Tuesday, 3 November 2015

1501 to 1502 AD

The rulers of Italy took stock of their positions in the winter of 1500/01.  The Duchy of Milan, ravaged by rebellions and the marauding armies of France and the Emperor, had managed, with the aid of Da Vinci, to hold onto most of the Duchy and add Modena to the Dukes possessions.  His resources depleted he had become reliant on the support of Venice and the Emperor to withstand the French claim against his Dukedom.

The Venetians had marched forth confidently at the start of the year but Ferrara had withstood their attacks and Mantua had been their only gain.  The Imperial Army had devastated much of Terra Ferma in its march to aid Milan and so the Doge was expecting lower revenues this year when the disastrous news that the Grand Turk was mobilising against Christendom.  The Venetian ambassador to the Sublime Porte of Constantinople was imprisoned and the trading posts and colonies of the Venetian Empire clamoured for help as Ottoman galleys scoured the Mediterranean for plunder.  The Knights of St John beseeched the Doge for aid as they believed their stronghold in Rhodes was the Sultans next target.  The Venetian senate quickly sent a fleet to their principle base of Cyprus in anticipation of Turkish attacks.

Florence had, with some difficulty, taken Urbino and the Romagna but the heavy taxation needed to wage war had enflamed rebellions in Piombino and Camandoli.  Nevertheless, its diplomacy under the genius of Machiavelli has secured it a powerful voice in Italian politics and a strong influence at the court of the King of France.  Such influence helped secure a French candidate for Pope.

The new Pope, Julius, without any threat of interference from the other Italian powers and believing that his French friends could overawe any Spanish opposition, sought to expand his dominions to the south..  Aware that the papacy had fiefs in the old kingdom of Naples he ordered his army to take Abruzzi, thinking that the Spanish would overlook this challenge to their power.  The Spanish response was swift and it looked as if the Papacy itself would soon be overrun when news of the Ottoman threat hit the courts of Europe.

Pope Julius instantly called a crusade in order to forestall the Spanish attack.  Acutely aware of his weak position and his inability to call on his French sponsor he decided that influence with the Spanish court would be valuable in the future and so the Curia has been stacked with Spanish cardinals.

The Spanish King was gratified by the Popes gift but he too was keen to reach an accord with the Pope as the Ottomans menaced the long coastline of Spain and its Mediterranean possessions.  At the start of 1501 a Turkish tax was raised throughout the coastal provinces of Italy and the Spanish King formally asked for aid from the Venetians.  The Doge took a gamble and sent his remaining fleet to combine with Spain's navy.  During the summer this huge fleet manoeuvred against the Ottomans around Sicily and the southern coast of Italy and the Genoese fleet decisively defeated an Ottoman raid against Corsica.

The French King was disgruntled at the Pope's call for a crusade which had curtailed his attack against Milan.  Como was poor compensation for his efforts and he demanded Urbino from Florence which he saw as his due for giving the Florentine's a free hand in central Italy.  Machiavelli thought it prudent to keep the French on side and agreed to their demands.  There has been disquiet in Florence that Machiavelli was too quick to give away their hard won gains.

The Emperor's position was also harmed by the Ottoman threat. Keen to assert his authority in Northern Italy and prevent the French from increasing theirs, the war in the east forced him to abandon his Italian dreams.  He demanded Friulli as compensation, but the Venetians, fully aware that he would be too constrained by the Turkish threat, have refused his demands.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Ferrara is riding on a wave of popular support from his subjects.  Funded and beholden to the Pope he has repaired the city's defences, raised an army and constructed a powerful artillery with which he defied the Venetians throughout 1501 and 1502.  Able to raise taxes and loans he has begun construction on a new and elaborate form of artillery fortification which he claims will make Ferrara invulnerable to attack.

Lucca and Bologna have also increased their defences.  Dismayed by the absorption of so many once wealthy independent states they are determined to withstand absorption by their more powerful neighbours.  They are especially wary of Florence and have raised extra troops to defend their cities.

Genoa was the scene of political faction as the French sought to remove the Duke of Milans influence.  Bishop Campofregosa was especially active but his position was undermined by the Genoese victory against the Turks off Corsica and the successful campaign by the Duke of Milan against the rebels in Cremona.  At the close of 1502, Genoa remains a staunch ally of Milan.

The Duke of Milan was much weakened after 1500 and he struggled to put an army together against his rebel provinces.  However, an improved artillery train and the genius of DaVinci quickly overcame the rebel defences at Cremona.  Pont-Remoli was overawed by the Dukes resurgence  and was aware that Genoa was firmly in his camp, and so in 1502, it beseeched his protection.  Unfortunately, the rebels in Novarra have relied on aid from the King of France and have repeatedly refused to come to terms with the Duke.

Florence also used 1501 to recover its rebel provinces which proved expensive.  Bereft of the French alliance, Machiavelli judged 1502 would be an appropriate time to recover the states finances and await further political developments.

Venice also made capital from the crusade, confident that no major state would threaten it whilst the Ottomans menaced Christendom.  Aware that its Italian rivals were too weak to threaten its position it nevertheless looked on with dismay as Ferrara, with impunity, strengthened its defences.  However, in the summer of 1502, the Doge was informed that the Ambassador at Constantinople had been released and that the Sultan sought peace.  The Ottomans had struggled to overwhelm the Christian navies and valuable resources had been diverted from their armies in Hungary in order to withstand the counter attack launched by the Knights of St John and the Venetians.  The Spanish had turned a punitive raid in North Africa into a war of conquest as they sought to take the city of Tangiers.

The Emperor fought an indecisive campaign in alliance with the King of Hungary.  Arguments over precedence had led to delay in 1501 and in 1502, the Christian army looked on as southern Hungary was overwhelmed by the Turkish hordes.  However, the Sultan has been forced to make peace due to his failed campaign in the Mediterranean.  The Hungarian King has refused to pay any compensation to the Emperor and as peace is signed he once again demands Friulli from Venice.

The Spanish are not keen for peace as they have much to gain from their attacks in North Africa.  The Venetians are not interested in supporting Spanish demands and withdraw their fleet as they look to regain their "most favoured" trading status with the Ottoman Empire.  The Spanish King is resolved to continue the war on his own resources much to the dismay of his overtaxed subjects.  In the winter of 1502, the Italian city of Bari declares its independence.  With no army in Naples the Spanish King asks Venice for aid.

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