[Note 9: Dixi ante sacros pedes prostratus lacrymosum vale quarto calendi Septembris 1487. (Ep. i.)]
Spain in the year 1487 presented a striking contrast to Italy where, from the days of Dante to those of Machiavelli, the land had echoed to the vain cry: Pax, pax et non erat pax. Peter Martyr was impressed by the unaccustomed spectacle of a united country within whose boundaries peace reigned. This happy condition had followed upon the relentless suppression of feudal chiefs whose acts of brigandage, pillage, and general lawlessness had terrorised the people and enfeebled the State during the preceding reign.
The same nobles who had fought under Isabella’s standard against Henry IV. did not scruple to turn their arms upon their young sovereign, once she was seated upon the throne. Lucio Marineo Siculo has drawn a sombre picture of life in Spain prior to the establishment of order under Ferdinand and Isabella. To accomplish the needed reform, it was necessary to break the power and humble the pretensions of the feudal nobles. The Duke of Villahermosa, in command of an army maintained by contributions from the towns, waged a merciless campaign, burning castles and administering red-handed but salutary justice to rebels against the royal authority, and to all disturbers of public order throughout the realm.
This drastic work of internal pacification was completed before the arrival of our Lombard scholar at the Spanish Court. Castile and Aragon united, internal strife overcome, the remaining undertaking worthiest to engage the attention of the monarchs was the conquest of the unredeemed southern provinces. Ten years of intermittent warfare had brought the Christian troops to the very walls of Granada, but Granada still held out. Almeria and Guadiz were in possession of the enemy and over the towers of Baza the infidel flag proudly floated.
The reception accorded Tendilla’s protege by the King and Queen in Saragossa was benign and encouraging. Isabella already caressed the idea of encouraging the cultivation of the arts and literature amongst the Spaniards, and her first thought was to confide to the newcomer the education of the young nobles and pages about the Court—youths destined to places of influence in Church and State. She was not a little surprised when the reputed savant modestly deprecated his qualifications for such a responsible undertaking, and declared his wish was to join in the crusade against the infidels in Andalusia. Some mirth was even provoked by the idea of the foreign scholar masquerading as a soldier.