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Dec 28, 2013
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Most Recent Update --- Chapter 65: I Believe in America, 1692-1696

Italian Ambitions: An Italy AAR





Table of Contents
Part I: The Republic
Chapter 1: The Beginnings of Florence, 59 BCE-1389
Chapter 2: The Rise of the Medici, 1389-1444
Chapter 3: The Tuscan Wars, 1444-1450
Chapter 4: Cosimo's Florence, 1450-1454
Chapter 5: Turbulent Days, 1454-1456
Chapter 6: The Great Reforms, 1456-1460
Chapter 7: The League of Verona, 1460-1462
Chapter 8: Politics and War, 1462-1466

Chapter 9: The Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, 1466-1470
Chapter 10: New Management, 1470-1475
Chapter 11: A Revolution in Military Affairs, 1475-1484
Chapter 12: The Triumvirate Rises, 1484-1490
Chapter 13: Machiavelli Goes to Work, 1490-1496
Chapter 14: The First Italian War, 1496-1499
Chapter 15: A New Century, 1499-1503
Chapter 16: The Fool or the Mad Man?, 1503-1505
Chapter 17: City of God, 1505-1508
Chapter 18: Morning in Florence, 1508-1510
Chapter 19: Embargoes and Spies, 1510-1512
Chapter 20: The Lion and the Lily, 1512-1515
Chapter 21: A Brief Respite, 1515-1522
Chapter 22: The War for the Val Padana, 1522-1525
Chapter 23: Final Preparations, 1525-1528

Part II: The Grand Duchy

Chapter 24: The Grand Duchy of Tuscany, 1528-1530
Chapter 25: Girolamo the Magnificent, 1530-1535
Chapter 26: La Granduchessa, 1535-1540
Chapter 27: The Scourge of Europe, 1540-1544
Chapter 28: The Education of a Grand Duke, 1544-1548
Chapter 29: New Forms of Expression, 1548-1553
Chapter 30: Sinking Venice, 1553-1557
Chapter 31: A Wedding of Opportunity, 1557-1563
Chapter 32: Il Mezzogiorno, 1563-1570
Chapter 33: Into the Abyss, 1570-1571
Chapter 34: In Dubious Battle, 1571-1575
Chapter 35: The Peace of Regensburg, 1575-1576
Chapter 36: An Uneasy Peace, 1576-1580
Chapter 37: Fire in the South, 1580-1584
Chapter 38: Festina Lente, 1584-1590
Chapter 39: A Place in the Sun, 1590-1594
Chapter 40: The Dutch Revolt, 1594-1596
Chapter 41: The Wrath of God, 1596-1601
Chapter 42: The Storms Between the Storms, 1601-1607
Chapter 43: The War of the League of Sevilla, 1607-1610
Chapter 44: The Siege, 1610-1612
Chapter 45: Red Flags, 1612-1617

Part III: The Kingdom

Chapter 46: Re d'Italia, 1617-1623
Chapter 47: Across the Sea, 1623-1625
Chapter 48: King Alberto's Little Wars, 1625-1630
Chapter 49: Lion Tamer, 1630-1634
Chapter 50: End of an Era, 1634-1642
Chapter 51: The Cypriot Revolt, 1642-1645
Chapter 52: "A Strange and Wondrous Succession of Changes", 1645-1650
Chapter 53: The Iberian War, 1650-1654
Chapter 54: A Time of Plenty, 1654-1659
Chapter 55: The German Tragedy, 1659-1662
Chapter 56: Brazil, 1662-1666

Chapter 57: Every Nation has a Purpose, 1666-1670
Chapter 58: Crusader Kings, 1670-1672
Chapter 59: Gerusalemme Liberata, 1672-1675
Chapter 60: The Constitution, 1675-1676
Chapter 61: Years of Lead, 1676-1678
Chapter 62: The Cruel Wars, 1678-1684
Chapter 63: Verso l'Illuminismo, 1684-1689
Chapter 64: Fires to the West, Temptations to the East, 1689-1692
Chapter 65: I Believe in America, 1692-1696

Historical Vignettes

Historical Vignette 1: The Citizens v. Piero de' Medici: Florentine Crime Story, 21 September 1455
Historical Vignette 2: Nothing Decisive, 10 July 1465
Historical Vignette 3: A Grand Old Party, 1 February 1490
Historical Vignette 4: Leverage, 26 June 1499
Historical Vignette 5: The Last Summer of Reason, 18 June-26 August 1505
Historical Vignette 6: The Bonfire of the Vanities, 10 January 1508
Historical Vignette 7: Changing the Situation, 27 January-10 May 1508
Historical Vignette 8: Florentine Girls, 24 June 1512
Historical Vignette 9: The Winds of War, 28 June 1512-24 November 1514

Historical Vignette 10: Genovese Vacation, 14 August 1524
Historical Vignette 11: Bittersweet End, 3-12 December 1528
Historical Vignette 12: Here to Make Friends, 10 May 1533
Historical Vignette 13: The Battle of the Venetian Lagoon, 13-14 November 1553
Historical Vignette 14: Christmas in Strasbourg, 25 December 1572
Historical Vignette 15: Desolation Road, 25-29 November 1575
Historical Vignette 16: Welcome to the Family, 8 August 1582
Historical Vignette 17: The Tourney at Bologna Part 1, 14 May 1590
Historical Vignette 18: The Tourney at Bologna Part 2, 16-17 May 1590
Historical Vignette 19: Fire and Mud, 21-22 February 1596
Historical Vignette 20: Amsterdam, 5 December 1599
Historical Vignette 21: Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, 4 December 1601-15 October 1602
Historical Vignette 22: So it Begins, 16 March 1607-4 June 1607
Historical Vignette 23: An Army at Dawn: 22-25 September 1612
Historical Vignette 24: The Battle for Florence, 25 September 1612
Historical Vignette 25: TBD
Historical Vignette 26: Different Currents, 3 July-26 August 1644
Historical Vignette 27: TBD

Historical Vignette 28: In Her Majesty's Service, 1 January 1681
Historical Vignette 29: Friends on the Other Side, 12 November 1691-28 February 1692

Medici Family Tree

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Book List

Over the course of writing this AAR, I was informed and inspired by numerous works, both fiction and non-fiction, that I have read over the years. A few I read specifically because playing Europa Universalis IV and writing this AAR actually made me want to learn more about the time period involved. Some I have borrowed from heavily, up to and including adapting their quotes. Accordingly, I wanted to give credit where credit was due. Additionally, I would highly recommend any of these books to anyone who has not read them and is interested in learning more about Italy or the Early Modern Period.


  • Ballestracci, Duccio -- The Renaissance in the Fields: Family Memoirs of a Fifteenth-Century Tuscan Peasant
  • Bellonci, Maria -- A Prince of Mantua: The Life and Times of Vincenzo Gonzaga
  • Blackburn, Robin -- The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800
  • Blom, Philipp -- Nature's Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age of the Long Seventeenth Century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present
  • Brook, Timothy -- Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World
  • Crowley, Roger -- Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World
  • Dalrymple, William -- The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company
  • Eustace, Nicole -- Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America
  • Fletcher, Catherine -- The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro dé Medici
  • Fraser, Antonia -- Love and Louis XIV
  • Green, Toby --- A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution
  • Goodwin, Jason -- Lords of the Horizon: A History of the Ottoman Empire
  • Hämäläinen, Pekka -- Indigenous Continent: The Epic Contest for North America
  • Hibbert, Christopher -- The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall
  • Mansel, Philip -- King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV
  • Martines, Lauro -- Furies: War in Europe 1450-1700
  • Machiavelli, Niccoló -- Florentine Histories
  • Madden, Thomas F. -- Venice: A New History
  • Mallett, Michael & Christine Shaw -- The Italian Wars 1494-1559
  • Osterhammel, Jürgen -- Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment’s Encounter with Asia
  • Parker, Geoffrey -- Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century
  • Rediker, Marcus Buford -- The Slave Ship: A Human History
  • Wedgewood, C.V. -- The Thirty Years War
  • Wheatcroft, Andrew -- The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe
  • Williams, E.N. -- The Ancien Régime in Europe: Government and Society in the Major States 1648-1789
  • Winder, Simon -- Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe
  • Kadare, Ismail -- The Siege
  • Maalouf, Amin -- Balthasar's Odyssey
  • Márquez, Gabriel García -- The General in his Labyrinth
  • Martin, George R.R. -- A Song of Ice and Fire
  • Roth, Joseph -- The Radetzky March
  • Stephenson, Neal -- The Baroque Cycle

AARland Choice Award Winner -- Q1 2017, Q2 2017, Q2 2022
WritAAR of the Week -- 25 June 2017; 22 June 2020; 30 January 2023
Best Character Writer of the Week -- 5 April 2017; 21 May 2023
Weekly AAR Showcase -- 12-19 June 2016; 23-30 December 2018
Winner 2017 AARtist of the Year
Runner-up 2022 Graphics/AARtist of the Year
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Chapter 1: The Beginnings of Florence, 59 BCE - 1389

The city of Florence was destined for greatness. It was founded by Julius Caesar as a settlement for the veterans of his armies in 59 BCE in the Arno River valley along the Via Cassia, the main route of travel between Rome and Northern Italy. It was conquered by Charlemagne in 774 and was put under the rule of the city that would later become a major rival, Lucca.

The dawn of the Second Millennium CE coincided with the dawn of the Golden Age of Florentine art. In 1013, construction began on the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. The exterior of the baptistery was reworked in Romanesque style between 1059 and 1128. This period also saw the growth of Florentine military strength, when they eclipsed and eventually conquered their former powerful rival, Pisa. The conquest of Pisa led to Florence’s growth as a major mercantile power in Northern Italy. Though the exact date is unknown, the Republic of Florence was founded some time between 1115, the death of the ruler of Tuscany, the Margravine Matilda, and 1138 when it joined a league of Italian cities designed to fight against Henry X of Bavaria.

Margravine Matilda of Tuscany, known as a great warrior and ruler, she was the last person to rule a unified Tuscany

Florence continued to prosper into the Twelfth Century, trading extensively with foreign countries. The city saw a large population increase during this time, leading to further mercantile power. Many churches and palazzi were built during this period, furthering the city’s reputation as a center of culture and power.

This prosperity was shattered during Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa’s last invasions of Italy in 1185. Although the Italian city states had achieved a measure of independence from Frederick as a result of his failed fifth expedition into Italy, the emperor had not given up on his Italian dominions. In 1184, Frederick again moved into Italy, this time joining forces with the local rural nobility to reduce the power of the Tuscan cities. As a result, the Margraves of Tuscany re-acquired Florence and its townlands. Nevertheless, the Florentines were able to throw off the rural nobility and re-asserted their independence when Emperor Henry VI died in 1197.

The Thirteenth Century saw Florence begin to rise again. Florence's population continued to grow, reaching 30,000 inhabitants. Several new bridges and churches were built, most prominently the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, in 1294. The buildings from the era serve as Florence's best example of Gothic Architecture. In 1252 the city introduced one of its greatest innovations: the Florin. The coin was widely used beyond Florence's borders due to its reliable, fixed gold content and soon became one of the common currencies of Europe and the Near East. The same year saw the creation of the Palazzo del Popolo.


Santa Maria del Fiore, the iconic cathedral of Florence


Front and back of a Florin coin

The city was able to achieve and maintain this great growth and prosperity despite being wracked by an ongoing civil conflict between two major factions: the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. The divide had its roots in the conflicts between the Holy Roman Empire, specifically during Frederick Barbarossa’s Italian campaigns, and the Catholic Church. The former party favored the Pope while the latter supported the increased authority of the Holy Roman Emperor. The Guelphs, the more populist and popular of the two factions, were ascendant in Florence and favored a pro-mercantile policy, known as the Primo Popolo, which included the introduction of the Florin. This lasted until the city’s disastrous defeat at the hands of Siena at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260. The ensuing crisis in the city led to a Ghibelline seizure of power and the undoing of the Guelph’s pro-merchant, populist policies. However, Pope Clement IV’s intervention led to the re-establishment of the Guelphs into power.


The Battle of Montaperti saw Siena deal a devastating defeat to Florence

The period of Guelph rule that followed allowed the Florentine economy to reach its zenith in the late Thirteenth Century. The famed Palazzo della Signoria was built, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. The Florentine townlands were divided into administrative districts in 1292. In 1293 the Ordinances of Justice were enacted which effectively became the constitution of the republic of Florence throughout the Italian Renaissance.The city's numerous luxurious palazzi were becoming surrounded by townhouses, built by the ever prospering merchant class. In 1298, one of the leading banking families of Europe, the Bonsignoris, were bankrupted and so the city of Siena lost her status as the banking center of Europe to Florence. This also increased tension between the two cities.


Palazzo della Signoria

The friction between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines did not cease with the beginning of the Fourteenth Century, authority still passed between the two frequently. Florence's reign as the foremost banking city of Europe did not last long as the major banks went bankrupt in 1340 due to a Europe-wide economic recession. While the banks perished, Florentine literature flourished, and Florence was home to some of the greatest writers in Italian history: Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. They were Europe's first vernacular writers, choosing the Tuscan dialect of Italian over Latin. Many of the characters in Dante's classic, The Divine Comedy, are drawn from prominent figures in the Guelph-Ghibelline struggles.


Dante Alighieri

Florence was hit hard by the Black Death which, combined with the economic downturn, took its toll on the city-state. However, the ensuing collapse of the feudal system in the region changed the social composition of Italy forever. Despite its staggering toll in human life, the Black Death marked one of the first steps out of the Middle Ages. Boccaccio's epic, The Decameron, was based on life during the Black Death, revolving around stories told by Florentines who had fled the city during an outbreak of the disease.


A Page from a Fifteenth Century edition of Boccaccio's The Decameron

Revolution came to Florence in 1378 when discontented wool workers revolted in what would become known as the Ciompi Revolt. The workers established a revolutionary commune which lasted until 1382 when the wealthier classes managed to crush the rebellion. Despite the failure of the Ciompi Revolt to hold power, the ideals that drove its initial success survived in Florence, influencing later movements and reaching all the way up to affect even the ideology of the ruling class.

The famous Medici Bank was established by Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici in October 1397. Medici’s business acumen quickly turned his bank into the most well-known and powerful of the Florentine financial institutions and would give his family the wealth and influence it needed to transform Florence forever.


Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, founder of the Medici Bank
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Chapter 2: The Rise of the Medici, 1389-1444

The series of conflicts that would eventually open the way for the rise of the Medici and modern Florence almost led to the city’s destruction and subjugation. Beginning in 1389 Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the ruler of Milan, expanded his dominions into the Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. During this period Florence under the leadership of Maso degli Albizzi, a bitter rival of the Medici, and Nicolo da Uzzano would be involved in three wars with Milan (1390–92, 1397–98, 1400–02). The first two conflicts ended in stalemate, though the Milanese army devastated the Florentine countryside. A peace agreement in May 1398 was brokered by Venice, but left the struggle unresolved. Over the next two years Florentine control of Tuscany and Umbria collapsed. Pisa and Siena, as well as a number of smaller cities submitted to Gian Galeazzo and Milan, while Lucca withdrew from the anti-Visconti league, leaving Bologna as the only remaining major ally of Florence.

The republic bankrolled the Holy Roman Emperor-elect Rupert. However, he was defeated by the Milanese in the fall of 1401. Visconti then turned to attack Bologna. On 26 June 1402, combined Bolognese-Florentine forces were routed at Casalecchio, near Bologna, which was then taken on the 30th. The road to Tuscany was open. However, Florence was saved after an outbreak of plague had spread from Tuscany to Emilia and Lombardy: Gian Galeazzo died from it on 3 September 1402.


Gian Galeazzo Visconti

Following the wars, the Visconti domains were divided between three heirs and Gabriele Maria Visconti sold Pisa to the Republic of Florence for 200,000 florins. Since the Pisans did not intend to voluntarily submit to their long-time rivals, the Florentine army under the command of Maso degli Albizzi took Pisa on 9 October 1406 after a long siege, that was accompanied by numerous atrocities.

The state authorities had been approached by the Duchy of Milan in 1422, with a treaty, that prohibited Florence's interference with Milan's impending war with the Republic of Genoa. Florence obliged, but Milan disregarded its own treaty and occupied a Florentine border town. The conservative government wanted war, while the people bemoaned such a stance as they would be subject to enormous tax increases. The republic went to war with Milan anyway, and won, upon the Republic of Venice's entry on their side. The war was concluded in 1427, and the Visconti of Milan were forced to sign an unfavorable treaty.

The debt incurred during the war was gargantuan, approximately 4,200,000 florins. To pay, the state had to change the tax system. The current estimo system was replaced with the catasto. The castato was based on a citizen's entire wealth, while the estimo was simply a form of income tax. The people of Florence, including the powerful merchants, were outraged.

The financial and political crisis that followed the wars with Milan opened the door for the Medici to take power. Cosimo de' Medici, the son of Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, succeeded his father as the head of the Medici Bank. He used his family’s wealth, and its ability to bail Florence out of its financial difficulties, to give himself a prominent position in the government. He paid off much of the city's debt and promised to abolish the hated catasto tax. The Medici’s rivals, led by the Albizzi family, had him exiled to Venice in 1433 claiming he was a threat to the city’s republican tradition. However, Cosimo's exile in Venice lasted for less than a year, when the people of Florence overturned Cosimo's exile in a democratic vote. He returned to widespread acclaim and was elected Grand Consul, a position he would hold until his death in 1460. He was also able to take revenge on his rivals by orchestrating the banishment of the Albizzi family by mobilizing popular anger at the high taxes, thus cementing his hold on power.


Cosimo de' Medici, Grand Consul of Florence from 1434 to 1460

The foundations of the Renaissance in Florence would be laid under Cosimo’s rule. Niccolò Niccoli was the leading Florence humanist scholar of the time. He appointed the first Professor of Greek, Manuel Chrysoloras , at the University of Florence in 1397. Niccoli was a keen collector of ancient manuscripts, which he bequeathed to Cosimo upon his death in 1437. Poggio Bracciolini succeeded Niccoli as the principal humanist of Florence. Bracciolini was born Arezzo in 1380. He toured Europe, searching for more ancient Greco-Roman manuscripts for Niccoli. Unlike his employer, Bracciolini also authored his own works. He was made the Chancellor of Florence shortly before his death, by Cosimo, who was his best friend.


Poggio Bracciolini, Florentine humanist

Florence hosted the Great Ecumenical Council in 1439; this council was launched in an attempt to reconcile the Byzantine Orthodox Church with Roman Catholicism. Pope Eugenius IV convened it in reply to a cry for assistance from the Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaiologos. John VIII's empire was slowly being devoured by the Ottoman Turks. The council was a huge boost to Florence's international prestige. The council deliberated until July 1439. Both parties had reached a compromise, and the Pope agreed to militarily aid the Byzantine Emperor. Unfortunately, upon John VIII's homecoming to Constantinople, the Greeks rejected the compromise, leading to riots throughout what remained of the Byzantine Empire. John VIII was forced to repudiate the agreement with the Roman church to appease the rioters. As a result, no Western aid was forthcoming and the Byzantine Empire's fate was sealed.

Cosimo's fervent patronage transformed Florence into the epitome of a Renaissance city. He employed Donatello, Brunelleschi, and Michelozzo. All these artistic commissions cost Cosimo over 600,000 florins.


The great artist Donatello

Cosimo’s political maneuvering within the city and his patronage of art had cemented his status and made Florence visible on the international stage. However, he was not content with this. Cosimo de’ Medici wanted to turn Florence from a small, culturally influential city-state into a major power. For centuries, every Florentine advance seemed to be later reversed by some major setback, whether brought on by war or nature or economics. Cosimo’s goal was to make Florence so strong that she would no longer have to fear losing her power and influence due to this or that twist of fate. In order to achieve that goal, he would have to confront and decisively defeat some of Florence’s historical rivals. That is exactly what he set out to do.
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Ooh, narrative campaign backed up by some history. Looks nice so far, and you definitely went with an interesting start, so good luck with this~
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Good luck! I hope to see Italy united and Rome reborn! ;)
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Whoa. I open the thread after less than four days, and we've got THREE more updates! Way to go.:)
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These are troubled times...
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These are troubled times...
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Chapter 3: The Tuscan Wars, 1444-1450

Cosimo de’ Medici’s goals of turning Florence into a premier power began locally. His first order of business was to eliminate the city-state’s two principal regional rivals: Lucca and Siena. Both had major ports whose capture would further increase Florentine trade power and they were both wealthy. Despite their financial strength, both states were militarily weak and, in 1444, had no strong alliances. Cosimo ordered his agents to begin working to fabricate claims on both lands. For claims on both, the Florentine agents dug up manuscripts from the time of Charlemagne outlining the creation of the March of Tuscany. They then concocted an almost entirely fictional story that linked several prominent families in Florence to the House of Canossa, the rulers of the March of Tuscany up until 1115.


Italy in 1444

While almost entirely baseless, these claims gave Cosimo the pretext he needed for an offensive war. However, prior to plunging into conflict, Cosimo needed to expand and modernize the army. To do this, he promoted the condottiero Pietro Leopoldo del Rosso to the newly created position of Captain of the Florentine Army. Del Rosso, born in Bologna in 1406, began his military career at age 16 in the service of Carlo I Malatesta, Lord of Rimini and distinguished himself two years later at the Battle of Zagonara. Malatesta and his troops lost the battle and when his commander was captured, del Rosso left Italy to seek fortune and glory fighting for the French in the Hundred Years’ War. He fought at the siege of Orleans in 1429 and had met both Joan of Arc and befriended King Charles VII of France. Upon his return to Italy, he found employment with the Venetians and was wounded at the Battle of Delebio, a devastating Venetian defeat at the hands of Milan, in 1432. In the Fourth Campaign of the Wars in Lombardy, Terreni was made a lieutenant of Francesco Sforza and was introduced to Cosimo de’ Medici during the peace negotiations at Cavriana in 1440. The two became close friends and del Rosso was the first man de’ Medici turned to as a commander for his forces. The choice would turn out to be an excellent one.



Pietro Leopoldo del Rosso would transform the Florentine army into a formidable fighting force

Nominally, all of Italy north of the Papal States was still a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Historically, any plans for invading another member of the Empire, which both Siena and Lucca were, would require careful negotiation with the Emperor. However, over the years, the Empire's sway over Italy had withered away and Florence, as well as several of the other stronger Italian states, now saw an opportunity to challenge Imperial authority on the peninsula and chart their own course. Their was even talk in some intellectual circles of a future Kingdom of Italy, but that was still a distant fantasy for the time being.


The Holy Roman Empire's diminished authority over Italy gave the stronger states on the peninsula greater room to maneuver

In addition to preparing his armed forces, Cosimo wanted to finish shoring up his political power at home. On 11 November 1444, he passed two major acts: he declared a statute in restraint of appeals and dissolved the monasteries. The former act demoted the Pope within Florentine territory and placed final legal authority in all matters of religion in the hands of the city’s rulers. The latter act confiscated all of the Church’s small holdings, handing their control over to the city. Both acts were very unpopular with Florence’s neighbors and were angrily denounced by Pope Eugenius IV. Nevertheless, they were widely supported within the city-state and especially, in the countryside, where the confiscated land could now be used by poor farmers. This increased Cosimo’s popularity a great deal.

On 17 June 1445, the Republic of Florence declared war on the Republic of Siena. Del Rosso had the Florentine army drilled to perfection and ready to move quickly. On 5 July they met the Sienese army at the town of Poggibonsi, about 35 kilometers Northwest of Siena. He sent his cavalry to attempt a wide double envelopment. Forced to spread out their lines, the Sienese troops were overwhelmed by a powerful infantry charge against their center, which broke their lines. After the victory, del Rosso left behind a force large enough to begin a siege of Siena itself while he pursued the remnants of his defeated enemy. He caught up to them four days later on 9 July, surrounded them, and forced a surrender.

The rulers of Siena were not ready to surrender however and it took nearly a year for the city to capitulate. When they finally did, on 4 July 1446, Cosimo had taken his first step toward consolidating Florentine power in Tuscany. As part of the peace deal, Florence was able to install their own friendly ruler, Damiano Zaccardo, in power. While Siena remained nominally a republic, they were practically ruled by the Florentines. Upon his return to Florence, Pietro Leopoldo del Rosso presented the sword of the slain Sienese commander, Gian Galeazzo Accarigi, to Cosimo de Medici and told him, “we have avenged Montaperti.” He was referring to the famous 1260 battle where the outnumbered Sienese Ghibelline army had smashed the Florentine Guelph army.

Following the victory against Siena, Cosimo turned his focus to his other Tuscan rival, Lucca. However, the Luchesi had been invaded by Milan, and less than three weeks after the surrender of Siena, they too were forced to capitulate to the Milanese. They were annexed and now Florence had to worry about a powerful, hostile enemy on their border. For the time being, Cosimo de’ Medici’s ambitions for territorial expansion were put on hold.

He decided that better diplomacy was the answer in addition to the continued strengthening of the army under the capable of command of Captain del Rosso. On 8 March 1447, the Republic of Florence signed an alliance with Switzerland. In an even bigger diplomatic coup, the Florentines signed an alliance with the Most Serene Republic of Venice. Now assured of overwhelming military superiority, Cosimo was ready to move against Milan.



The alliances with Switzerland and Venice gave Florence a decisive advantage over Milan

Captain del Rosso’s plan of attack was to move swiftly and overwhelm the enemy before they could respond. On 6 October 1448 Florence, Switzerland, and Venice declared war on Milan. Del Rosso marched his army north and swiftly occupied the entire Milanese countryside and, by 3 November his troops had begun besieging the capital itself. The stunning and rapid success of the campaign had Florence in high spirits and led to Cosimo’s landslide re-election in November 1448. At Milan, Captain del Rosso detached a small force to maintain the siege and marched the main body of his force north to join the Swiss and the Venetians to attack the Milanese at Graubunden on 12 January 1449 A victory there, followed by a swift pursuit to destroy the fleeing enemy outside the city of Brescia on 21 January, finished off the Milanese army. Milan itself held out longer, but by December of 1449, the city surrendered.


Captain del Rosso's "Dash to Milan" in the Fall of 1448

In the Peace of Cremona, Milan was forced to cede Lucca to the Florentines, give up all of its claims in Switzerland, and to release Parma as an independent state. The allies had achieved their goals. Florence had Lucca and Milan had been significantly weakened. On 29 January 1450 the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III, demanded that Florence return Lucca, taken as an “unlawful territory”. However, following the excellent performance of his army and the strength of the alliance with Venice, now made stronger through the crucible of war, Cosimo refused to give it up. The Emperor, though outraged, was not ready for a war in Italy yet. Lucca was safely in Florentine hands.


The Peace of Cremona ended the war against Milan

All of Tuscany was now under the thumb of Florence. Cosimo de Medici had elevated the city to the most powerful position in its history. The powers across Europe began to take notice and, with the new military gains combined with the already established Florentine cultural and economic traditions, greatly increased the prestige of the city. Piero Leopoldo del Rosso, the man who had turned the Florentine forces into an army to be respected in Italy, had a “Grand” added to his title of Captain. The Tuscan Wars were over, Florence now looked to expand its power elsewhere on the peninsula though that would prove to be a more difficult challenge.
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That's a good start, for sure.
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Chapter 4: Cosimo’s Florence, 1450- 1454

The end of the Tuscan Wars left Cosimo de’ Medici and Florence in a position of strength and confidence. The Gonfaloniere now turned to domestic issues, where he sought to solidify Florence’s position as the cultural and artistic center of Italy. In the Florentine Assembly, Cosimo called for a great endeavor to improve and beautify the capital city. The Florentine nobles and merchants, suspicious of the potential costs of such a project, initially proposed using the army to conduct all of the work involved. However, both de’ Medici and Grand Captain Piero Leopoldo del Rosso both opposed this measure as they felt it would degrade the morale and capabilities of the military. Additionally, Cosimo's vision entailed using great artists and architects for the job in order to turn Florence into a truly world class city. The nobles and merchants were brought on board by promises of greater long term wealth. As part of the improvements, Cosimo proposed the construction of a new, centralized marketplace for the city.


Cosimo de’ Medici initiated a great project to improve the “greatness and glory of Florence”

Cosimo wanted to hire an expert to oversee the artistic and architectural side of the city improvements. To do this, the Gonfaloniere hired the legendary Florentine artist, Fra Angelico, to oversee the campaign. Angelico, born Guido di Pietro in 1395, was one of the great artists of the early Renaissance and was already known throughout Italy when Cosimo approached him. For the great artist, the Gonfaloniere created a new position: Master of Art and Architecture. He would answer only to the Gonfaloniere himself and Cosimo was happy to give Angelico free hand on most projects he undertook. Handing over creative control to a well known and respected artistic master attracted other artists to the city as well. Soon, the transformation of Florence was well underway.



The great Florentine artist Fra Angelico


Fra Angelico’s Deposition from the Cross in Florence’s Santa Trinita Church

Keeping his promise to the merchants, Cosimo also ordered plans be drawn up for a brand new, centrally located marketplace for the capital. It would be located on the northern bank of the Arno River around and on the Ponte Vecchio. The new construction would enable a better exchange of goods and products and allow various merchants and artisans to better advertise their wares. With all of Florence coming to one place to shop, it would also transform the social life of the city, leading to a greater intermingling between nobles and commoners as well as the city dwellers and their country cousins, who would come to Florence to sell their goods.


The new marketplace commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici would be a great improvement for Florence

A major debate to emerge in Florence during this time period was related to monetary reform. Inflation was beginning to spiral out of control as a result of a number of mints throughout the republic producing their own coins. Each of the provinces controlled by Florence, Pisa, Arezzo, and Lucca, had its own mint and the capital had three all on its own. As a result, there was no control over monetary policy. The merchants, while favoring higher inflation rates, did not like the haphazard nature of the monetary situation as it created uncertainty. The same went for the landed nobility, who wanted to keep inflation down to better control the peasantry by keeping them in debt. Only the city nobility, who controlled the large mints, wanted to keep things as they were. They belonged to the Black Guelph party, historically the most powerful political faction in Florence and the one from which the Medici came from as well. However, in this case, Cosimo saw an opportunity to increase the power of the Gonfaloniere while bringing potential political adversaries into the fold. He held the unquestioning loyalty of the Black Guelphs and the opportunity to now bring the country nobility, historically favoring the White Guelphs, into his coalition proved too good to pass up.

On 6 July 1452, de’ Medici passed the Mint Act, which would place all mints under the control of the republic. Of course, his now dispossessed allies who had owned the mints previously were generously compensated for their losses and, in most cases, appointed to head the mints they had owned, though now in the capacity of employees of the republic. For the newly appointed position of Master of Mints, Cosimo appointed his eldest son, Piero, already the president of the Medici Bank. Piero, nicknamed “the Gouty” due to his perpetually bad health, was a capable businessman, but lacked the political acumen and foresight of his father. This would come back to be a major liability in the future. For now however, the monetary issue was resolved.


The monetary reform issue represented a major domestic political victory for Cosimo de’ Medici

Cosimo was easily re-elected to his position of Gonfaloniere in November of 1452 on a wave of confidence and good feeling. While some rival families, led by the Spadolini clan, attempted to mount an opposition to his renewed candidacy, Cosimo’s popularity following the success in the Tuscan Wars as well as the overwhelming support of both the merchants and the army secured his electoral victory.

The Florentine merchants, a growing power within the republic, had helped bankroll the modernization and expansion of the army, supported the state through the Tuscan Wars even when many of the noble families had shirked responsibility, and were subsidizing the great improvements to the capital. Now, they wanted to reap their rewards. A merchant delegation approached Cosimo to petition him for the construction of a new trade fleet. For many years, they had been losing out to merchants from Genoa and Aragon. The Tuscan Wars had certainly benefited them, bringing their former rivals from Lucca and Siena into the Florentine fold, but they were now eager to compete with the historically more powerful trade rivals in the western Mediterranean. They promised to continue contributing to the growth of the Florence if Cosimo would finance the construction of a new, modern fleet. Cosimo readily accepted the proposition. While his popularity was strong with the merchants, the army, the artisans, and even in the countryside, he always had to be on the lookout for challenges among the noble families of Florence itself. Maintaining the support of the merchants was a crucial bulwark against potential challengers. Accordingly, Cosimo commissioned the construction of six new Barques to patrol the trade routes between the Florentine ports and Genoa. This had the added benefit of giving Florence a stronger naval presence in the adjacent seas.


The Florentine merchants donated generously to the state coffers in exchange for the construction of a modern trade fleet


Engraving of the Florentine trade fleet sailing near the Genoese coast
The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 was a blow to the Christendom. However, the event was a long time in the making, basically assured after the Byzantine population had rejected the West’s offer of help following the Great Ecumenical Council in 1439. From that point on, with no military or financial support imminent, it was just a matter of time before the massive Turkish armies took the City of World’s Desire. While Christianity may have lost one of the world’s most important cities to Islam, Florence stood to gain something from the defeat. Many prominent Byzantine statesmen had visited and lived in Florence while the city hosted the Great Ecumenical Council. They had formed connections there and even invested in the city. Now that they were forced to flee their homes in the east, Florence became a prominent destination for Byzantine refugees. In addition to the connections made by some in prior years, Florence’s culture and cosmopolitanism were at least somewhat similar to what they had known back in Constantinople. The knowledge, traditions, and culture of these new immigrants helped accelerate the Renaissance as well as Florentine technological progress. Many of the descendants of these new arrivals would go on to play prominent roles in the government.

Due to the great advances made by Florence in the years after the Tuscan Wars, Cosimo de’ Medici came to be known as the “Renaissance Prince” throughout Italy and beyond due to his patronage of the arts. Florence was rivaled only be Rome in artistic and cultural splendor and its notoriety would continue to grow as the Renaissance picked up momentum in the coming years. It seemed as if there was nowhere to go but up.


Cosimo de’ Medici came to be known as the “Renaissance Prince”
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On a serious note: good writing, I love the detail. And a great kickstart for Firenze!
Question: What is the part about the White and Black Guelphs about? The English Wikipedia article doesn't mention those two groups. Don't hesitate to point me to good reading material if you know any.
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Good writing as always.:) Kingdom of Italy would be a good stepping stone for the revived Roman Empire, right? ;)
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I am subbing to this so hard.
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Raboude said:
Question: What is the part about the White and Black Guelphs about? The English Wikipedia article doesn't mention those two groups. Don't hesitate to point me to good reading material if you know any.

Yeah the whole Guelph-Ghibelline and White-Black Guelphs thing gets super confusing. Despite being a huge history fan, having spent a great deal of time in Italy, etc I still barely understand it or why certain families or cities were motivated to join one side or another. Some make more sense than others. I'm not even sure if the Black-White split was unique to Florence or happened in other Guelph cities as well. Basically after the Guelphs defeated the Ghibellines in Florence, instead of bringing peace and stability they descended into pretty vicious infighting. From the best I understand is that the Black Guelphs favored closer ties with the Pope whereas the White Guelphs wanted to chart a more independent course. The White Guelphs initially won but the Blacks returned a few years later along with a French army that helped them retake the city. But then the White Guelphs somehow came back aided by another foreign army... It gets really confusing.

If you want to learn more look up stuff about the life of Dante. He was involved in this squabble on the side of the White Guelphs, it's what eventually got him exiled from Florence when the Black Guelphs took over. Thankfully for the future of Italian culture, he was in Rome when the Black Guelphs came back and slaughtered a great deal of their adversaries in Florence. Accordingly, the Divine Comedy is full of characters from both sides of the divide, obviously placed in the appropriate place depending on Dante's perception of them.

For the purposes of this AAR I plan on bringing in a lot more of the Guelph-Ghibelline and White-Black Guelph conflict later on, mostly to spice up domestic politics later on. Historically speaking I am not sure how long the White-Black Guelph divide lasted. Dante lived from 1265 to 1321 so obviously way before the time period of EUIV. From what I understand though the Guelph-Ghibelline fight continued up until the Italian Wars broke out in the 1490s and the subsequent domination of the peninsula by the major powers (in this case France, Spain, and the HRE) made it a moot point.

blitzthedragon said:
I am subbing to this so hard.

Thanks for reading.

Nikolai said:
Good writing as always.:) Kingdom of Italy would be a good stepping stone for the revived Roman Empire, right? ;)

I do want to form the Kingdom of Italy but I don't know if I want to do the whole Roman Empire thing, though from what I understand it is now form-able with the new patch.
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