Siege of Taranto, Autumn 1501-March 1502

The siege of Taranto (Autumn 1501-March 1502) was the last stand of the Aragonese dynasty of Naples after it was attacked by a Franco-Spanish alliance (Second Italian War).

The mainland kingdom of Naples had been conquered by Alfonso V of Aragon (also the ruler of Sicily) in 1442. After his death Alfonso's domains were split, with Aragon and Sicily going to his brother, while Naples went to his illegitimate son Ferrante. The French retained a claim to Naples, which had held by the Angevins, and in 1494 Charles VIII attempted to enforce his claim (First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII). The then king of Naples, Alfonso II, abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand II, who was then expelled by the French. Charles's victories triggered an anti-French alliance which forced him to retreat. Ferdinand was restored in 1495, with the help of Ferdinand II of Aragon, but died soon afterwards and was succeeded by his uncle Federigo IV (Frederick).

In November 1500 Ferdinand of Aragon and Louis XII agreed to split Naples between them (Treaty of Aragon). The invasion came in the summer of 1501. Capua fell in July, and Federigo abandoned his capital in the following month. By the autumn the only resistance was at Taranto, where Federigo's son Ferrante led the defence.

Taranto fell into the Spanish sphere, and so the siege was commanded by Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (El Gran Capitán), one of the most successful commanders of the period. Cordoba had helped restore Ferdinand in 1495, but had suffered a rare battlefield defeat at Seminara (28 June 1495). He would make his reputation in the inevitable campaign against the French, winning the battles of Cerignola (26 April 1503) and the Garigliano (28-29 December 1503) and driving the French out of Naples.

His first task was to overcome the defence of Taranto. The town was well fortified, and managed to hold out against Cordoba' army and a Spanish naval blockade into the spring of 1502. Finally Cordoba moved a fleet overland into a lake at the rear of the city, and in March 1502 the defenders surrendered on terms.

Soon after this success the French and Spanish began to argue about the exact division of Naples, and by August 1502 Cordoba was loosely besieged in Barletta in Apulia. Only when reinforcements reached him in April 1503 was he able to go onto the offensive, winning at Cerignola.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 September 2014), Siege of Taranto, Autumn 1501-March 1502 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_taranto_1501.html

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