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Nicholas of Cusa became known as the Hercules of the Eugenian cause, supporting Eugenius iv against the Council of Basel. Eugenius had at first been closely allied with Rome’s Orsini clan and served mostly by fellow Venetians. By the time he returned to Rome in late-1443 Eugenius had come to welcome into his circle of advisors a broad cohort whose various skills and perspectives proved invaluable in the struggle to win back authority for a papacy that was at one time threatened on all fronts. How did a pope whose early years were characterized by stubbornness and repeated diplomatic blunders win the adherence of men like Cusanus, Juan de Torquemada, or Flavio Biondo? Eugenius discovered during a troubled reign the need to employ men of talent – men such as those named above – rather than just relying on Orsini clients and natives of the Veneto. Eugenius’ work for unity became more important to Cusanus than the reforms the Council of Basel tried to impose. Nor did service to Eugenius prevent him from seeking, often in vain, reform of Church and Curia. Despite occasional gaffes, the pope became able to recognize merit in these men and others who aided his cause, rewarding their service with favour and promotion.

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