Saturday, April 28, 2007

Military Q&A in 16th century Italy

Some of my readers know that I'm very interested in the Questions composed by the mid-14th century French knight Geoffroi de Charny on the law of arms. I've translated the questions on jousting and tournaments in a book called -- oddly enough -- Jousts and Tournaments (see sidebar) and I want to work this summer on his questions on war, a more challenging project.

Two things are notable about Charny's Questions. First, they have no answers. This leaves us wondering whether all or most of the issues were really debatable, and he was looking for answers, or whether it was more of a training exercise for the high-ranking French knights who were his audience.

The second noteworthy thing is that though Charny conceived of his questions as cases in "the law of arms," they don't concern issues that many of us would expect to be treated in a discussion of "the laws of war." There is next to nothing in the "war" questions concerning matters such as discipline, proper equipment, pay, things that later medieval monarchs who issued ordinances for their armies were demonstrably interested in. Charny's "laws of arms" are almost exclusively concerned with the rights of "men at arms" -- fully equipped and trained warriors, respectable men -- in dealing with each other.

So Charny's Questions are an odd and provoking composition. What the heck was he up to, and how did his ideas fit into the current thinking about war and warriors?

One of the challenges of interpreting Charny is finding other documents that are in some way
comparable. This month, however, I stumbled across something really neat -- another set of military questions from about two centuries after Charny. Questions that have answers!

Of course, they are quite different from Charny's questions in many respects. My Italian is rather slow and rusty, but this appears to be a set of questions posed by one " sig. Gio. Battista Dal Monte" to prospective captains who wished to work for the Republic of Venice. The questions concern tactics and the management of armies, and are followed by "suitable answers" that a good captain would presumably offer.

Neat, eh?

I am very interested to hear from anyone who can identify the " sig" GBDM.

Oh, the source of this document is Ercole Ricotti, Storia delle compagnie di ventura in Italia, Torino, 1847.

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Blogger Ancarett said...

I believe you're looking for Giovanni Battista del Monte, Venice's General Captain of Infantry in the 1580s-90s.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

Thank you very much! Where do I find out more about him?

10:33 AM  

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