Fabrizio Ricciardelli (Georgetown University)
Georgetown University at Villa Le Balze: 3-4 May, (2010)
In every historical period, as in any society, violence can take many forms. It can be expressed in revenge and conflict, laws and sentences, words and images. Between the second half of the thirteenth century and the first half of the fifteenth, central and northern Italian city-states frequently suffered moments of disruption of the social peace because of factional battles. Violence became the language of political resolution, and repression its natural consequence. The good and peaceful state of the community was achieved through the political use of banishment (a monetary fine), forced confinement (a political sentence), ammonizione (a warn- ing), or public executions. All those who, due to every sort of earthly corruption, had contaminated the good government and the peaceful state had their voices repressed.
All over the Italian peninsula the old consular nobility was divided, and the podestà, a stronger, more impartial executive magistrate, was emerging as the preeminent figure. Violent attacks began to be organized by factional leaders who were motivated by a thirst for revenge and the desire to erase all trace of their opponents’ power. These violent conflicts represented a political act and, at the same time, an episode in the bloody struggle between the two opposing parties, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. The end of the fighting and the subsequent attacks and massacres announced the triumph of one faction over the other. Final victory could only be achieved by those able to conquer the city’s strongholds.