't recommend it, unless you happen to want dates and times and places and quotes from primary documents -- it's terrific on all of those. As a research book on Cesare, I'm glad I've read it, I guess.

  • electrise
    2018-09-24 07:55

    author takes a full page detour from alfonso d'aragona's murder (by cesare) to reassure the reader, with the help of multiple primary sources, that cesare was still totes hot at the time despite all the syph. author priorities: sound.

  • Tony
    2018-09-30 16:01

    Italy in the 1490s-1500s, where the Renaissance is in full swing. This is the Italy of Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo (who are all mentioned). It is also swarming with prostitutes, a great many of them looking after the clergy. One lord “received ambassadors while lying in bed with his sister”. Another had both his wives murdered, raped his daughter and attempted to sodomise his son, but it was for heresy that the Pope excommunicated him. It is a world of warring cities and statelets, of intrigues and vendettas, poisonings, factional street fights and hired assassins. To flourish in such circumstances required not just luck but extreme cunning, drive, courage, brilliance, and coolness under pressure. Enter Cesare Borgia, a man who became a byword for immorality: a man who “deliberately created his own myth by calculated acts of terror, veiling his life in a secrecy which gave his sudden brutalities and lightning moves added impact”.In many ways Cesare fits the profile of a psychopath: abundant charm and charisma; the ability to read the feelings of others, without true empathy; the skills to act out deep emotions, without feeling them; the restless and reckless pursuit of new thrills, sometimes even against his overall interests. That said, his love for his sister Lucrezia appears to have been genuine (and not, as often supposed, incestuous). He was not a sadist. His treatment of the common people was no worse than that of his peers, and often better, since he took care to build support for his rule. Cesare Borgia was periodically interviewed by Machiavelli, and helped to inspire The Prince. The book is a probing, thoughtful, weighty biography of this remarkable man. It is necessarily dense with names and the detail of events, which may be hard to keep track of. But it is well worth it for the fascinating accounts of the antihero’s subtle machinations as he draws on the power of his father, Pope Alexander VI, to navigate between the rival, predatory powers of France and Spain; to fend off Venice, then a strong independent power; and to try to establish his own united realm, under Papal authority, in mid-Italy. His story reminded me of the Game of Thrones, and aficionados of that series take note: Cesare’s younger brother is Jofre, wedded to Sancia; the period has its own Red Wedding; and Cercei has interesting parallels to the blonde haired, “proud and cruel” Caterina Sforza, “noted not only for her beauty but for her courage and ruthlessness”.

  • Tony
    2018-10-17 09:02

    CESARE BORGIA. (1976). Sarah Bradford. **.I’m afraid that I didn’t get too far into this biography before I had to quit. There was just too much information, and a great deal of it dealing with the history of the Italian states surrounding our person of interest. Italy as a country didn’t exist during the time of Cesare. It was a collection of independent states ruled over by individual families and the Papacy. In addition, there were sections that were ruled by Spain and France. The number of players in this story seems to be endless. Although I am sure that the author did a good job of covering the history of the times, there was just too much involved that she tried to fit into a small space. Family trees might have helped, along with a time line of the Popes and their families. Anyway, we learn that Cesare was the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI. He was born in 1475 and died in 1507 from an attack from assassins in Spain. His behavior was such that Machiavelli devoted one chapter in The Prince to him. He was certainly not a nice guy, but he did what he had to do to get ahead in a world that did not come down to him from his family. I found that a useful summary of his life and works was provided in a website provided by History Today Magazine. I’m sure that all the facts were covered in this biography, but they were not laid out in any simple form.

  • Julia
    2018-10-05 16:07

    I liked this biography for several reasons:*It was very well written, in a simple and clear language that helped to make the reading process flow, which unfortunately isn't often found in biographies (Many authors of biographies insist in using a tone and vocabulary that makes the reader suffer to get through the book). *Thanks to the way that Sarah Bradford presented the story, it made the biography interesting to read and it was a fun read, like fiction actually.*It's very accurate and full of details. It follows Cesare's life from many different point of views and therefore it is a very rich biography.All in all, I recommend this biography to anyone - students and history geeks who want to find out more about the notorious Borgia family. I loved it!

  • Chris Feldman
    2018-10-06 15:04

    Not quite as good as Bradford's biography of Lucrezia, but still recommended.

  • Diana
    2018-10-09 13:12

    Excellent research, easy to read and full of information. Couldn't fault it.

  • Denise
    2018-09-29 13:43

    Originally published in 1976, Sarah Bradford's comprehensive and well balanced biography of Cesare Borgia remains a frequently used resource for pretty much any book on the Borgias written since, which says all one needs to know about its continued relevance. That being said, the book having been so heavily used to inform many other works, I did not find that much information here that was actually new to me and found the overwhelming detail- and primary source quotation-heavy text a bit too dry at times.

  • Sandra
    2018-09-30 16:10

    * Disclaimer: this is a review for a book called "De Borgia's" in Dutch, that apparently had a much better fitting title in its original English.Don't let the title of this book fool you. It may sound like it's a book about the Borgias, but it's a book about Cesare Borgia and how he brought down his family and himself. Surely, Rodrigo, Lucrezia, Juan and Jofre are mentioned, but don't play really big parts in the book. As for how Lucrezia's and Jofre's lives ended, I have no idea. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but Lucrezia is my favourite Borgia and considering the title, I had expected the book to deal with the whole family a bit more.And I don't know if it was the translation, but the writing seemed really wooden. Most characters seemed a little flat, but I suppose that could be put down to little screentime as well. Although not everything can be: for instance, Giulia Farnese always seemed to be jealous. The book could have used some better fleshed out characters.I wouldn't be able to say if this book depicts the truth about the Borgias, but the story makes for okay reading, mostly. There is however a very large part of the book that mostly focuses on how Cesare got political power, and sadly that didn't interest me so much. It would have been nicer if they had focused a bit more on the every day Borgia life. As it was, it was mostly a political book. Still interesting, but this book is definitely not for everyone.

  • Lulu Chains
    2018-09-17 07:49

    I am currently obsessed with the Borgias, especially Cesare. I find him so incredibly fascinating and compelling. Is it weird that I'm in love a man that's been dead for over 500 years? Because oh God, I am and I'd give anything to go back to Renaissance Italy and see this amazing man alive.This book was everything I wanted, it gave great details about his life and included many passages from letters written about Cesare, and even some of the things he said. I truly wish I could time travel back to the days of Cesare Borgia, but since that's impossible this book is the next best thing. My only complain is that it hasn't been translated into Spanish, and if it has it is very difficult to find.All in all, if you like Cesare and want to know a lot more this is definitely the book to read, especially since it doesn't give into the wild rumors surrounding him and tells you the facts.

  • Zulfiqar
    2018-09-17 12:55

    Probably one of the best autobiographies written on the Italian historical figure behind Florentine philosopher and statesmen Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince." Enjoyed the author's account of the Borgia Clan solely focusing on Cesare's life and death. The main key factors were his governance of the province of Romagna through the power of the papacy, aid of his father Pope Alexander VI, the murder of this brother Juan, and his relationship with his sister Lucretia Borgia.

  • Belinda
    2018-10-16 12:44

    I can't believe it's possible for a book about Cesare Borgia to be dull but this one is. I love historical bios, and have a good collection myself but this one is just not very well written. Spends too much time on Cesare's various political alliances and acts and almost nothing of the man himself. Cannot recommend.

  • Samantha Morris
    2018-10-06 10:44

    This is my bible on Cesare Borgia - my go to book every time I want to double check facts about his life. Bradford really is my biggest inspiration when it comes to writing about Cesare and I adore this book and the insight it gives into the life of one of history's most controversial figures. Highly recommended.

  • Pamela
    2018-10-17 11:54

    Thank you, Mrs. Bradford.

  • Rio (Lynne)
    2018-09-27 13:07

    Yay! I finally scored a hardback copy of this very hard to find book :)

  • Jason
    2018-09-28 09:08

    History about Cesare's life.