Condottiere 1300-1500 – infamous medieval mercenaries, David Murphy

Condottiere 1300-1500 – infamous medieval mercenaries, David Murphy

The Condottiere were bands of mercenaries who worked for most of the Italian powers in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, a period in which many of the Italian cities were as wealthy as the larger kingdoms of Europe, but lacked the population to back up that wealth with their own manpower. The logical solution was to hire mercenaries, in a system that saw the creation of elaborate contracts that helped create large, but often unreliable armies, which famously had little or no incentive to win conclusive victories.

This is a large topic, covering two centuries in which the nature of Condottiere armies changed, as did the nature of warfare, with gunpowder weapons slowly becoming more important, and the scale of these armies expanding. The author covers the organisation of the Condottiere bands and how it changed under different employers, how they were equipped and how they fought. A key question is just how effective they were – many writers at the time condemned them as being unreliable, unwilling to fight to the bitter end for their employers, a built in incentive to make sure that the wars they were involved in lasted for as long as possible and a tendency to get involved in political conspiracies. However he also provides examples of where they fought well, and where it was the employer conspiring against the condottiere leaders. There is good information on how they fought, and an attempt to understand how they thought and what they believed (although that’s always difficult in these early periods).

This is a useful overview of the world of the Condottiere, one of the most famous examples of the mercenary, and a key part of the Italian military system at a time of great prosperity and advancement in the cities that employed them, suggesting that they weren’t too destructive a force.

Daily Life
Appearance and Dress
Belief and Belonging
Life on Campaign
The Condottiere in Battle
Conspiracy and Betrayal
Aftermath of Battle

Author: David Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2007

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