Rethinking the Role of the Condottieri on the Bloodless and Bloody Battlefields of Renaissance

Rethinking the Role of the Condottieri on the Bloodless and Bloody Battlefields of Renaissance

By Tony M. Kennedy

Published online by the University of New Brunswick (2006)

introduction:The condottieri represented an extreme dichotomy of force in Italy during the late Middle-Ages and Renaissance from 1250-1495. One the one hand they made a living on violence and could be cruel if not treacherous. On the other hand, while the condottieri had a vested interest in war, and even prolonging it for as long as possible; it has been argued that their interest was in defense expenditure and not necessarily in carnage. However, once committed, the battles they did fight in could result in casualty rates in excess of twenty-five percent or more. Later historigraphical literature suggest that the condottieri may have even waged a more humane and far less destructive form of warfare than that waged by the zealous citizen-soldiers of today.

Machiavelli viewed the condottieri as bloodless, treacherous, and ineffective. However, more modern scholarship has often portrayed the condottieri as pragmatic and even romantic. The condottieri, or mercenary-captains of Medieval and Renaissance Italy, have been viewed with awe, veneration, and vile, often by the same authour. Anthony Mockler described both contemporary and more modern views of the condottieri as a combination of “repugnance and admiration but literature never evolved any “consistent mental standards by which to analyze them or moral standards by which to judge them,” and later writers about Italy during this period have simultaneously tended “to refer to them in both a picturesque but disreputable form.” Yet neither of these two schools of thought has sought to address Renaissance and Medieval Italian warfare in its larger context this is in part because of the myth of the citizen soldier which still permeates in modern civilian society.

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