Subject: condottiere 'contractor' mercenary captain
Culture: Milanese / Lombard, other Italian
Setting: Italy 15thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Edge/Paddock 1988 p96
"By the fifteenth century the armies of the city states of Italy were mostly Compagnie de Ventura, that is condottieri. The inter-city wars in Italy were mostly economically based and so, instead of themselves taking arms, the citizens resorted to hiring armies, mostly of heavily armoured cavalry, bound by a condotta (contract). Although in the fourteenth century these armies had for the most part been made up of serious fighting men, by the early fifteenth century their confrontations had degenerated into almost hieratic play acting, resulting in little or no loss of life. In the Battle of Zagonara in 1423 there were only three fatalities, and the Battle of Molinella in 1427 resulted in only 300 casualties out of some 20,000 combatants. A major drawback with this system was that while the condottieri often had little or no military value, no town could afford to be without them, and so the condotta became a self-perpetuating system. The reason for this decline in the military effectiveness of the condottieri was that the men of the company represented the captain's capital and therefore any pitched battle could leave him bankrupt. This system was not to be finally eradicated until the end of the century, with the wars of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI and the invasion of Italy by the French."
* Symonds/Gordon 1898 p34-35
"The terrible unrest of such a state of things may easily be imagined, and, added to these great evils, or, probably, produced by them, came the devastating plagues which ravaged the cities of Italy at the end of the fourteenth century, and the almost equal scourge of mercenary soldiers and private bands of foreign adventurers, who roamed through the rich, ill-governed towns and villages fighting for one family or another, or else engaged in pillaging upon their own account."
* Bennett 1998 p82
"condottiere (plural condottieri) Italian term for a leader, used from the 13th to 16th centuries to describe a mercenary soldier, originally a captain who commanded his own company and sold its services to any state or prince ready to pay. The contract signed to employ such a company was called a 'condotta'.
"The concept originated in Italy and spread throughout Europe. Many condottieri were foreigners, for example from Spain, France, Germany, and England. Nobable companies were the White Company, the Great Company (mainly French and German), and the Catalan Company."
* Vuksic/Grbasic 1993 p86
"The condottieri were leaders of Italian mercenary companies (compagnie di ventura) from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. The term is derived from condotta, the temporary contract by which the company entered the service of a state, city, or dukedom. The banco di condotta was the name for the exact register of soldiers, retainers and horses of a mercenary company, used for accounting with employers.
"The condottieri, unlike other mercenary leaders, were absolute masters of their companies, and gathered their soldiers for their own interests, profit, power and glory. ... "They were often feudal lords ... and in such cases the nucleus of their forces consisted of their serfs. However, some were plebians ... who gathered professional soldiers eager to profit from their reputations. In either case, the condottieri chose, disciplined and paid their soldiers, the contracts being between them and their employers. They were exclusively responsible for the actions of their men, and had unlimited power over them, but also the responsibility of looking after them. ... Unlike earlier foreign mercenary companies which had ravaged Italy, the condottieri, who were closely tied to some areas, had no interest in destroying the population physically or economically."
Armor (Helmets, Harness)
* Vuksic/Grbasic 1993 p86
"At this time Milan was the largest European centre of armour production. The characteristic product of the city's workshops was called the Italian Armour, or Lombard- or Milan-style. Most of the sets worn by the soldiers or the condottieri and sold throughout Europe bore the identification marks of the Missaglia family, which owned most of the armoury workshops in Milan in the fifteenth century."
* Edge/Paddock 1988 p104-105
"The other great centre for armour manufacture in the fifteenth century [besides Germany], and indeed perhaps the most important in terms of volume, was Italy, especially Lombardy, and in Lombardy the most important of all was the great city of Milan. ...
"Italian armours were worn widely throughout Europe and in fact gained more popularity than did those of Germany, from which they differed in a number of important ways. Instead of the attenuated 'Gothic' lines favoured by the German craftsmen, the Italian armourers produced much plainer, more rounded designs which gave their armour a utilitarian and robust appearance. This impression was heightened by the fact that the armours were more heavily defended on the left side. The basinet was rarely, if ever, seen in Italy after 1420, nor was the kettle hat ever popular. Those that were used were of the variety with the brim bent down all round, with a keel-shaped comb. These were often covered with cloth but were used for the most part by the common infantryman and were rarely, if ever, worn with bevors."
* Oakeshott 1960 p210, 212
"Though one or two of these [Type XIV] swords have been found in Germany ..., it was a style more generally Italian ...." [...]
"... [C]ertain types -- particularly XIII and XIV -- lasted for a very long time. ... Type XIV is found in the mid-fifteenth century."