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Man of arms and courtier


The military life of the fifteenth century, linked to the commissions of the various cities, Signorie and courts of Italy, developed a class of men-of-arms who formed a dynamic environment linked by common interests and in which the “change of colours” were often agreed and authorized by their patrons. This, already inconceivable for the chroniclers of the seventeenth century, was none the less accepted with the reasoning of “because this was how the times and obligations then had to be done.”  This also does not mean that the military system of the fifteenth-century “commissions” was exempt from the aspect of fidelity: this is demonstrated by some of the episodes of the Anghiarese men of arms, among them that of Gregorio di Vanni whose procurator Giusto Giusti, when sending him is service with the Genoese or the Venetians often asked the Florentines for permission. Also in the deeds of Gregorio di Vanni we can see the seeds of the decline of the Italian arms profession. Already in 1450 Gregorio was “so greedy for pay that he could not find anyone who wanted him and had become almost odious to everyone”. By the late fifteenth century the ever more important presence of German and foreign mercenaries in the pay of the nascent European national kingdoms, which resulted in the sack of Rome in 1527, had as a direct consequence the weakening of the Italian men-of-arms, considered, with the progress of ever more centralised, dynastic and organized political interests, to be not very reliable and extremely expensive. The figure of the man-at-arms therefore transforms, becoming a courtier, entering by right to be part of the system of power and increases his prestige by participating in the activities of the court. The transformation has taken place; social success has been achieved. The fifteenth-century constable, sometimes of humble birth, has given life to his progressive freeing of himself from his conditions of origin, often bringing his family to wealth and prestige.  

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