Washington, January 8 (ANI): A new study by a USC historian sheds new light on how Lucrezia Borgia, the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI, became so wealthy during an economic downturn.
Diane Yvonne Ghirardo has revealed that the Duchess of Ferrara was less interested in political intrigue than in running a business, and undertaking massive land development projects.
Forced by an economic downturn to reduce expenses and become an entrepreneur, Lucrezia would control between 30,000 and 50,000 acres in northern Italy within six years.
"This is a classic case of seeing only what you're looking for and not getting the whole picture," Ghirardo says of the centuries-old mystery surrounding how Lucrezia accumulated her vast personal wealth.
She say that historians have long dismissed Lucrezia as stupida because there is not record about her collecting art or antiquities.
"The information was there in the archives, but because she was a woman, scholars only looked at transactions for clothes, for jewellery, or for works of art. Nobody looked at the other entries in the account registers," she says of the research project that took her more than seven years.
Revealing about how Lucrezia turned seemingly worthless swampland into reclaimed land in the current issue of Renaissance Quarterly, Ghirardo explained that the land was used to cultivate grains, barley, beans and olive trees.
She said that the land was also used to grow flax for spinning into linen; to pasture livestock for milk, meat, wool and hides; and for vineyards.
"That's really a capitalist attitude: to leverage capital by getting the basic good - in this case, land - at the cheapest cost," Ghirardo says.
"Lucrezia grasped the untapped potential of thousands of acres of marginal, waterlogged land, but she was too shrewd to employ her own resources to purchase it unless absolutely necessary," she adds.
The historian further says that surviving documents also indicate Lucrezia's knowledge of contract terms, border disputes, and even the skill of various hydraulic engineers.
The records also suggest that Lucrezia had pawned an extremely valuable ruby-and-pearl piece of jewellery to buy more water buffaloes, with a view to producing mozzarella.
"It's not just what Lucrezia did and how she did it, but the immensity of her enterprises, that stands out. Nobody else was doing this on such a large scale, not even men. Nobody was prepared to put in that kind of money," Ghirardo says.
The study has also revealed that Lucrezia held titles to the land she had acquired in her own name, not in her husband's. Profits from Lucrezia's entrepreneurial activities were also for her use alone, says Ghirardo.
"She could have purchased property that was already arable, but instead she got land that wasn't useful and transformed it. I really believe that she thought of this as her Christian duty, to transform the land and make it better, and then to use money to help fund her spiritual and religious interests," says the researcher. (ANI)