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Author Topic: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare  (Read 3533 times)

Offline commissarmoody

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Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« on: June 07, 2012, 09:00:56 PM »
I am thinking of getting into Medieval skirmishes using some moded LOTR rules.
So questions, Because I am relatively new to the area and era.
Do you think there should or would be any difference between the different italian city states in the stats?
What were the main troop types?
I know of course about Men-At-arms, but what set them and the rest of the northern Italian armies apparent and what made them the same with say the French, Spanish, Swiss, Germans and English.
I am planning on playing as Venice against other states, and  eventually against moorish/turkish pirates. Thinking 1400-1500 era
"Peace" is that brief, glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.

- Anonymous

Offline Sirolf

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2012, 07:11:27 AM »
Let me start by saying that I am Italian, and I usually don't write extensively in English, so forgive my mistakes. But let's get down to business....

When you talk about city states you have to know that southern italy was extremely different from the north. The Kingdom of Naples was highly feudal and poor compared to it's northern neighbours. During the late XV century the three main North Italian powers where the Papal States, the Republic of Florence, The Duchy of Milan, and Venetian Empire. Obviously each one had particular units and fashions that would distinguish him, especially Venice which was highly influenced by it's eastern colonies, but there are a few units that would have been common to every north italian army of the late XV century.

The Condotte: These where mercenary companies hired by the city states with usually a long term contract that was highly detailed and covered every aspect of warfare and logistics. These companies where formed by a certain number of lances (500 to 1000) composed of a mounted men-at-arm, a medium horseman usually called "utile" or "elmetto" (comparable to the french coustiller and english hobilar) and from one to three mounted crossbowmen. They would be accompanied by a smaller division of light infantry usually armed with long spears, sword and bucklers, and crossbows.

The Lanze spezzate: These where single men-at-arms contracted and paid directly by the city government. They where organized in companies commanded by a city official, usually called provveditore or conestabile. You could consider them like the official professional cavalry of the city state itself.

The Provvisionati: These where the real first form of standing professional army of the city states. These men where full-time soldiers payed by the city states (usually hired from the same citizens) all year long to garrison the important castles of the state and the walls of the cities. They where mostly infantry and some mounted infantry. During the second half of the XV century the provvisionate became increasingly common in northern italy, especially in Milan and Venice, which both employed thousands of them and also provided them with "livery jackets".

Some states still maintained some city militias usually poorly trained but equipped with a simple handgun that could be called upon in case of emergency.

Italian armies where usually well equipped, due to the wealth of their employers, and the fact that Milan made the best armors in the world at that time. Italian men-at-arms where famous for their somewhat exotic look compared to their European counterpart. German knights where usually equipped with Gothics armors, contrarly to italians. We could say that Italian Men-at-arms where one of the best equipped and trained in Europe, second only to the French and Burgundian Gendarmes, which had heavier lances and where therefore slightly better heavy cavalry.

Hope it helped, I tried to keep it simple, if you have more questions feel free to ask...
« Last Edit: June 08, 2012, 07:16:08 AM by Sirolf »

Offline Sir Tobi

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2012, 11:39:52 AM »
Many thanks, Sirolf, for this detailed and most interesting read! Alas I have to disagree in one minor point: The best armour of the world was of course manufactured in Nürnberg, Germany  ;) :D.

Offline Arlequín

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2012, 12:34:04 PM »
It's something I've been looking into recently... although with some slightly different conclusions than Sirolf. Bear in mind though that this applies mostly to the North of Italy and central and southern Italy may have been quite different.

Essentially by the second half of the 15th Century, the militia system had largely fallen by the wayside. The only state which still attempted to maintain it was Venice, with varying results. It was still possible for states to call up levies, the bulk of which were used as labourers, pioneers etc. A smaller 'picked' portion were armed with crossbows, but largely the states stuck to hiring mercenaries to do their fighting. There was a rise to roughly 50/50 foot to mounted in armies and some companies were formed from infantry and cavalry, while others were one or the other.

'Mercenary' implies a standard level of experience in most rules, but when you think on it there would be a range of inexperienced men to very experienced men in any 'company' at varying times, depending on the fortunes of war. No two mercenary companies would be exactly alike. Contracts could be long term, but often were a case of troops being 'on standby' when there was no war. Some lucky ones were almost permanently employed, so as to make them almost a state's standing army in all but name, while the bulk were cut loose once a war was over.

There was a drift towards employing mercenaries on an individual basis, whether 'Lanze Spezzate' or otherwise, towards the end of the 15th Century, rather than as established ' mercenary companies' under their own commanders, for fear of treachery. Venetian nobles in Venetian armies were prohibited from commanding more than 25 men for the same reason.

The Composition of the 'Lance' varied from state to state and by time. As Sirolf says, it could be as large as six men, or as few as two or three. The cost of armour in the 15th Century had rocketed and few men could afford to outfit themselves fully, so you got a distinction between 'true men at arms' and the 'Elmetti' or 'Corazzi', who were 'almost' men at arms, both types being supported by lesser armoured men.  

One of the lance had at one time been called a 'Saccomanni' ('bag man' - a 'valet' or 'varlet', perhaps like a coustilier or hobilar, or maybe a mtd crossbowman) and was paid by the hirers, but by the late 15th century, a distinction had been drawn between them and pages, who often replaced them, but were paid out of the man at arm's own pocket. Other lance members were often mounted crossbowmen and it became fashionable (and useful) for mercenary commanders to have a bodyguard of mounted crossbowmen, when out and about in the towns and cities.    

Lances largely seem to have been formed by fives into 'Posta', giving you ten men at arms and 10+ others. A five posta 'squadrone' was the next stage, giving you 50 men at arms etc. Most contracts use 'squadroni' as the multiplier, with 'Companies' being listed in terms of the number of Squadroni which they had. Infantry seem to have been formed into groups of fifty too. This is not a universal feature, but was common. It seems likely that the individual elements of the squadroni were broken up in battle and combined with their like to form distinct groups of 'men at arms' or 'crossbows' etc. So you might have a core of 50 men at arms, supported by detachments of Saccomanni and/or mounted/foot crossbows, depending on the composition of the lances forming it.

The Crossbow was the main weapon used by infantry in 1400, by the 1470's it was being steadily overtaken by the handgun (Milan's missile troops were roughly 75% handgunners by this time and even Venice's militia were being trained with it). Most infantry would be what we would call 'light', although this doesn't imply that they lacked armour. Sieges were more common than battles, so troops capable of storming walls and breaches, or crossing the many rivers of the Po Valley, were more useful than anything else. Sword and Buckler men became very common as a result.

You might find this link useful, but if you can get hold of Mercenaries and their Masters, pretty much all you need to know is in there.

The Ferrara War (or Salt War) of 1482 is a good little conflict, which pitted Venice and its subject cities against pretty much the rest of Northern Italy. Lots of little skirmishes, sieges etc... it would be ideal for a small scale setting imo.    

Many thanks, Sirolf, for this detailed and most interesting read! Alas I have to disagree in one minor point: The best armour of the world was of course manufactured in Nürnberg, Germany  ;) :D.

I would say Milan  ;)

Offline DonVoss

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2012, 01:21:10 PM »
Thanx, for the great info and material... ;)

DV

Offline Sir Tobi

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2012, 01:44:04 PM »
Yes, many thanks.

I was rather proud that I would resist the new Perry Italians, and now this is becoming less and less probable... There goes the wargame butterfly again, and as we all know they can rise (mail order-) storms  :?.

Offline commissarmoody

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2012, 04:12:22 PM »
WOW! thanks Sirolf your english is honistly better then mine and I am a native speaker lol.

Arlequín: Thinks for links and info, I am thinking now i need to find so decant sword and buckler men that are a close match to the perry mins.

Do you think that the Perry WOTRs long bowmen will work well for Venetian colonial archers? OR do you think that there is to big a difference in bow size and dress?

Offline Arlequín

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2012, 04:27:02 PM »
As I understand it, the bow used was a recurve bow, which is different in shape and they also used a quiver, rather than bags for their shorter arrows. Shouldn't be a major conversion though, I wouldn't have thought. However mercenaries came from all over Europe to work in Italy, so longbows may have been less uncommon than what you might think.

I'm pretty sure that the 'buckler' used in Italy may have been more like a traditional shield than the small English type one. You might check out TAG's Renaissance Italians and Spanish, I don't expect they will look too out of place when mixed with the Perry's. I couldn't say how compatible they are though.

Offline commissarmoody

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2012, 04:45:48 PM »

Offline Sirolf

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2012, 05:23:13 PM »
I agree with everything Arlequin said! I just wanted to point out that militias (usually called Ordinanze) were used by both Milan and Venice. They use to train on Sundays and be equipped mostly of handguns and crossbows for the wealthier.

Many thanks, Sirolf, for this detailed and most interesting read! Alas I have to disagree in one minor point: The best armour of the world was of course manufactured in Nürnberg, Germany  ;) :D.

LOL I guess you can argue that  :)

And I totally recommend The Assault Group italians! They fit perfectly with the Perrys and are very accurate...

Offline Aaron

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2012, 05:43:40 PM »
I appreciate all of the great info in this thread and, of course my thanks to the commissar for asking the question in the first place. I've been contemplating building Perry plastic Italian forces to use to introduce my young son to gaming and celebrate his mother's Tuscan heritage and this gives me a lot to think about.

I know Frederick Lewis Taylor's The Art of War in Italy, 1494-1529 is a dated source, but you can download it for free here: http://archive.org/details/ael8023.0001.001.umich.edu

Aaron

Offline Arlequín

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2012, 08:52:48 PM »
I just wanted to point out that militias (usually called Ordinanze) were used by both Milan and Venice. They use to train on Sundays and be equipped mostly of handguns and crossbows for the wealthier.

I wasn't sure about Milan, so thank you! I know the Florentines really struggled to raise their militia and had an arrangement to finance some of Milan's condottieri late in the century, instead of contracting their own... which caused problems for them in the Pazzi War.

And I totally recommend The Assault Group italians! They fit perfectly with the Perrys and are very accurate...

Excellent, I was hoping that would be the case.  :)

Offline Sirolf

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2012, 11:27:03 PM »
I wasn't sure about Milan, so thank you! I know the Florentines really struggled to raise their militia and had an arrangement to finance some of Milan's condottieri late in the century, instead of contracting their own... which caused problems for them in the Pazzi War.

Excellent, I was hoping that would be the case.  :)

You are really welcome. Milan actually had many handgun armed militia. I remember reading some letters wrote by Ludovico Sforza ordering the organization of such handgun armed militia, numbering from 10 to 15 thousand people in the Milan contado only.

And yeah...Florence always struggled in the military aspect....

Offline Pentaro

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Re: Looking for info on late Medieval Italian warfare
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2012, 09:29:30 AM »
Thanks for all the links! Last year I read Trease's "The Condottieri" which covers 14th and 15th centuries. There's little about tactics and more about politics and biographies, and probably it's a bit outdated, but it's a great read and hooked me on this period forever.

 

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