Category Archives: Italy

Republic lost: Venice as a perfect state

Oh, Venice, pure city, perfect state, where art thou? Aye, stones and waters still mark the place of your grandeur, but the Serenissima is long dead, never to return. Have no pity, wayfarer, over collapsing buildings and rising water, they are but epitaphs to the mighty Republic that stood firm for a thousand years…

Could it be otherwise? Could Venice survive in all its glory? The bitter truth is that it could live longer by transforming into a different kind of state – into a true empire for the age when only empires can compete. However, that would be the death of Venice nonetheless, because its old soul would be lost. That’s the power of inevitable fate: sometimes a man or a state faces a challenge that can only be passed by a profound change having little difference from death.

One can spend hours admiring the Venetian architecture and its “wet streets”. One can write books in folio about masterpieces of Venetian artists, sculptors and musicians. This “fiancée to the sea” is still ready to put a traveller under her spell, urging to forget about signs of decay and withering. But the real beauty of Venice could not be frozen inside stones and canvas. This splendour was one of the an ideal state — perfection of a unique clockwork in which thousands of small details were working better than hammers and anvils of more powerful empires. Dogado, Stato da Màr and Domini di Terraferma were a pyramid that stood prouder than burial-vaults of the pharaohs. The Venetian Republic left us a memory of the most stable European state that stood unbowed, unbent, unbroken until the end of the 18th century.

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Filed under Italy, Statecraft

Condottieri and bullets

When handguns had come into vogue, death rate of commanding officers increased tremendously. This corollary is probably the most vivid evidence of firearms superiority over bows and crossbows.

Proud commanders of the time were clad in finest armour of the age. They often emerged from battlefield with only minor wounds, being invincible to arrows, swords and almost anything else except for special anti-armour weapons like maces and spiked warhammers. How good that armour was in stopping bullets is a huge research topic but handguns definitely could pierce it more often than any arrow. Also, in 15th and early 16th century many prominent warlords fell victim to the fact that firearms could kill at the distance dimmed safe in the age of bows and crossbows.

But still there were miracles of surviving even bullet wounds.

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Filed under 15th century, Condottieri, Italy, Weapons

Renaissance Warfare: the source of its captivating powers

Twice or thrice a year I receive the same old question: “Why study Renaissance? Why do you prefer wars of 16th – 17th centuries to all other conflicts?” I’ve never had any troubles answering such queries. For me the question is rather “What’s not to love about Renaissance wars?”

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Filed under 16th century, Italy