The Siege of Forli


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THE BORGIAS SEASON 2, EPISODE 2.07
"The Siege of Forli"
Characters - The Borgias Fan Wiki

Episode Title: The Siege of Forli
The Borgias Episode #: 2.07
The Borgias Season: 2
Original Air Date: May 20th 2012
Writer: David Leland
Director(s): Kari Skogland
Guest Star(s): Gina McKee, David Alpay, Tom Austen, Jesse Bostick, Roger Lloyd Pack, Noah Silver

Juan's triumphant return from Spain is marred by his unsuccessful siege of the Sforza castle; Lucrezia purposely scuttles a scheme to marry her off to a rich Genoese merchant; Savonarola's forces conduct the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities

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EPISODE SNEAK PEEKS
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Page Symbol CHARACTERS IN THIS EPISODE
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The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Pope Alexander VI/Rodrigo Borgia
Played by: Jeremy Irons
Plot connections: Settling the marriage alliance between Lucrezia and a nobleman from Genoa, sends Juan after his enemy, Caterina Sforza
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Vanozza dei Cattanei
Played by: Joanne Whalley
Plot connections: Charged to persuade Lucrezia to choose from the suitors brought before her, and not expect to marry for love
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Juan Borgia
Played by: David Oakes
Plot connections: Returns home newly confident of his imagined prowess, arrogant and haughty, bearing gifts from the new world
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Lucrezia Borgia
Played by: Holliday Grainger
Plot connections: Her Borgia blood starts to show again as she takes matters into her own hands regarding her suitor, and his handsome brother
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Antonello
Played by: Jesse Bostick
Plot connections: is almost ready to take the plunge against the pope
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Cesare Borgia
Played by: Francois Arnaud
Plot connections: Keeping his sharp eye on Savonarola while waiting for the likely failure of his brother's campaign at Forli
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Caterina Sforza
Played by: Gina McKee
Plot connections: Defends her home and castle against papal troops, watches as her son his tortured and nearky killed, shows Juan what kind of stuff she is made of (literally)
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Calvino Pallavicini de Genoa
Played by: David Alpay
Plot connections: Courts Lucrezia as his handsome brother is being pursued by her
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Rafaello Pallavicini def Genoa
Played by: Tom Austen
Plot connections: Meets Lucrezia unawares by the stream as he paints a picture of her from memory
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan
Played by: Ivan Kaye
Plot connections: Arrives with his army to lift the siege against his cousin at Forli castle
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Niccolo Machiavelli
Played by: Julian Bleach
Plot connections: Aids Cesare in gathering evidence against Savonarola, shares news of the siege at Forli
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Micheletto
Played by: Sean Harris
Plot connections: Waits, hovering over Savonarola in Florence, watching him like a cheetah stalks its prey
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Girolamo Savonarola
Played by: Steven Berkoff
Plot connections: Makes inroads with the people of Florence in giving up their wealth and trinkets to be consigned to the flames of the bonfire of the vanities
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere
Played by: Colm Feore
Plot connections: Continues his personal crusade against the pope, helping Antonello through the poisonings
The Siege of Forli - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Benito Riario
Played by: Noah Silver
Plot connections: Held captive and tortured during the siege
Additional Characters:
  • Hernando de Caballos -- Robert Cavanah
  • Cardinal Versucci -- Vernon Dobtcheff
  • Cardinal Piccolomini -- Bosco Hogan
  • The Boy Lucio -- Rory McMemamin
  • The Physician -- Richard Durden
  • The Boy Angelo -- Elliot Lang
  • Tommaso Carracci -- Selva Rasalingam
  • Il Ceremoniere -- Bela Gados
  • Nanny -- Helen Bradbury
  • Vincenzo -- Nathan O'Toole
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Page Symbol EPISODE SYNOPSIS
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Juan returns from Spain, flanked by a retinue of conquistador generals led by the proud Don Hernando. Alexander is impressed by his son’s new found confidence and orders him to lead the Papal armies to besiege Catherina Sforza’s castle. Lucrezia meanwhile, stalls attempts to marry her off – her father favors rich Genovese merchant prince Calvino – but Lucrezia, obstinate and deliberately perverse, proceeds to flirt with his younger (and thus inappropriate) brother Raffaello. In Florence, Cesare and Machiavelli witness Savonarola’s puritan zealots strengthen their grip on power, culminating in the fevered destruction of art works and luxuries in the “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Della Rovere has recruited angelic-looking young friar Antonello as the “suicide” assassin for his plot, and begins to feed the willing boy small doses of poison to create a tolerance to deadly cantarella. Meanwhile, Juan’s siege of Forli reaches a stalemate until he manages to kidnap Catherina’s son Benito, whom he tortures and threatens to kill in view of the castle walls. Hernando is disgusted by this ignoble behavior and Juan’s true cowardly nature is revealed when he flees in terror as the siege is broken by a surprise attack by Ludovico Sforza’s reinforcements.
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Page Symbol EPISODE RECAP
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Rome, the Vatican. Juan Borgia arrives on horseback to the sound of trumpets as he is announced as the illustrious Duke of Gandia. He enters the reception hall where his father, mother and the cardinals are gathered. He kneels and offers a gift - a black panther, and introduces the conquistador Don Hernando de Caballos, his right-hand man in Spain. Juan offers the holy father a box filled with tobacco cigarros,of which the pope partakes as Lucrezia is bitten by the beast in its cage. Later, Juan and his father have a private talk about Juan's experiences in Spain, his loving wife Maria Enriquez de Luna, and that she is carrying his son. Juan proclaims his readiness to lead the papal army against their enemies, notably Caterina Sforza, the Lady of Forli. The pope gives his blessing, and says to Juan: "Knock the ***** off her perch." The scene ends with a shot of Juan having pain while relieving himself, due to a very obvious case of syphilis.

Florence, Cesare and Machiavelli speak about the hovering children of God in the streets below. Machiavelli calls them "God's Children, ha...Savonarola's Vermin."

Umbria, church of the Dominican friars. Cardinal della Rovere and the elder friar discuss the news from Florence, that Savonarola's grip on the city is tightening, and his language is becoming more and more anti-papal and heretical by the day. Della Rovere warns the friar that this will only harm their cause, not help it, by giving the pope something to fight Savonarola with (excommunication and burning at the stake).

Vatican - Lucrezia teases her father about the cigarros, and seems to be warming to the marriage negotiations. Later, Lucrezia meets with Prince Calvino of Genoa who is introduced by his brother, whom she has her eye on. She gives Calvino a gift - the black panther, and walks away leaving Rafaello speechless and the pope exasperated. Meanwhile, back in Florence, Savonarola's minions are gathered as he preaches giving up the worldly vanities and sinful living. Paintings and jewels are piled on a great pyre to be set alight. Cesare notes that Savonarola is in violation of papal orders to cease heretical ranting.

Castle at Forli, in Romagna (north of Rome). The papal army assembles to lay siege to the great fortress, held by Caterina Sforza. Juan calls for the lady to surrender, she refuses. Don Hernando de Caballos by Juan's side, advises while he parlays. Caterina's young son, Benito, is taken hostage by Juan after he fell from his retreating horse, to be used as bait for Caterina's surrender. Juan tortures the boy in front of her as he calls out to his mother. Caterina stands firm, and knows it must be, because she does not give in to such demands, and at first doesn't believe he will actually torture a mere boy. Seeing that Juan is serious, Don Hernando questions the honor of such an act.

Florence - Cesare and Machiavelli discuss the news of Juan's siege of the Forli castle. Cesare hears he is not as successful as he should be, and simply says that he is sure, as a military man, Juan will find a way to succeed. Clearly he wishes to see his brother fail, an outcome most certain, so as to finally show their father who really should be at the head of the papal army. Savonarola's vermin are clamoring at Machiavelli's door asking him to give up his jewels and vanities to show his piety and escape the wrath of God. Later, he opens the door to them and gives them grief, but ends up parting with a stuffed owl. A painting by Sandro Botticelli is carried to the pile of art, jewels, and trinkets about to be set on fire by Savonarola. Machiavelli watches in horror, as the great mound of priceless books and art goes up in flames.

Meanwhile, back in Rome, Lucrezia's maid shadows prince Rafaello as he meanders through the market. Lucrezia arranges to 'bump into him' in the grotto or ruins by the stream, so she can make conversation. They talk about poetry and art, and move closer to share a kiss. Later, Lucrezia speaks with her parents, Vanozza and Rodrigo - telling them to finally sell her to the highest bidder, if she can't have her way and choose her husband. The council of her wise mother has finally paid off. Cardinal della Rovere and the novice, Antonello calmly speak of resisting the effects of the self-administered poisons, and that the boy is 'in a world of shadows, on the other side of life.'

Forli - the siege continues, though Caterina is confident her powerful cousin Ludovico Sforza of Milan will be there shortly to break the siege. She gives her man an order to shoot at Juan while he is vulnerable, he is shot in the leg only. In a fit of anger Juan chops a finger from the hand of her son, as he cries in agony, she stands firm even in the face of this utter horror. Later, Juan asks for her final answer, surrender or be dragged in chains to Rome deprived of her lands and estate after watching Juan kill her son. She replies, "God will be my judge, but I will never, NEVER bend my knee to the whoremaster of Rome! This is my answer, you can take my son. But do you see here?" as she lifts her skirts to flash her nether parts, "I have the means to produce ten more sons, and my men will hunt you down and send you to hell!" Juan orders his men to kill the boy, just as Ludovico's advancing army crashes in from the woods, and the archers let loose a rain of arrows on the besiegers. Juan's men fall by the dozens around him, and in the confusion he loses his captive, and makes a frantic escape as his army is crushed. Juan falls off his horse, and is seen running away, into the woods in total defeat.



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Page Symbol BEST QUOTES
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  • "I have only my intellect which I am reluctant to relinquish and as you can see with these looks, I have no vanity." -- Machiavelli to the child army
  • "Revenge will harden the heart; if my son is to die, so be it." -- Caterina Sforza
  • "The bull has done his work" - the Pope's comment on the news Juan is to have an heir
  • "I wish him good fortune...she has sharp teeth" - Cesare re. Juan's mission to subdue Caterina
  • --"Stand too close and your manteletta will turn to fire" - Savonarola to Cesare beside the Bonfire of the Vanities
  • "So, God is now reduced to breaking windows" - Machiavelli to "God's Children"
  • Lucrezia: "Are such beasts common in Spain?" Juan: "Not anymore" (discussing the panther)
  • "So, we take a turd in our hand..." - the Pope learning to smoke cigars
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Page Symbol DEATHS IN THIS EPISODE
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Who died?
How did they die?











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Page Symbol THE BORGIAS EPISODE BEST MOMENTS AND BIGGEST SHOCKERS
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  • BEST -- Juan explaining how to smoke cigaros
  • BEST -- Caterina's 'answer' to Juan's final demand of surrender
  • SHOCKING -- Juan depriving young Benito of a digit
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Page Symbol THE BORGIAS EPISODE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
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Page Symbol THE BORGIAS EPISODE TRIVIA
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  • Explorer Christopher Columbus is generally credited with the introduction of tobacco to Europe. Two of Columbus's crewmen during his 1492 journey, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, are said to have encountered tobacco for the first time on the island of Hispaniola, when natives presented them with dry leaves that spread a peculiar fragrance. Tobacco was widely diffused among all of the islands of the Caribbean and therefore they again encountered it in Cuba where Columbus and his men had settled.(Source: Wikipedia)
  • In due course, Spanish and other European sailors adopted the hobby of smoking rolls of leaves, as did the Conquistadors, and smoking primitive cigars spread to Spain and Portugal.(Source: Wikipedia)
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Page Symbol THE BORGIAS VS. HISTORY
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How did this episode differ from actual events? Compare the facts with the fiction below!
ON THE BORGIAS... IN HISTORY...
  • Juan presents the Pope with tobacco in the form of 'cigaros'


  • Juan is accompanied home by Spanish 'conquistadors' led by Don Hernando de Caballaros




  • Juan visits a doctor to seek treatment for syphilis

  • Lucrezia is courted by a Genoese nobleman, Raffaello Pallavicini, but prefers his younger brother
  • Juan is sent by his father to subdue Forli and bring Caterina Sforza to Rome to kneel before him. He besieges Forli and captures Caterina's eldest son, but his army comes under attack from the troops of the Duke of Milan.
  • Juan is wounded in the leg by an arrow during the siege.
  • When the Duke's men attack, Juan deserts his army and flees into a nearby wood


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  • Although it is just possible that Juan could have obtained tobacco in Spain (in first use in Europe was recorded the year after his return to Rome), it was smoked in pipes or taken as snuff, not rolled.

  • Juan brought no Spanish troops to Rome and the term 'conquistador' was not used until the sixteenth century. Juan was, however, joined by Spanish troops under the command of Gonsalvo de Cordoba - 'the Great Captain' - at the siege of Ostia in 1497
  • There is nothing in contemporary records to suggest that Juan suffered from syphilis (unlike his brother)
  • Lucrezia was still married to Giovanni Sforza at this time: their divorce was not finalised until December 1497
  • Juan was in command of a papal army, but its target was the strongholds of the Orsini, who were the Pope's main enemies. After besieging several Orsini towns, he was defeated at the Battle of Soriano (24th January 1497). It was Cesare who laid siege to Forli, almost three years later (see below)
  • Juan was wounded in the face at the Battle of Soriano.
  • Although Juan seems to have been a mediocre general, he was not as incompetent as his later reputation suggests and was successful in capturing Ostia from a French garrison in concert with de Cordoba. He was never accused of cowardice.

  • Historically, the timeline is skewed a bit:
  • The "ten more sons" bit was something that Caterina Sforza reportedly said during an earlier siege of Forli that did not involve the Borgias.
  • Giovanni Borgia, 2nd Duke of Gandia (the Italian name of Juan Borgia) was murdered 14 June 1497, speculatively by one of his brothers (Cesare purportedly from jealousy, Gioffre because of the affair that Juan was having with Gioffre's wife Sancia, the concurrent affair Sancia was having with Cesare notwithstanding).
  • Alexander VI excommunicated Girolamo Savonarola in May 1497, Savonarola agreed to stop preaching in Florence in March 1498 before the first trial by fire in over four centuries was set the following month, instigated by Savonarola's surrogate, Domenico da Pescia. The trial never happened because of rain, however, Savanarola was blamed for its failure, and an angry mob attacked the convent of San Marco. Savonarola, Pescia, and Silvestro Maruffi were subsequently arrested and imprisoned, and under torture Savonarola confessed to inventing all his prophecies and visions. In May of 1498, all three of the arrested friars were condemned as heretics, sentenced to death, hung, and their corpses burned.
  • In late November 1499, Cesare (not Juan, who had been dead for eighteen months) arrived in Romagna, leading a French army acquired through Alexander VI's alliance with the new French king (Louis XII) to displace the feudal powers therein, and laying siege to Forli in mid-December. It was in January 1500 that Cesare commanded the French forces to storm Caterina's fortress, and Caterina, fighting with her own sword to the end, was defeated, surrendering not to Cesare, but to Antoine Bissey, knowing that French law prohibited keeping women as prisoners of war, but not expecting that General d'Allegre would turn her over to Cesare once Cesare promised that Caterina would be treated as a guest in Rome rather than a prisoner of war (a promise that, unsurprisingly, the Borgias reneged on, keeping Caterina prisoner -- on charges that she had attempted to poison Alexander VI prior to the siege -- until 1501, when d'Allegre reclaimed her, shortly before she was allowed to rejoin her children in Florence).
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Page Symbol BEHIND THE EPISODE FEATURE
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