IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 1. Europe, 1479–1675 > f. Italy
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1489)
f. Italy
1. The Italian Wars
The period from about 1450 to 1550 marked not only the apogee of the Renaissance but also the intellectual and artistic primacy of Italy. In the field of history and political science, Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540; Istoria d' Italia published only in 1561) and Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527; Il Principe, 1513) were outstanding. In art history, Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors, and architects (1550, rev. ed. 1568), by Giorgio Vasari (1511–74), stands as the first and most influential of all critical histories of art. The satirist Pietro Aretino (1492–1556) used the shock of sex in pornography as a vehicle to criticize: his Sonnetti lussuriosi (1527) and Ragionamenti (1534–36), sonnets accompanying 16 engravings of as many sexual positions, attacked princely court life, humanist education, and false clerical piety, while Baldassare Castiglione (Il Cortegiano, 1528) produced a famous handbook of the courtier. Ludovico Ariosto (1474–1533; Orlando Furioso, 1516) was one of the greatest epic poets of all time. In the field of music Giovanni da Palestrina (1525–94; at St. Peter's after 1551) and Orlando di Lasso were men of the first rank. Architects and painters of eminence are too numerous to be listed, and it will suffice to recall names like Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519); Raffael Santi (1483–1520; Sistine Madonna, 1516); Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564; Sistine Chapel paintings, 1508–12, 1534–41; dome of St. Peter's, 1547); Andrea del Sarto (1486–1531); Giorgione da Castelfranco (1477–1510); Titian (Tiziano Vecelli, 1477–1576); Gentile Bellini (1429–1507); Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti, 1518–94); Paolo Veronese (1528–88); Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1530–1625) of Cremona, who produced superb family portraits and was the first woman artist to achieve international renown; Andrea Mantegna, Allegri da Correggio, Benvenuto Cellini, and the extraordinary and formidable woman artist Artemisa Gentileschi (1593–c. 1652), whose Judith and Holofernes reflects her bloodthirsty themes.  1
Politically, however, Italy was divided and soon became the “cockpit” of Europe, the victim of the rivalries of the rising monarchies, which coveted the wealth of the peninsula. There were, at the time, five major Italian states: Venice, the strongest of all, deriving its wealth and influence from the extensive eastern trade, from its possessions in the Adriatic, Ionian, and Aegean Seas, and from domination of the neighboring mainland; Milan, ruled by Ludovico Sforza and commanding the rich valley of the Po; Florence, long one of the most progressive of Italian communities, having attained to great splendor under Lorenzo the Magnificent; the Papal States, carved from the central part of the peninsula and in process of expansion under the political popes of the late 15th century; the kingdom of Naples, deeply involved in the Middle East, ruled by a branch of the Aragonese house. These states maintained a precarious balance among themselves but were almost all so imperialistic that they were constantly endeavoring to victimize one another and ultimately reached the point of calling in the foreigner, with the result that Italy became the prey of French, German, and Spanish ambitions.  2
Formation of a secret alliance between Florence and Naples for the spoliation of Milan. This led to Ludovico Sforza's appeal to Charles VIII of France to make good the Anjou claims on Naples.  3
THE FRENCH INVASION OF ITALY. Charles arrived in September and met with no real resistance. Florence submitted but then drove out Piero de' Medici (Nov.) and abandoned the French connection. Thereupon Charles attacked and took Florence, which was obliged to give up Pisa and other towns. Charles advanced on Rome (Jan. 1495) and thence into Naples. Alfonso fled to Sicily, leaving Naples to his son Ferrante, who was driven out by a revolt. The French entered Naples (Feb. 22, 1495), but their very success led to the formation of a coalition directed against them: Milan, Venice, Emperor Maximilian, Pope Alexander VI, and Ferdinand of Aragon leagued together against Charles, forcing his retreat to the north. The Spaniards (Gonzalvo de Córdoba) soon reconquered Naples.  4
1499, Feb
Venice agreed to support the claims of Louis XII of France to Milan in return for a promise of Cremona. The French thereupon invaded Italy a second time (Aug.) and forced Ludovico Sforza to flee from Milan to Germany. Milan surrendered (Sept. 14). The next year Sforza returned with an army of German mercenaries and obliged the French to evacuate. Before long the German forces began to disintegrate and the French returned to Milan. Sforza was captured and died (1508) in a French prison. Milan thus became French.  5
1500, Nov. 11
By the Treaty of Granada, Ferdinand of Aragon agreed to support Louis's claim to Naples, which was to be divided between France and Spain. In 1501 (June) the French army, marching south, entered Rome, whereupon the pope declared Federigo of Naples deposed and invested Louis and Ferdinand with the kingdom. The French took Capua (July), while the Spanish fleet seized Taranto (March 1502). So much having been gained, the two allies fell to quarreling over the division of the spoils, and war resulted (July). The Spaniards at first suffered reverses but in 1503 defeated a French fleet and won a decisive victory at Cerignola (April 28). They took Naples (May 13), and after another victory at Garigliano (Dec. 28), forced the French to surrender at Gaeta (Jan. 1, 1504). This completed the Spanish conquest of Naples, which, with Sicily, gave them control of southern Italy, as the French had control of Milan in the north.  6
1508, Dec. 10
The LEAGUE OF CAMBRAI, organized to despoil Venice of its possessions on the mainland and in Apulia. Emperor Maximilian promised Louis XII the investiture of Milan in return for support. Ferdinand of Aragon and Pope Julius II joined the coalition. The French attacked and defeated the Venetians at Agnadello (May 14, 1509). Surrender of Verona, Vicenza, and Padua, which were handed over to Maximilian. But the Venetians soon rallied and retook Padua (July 17), which was besieged in vain by Maximilian. Vicenza too rose against the emperor and recalled the Venetians. After a French victory at Ravenna (Easter, 1512), even the emperor and the Swiss cantons joined the coalition against the French, who were driven out of Milan (May). In a congress of the league at Mantua (Aug.), the Spaniards forced the Florentines to take back the Medici and join the league. Milan was given to Maximilian Sforza (son of Ludovico). The war continued until the French were badly defeated at Novara (June 6, 1513), after which the pope, Ferdinand, and Henry of England all made peace.  7
The new French king, Francis I, as deeply interested in Italy as his two predecessors and quite as adventurous, concluded an alliance with Henry VIII and Venice against the emperor Maximilian, the pope, Ferdinand, Milan, Florence, and the Swiss. The French won a great victory at Marignano (Sept. 13), by which they recovered Milan. Thereupon the pope came to terms, surrendered Parma and Piacenza, and in return secured the Concordat of Bologna (See 1515, Sept. 13–14). After the death of Ferdinand (Jan. 1516), his successor, Charles I (later Emperor Charles V), confronted with problems in Spain and Germany and eager to secure European cooperation against the advance of the Ottoman Turks, concluded with Francis the Treaty of Noyon (Aug. 13, 1516), by which the French retained Milan but gave up their claims to Naples. Maximilian returned Brescia and Verona to Venice in consideration of a money payment.  8
First of the Habsburg-Valois Wars, (See 1521–29) for many of which Italy became a battlefield. The pope and England supported Charles V against Francis. Having been driven out of Milan, Parma, and Piacenza, the French were defeated at Bicocca (April 27, 1522) and retained only the citadel of Milan. In May they were even driven from Genoa, their all-important sea base. But in Oct. 1524 the French invaded Italy with a large army and retook Milan (Oct. 29). The pope changed sides and joined the French.  9
1525, Feb. 24
The BATTLE OF PAVIA, the most important engagement of the long Italian wars. The Spanish commanders, Constable de Bourbon (prominent French noble and opponent of Francis) and Marquís de Pescara, completely defeated the French. Francis himself was captured and sent to Madrid. There he concluded the Treaty of Madrid (Jan. 14, 1526) (See 1521–29).  10
1526, May 22
The LEAGUE OF COGNAC, a coalition of Francis I, the pope, Sforza, Venice, and Florence against Charles and the Spaniards. The league was the natural result of the too great success of the Spaniards in Italy, and the objective was to restore the status quo of 1522. But the Spaniards forced Sforza out of Milan (July 24) and before long attacked Rome (Sept. 21).  11
1527, May 6
The pope was helpless and could not prevent the SACK OF ROME by the Spanish and German mercenaries of Charles. The sack was horrible even when judged by the customs of the day.  12
May 17
Florence rose against the Medici, who were again driven out and replaced by a republic (under Niccolò Capponi). Genoa also revolted, under Andrea Doria. The French were expelled and a republican constitution established. The French, however, having overrun Lombardy (Oct.), began to march south. Meanwhile the pope, who had fled to Orvieto (Dec.), made his peace with Charles (Treaty of Barcelona, June 29, 1529—the Papal States to be restored and the Medici returned to Florence).  13
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.