Until the recent return of the papacy from its exile in Avignon Rome was a hive of brigands and warlords, shacks, and houses built onto the sides of the ruined grandeur of the Ceasar’s. Cowherds drive their cattle through the weed-strewn edifices of Rome’s previous greatness. To protect themselves the denizens of the city have turned the ancient structures into fortifications and towers, that now define the city’s skyline. Now wealthy cardinals finance beautiful villas and patron great artists.
Now wealthy cardinals finance beautiful villas and patron great artists. However, this new wealth has not gone unnoticed by the warlord families that ruled the city before. The Orsini and Corona have chosen to play the great game rather than oppose it and now their often bloody rivalry dictates papal elections and policy. While a symbol of Christianity by day, the streets of Rome run red by night as Orsini and Corona fight for the Papal throne.
The Colonna and Orsini
Thorns in the side of every pope as far back as memory serves the Corona and Orsini families are two equally unpleasant sides to the same vicious coin. Both families have stripped away castles and lands from the papacy in Ancona and Romagna over successive generations, embedding cardinals from their own families into the papacy and often deciding elections based on their interests. Every election a moment of chaos eliciting a rampage of violence against each other in a bid to influence the result. Each pope must find how he deals with the thorny question. Some play the two against each other, financing the Orsini’s war against the Corona, or the Corona against the Orsini, never solving the Dilemma, other popes have sent armies into the lands around Rome to subdue the families, liberate the villagers, and return the lands to the papacy, any success is short-lived. Both Colonna and Orsini rank among the most powerful condottiere troops in Italy, with access to foreign troops in their employ, petty robber knights and cutthroats alike, few are as versed in the underhand ploy as them.
Rome’s great game, with the papal seat, comes influence over the great matters of Europe, its rulers, and its finances, the game’s players are cardinals stemming from the most powerful families in Europe. Many of those seeking the Papal throne will extort, intimidate, and even murder to get it.
Rome’s great game, with the papal seat, comes influence over the great matters of Europe, its rulers and its finances, the game’s players are cardinals stemming from the most powerful families in Europe. Many of those seeking the Papal throne will extort, intimidate, and even murder to get it. Although the times of the great war cardinals are gone, the papacy still employs vast amounts of Condottieri mercenaries to pursue its interests in Italy, as well as the supremely effective Swiss mercenaries. It wages war as an aggressor as often as a defender, expanding its lands and castles in the March of Ancona and seeking to free their lands from robber barons such as the Orsini and Corona who snapped them up during the papal exile in France.
Every day Rome swarms with pilgrims from all over Christendom, come to see the great relics and holy sights. Those who come, often come with full purses and impressionable minds, easy pickings for bandits, hucksters, and conmen. Bands of robbers often prey on the unwary pilgrims attacking them in back allies. These bands can turn into full-blown syndicates that protect their chosen areas of operations with steel. Not all pilgrims are victims though, a pilgrimage to Rome is often a search for solace for those who have led interesting and violent lives.