RIENZI

1614

RIFLES

Rienzi {rÍ-hi'zÍ), NiccolÚ Qabržni di, generally called Cola di Rienzi, was born at Rome in 1313. His advantages of education were excellent, and nature had bestowed a marvelous gift of eloquence. The assassination of his younger brother by a Roman noble whom he found it impossible to bring to punishment aroused his feelings against the aristocratic families, and he determined, if possible, to destroy their power and overthrow them. In 1343, in company with Petrarch and others, he visited the papal court at Avignon to induce Clement VI to return to Rome and protect the citizens from their oppressors. Rienzi returned in 1344, and for three years loudly and openly threatened the nobles with revolution. At last he summoned the citizens, and, surrounded by the pope's legate and a number of trusted confederates and followed by 100 horsemen, he proceeded to the capitol, where he assumed the title of tribune and was invested with complete dictatorial power. The pope confirmed Rienzi in his authority ; all Italy rejoiced in his success; and many predicted a revival of the power and majesty of the Eternal City. But the nobles were bitterly hostile ; and, although Rienzi won a great victory over them when they^attempted to rise against him, the pomp and luxury which he sought to maintain involved him in such expense that he was'compelled to levy heavy taxes. These aroused so much opposition that, after a reign of seven months, he fled to Naples. After two years among the Franciscans in the Apennines, he went to Prague to secure the support of Emperor Charles IV in another effort to deliver Rome. Charles, however, was so amazed at his schemes that he sent him a prisoner to the

fope at Avignon, but by the mediation of 'etrarch he was released. Innocent VI resolved to use Rienzi as a means of crushing the Roman nobles, and accordingly sent him to Rome in the train of Cardinal Albornoz. Their object was speedily accomplished, and Rienzi, having borrowed money and raised a body of soldiers, made a triumphal entry into Rome and was received with universal acclamation. But adversity had soured Rienzi's temper without teaching wisdom and moderation. The same defects that had characterized his former administration revealed themselves. In two months the opposition became so great that he was assassinated at the foot of the capitol stairs, his head being cut off and his body subjected to the greatest indignities (Oct. 8, 1354). His story has been made the basis of a thrilling romance by Bulwer. See the histories of mediśval Rome by Gregorovius, Reumont and Villari.

Ri'fles were invented for securing more accurate firing of bullets than was possible with the smoothbore gun. As the ball never fitted tightly in the smoothbore, its center was always below the center of the bore ; and

in consequence of this a part of the explosive force of the powder escaped over the top of the ball, and was not only wasted but exercised downward pressure on the ball in its passage through the barrel. So great was this downward pressure that in guns of soft metal, as brass, a perceptible dent was produced on the under side of the barrel after a few rounds. Another more important consequence of the looseness of the ball was that in its irregular motion along the barrel it was pressed now against one side and now against the other, and therefore its direction after discharge was not determined by the line of the barrel, but by the particular point of the muzzle with which it happened to be in contact at the instant of discharge. As early as 1498 the citizens of Leipsic possessed the* germ of the present rifle, except that the grooves in their guns were straight; and in 1520 Augustus Kutter (or Koster) of Nuremberg invented a spiral-grooved rifle, which was the starting point in all improvements in rifled guns that have been made down to the present day. The spiral groove, when the bullet fits into the grooves, causes the bullet to revolve on its axis with a rapidity in proportion to the force of the explosion and the sharpness of the twist in the spiral. This revolution of the bullet on its axis causes it to move in the line of the barrel, subject only to the force of gravity which eventually brings it to the ground. But for nearly three centuries after this the cost of rifled guns and the difficulties connected with their manufacture limited their use to the purposes of the chase. The 95th regiment of the British army was armed with Baker's rifles in 1800; and the revolutionary government of France issued rifles to a portion of their troops soon after. During the War of 1812 the American army demonstrated the value of rifles in war; but many years were to elapse before they were generally placed in the hands of soldiers.

In 1837 a rifle invented by Captain Del-vigne was issued to a few regiments in the French army, and four years afterward the Prussians equipped their entire army with the celebrated needle-gun, which proved its superiority over all rifles previously invented. The next step in advance was the rifle invented in 1849 by Captain Miniť of the French army, in which the spherical bullet was discarded and its place supplied by one in the form of a cylinder with a conical point. The base of the bullet was hollow, so made to contain an iron cup which was driven by the force of the explosion into the bullet, causing the lead to expand into the grooves of the barrel. Notwithstanding all the advantages of the miniť gun, it was found too heavy for effective service; and in 1853 the British Enfield rifle was invented, in which, besides other improvements, the diameter of the bore was reduced about an eighth of an inch. This diminished the weight of the gun