Chivalric Identity and the Profession of Arms
One form of chivalric violence that was praised by reformers like Brunetto Latini and popolani chroniclers like Dino Compagni and Giovanni Villani was the profession of arms. As we shall see, the military expertise and experience of the chivalric elite was of immense value to the city of Florence, as long as it was directed against external enemies. If the profession of arms had value in the eyes of the popolani, we must keep in mind that it was the raison d’être of the chivalric elite. Indeed, war was a foundational pillar of chivalric identity in Florence during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a profession widely considered to be fundamentally ennobling and honorable.1 Folgore da San Gimignano’s sonnet “Martidí” (Tuesday), composed in the early fourteenth century by a Sienese warrior-poet, suggests that Tuscan knights, Florentines assuredly among them, took great joy in going to war.2 In the sonnet, Folgore waxes lyrical about the sound of trumpets and tambourines, the sight of knights and donzelli armed and astride their magnificent horses, and the striking of great blows.3 In another sonnet dedicated to prowess, he connects the great blows struck during battle to the eternal glory and honor a knight earned when his deeds of prowess are made known to the larger chivalric community.4 This connection between war and honor certainly would have held great importance in the mind of every strenuous Florentine knight and man-at-arms. It is no surprise, therefore, that war was central to chivalric identity in Florence and that many members of the Florentine chivalric elite chose to cultivate military careers during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Florentine knights and men-at-arms also clearly recognized the role war played in reinforcing their claims to social superiority and political authority. Occasionally historians can catch glimpses of these beliefs writ large, as when Dino Compagni wrote with obvious alarm that the nobles and great citizens of Florence were “swollen with pride” following the victory at the Battle of Campaldino in 1289. Their arrogance was occasioned by the conviction that they alone were responsible for the victory, and thus they were furious that “the offices and honors” they believed were due to them because of this vital service had been taken away.5 Compagni writes rather more positively about the Uberti lineage, who, in 1303, returned to the city after a considerable period in exile, expressing his clear admiration that “even in exile they kept great state and never diminished their honor, for they always … dedicated themselves to great undertakings.”6 Once again Compagni articulates a connection between war, that is, “great undertakings,” and honor, status, and power. This time Compagni uses terminology (great undertakings) that seems to endure in the Florentine context even beyond the period covered in this chapter.
As we shall see in the epilogue, the Florentine nobleman Buonaccorso Pitti enjoyed a long and active military career during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. In his ricordanza, he makes clear that he was motivated to cultivate the profession of arms by a consistent desire “to partake once more in such great doings.” Thus, Buonaccorso makes the same connection as his Florentine predecessors between war and “great doings.” In fact, Buonaccorso concludes that to die while “bearing arms,” would allow “a more glorious memory” to survive him and “more honor” to be reflected on his lineage than any other end.7 In other words, chivalric practitioners in the Florentine worlds of both Dino Compagni (1264–1324) and Buonaccorso Pitti (1354–1432) express similar attitudes toward the profession of arms and war, suggesting a strong continuity across the entire period under investigation in this book.
This connection between martial function and elite social status, however, was not new to Florence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but rested on a chivalric tradition that was pervasive in Europe generally, including in Tuscany, by the twelfth century.8 In the Florentine context, the dominant lineages of the consular aristocracy in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries were mostly military in nature, likely forming what Giovanni Tabacco termed a “nobiltà di fatto,” that is, an elite defined by its martial function.9 Numerous studies confirm the martial character of the “traditional” Florentine elite, with Jean-Claude Maire Vigueur’s work in particular offering significant insight into their lifestyle and martial practices for the period before 1250.10 In brief, the vigorous cultivation of the profession of arms allowed members of traditional martial lineages to fulfill an important military function on behalf of the city, one that earned them in exchange prestige, wealth, and a powerful claim to political authority. It is no surprise, therefore, that newly arrived lineages from the contado (countryside) and newly enriched urban lineages eagerly followed suit, forming along with the consular aristocracy what Silvia Diacciati has called the milizia, a group defined by its martial function and knightly lifestyle, but not necessarily by the dignity of knighthood itself.11 As we have seen, at the end of the thirteenth century the Florentine government labelled many, but not all, of the lineages in this group as magnates, a legally defined category of citizens characterized by their violent lifestyle and sense of autonomy and imperiousness, which often manifested as resistance to the authority of popular governments.12 The magnates as a social group included, for much of the subsequent century, some of the most prominent members and lineages of the chivalric elite.13
This chapter will demonstrate that strenuous Florentine knights and men-at-arms from chivalric lineages continued the martial traditions of their Tuscan knightly predecessors by cultivating military careers throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.14 The importance of this continuity becomes clear when considered in the context of the seismic changes that began in Florence in the mid-thirteenth century with the advent of the popular government known as the Primo Popolo (1250–60), and further developed in the early 1290s under another popular government, the Secondo Popolo, before reaching maturity during the fourteenth century. As we have seen, the changes were not only political, economic, and social in nature, but also cultural. This cultural change impacted Florentine elite society in particular, which saw the introduction of a new civic model of elite identity. While this new identity has been discussed at length in previous chapters, it is important to note here that it challenged the traditional connection between elite identity and the profession of arms.
Indeed, in the second half of the thirteenth century and especially in the fourteenth century many members of the Florentine civic elite, especially those belonging to mercantile and banking lineages known as the popolo grasso, abandoned military careers in favor of other more lucrative opportunities in the worlds of domestic politics and business.15 This is not surprising, because politics and business not only promised far greater economic rewards than war but also offered far less risk.16 The only time the benefits or necessity seemingly outweighed the risk was when Florentine interests or the city itself faced an existential threat, as in 1323 when all able-bodied Florentines mobilized in order to save Prato from Castruccio Castracani.17 This attitude toward war was based not only on practical concerns, but was also shaped by the cultural contest between a burgeoning but influential civic ethos and chivalric ideology. The growing dominance of the civic ethos among the Florentine popolo grasso meant that political power and social superiority increasingly became a product of incredible wealth stemming from trade, manufacturing, and moneylending, not leadership and participation in war.
This sea change was accompanied by other developments, including the slow but perceptible decline in the early fourteenth century of the cavallata, the mechanism by which the Florentine government secured the military service of wealthy citizens, and the creation of a sprawling territorial state, which required more frequent and longer campaigns to defend and enlarge.18 Issues of law and order also played a role, especially the promulgation of antimagnate laws in the 1280s and the Ordinances of Justice in 1293 that made the Florentine chivalric elite less inclined to fight on behalf of a city they viewed as oppressing and marginalizing them. Moreover, the periodic intensification of the Ordinances (1306, 1309, 1321, 1324) meant that a reduction of the available skilled manpower continued for multiple generations. No doubt the Florentine government understood the issue from a different point of view, one articulated by Giovanni Villani, who saw the resistance of the traditional elite as a “defection of the nobles, the natural warrior class of Florence, whose fidelity to the popular régime was shaken by the persistent refusal to rescind the Ordinances of Justice.”19 All of these factors led to a greater, but never complete, reliance on mercenaries to fill the ranks of Florentine armies.20
Nevertheless, chivalric ideology continued to encourage the Florentine chivalric elite to treat martial careers as central to their identity, honor, and social superiority. War itself remained an ennobling enterprise, while expertise in the profession of arms and traditions of military service continued to translate into social prestige, economic wealth, and political power.21 In a world where function still had some correlation with status, elite men from traditional martial lineages proudly touted their military leadership and service as strenuous knights—distinguished in a military context by terminology like cavalieri di corredo or simply cavalieri, although this could also mean cavalrymen—and men-at-arms as proof of their claims to a superior form of elite identity, one that connected them to their peers in other cities, courts, and kingdoms. In other words, members of the Florentine chivalric elite not only continued to go to war, they also treated military service as an increasingly important marker of an elite identity more venerable and prestigious than those claimed by the civic elite, something to be pursued regardless of its profitability and risks.
Despite the aforementioned challenges to the chivalric lifestyle and the dramatic transformation of the social, political, and cultural terrain of Florence, the continued close connection between chivalric identity and the profession of arms ensured that members of traditional martial lineages vigorously pursued opportunities to go to war throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Given the paucity and nature of the surviving evidence, however, it is easier to reconstruct the military service performed by individual members of chivalric lineages during this period than it is to bring into focus the attitudes of specific practitioners. The striking continuity revealed by this prosopographical approach strongly suggests the importance members of the Florentine chivalric elite attached to the profession of arms.
This chapter will focus on the military service provided by members of eighteen chivalric lineages, many of whom appear regularly in previous chapters, over a period of approximately one hundred years: from the Battle of Montaperti (1260) to the Battle of Cascina (1364). These major military campaigns mark the beginning and end of this long century and are well attested in the available evidence. The eighteen lineages featured in this chapter were chosen because they belonged either to the martial consular aristocracy that ruled Florence in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries or to the milizia, a group of newer elite lineages whose members vigorously cultivated the profession of arms in the first half of the thirteenth century. In other words, their prominence and clear military traditions at the start of our period allow us to trace their military activities over a longer period of time. The lineages are the Adimari-Cavicciuli, Bardi, Bostichi, Brunelleschi, Cavalcanti, della Tosa-Tosinghi, Donati, Foraboschi, Frescobaldi, Gianfigliazzi, Mazzinghi, Nerli, Pigli, Scali, Spini, Tornaquinci, Vecchietti, and Visdomini-Aliotti.22 This list provides a representative sample of the Florentine chivalric community, although not necessarily with the most active military lineages in mind. In fact, some of the most bellicose lineages have been excluded, including the Buondelmonti, Giandonati, Pazzi, Scolari, and Uberti, several of whom spent much of this period in exile and at war with Florence.23 The Scolari and Uberti are only two of the most familiar of a large group of Ghibelline lineages, like the Lamberti, Amidei, and Cipriani, that spent long years after 1250 in exile, surviving thanks to their martial skill.24 Also excluded are lineages that rose to prominence in the fourteenth century, like the Albizzi, Medici, and Strozzi, whose members actively served Florence in a military capacity.
This chapter not only challenges the conventional historical view that the traditional, martial Florentine elite were transformed, in toto, from strenuous knights and warriors to “decadent and sedentary businessmen,” but, by extension, it also contributes to the lively debate among historians about both the prevalence and importance of mercenaries in the Florentine military machine and the long-term stability and continuity of the forces employed by the city.25 In this way it builds upon the seminal revisionist studies of Daniel Waley and William Caferro on late medieval Florentine military history and adopts a similar document-based approach. The main sources used for this chapter include the budget records produced by the Florentine camera del comune—especially those concerned with expenditures (e.g., camarlinghi uscita and scrivano di camera uscita)—which survive in large numbers for the years after 1343; the records of Florentine city councils (e.g., the registers of the Consulte, Libri Fabarum, and Provvisioni); various other archival sources (e.g., Libro di Montaperti); and the major contemporary and near-contemporary chronicles and histories.26 Some of these sources are more limited in the types of evidence they provide, with the chronicles in particular often failing to identify the individuals involved in a particular event. Finally, this study differs from the work of Waley and Caferro in its exclusive focus on the Florentine chivalric elite and in its chronological breadth, both of which allow for the identification of military careers and patterns of service. Given the scope of the study and the sheer weight of available evidence for the years after 1343, this is a significant but by no means comprehensive first treatment of the topic.
The Battle of Montaperti
The well-documented preparations for two Florentine campaigns in 1260 serve as a natural starting place for a general survey of the Florentine chivalric elite and their cultivation of the profession of arms.27 The first campaign lasted from February to May and the second from June to September of that year, when the Florentine Guelf army was defeated by the Sienese and their Ghibelline and imperial allies at the Battle of Montaperti (September 4). The surviving records, contained in the unique Libro di Montaperti, represent only a small portion of what was once a much larger military archive. The Libro contains information on the Florentine cavalry, the force in which most of the chivalric elite would have served, for only one of the six sections or sesti of the city: the sesto of San Pancrazio. This group numbered 185 men, leading Waley to estimate that the total cavalry force was around 1,400, possibly rising to 1,650 with the inclusion of the forty-eight cavalry guarding the city’s caroccio (war wagon) and an uncertain number of cavalrymen and knights who volunteered for service or came from the contado.28 Thus, while the Libro provides considerably more information about the composition and leadership of the Florentine army during these two campaigns than in any other in the thirteenth century, it is still not possible to reconstruct a full picture of those who participated.29
Despite these limitations, at least seventy-two members of the eighteen lineages appear in the Libro and likely served on one or both of the campaigns. The Tornaquinci provided the largest contingent with eighteen men, several of whom held leadership positions in the army or military positions in the contado during the campaign. Messer Giani was chosen as one of the captains (there were two from each sesto) of the army on behalf of the sesto of Porta San Pancrazio (Porte S. Pancratii),30 Brunetto (Burnetto) di Lottero Mentuccio served as one of the officers and advisers (distringitores et consiliarii) of the gonfalonier of the crossbowmen for the same sesto,31 and Messer Sinibaldo held the office of podestà of Poggibonsi, which prevented him from participating in the campaign, although he did deliver a horse to the army that his nephew, Quinci, rode instead.32 Three other Tornaquinci men served in a company of infantry provided by the popolo of San Pier Buonconsiglio (S. Petri Bonconsilii): Duccio di Lottero, Cipriano di Lottero, and Betto di Lottero.33
Other Tornaquinci fought in the battle, although the exact nature of their service is not always made clear in the evidence. Messer Iacobo delivered a horse on his own behalf and that of his son Gieri di Iacobo, but the Libro di Montaperti does not make clear who ended up riding that horse during the campaign.34 Likewise, Testa di Giani, Lotto di M. Ugolini, Follia di M. Iacobo, Cardinale “Marabottini,” and Baldera di M. Gianni all delivered horses and possibly rode them into battle as part of the Florentine army.35 Several Tornaquinci served in the army on horses provided by other Florentines, including Zandonato Giovanni, Tero di M. Iacobo, Soldo di Gianni, Quinci di Sinibaldo, and Nato di Gianni.36 Finally, Lutero di Iacopo delivered a horse to the army but could not participate in the campaign because of a “bodily defect.”37
Eight Adimari-Cavicciuli men participated in the Montaperti campaign in one form or another. Perhaps the most famous example is that of Messer Tegghiaio di Aldobrandino di Bellincione, “a knight wise and skilled in arms and of great authority,” who was called upon by the Florentine government in 1259 to provide expert counsel regarding a proposed campaign against the Sienese and their allies, including the Ghibelline exiles of Florence.38 Tegghiaio’s calls for caution were famously ignored by the leaders of the Primo Popolo, and the Florentine army subsequently suffered a decisive defeat at the Battle of Montaperti.39 In addition to providing counsel before the campaign, Messer Tegghiaio also served as one of the army’s captains for the sesto Porta San Piero.40 He was joined by Messer Bindo Alamanno, “a wise and honest man” (sapienti et probo viro), who was chosen as one of the distringitores for the sesto of Porta del Duomo and later was commanded to procure troops from the Mugello, where he was serving as vicar.41 Messer Manfredo was one of the captains commanded to assemble the knights of Porta San Pietro behind the battle lines so that they might advance together,42 Messer Uberto held the office of captain of Montesmurlo,43 and Messer Bonaccorso di Bellincione served as one of the knights of the carroccio (milites carroccii) for the sesto of San Pancrazio (Porte Sancti Pancratii).44 Bonaccorso’s sons, Aldobrandino and Ranieri, also appear in the Libro providing a horse for the army, although whether they fought in the battle is unclear.45
The Mazzinghi, Visdomini-Aliotti, and Cavalcanti lineages each provided seven men to serve in the Florentine army. Regarding the Mazzinghi, Arrighetto is recorded as delivering two horses to the army, one on his own behalf and one on behalf of his father, Mazingo (Mazinghus) di Ugolino, with Arrighetto riding one of them into battle.46 The Libro does not indicate who rode the other horse, but it is reasonable to assume that it could have been used by another Mazzinghi, Messer Mazzetto (Maczettus), who was chosen as one of the distringitores for the sesto of San Pancrazio, but apparently did not have a warhorse of his own (“non habet equum”).47 Bindaccio and Federigo di Ligo Arrighetto also delivered horses and rode them into battle.48 Two other Mazzinghi delivered horses but did not travel with the army: Ghersetto di Tegrimi was excused because he held the office of castellan of Barbarino, a town in the Florentine contado, at the time of the campaign,49 and Tegrimo di Bernardo, one of the distringitores et consiliarii of the bannerman of the archers for the sesto of San Pancrazio, was excused because he was too ill to fight.50
The Visdomini men involved in the Montaperti campaign all held important leadership positions. Messer Filippo (Phylippus) was chosen as one of main captains of the army.51 Messer Tedici Aliotti dei Visdomini and Neri Gioia di Gherardo degli Aliotti served as one of the consiliarii and the bannerman of the archers (arcatorum), respectively, for the Porta San Pietro.52 Both Forese di Albizo and Lapo di Gherardo degli Aliotti served as members of a company of infantry (Venticinquine), the former for the Porta San Pancrazio and the latter for the popolo of San Andrea.53 Finally, Ugolino Aldobrandino Romeo dei Visdomini (Vicedomini) served as captain of the infantry from San Martino in Viminiccio, and Messer Bindo degli Aliotti was given the singular honor of serving as one of the knights tasked with defending the Florentine carroccio during the battle.54
Likewise, most of the Cavalcanti men held leadership positions in the Florentine army. Messer Ranieri (Ranerius) and Messer Amadore Adimari Giamberti were both chosen as captains of the forces from the sesto of Borgo, while Messer Bernardo was chosen as one of the consiliarii for the same sesto.55 Also holding positions of importance in the army were Lapo Valente, who was chosen as the gonfalonier of the crossbowmen (gonfalonerius balistariorum), and Messer Sangallo Gianni Schichi, who served as one of the distringitores et consiliarii for the bannerman of the archers from the sesto of Borgo.56 Also fighting at Montaperti were Scolario Adimari di Gianni Leti and Gherardo, who was chosen to carry the banner for the same sesto.57
Six men from the Nerli lineage participated in the campaign. Brunetto, Ricovero, Albizzello, Aveduto, and Ventura all served in the army and ostensibly fought at the Battle of Montaperti. Canto di Gherardo dei Nerli, meanwhile, held the position of bannerman of the archers for the sesto of Porta Duomo.58 The Donati contingent numbered four. Aldobrandino delivered a horse on behalf of his sons and nephews, although it is unclear who rode the horse.59 Boninsegna is listed as serving in a company of infantry provided by the popolo of San Paulo.60 Iunta and Astuccio, meanwhile, both fought in the army as representatives of rural communities, the popolo of San Quirico d’Orcia (S. Quirici a le Valle; near Siena) and the popolo of Doccio, respectively.61 The Vecchietti and della Tosa-Tosinghi lineages were also each represented by four men. Regarding the Vecchietti, it is clear that Marsilio di Bernardo di M. Ugo, Lapo di Bernardo, and Filippo di Iacopo all fought in the battle.62 Less clear is whether or not Durazzo di M. Guidalotto fought, although the Libro di Montaperti confirms he was charged by the captains of the army to make and lead the siege weapons needed to assault Menzano, a castle west of Siena.63 The men of the della Tosa-Tosinghi lineage also held leadership positions in the army. Messer Marsoppino Azzo was chosen as the gonfalonier of the knights of the sesto of Porta Duomo.64 Messer Odaldo and Baschiera both represented the same sesto, with the former serving as one of the captains of the army and the latter chosen by the captains of the army to build and conduct, along with the aforementioned Durazzo dei Vecchietti, siege weapons for the assault on Menzano.65
The Spini lineage, meanwhile, provided three men, each of whom held a leadership or otherwise prominent position in the army. Panfo was captain of a company of infantry (Venticinquine) provided by the sesto Porta San Pancrazio, while his son Tingo served in the same company under his father’s command. Finally, Ugo served as one of the captains of the entire army, representing the sesto of Borgo.66 To this list should be added the single member of each of the Bardi, Bostichi, Frescobaldi, and Pigli lineages who appear in the Libro di Montaperti. Geri di Ricco dei Bardi was chosen as the bannerman for the archers (bandifer arcatorum) for two sesti: Oltrarno and San Pancrazio.67 Spada Petri of the Bostichi lineage served as the gonfalonier of the infantry from the sesto of Borgo.68 Neri Lamberti of the Frescobaldi was granted the honor of representing the sesto of Oltrarno as one of the bannermen for the army.69 Finally, Ugo di M. Folchetto Clariti of the Pigli delivered one horse to the army on his own behalf and that of his brother, Roffolo, and one of the men ostensibly fought at the Battle of Montaperti.70
The large but incomplete archive for the two Florentine campaigns in 1260 confirms the participation of at least seventy-three members of the eighteen lineages under consideration in this chapter. This is, of course, only a fraction of the total number of knights and mounted men-at-arms who actually participated in the campaigns, but it does confirm that members of these lineages joined and led the major military expeditions of this year. Many of the men discussed above would go on to enjoy long military careers, and all of the lineages continued to cultivate their established military traditions.
From Montaperti to Campaldino
The surviving archival evidence makes it difficult to reconstruct the military careers of many of the Florentine knights and men-at-arms introduced above in the years after Montaperti. The decade of Ghibelline rule in Florence following the Guelf defeat at Montaperti (1260) is especially poorly documented. This is unfortunate because during the 1260s and 1270s the Florentine army became “part of the wide fabric of Guelf military policy,” resulting in an exponential increase in military participation.71 Most of the evidence for this important period in the history of the Florentine army consequently comes from chronicles, an evidentiary body that often leaves much to be desired when it comes to identifying the knights and men-at-arms who went to war. Giovanni Villani writes that after their exile from Florence following the defeat at Montaperti, the Guelfs who did not go to France went to Bologna, where these “virtuous men [who were] disposed to arms and to war” served on foot or on horse, depending on their means.72 He does not, however, identify them all by name. Similarly, the identities of the “more than four hundred horsemen, good men-at-arms, well mounted” who fought in the army of Charles, Count of Anjou and Provence, against Manfred in Apulia in 1266 do not appear in Villani’s account. In fact, their names were not recorded in the surviving Florentine or Angevin sources, despite Villani’s assertion that “they were among the best and the most skilled in arms of the many men which King Charles had in the battle against Manfred.”73
Notwithstanding these limitations, it is possible to confirm that many Florentine knights and men-at-arms continued to cultivate the profession of arms during this period. Dino Compagni recorded that Messer Bindo della Tosa, son of Baschiera who fought at Montaperti, participated in a battle outside the castle of Fucecchio in 1261, where he lost an eye.74 In 1263, Messer Forese di Bonaccorso degli Adimari led a force of Florentine knights to Reggio in the Emilia-Romagna, where they helped the Guelfs of that city to defeat their Ghibelline enemies. The chronicles of Giovanni Villani and Marchionne di Coppo Stefani and the history of Leonardo Bruni all contain accounts of the battle highlighting Forese’s leadership and prowess.75 Bruni, writing with an eye to revitalizing the martial vigor of the elite in his own day, paints a particularly vivid scene with Forese defeating Casca, the veritable giant of a man who led the Ghibellines of Reggio, in single combat.76 Several years later, Forese commanded the Florentine Guelf knights, four hundred in number and from the greatest houses of Florence, who served in the army of Charles of Anjou at the Battle of Benevento (February 26, 1266), where the French prince defeated King Manfred of Sicily.77
Of course, Forese was not the only member of the Florentine chivalric elite to serve Charles in a military capacity.78 Simone di Donato dei Donati also served in Charles of Anjou’s army at the Battle of Benevento.79 Another Florentine, Messer Uberto dei Cavalcanti, appears as a knight at Charles’s court in 1269.80 Several years later in 1272, Forese’s kinsman Carlo Adimari (Carlo de Guerrae de Ademario) dei Cavalcanti served as captain of the knights of the city of Amalfi.81 Despite the destruction of the Neapolitan archives during World War II and the fragmented nature of the documents that survive, it is reasonable to assume that many more Florentine knights and men-at-arms cultivated military careers at the Neapolitan court during this period.
The 1280s were characterized by continued conflict between the Guelfs and Ghibellines in Tuscany, Florentine efforts to control its contado more closely, and wars against nearby cities and lordships, especially Arezzo and Pisa in the years 1287–93.82 Unfortunately, the various military campaigns and smaller excursions during this period are not well documented. For example, historians know little about the proposed force that was to campaign against the Pisans in 1285 or the composition of the Florentine army sent to help the Sienese that winter.83
The sources identify a limited number of knights and men-at-arms from chivalric lineages who held leadership positions or served in Florentine and Guelf armies. This may be due to the limitations of the sources or, as Waley has argued, the reluctance of many Florentines to serve for pay in the Romagna in 1281–82 or in the war against Siena in 1285.84 Despite this reluctance, Waley notes that five hundred to one thousand Florentines received the annual cavallata payments to maintain a warhorse in the late 1280s, and we can identify a few members of chivalric lineages performing service.85 Messer Corso di Simone dei Donati, who enjoyed a long and distinguished career before he met an ignominious death during a failed rebellion in 1308,86 served as captain of a Florentine force sent to help Guido di Montfort and his knights of the Tuscan Guelf League (Tallia), a permanent military force supported by all Guelf cities, at the siege of Poggio Santa Cecilia in 1285.87 Messer Guelfo of the Cavalcanti also served as captain of a large force, numbering three hundred knights, sent by Florence in 1287 to another iteration of the Tuscan Guelf League. He was thus, ostensibly, present in the Guelf army that defeated the Pisans in the Maremma later that year.88 Similarly, Messer Guelfo dei Cavalcanti captained a cavalcata into the Maremma against the Pisans in September 1288.89
The Battle of Campaldino
The conflicts of the 1280s came to a head in 1289 at the Battle of Campaldino (June 11).90 Nothing comparable to the Libro di Montaperti survives for the campaign that led to this decisive battle, leaving historians in the dark about most of the participants, including the over six hundred citizens, “the best armed and mounted” to ever ride out from the city, who fought in the battle.91 It is possible this number is actually a conservative estimate, as Dino Compagni observes that the Cavalcanti lineage alone supplied sixty men-at-arms.92 The task of identifying specific members of this group of warriors is possible only through close analysis of chronicles and the records of the Florentine councils.
These sources confirm that many members of the Florentine chivalric elite participated in the Battle of Campaldino. Messer Gherardo Ventraia dei Tornaquinci bore the royal standard and led the army into battle. Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti was, according to Silvia Diacciati, one of the leading knights in the army.93 The infamous Messer Corso Donati likewise held a leadership position as captain of a force of cavalry commanded to remain in reserve, an order that Corso famously ignored in order to lead a decisive charge that broke the Aretine lines and won the battle for the Florentines.94 Also fighting in the battle were Messer Bindo del Baschiera, Francesco, Guido di Baschiera, and Messer Pino, all of the della Tosa lineage. These men, along with Tico dei Visdomini, were part of a large group of Florentines who were either captured or killed during the battle.95
To this incomplete list can be added a large number of men who received compensation (menda) for the loss of horses during the expedition against Arezzo in June 1289. Six of the lineages under consideration in this chapter are represented, including Messer Lotterio di M. Gianni, Messer Filippo di M. Filigni, Boccaccino, and Guidoni Benzi di M. Lapo of the Adimari; Messer Neri and Benghi of the Bardi; Messer Biancho of the Cavalcanti; Messer Arrigho di M. Gottifredo, Bartolomeo di Masoppino, Baschiera, Davizzo, and Messer Bellingiordo of the della Tosa; Messers Freseo (Fresen), Giovanni, Paniccia, and Stoldo of the Frescobaldi; and Vantuscio di M. Cavalcantis of the Nerli.96 Twelve days later (February 20, 1290), Manetto degli Scali received compensation for the loss of two horses.97
Several other Adimari participated in the fighting that occurred both before and after the Florentine victory at Campaldino. Ruggero Rubeo and Messer Tedici, for example, were both compensated on February 20, 1290, for horses lost while serving King Charles II of Naples on a chevauchée in the Sienese contado, possibly in the buildup to the battle. Messer Guelfo of the Cavalcanti lineage participated in the same military action and was similarly compensated for the loss of a horse.98 Although the limitations of the extant sources likely leave historians in the dark about many of the Florentine knights and men-at-arms who went to war during this period, it is clear from the evidence presented that a significant number of men from the eighteen chivalric lineages in question actively cultivated the profession of arms in the second half of the thirteenth century.
From Campaldino to Montecatini
The most important sources for reconstructing the participation of members of the Florentine chivalric elite in the military enterprises of the last decade of the thirteenth and first decade of the fourteenth centuries are once again chronicles and the surviving, but often limited and fragmented, records produced by the government councils. These records confirm the continued service of numerous knights and men-at-arms, but these examples are hardly comprehensive. As Waley points out, the year 1289 was exceptionally busy: in addition to the Battle of Campaldino, Florentines served in a Lucchese army for twenty-five days in August, and in November a Florentine army attempted, in vain, to take Arezzo.99 Unfortunately, the documentation for the latter two campaigns are for the most part no longer extant. Also inconclusive are the terse mentions of individual Florentines, like Messer Manno degli Adimari, who served as knights in the household of the Angevin kings of Naples during these years.100
The records of the Florentine councils offer more certainty. The records of the consulte for June 16, 1290, confirm that Rosso della Tosa was one of the captains of the Florentine infantry serving against the Aretines in that same month.101 The consulte also record the presence of Messer Odaldo (Daldus) della Tosa at a council session on January 20, 1290, describing him as a knight of the Florentine commune.102 Several years later, on August 5, 1292, Donato di Guelfo dei Donati appears in the consulte when he was granted eighteen florins as compensation for a horse lost while serving in the company (masnada) of Messer Alberto dei Bostoli in July of that year.103
The records of the Florentine councils often do not, however, provide the entire picture. For example, they often note that compensation was paid out to mounted warriors who lost a horse during a campaign, siege, or other military action, but they do not always identify the recipients.104 Similarly, other entries dealing with military matters—such as when the records indicate that Florence sent, in October 1292, knights and mounted men-at-arms from three sesti (San Piero Scheraggio, San Piero Maggiore, and Porta Duomo), along with three hundred infantry (peditum), against the Pisans—inform us that these men served but do not name specific individuals.105 Also unknown are the identities of the fifty Florentine cavalry and an equivalent number of squires (socius) sent to aid Bologna in April 1296.106
Turning to the chronicle evidence, Giovanni Villani writes that Messer Corso Donati was initially given command, in 1291, of a Florentine army assembled to fight the Pisans and Florentine rebels in the contado who had captured the castle of Ponte ad Era but was removed from command thanks to the political machinations of his longtime enemy and competitor, Vieri dei Cerchi.107 While the composition of this Florentine army remains unknown, there is clear evidence that Messer Geri degli Spini held the royal standard in the Florentine army sent against Pisa in the summer of 1292.108 Unfortunately, Villani once again does not name any of the other men who fought alongside Messer Geri.
The extant sources make clear that members of the Florentine chivalric elite continued to go to war in the following decade. Tegghio dei Tornaquinci appears in the Provvisioni in June 1302 when he was granted forgiveness for failing to show up for the chevauchée undertaken by the Florentine army in the territory of Pistoia in April of that year. It was explained that he did not participate because he was already serving in the Mugello, Chianti, or Valdarno.109 Tegghio was likely supposed to participate in the Florentine army that besieged Pistoia for a little over three weeks in May 1302, an army that included 497 knights of the Florentine cavallata (militibus cavallatarum Communis Florentie), although once again the extant sources do not provide the identities of those who served.110 It is possible that the aforementioned Messer Geri degli Spini followed up his initial service against Pisa in 1292 by joining the Florentine army that besieged Serravalle in 1303, although the chronicles to do not make his participation explicit.111 The Florentine government’s decision to retain Messer Bardo of the Bardi lineage as captain of three knights in that same year is rather more certain.112 Another Bardi, Bartolo di M. Jacopo, appears in the Provvisioni on March 2, 1306, alongside Messer Maso dei Donati and Messer Gherardo Ventraia dei Tornaquinci with the mandate to defend the city of Florence and to reinforce the Florentine army in the field against Pistoia.113 Earlier in that same year (1306), Messer Simone di M. Baldo and Gottifredo della Tosa both received compensation for the loss of horses during the campaign and siege of the city of Pistoia.114 Finally, Baldino di Berto di Gherardo dei Nerli served as a feditore in a Florentine army in 1308.115
The years 1309–13, meanwhile, brought more trouble to Florence and its allies with the descent of Emperor Henry VII into Italy at the head of a large army.116 During this period of existential threat emerged a famous group of young knights and men-at-arms from chivalric lineages known as the Knights of the Stripe (Cavalieri della Banda). Giovanni Villani described them as “a company of volunteers … [comprised] of the most distinguished young noblemen of Florence” who did many deeds of arms.117 Unfortunately, historians lack the necessary evidence to reconstruct this group’s membership beyond a few random members. Messer Gherardo di M. Guerra degli Adimari fought and died in a skirmish against Henry VII’s forces at San Salvi in 1309, but this is only known to historians because it is mentioned in Alessandro di Bernardo Adimari’s seventeenth-century history of his lineage, which was published in the eighteenth century.118 Likewise, Messer Simoncino dei Bardi’s membership in the Knights of the Band is known thanks to a somewhat random notation made in the margin of the Storietta del Monaldi, which was published quite fortuitously by Vincenzio Borghini in his study of the Florentine nobility.119 Finally, Zampaglione dei Tornaquinci’s capture at the battle in the Val d’Elsa in late November 1312 is brought to the attention of historians thanks only to Robert Davidsohn’s assiduous scholarship.120
What the chronicles of Giovanni Villani and Marchionne di Coppo Stefani lack in information about specific individuals they make up for with general insight into the deeds performed by the Knights of the Stripe. Marchionne di Coppo Stefani wrote about one particularly bitter skirmish between the Knights of the Stripe and Theobald of Bar, the bishop of Liege, who had with him “all the flower of Germany,” during a battle in the streets of Rome. The Florentines won the skirmish, and the bishop was captured in the process.121 At the siege of Florence in late 1312, the Knights of the Stripe were among the only Florentines to leave the safety of the walls and attack the emperor’s army, engaging in skirmishes against far greater numbers. Unfortunately for the company, these “wise and brave” warriors were defeated by the imperial troops and among the dead were “three young men of great daring,” identified as members of the noble Bostichi, Guadagni, and Spini lineages.122 The Knights of the Stripe also participated in the defense of Siena in August 1313, where they fought valiantly outside the city walls but were ultimately forced to retire.123 This discussion highlights the shortcoming of chronicles as sources in this type of inquiry: they offer important narrative about military events involving knights and men-at-arms but rarely reveal the identities of the men who participated.124
The identities of other members of the chivalric elite who bore arms during this period are rather more certain thanks to the book of the Chiodo, which lists the names of Guelf exiles and rebels who were invited to return to Florence in September 1311 in order to take up arms against the imperial army.125 This lengthy list includes members of the Nerli lineage who lived in Borgo San Iacopo, Lotto and Cresci di Messer Folchetto dei Pigli and their nephews and sons, the sons and descendants of Messer Bonaccurso degli Adimari, the sons of Tieri dei Brunelleschi, the sons of Baschiera di Messer Bindo della Tosa, and the members of the Adimari lineage who lived in Porta San Pietro Civitato (Porte S. Petri Civitatis).126 The publication of related documentation for March 1312 confirms that at least some of these men served in a Florentine army that gave battle against imperial forces at San Selvi in that month.127 Ciampolo di M. Cautini and Simonino Bamboli of the Cavalcanti fought alongside Baschiera di Bindo della Tosa and Talano di Guittomanno dei Tosinghi.128 Also present on both sides of the battle were thirteen members of the Adimari lineage (of the sesto of Porta San Pier): Arnolfino di M. Bindo, Filigno di M. Goccie, Ubaldinaccio di M. Bindo, Ubertino di Corso di M. Tano, Ottaviano di Ubaldinaccio, Bonaccurso di Ubaldinaccio, Francescho di M. Forese, Lippo Filigno di M. Goccie, Cantino di M. Filippo, Bindo di M. Filippo, and Guiduccio di M. Filippo all fought in the Florentine army, while Gherardo and Mari di Messer Ianni Puzzafiera fought under the imperial banner.129
The nature of the extant sources makes it possible to identify only a few additional members of the chivalric elite who were active during this period. In October 1310, the Florentine government granted Messer Pino della Tosa compensation for the loss of a horse a few months earlier while Pino served in a force sent to supply a fortress near Arezzo.130 He also led the defense of Brescia, a city in Lombardy where he was podestà, against the emperor (Henry VII) in 1311.131 Messer Alamanno Boccaccio degli Adimari performed similar military service, leading a force of Florentines that recovered the castle of San Ilario from imperial forces in November 1312.132 In that same month, Corrado dei Gianfigliazzi and one of his kinsmen led the defense of Santa Maria Novella, a castle near Lucardo, against a much larger imperial army. After a week of brave resistance, the castle surrendered and Corrado was taken captive.133 Davidsohn, drawing upon contemporary sources, asserts that Corrado’s bravery and skill impressed Emperor Henry VII so much that he protected Corrado from his personal enemies within the imperial ranks during his captivity.134 Only a month later, Tegghia dei Frescobaldi, one of the captains of a force of two hundred men within Castelfiorentino, launched a surprise attack against a group of fifty imperial knights who were making their way back to Pisa. Unfortunately, Tegghia was wounded during the attack, and many of his men were killed.135
These examples, which do not take into consideration many of the battles and skirmishes between the Black and White Guelfs during the first decade of the fourteenth century, represent only a fraction of the total number of Florentine knights and men-at-arms who went to war during this period. The extant sources once again confirm that the numbers were significant, but do not reveal the identities of most of these men. For example, the sources tell us little about the knights and men-at-arms who served in the Florentine army during the siege of Pistoia in 1305 or in the campaigns against the Ubaldini and Arezzo in subsequent years.136 Chronicles also reveal only a few of the names of the four hundred to six hundred Florentine cavalry who served in a large Guelf army in Rome in May and June 1312 or of the more than one thousand elite Florentines who defended the walls of Florence during Henry VII’s siege of the city in October 1312.137 Meanwhile, Waley observes that the cavallata not only continued to be called during the first two decades of the fourteenth century, but that the number of impacted citizens actually increased to 1,000 in 1310 and 1,300 in 1312.138 Likewise, both Waley and Caferro note that the Florentine armies during this period continued to be recruited predominantly from Florence and the territories under its control.139 While the task of identifying many of these warriors remains difficult, the new evidence presented thus far supports Waley’s conclusion that Florence in the early fourteenth century was not a city of “soft, decadent businessmen who preferred to pay others to fight on their behalf.”140
The Battle of Montecatini
Almost all of the lineages under investigation in this chapter participated in the various military actions occurring in the years immediately prior to the Battle of Montecatini (August 29, 1315). Many of the lineages provided knights and soldiers for the force Florence sent to resupply and defend the castle of Montecatini in 1313, the records for which were fortuitously transcribed in the eighteenth century from documents that no longer exist. Lapaccio di M. Gualterotto, Bindello, and Nuto were among the Bardi who served.141 The Bostichi included Carsa Carsagnini and Giovanni Alessandro.142 Serving alongside the Bardi and Bostichi in 1313 were members of the Frescobaldi (Bindo di M. Tegghia and Simone di M. Betto),143 Gianfigliazzi (Rossellino Vanni, Niccolo Telli, Rosso Zati, Rossellino, Vanno de Leccio, Borracco Durantis, and Simone),144 Mazzinghi (Lapo Malacode and Lapo Azzi),145 Nerli (Bonifatio di M. Alcampo, Duccio Goccia, and Cecco Ventuglio),146 Pigli (Messer Gaetano and Durante Torelli),147 Adimari-Cavicciuli (Guccio di M. Tedici),148 and Spini lineages (Gianni, Messer Filippo, and Bruno di M. Filippo).149 Likewise, the Tornaquinci (Bindo Bingeri, Giachinotto di M. Neri, Piero Bernardi, and Messer Biagio) and Cavalcanti (Messers Maruccio Gherardini, Cantino di M. Tegghia, and Matteo Malatesta) were both well represented.150
The degree of participation in the large Florentine army that fought at Montecatini in August 1315 was even higher, with Waley noting that at least three hundred citizens served on horseback.151 Despite the limited surviving records for the campaign, it is possible to identify at least ninety individuals from the lineages in question, almost all of whom held the prestigious position of feditori in the army.152 The della Tosa-Tosinghi lineage provided the largest contingent of men with eleven, followed by the Adimari-Cavicciuli with ten.153 The Tornaquinci and Bostichi lineages were represented by eight men.154 The Bardi, Frescobaldi, Pigli, and Spini were each represented by six.155 Five men from the Donati and Visdomini-Aliotti lineages also fought,156 as well as four from each of the Brunelleschi, Cavalcanti, and Nerli lineages,157 two from the Gianfigliazzi and Foraboschi,158 and one each from the Mazzinghi, Scali, and Vecchietti lineages.159 Of these ninety men, all but thirty served as feditori in the army, and thirty-eight were lost, captured, or killed. To this could also be added the names of Florentine exiles and rebels, like Baldinaccio Adimari, who fought against their native city.160 In other words, the Florentine chivalric elite were warriors who regularly fought and died on the battlefields of Tuscany and Italy.
From Montecatini to Altopascio
The years between Montecatini (1315) and Altopascio (1325) were filled with conflict, as Florence dealt with the threat posed first by Uguccione della Faggiola and then by Castruccio Castracani. Given the multitude of military demands and their increasing duration, the Florentine government regularly employed mercenaries during the 1320s to supplement and support, rather than entirely replace, the citizen element.161 The need to recruit mercenaries was intensified by the resistance among some members of the Florentine chivalric elite to serve a city that continued to punish and marginalize them through enforcement of the Ordinances of Justice. This is particularly clear in their response to Castruccio threatening Prato in 1323.162 This did not mean, however, that Florentine knights and men-at-arms abandoned the profession of arms after Montecatini. Many participated in smaller military campaigns or held leadership positions in the contado during this period, and a likely significant number lived the life of arms in exile. Giovanni Villani’s estimate of four thousand “very proud men” suggests that this latter group was sufficiently large and skilled to convince the Florentine government to offer them restoration in exchange for military service at Prato in 1324.163
The early careers of Messer Amerigo di Corso dei Donati and Messer Pino della Tosa are illustrative. Messer Amerigo served, in 1318, as captain of the Guelf exiles of Lucca who fought against Uguccione della Faggiola.164 Five years later, he took command of an army of Florentine magnates and exiles who broke into the city of Florence in May 1323.165 The following spring (May 1324), he served as captain of a force of 340 knights sent by Florence to Perugia as part of a war effort against the Aretines.166 Messer Pino was active during the same period, beginning in June 1319 when he was entrusted by King Robert of Naples to serve as his vicar and defend Pistoia against Castruccio Castracani.167 Two years later, in February 1321, he led a force out of Pistoia to confront Castracani at “Lo Sperone” but was forced to retreat in the face of superior numbers.168 King Robert rewarded him for his service in November 1324 with an annual pension of fifty ounces of gold.169
To these fairly well-documented careers can be added numerous other examples. In 1321, Messer Tegghiaio degli Adimari served as captain of the Florentine army sent against Galeazzo Visconti.170 Several years later, in June 1325, just a few short months before the Battle of Altopascio, Messer Attaviano dei Brunelleschi served as captain of a Florentine force recruited from the castles of the Valdarno that was sent to join a larger army in its attack on Pistoia after the city was captured by Castracani.171 These examples, again, represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the total number of Florentine knights and men-at-arms who went to war.
The Battle of Altopascio
Daniel Waley has demonstrated convincingly that the Florentine army at the Battle of Altopascio (September 23, 1325) was still, in many ways, a citizen-army, with around five hundred citizens serving on horseback: four hundred of the cavallata and more than one hundred squires (compagni).172 The army undoubtedly included a sizeable contingent of knights and men-at-arms from chivalric lineages, but the task of reconstructing this group is made more difficult by the limited and fragmentary nature of the surviving sources.173 It is possible to identify one hundred and five men from the lineages in question who participated in the battle of Altopascio. The della Tosa-Tosinghi lineage provided the largest contingent with fourteen men serving in the Florentine army during the campaign.174 The second largest were the Donati and Bostichi lineages, each with nine.175 The Frescobaldi and Adimari-Cavicciuli lineages each provided eight men,176 while the Bardi and Tornaquinci lineages each provided seven.177 The representatives of the Gianfigliazzi and Pigli lineages numbered six and five, respectively.178 Four men from the Brunelleschi, Cavalcanti, Mazzinghi, and Visdomini-Aliotti lineages also participated.179 Also represented were the Spini, Nerli, and Foraboschi lineages with between one and three men each.180
The surviving evidence shows that these knights and men-at-arms fought on the front lines: all but sixteen served as feditori, and sixteen were lost, captured, or killed. At least forty-four of the men were involved in the campaigns at both Montecatini and Altopascio. Perhaps more importantly, seventeen of the eighteen lineages present at Montaperti were represented at Altopascio. While this evidence confirms the continuity of military service among Florentine chivalric lineages, the identities of the majority of the elite warriors who fought at Altopascio cannot be ascertained. It is quite possible given the limitations of the sources that members of the Scali lineage, the only one represented at Montaperti but not at Altopascio, were in fact present in 1325. What is certain is that members of the Florentine chivalric elite continued to eagerly cultivate the profession of arms during this period.
From Altopascio to the Revolution of 1343
Our records for the period between Altopascio (1325) and 1343 derive almost exclusively from chronicles, Giovanni Villani’s Nuova Cronica foremost among them. Villani not only discusses the major military campaigns undertaken by Florence and individual Florentines during these years, he also sheds light on the relative martial strength of the city, particularly during the mid-1330s. He notes that in Florence during these years there were “around 25,000 men who were capable of bearing arms …, among which were 1,500 nobles and powerful men who gave guarantees [sureties] to the commune as magnates,” as well as “sixty-five knights” (cavalieri di corredo) from elite families who were not magnates and, finally, “more than 250 knights” among the popolo grasso, men who chose to bear the dignity despite the political disadvantages the status entailed.181 Thus, we might conclude from Villani’s assessment—shaped by the recognition that knighthood was a major criterion for determining whether or not an individual was a magnate and that those knights among the popolo grasso seemingly placed great value on the dignity’s traditional military function—that there were nearly two thousand strenuous knights and men-at-arms in Florence. Unfortunately, the extant evidence does not allow us to reconstruct the composition of this large group of elite warriors in its entirety.
Nevertheless, the chronicle evidence highlights a clear continuity of military service among members of chivalric lineages. This is particularly important because after Altopascio the cavallata was rarely utilized, and even when it was called, a payment of ten gold florins was sufficient to exempt an individual from having to go to war.182 In other words, the performance of military service by members of the Florentine chivalric elite after this point was done almost entirely on a volunteer basis, regardless of whether or not the participant entered into a contract with the city and earned a wage. Giovanni Villani writes that one hundred Florentine cavalry mustered under the command of Charles of Calabria, the son of Robert of Naples and the military protector of Florence, before Santa Croce on July 25, 1325, but he does not provide any names.183 Similarly, Villani writes about the siege of Montecatino, which lasted eleven months and required two successive levies of the full Florentine army before its conclusion in July 1330, but without offering the identities of any of the participants.184 Despite these evidentiary challenges, it is possible to reconstruct the martial careers of numerous Florentine knights and men-at-arms, thus confirming the continued connection between war and chivalric identity during this period.
The first example, Messer Biagio dei Tornaquinci, followed up his service at Altopascio by taking command of a force of two hundred German knights and six hundred other soldiers sent by Walter of Brienne, the Duke of Athens and Florence’s captain of war (capitano di guerra), to fight Castruccio in October 1326, although unfavorable weather in the mountains forced them to turn back.185 In June 1330, he served in the Florentine force sent to Bologna to reinforce an army under the command of fellow Florentine Messer Giovanni di M. Rosso della Tosa.186 Serving alongside Messer Biagio was Messer Gerozzo dei Bardi. Giovanni Villani, who notes Gerozzo’s participation in his Nuova Cronica, describes the Bardi man as among “the greatest and most wise and expert in war.”187 In July 1335, Messer Gerozzo served as captain of a force of horse and infantry sent by Florence to Pietrasanta.188 Almost a year later, in June 1336, he served as captain, along with fellow Florentine Messer Pino della Tosa, of a force of six hundred knights sent to the Romagna.189
Although he does not appear to have fought at Altopascio, Messer Giovanni di M. Tedici degli Adimari received great praise from Giovanni Villani and Leonardo Bruni for his skillful defense, in November 1325, of Montemurlo, a town not far from Prato, which frustrated Castruccio’s attempts to press the advantage following his famous victory. Villani and Bruni not surprisingly provide similar accounts, with Bruni writing that Giovanni and Messer Rinieri dei Pazzi led a small force of 150 men “with great foresight and strength of character[, so] that the enemy’s endeavors were long frustrated.”190 Ugo degli Scali and Messer Amerigo di Corso dei Donati also enjoyed military careers. Ugo degli Scali served as captain of a force of four hundred barbute (a military unit consisting of two men, a knight and a page) sent by Florence to help the Marquis of Ferrara in February 1334.191 Leonardo Bruni wrote, again with the goal of invigorating the martial ardor of knights in his own day, that Ugo and his fellow commanders “earned exceptional praise for their prowess in battle, as both men with equal ardor were found in the front rank. Military men of great fame at home, they made haste to extend the glory of their deeds abroad, exhorting their troops more by example than by words.”192 A few months later in August, Ugo once again captained a force of 350 knights sent by Florence to the contado of Parma where Mastino della Scala besieged the castle of Colornio.193
Messer Amerigo likewise commanded a force of five hundred infantry that joined the army of the Duke of Athens and departed from Prato in October 1326 in order to bring Castruccio Castracani to battle.194 Messer Amerigo was particularly active during the last years of the 1320s: in July 1328 he led the Florentine forces that besieged and retook Montecatini; in that same year he was compensated the sizable sum of 120 gold florins for the loss of a horse during the siege; in 1329, he was charged with defending Montecatini; and in 1330 he was captured when Castracani took Montecatini through treachery and eventually ransomed by the Florentine government.195 Three years after his release, in 1333, he led a chevauchée of four hundred barbute against the Lucchese in the Valdinievole near Buggiano, but his force was ambushed and forced to retreat to Montecatini with heavy losses.196
Messer Amerigo’s fellow captain in October 1326 was Messer Giannozzo di M. Uberto of the Cavalcanti lineage, whose remarkable career included service as a feditore at the battles of Montecatini and Altopascio and significant martial activity in the subsequent four decades.197 In June 1330, Messer Giannozzo served in a Florentine army under the command of Messer Alamanno degli Obizzi that was sent to Bologna to reinforce the force captained by Messer Giovanni di M. Rosso della Tosa.198 His notable service on behalf of both Florence and King Robert of Naples was rewarded in 1335 when he was made podestà of the city of Genoa by the king himself.199
A number of Adimari likely rubbed shoulders with Messer Giannozzo at the Angevin court in Naples. For example, both Cantino di M. Guerre and Messer Philippo are identified as knights and familiars of King Robert of Naples.200 More prominent, arguably, was Messer Lotto di Manno degli Adimari, who served for at least a decade as a knight in the service of the Angevin kings of Naples. Three years after fighting as a feditore at the Battle of Altopascio, Messer Lotto served in 1328 as a knight and familiar of King Robert of Naples, although the nature of his service is not specified. In 1336 and 1337, Messer Lotto held the office of military governor (miles stratigotus; gubernatoris) of the city of Salerno in the Angevin regno. This was followed by a period of more than a year when he served as captain and knight in the service of the city of Adria.201
The activities of Messer Francesco di M. Betto dei Brunelleschi and Messer Pino della Tosa during this period are also illuminating. Messer Francesco, alongside the aforementioned Messer Gerozzo, was elected in 1332 to organize and coordinate Florence’s military forces in a league formed in response to the descent into Italy of Emperor Henry VII’s son, John of Bohemia.202 In addition to holding this leadership position, he also fought on the front lines of a Florentine force sent against the Pisans in October 1340. In fact, he was captured during the battle and held as a prisoner for almost two years.203 A year after his release (1343), he captained a Florentine army that fought against rebels and exiles in the contado.204 Messer Pino della Tosa, meanwhile, continued a long and distinguished career that began ostensibly at the Battle of Campaldino in June 1289 with further service in the 1320s and 1330s. In 1328, Messer Pino served as commander of a Florentine force that included three hundred horse captained by his brother Messer Giovanni di M. Rosso, which was sent to Bologna to support papal rule there.205 Eight years later, in June 1336, he served as captain, alongside Messers Simone della Tosa and Gerozzo dei Bardi, of six hundred horse sent against Mastino Della Scala in the Romagna.206
Two final examples are offered by other members of the della Tosa-Tosinghi lineage, Messers Simone di M. Baldo and Giovanni di M. Rosso. Messer Simone enjoyed a long career that began at the Battle of Montecatini in August 1315 and lasted until at least 1337. The sources are not clear if he fought at Altopascio in 1325, but it is certainly possible given his extensive military service during the surrounding years. In the winter of 1327–28, Messer Simone was one of the major advocates in the Florentine councils of an attack on Pistoia. He did not just promote the attack from the safety of the council chamber, however; he actually participated in it. In January 1328, Messer Simone joined the army of Filippo di Sangineto, which included six hundred mercenary knights, in a daring nighttime attack that ultimately succeeded after significant fighting.207 That June he was given command of 250 knights and 1,000 infantry, and charged with defending Pistoia against Castracani.208 As mentioned previously, Messer Simone followed up this command eight years later by serving alongside Messer Pino della Tosa in a force of six hundred horse sent by Florence against Mastino Della Scala in the Romagna.209 A year later, in May 1337, he served as captain of the contingent of heavy infantry (pavesari grossi) who formed part of the army of Messer Orlando dei Rossi of Parma, the captain general of Florence.210 Finally, Messer Simone’s kinsman, Messer Giovanni di M. Rosso, fought in a Florentine army that was defeated outside the walls of Lucca in October 1341, where he was captured and eventually ransomed.211
This brief survey of the identified members of the Florentine chivalric elite who cultivated the profession of arms in the years between the Battle of Altopascio and the revolution in 1343 presents only a fraction of the total service rendered by these and other elite warriors. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that many more served during this period. For example, Marchionne di Coppo Stefani wrote that in June 1337 many Florentines served in the army of Messer Marsilio dei Rossi of Parma, the captain of the league organized against the Visconti, but he does not provide us with their identities.212 Likewise, Giovanni Villani notes that in April 1333 four hundred Florentine knights served in the army of the papal legate outside of Ferrara and 150 Florentine knights, including forty exiles, served in the retinue of the Della Scala, but it is not possible to identify them based on the chronicle evidence.213 Giovanni Villani does reveal, however, the identities of a few members of the Florentine contingent who fought outside Lucca in October 1341 but leaves historians in the dark about a majority of the men. In a final example that can stand for many, he notes that forty elite Florentines joined the spring campaign of 1342, but he does not reveal who participated.214
From 1343 to the Florentine-Pisan War of 1362–64
The years after 1343 are the best documented of any period examined thus far. Historians have generally concluded based on these sources that the Florentine army during this period was increasingly comprised of mercenaries, hired in an ad-hoc and haphazard manner, while the citizen contingent seems to have been in decline when compared to the forces that fought at Montaperti, Campaldino, Montecatini, and Altopascio.215 This does not mean, however, that members of the Florentine chivalric elite did not fight in the city’s many minor conflicts or in its wars against the Ubaldini in 1349–50 and Visconti of Milan in 1351–53.216 Indeed, Giovanni Villani notes that around one thousand elite Florentines served on horse during the revolt that overthrew the Duke of Athens at the beginning of this period (July 26, 1343).217 As a result of this service, the Florentine government rewarded these warriors by reducing the harshest penalties in the Ordinances of Justice. In September of that same year, however, many members of the chivalric elite took up arms against the Florentine government, leading to a series of pitched battles in the city streets. Although Giovanni Villani confirms that members of most of the lineages under consideration in this chapter were directly involved in the conflict, he does not reveal their identities.218
Not surprisingly, many members of the Florentine chivalric elite fled the city after the tumultuous events of 1343. Some found refuge in the service of Messer Mastino Della Scala and other lords, but around five hundred were soon restored to Florence, including members of the Adimari, Brunelleschi, Tosinghi (della Tosa), Nerli, Pigli, Scali, and Spini lineages.219 This was done “in order to strengthen the Popolo,” which likely meant that the Florentine government, ruled by men well versed in the worlds of business and politics but not war, desperately needed the military experience and expertise of these strenuous and experienced warriors.220 The returning knights and men-at-arms joined their peers who had remained in good standing and continued to serve Florence in a military capacity.221 In fact, there is plentiful evidence that members of the chivalric elite held leadership positions, commanding both mounted and foot soldiers. As such, they should be considered alongside mercenaries as part of the “core of seasoned professionals” maintained by Florence year-round.222
The survival of the detailed financial records produced by the Florentine treasury, in particular, makes it possible to track the careers of many members of the chivalric lineages in question.223 Roberto Benelle dei Pigli serves as a useful example. In May 1345, he appears in the budgetary records as under contract to serve as captain of twenty infantry for a period of six months.224 Four years later, in August 1349, he was once again under contract, this time as captain of seventeen infantry for six months.225 Roberto’s peer, Guelfo di M. Dante degli Scali, appears in the budget records on June 1, 1345, as a fellow captain of twenty infantry.226 Three days later, however, Guelfo’s contract seems to have been altered, as he is listed as a captain of only twelve infantry.227 On June 7, Guelfo appears alone as captain of six infantry for a period of either four or seven months.228
Additional examples abound of members of the chivalric elite leading troops during this period. Lapo Geri of the Pigli lineage appears in September 1343 as under contract to lead twenty-five infantry for two months.229 Agnolo Lapi and Simone Lapi degli Scali both appear in May 1345 as under contract to lead four and two infantry, respectively, for a period of six months.230 Nerio dei Donati (del Galuzzo) was contracted in August 1349 to serve as captain of first eight and then fifteen infantry for a period of four months.231 Andrea di Filippozzo and Bindo d’Andrea of the Bardi lineage were both charged by the Florentine government with defending the land of the contado of Pozzo in March 1349.232 Messer Rosso di M. Giovanni della Tosa, meanwhile, commanded ten horse and twenty-five infantry in his capacity as the vicar of Vallis Nebulae in the summer of 1349.233 Similar was the service of Agnolo di Geri dei Frescobaldi, who received ten gold florins in August 1351 as payment for defending the castle of Montelupo with two mounted men-at-arms (equites) for thirty days.234
Also serving in the early 1350s were Domenico di M. Rico Ser Villi dei Tosinghi, who was contracted to serve as captain of fifteen infantry for four months, and Sozzo di M. Piero dei Bardi, who served honorably in the Florentine army in 1351 despite the fact that he was an exile and had not been promised restoration.235 Two Pulci men were exempted from the tax (gravezza) imposed on nobles and citizens living outside of Florence because of their military service in that year.236 A similar number from the Tornaquinci lineage were also under contract to serve as captains of infantry in 1352: Musino Manetti commanded forty-three infantry for four months,237 while Francesco Bernardi commanded, along with two other men, sixty infantry for a period of four months.238 Multiple members of the Donati and Adimari lineages are also present in the financial records for these years. Justo and Messer Forese di M. Amerigo of the Donati were both under contract to lead men in 1351, the former as captain of five infantry for four months and the latter as corporal of one horse and one squire (ragazzino) for two months.239 Regarding the Adimari, Messer Ugoni is described as a “caporali” in charge of forty foreign knights (equitum ultramani) in late June 1351, and Vanni Baldi and Jacobo Manni each appear in the records on March 4, 1352, as the captain of a force of infantry, the first of thirty-two men on a one-month contract and the second of twenty-four men for the same length of contract.240 A fourth Adimari, Messer Antonio di Baldinaccio, served first as the vicar of the Vallis Nebulae and captain of nine horse and twenty-five infantry for six months in March 1351, and then several years later, as captain of a force of five hundred barbute that was sent to Rome in March 1355.241 Also appearing in the financial records is Rustico di Canto of the Cavalcanti, who enjoyed a four-month contract to captain five infantry during the spring of 1352.242 One of his kinsmen, Domenico di Cantino, likewise captained a force of infantry, in his case, those tasked with guarding the castle of San Niccolò dalla Montagna (near Arezzo) in 1356.243
Another infantry captain, Messer Giovanni dei Visdomini, seems to have been highly sought after because of his military leadership. In August 1351, he volunteered to help relieve the siege of Scarperia, leading a small force of thirty men into the besieged town. Giovanni received plenty of plaudits from chroniclers for his service: the fourteenth-century chronicler Matteo Villani described him as one of the greatest infantry commanders of his time, and Bruni wrote that he was “a Florentine noble of high spirit and experience in war.”244 Messer Tassino also enjoyed a long career in arms, mostly in the service of the Visconti of Milan, who took control of the city of Bologna in 1350. He campaigned against his native Florence on more than one occasion. In July 1351, while in exile, Messer Tassino served as a caporali, along with his brother Cignano, in the army of Giovanni Visconti, the archbishop of Milan, who had planned to attack Florence after taking Bologna the year before.245 Five years later, in 1356, Messer Tassino served as captain of seventeen bandiere of knights, sent by Bernabò Visconti, lord of Bologna, to the Emilia Romagna.246 Messer Tassino continued to cultivate a military career as a mercenary captain throughout the remainder of the decade, mostly in the pay of the Visconti.
A few other knights and men-at-arms seem to have been famous enough to warrant the attention of chroniclers. Another member of the Donati lineage, Messer Manno, for example, was exceptionally active during the 1340s and 1350s. In November 1340, he led, along with his kinsman Messer Giovanni della Tosa and several members of the Cavicciuli lineage, the forces of the popolo against the Frescobaldi and Bardi.247 More traditional service followed in the spring of 1342, when he served in a Florentine army sent by the Duke of Athens to relieve the Pisan siege of Lucca.248 For much of the 1350s Messer Manno cultivated the profession of arms in the service of Francesco “il Vecchio” Carrara, the lord of Padova. For example, the sixteenth-century historian Scipione Ammirato claims that Messer Manno took a loan of six hundred florins to cover the costs of horses (ronzini) and armor (armadute) when he went into the service of the Carrara in 1351.249
Matteo Villani, meanwhile, notes that Messer Manno was sent by Francesco with two hundred knights to help his brother, Cangrande, to recover Verona in 1354.250 Messer Manno continued to serve Francesco two years later, when he was given command of an army sent to stop the mercenary captain Sicco da Caldonazzo from plundering the Paduan-controlled Val Sugana.251 One year later (1357), Messer Manno was chosen by the Florentine government to serve as captain of a company of seven hundred barbute of “buona gente” sent to the Romagna to fight the Great Company, which was at that time in the pay of Bernabò Visconti, lord of Milan.252 Messer Manno’s military service on behalf of both Florence and the Carrara lineage confirms that he was a knight who saw the profession of arms as central to his identity. In fact, he would continue to go to war for at least another fifteen years.
Many other members of the chivalric elite also served in the years immediately before the Florentine-Pisan War began in 1362. Two members of the Donati lineage, Rossino (of Bibbiena) and Paccio, were contracted by the Florentine government in 1360 to each serve as captain of two infantry for four months.253 Jacopo Lapi of the Mazzinghi lineage appears in the financial records twice: first, in October 1360, when he received double pay along with two of his companions (sociis) for services rendered previously, and again, in July 1361, when he was under contract to serve as captain of twenty infantry for four months.254 Also serving in July of that year was Messer Amerigo di Giovanni of the Cavalcanti, whose career dated back to as early as 1344. Messer Amerigo held the position of adviser (consigliere) to Florence’s captain general, Rodolfo da Camerino.255
This significant list of knights and men-at-arms performing military service is assuredly not complete. While the financial records produced by the Florentine government for these years are extensive (e.g., the Camarlinghi Uscita records, only one set of budget documents, number 153 volumes for the years 1343–61), the chronicle evidence continues to offer only limited assistance in the task of identifying the members of the chivalric elite who went to war during this period. The events of 1350–51 provide several useful examples. Matteo Villani, Donato Velluti, and Marchionne di Coppo Stefani all mention an assault on Prato and a daring attack on Pistoia in early 1351 by Florentine forces that included members of the chivalric elite, but the chronicles reveal the identities of only a few of the participants.256 Similarly limited is our knowledge of the large Florentine army—which included nearly two thousand cavalry—mobilized in March and April 1351 to besiege Pistoia, the Florentine force sent in August of that same year to confront Giovanni da Oleggio, and the army assembled a month later to defend Scarperia.257 Likewise, the letters exchanged between the Florentine Signoria and Messer Niccolò Acciaiuoli, the seneschal of the kingdom of Naples, make clear that Florentines were also serving in southern Italy during the spring and summer of 1352, although we are given only one name: Messer Henrici degli Spini. Messer Henrici was tasked with leading a sizeable force of one hundred horse in support of Queen Joanna I and her husband, Louis of Taranto, as they struggled to repel foreign invasions and quell internal rebellions.258 And finally, the identities of the three hundred “prominent citizens” summoned to perform military service in late 1353 also remain obscure.259 These few examples highlight how little we actually know about the military service performed by members of the Florentine chivalric elite during this period.
The Florentine-Pisan War of 1362–64
Despite the shortcomings of the extant evidence, the discussion up to this point strongly suggests that for the years preceding the 1360s, members of the chivalric elite continued to play an important military role on behalf of their patria.260 This service intensified during the Florentine war against Pisa, which included multiple campaigns involving large numbers of citizens, none more so than the one that ended with the Battle of Cascina (July 28, 1364). This continuity is important because Caferro in particular has argued that the year 1361 and the start of the Pisan war were turning points, when Florence and many other Italian “powers” began to hire large companies of mercenary soldiers led by prominent mercenary captains.261
What should we make of this continuity? Gene Brucker, echoing the prevailing view of most historians, argues that the participation of the Florentine elite can be attributed to the “memories of past military glories” and a desire to vindicate “Florentine honor.” Brucker even concludes that the war against Pisa was “the last major war in which a substantial contingent of Florentine citizens participated in the fighting,” highlighting the presence of men from prominent lineages like the Ricci, Alberti, Albizzi, and Capponi.262 While Brucker is no doubt correct that many members of the Florentine elite avoided military service during this period, his and other historical inquiries almost without exception focus on the popolo grasso, not traditional martial lineages like the Donati, Buondelmonti, and della Tosa. Knights and men-at-arms from these lineages continued to serve as a vital source of military expertise and manpower well into the fifteenth century despite no longer dominating the city of Florence.
If we turn our attention to the Florentine army that campaigned in the summer of 1362, we find clear evidence that members of the Florentine chivalric elite participated in significant numbers. Our knowledge of this campaign comes primarily from the budget records produced by the Florentine camera. The Camarlinghi Uscita volume covering July and August 1362, for example, records the names of prominent citizens and the banners in which they served. Each banner was comprised of twenty to twenty-five men, generally knights, and was associated with a gonfalone or district within a specific quarter (quartiere) of the city: Ladder (Scala), Shell (Nicchio), Flail (Ferza), and Green Dragon (Drago Verde) within the quarter of Santo Spirito; Cart (Carro), Ox (Bue), Black Lion (Leon Nero), and Wheels (Ruote) in the quarter of Santa Croce; Viper (Vipera), Unicorn (Unicorno), Red Lion (Leon Rosso), and White Lion (Leon Bianco) in the quarter of Santa Maria Novella; and Golden Lion (Leon d’Oro), Dragon (Drago), Keys (Chiavi), and heraldic Vair (Vaio) in the quarter of San Giovanni.263
As during previous campaigns, the Bardi contingent was among the largest, with nine men all serving in the banner of the Ladder (vex schalare): Messer Andrea, Iacopo Francesco di Giovanni, Ianno (Janni) di M. Bardo, Bardo Congiotti, Giovanni di M. Agnoli, Sandro Bartoli, Giramonte Benghi, Alessandro di M. Riccardo, and Francesco Filippozzo.264 A sizeable contingent of men from the Donati lineage included Stagio Corsi (banner of the Flails; vex ferze), Aldobrandino (banner of the Dragon; vex draconis), Bonifacio di M. Donato (banner of the Black Lion; vex leonis nigri), and Cenno Donati Setamolo (banner of the Flails; vex ferze).265 The Spini lineage was represented by Anigho Vanni, Nepo Doffi, Jacopo Doffi, Degho Doffi, and Giovanni Scolaio, all of whom fought in the banner of the Unicorn (vex vinconni).266 The Vecchietti fighting under the banner of the White Lion (vex leonis albi) included Ughoni di Dominico and Vanni di Iacobo.267 The Cavalcanti contribution, meanwhile, was comprised of Bartolomeo Rossi and Scolaio Rossi, both of whom fought in the banner of the Viper (vex vipere), and Malatesta di Angnoli, who served in the banner of the Wheel (vex rote).268 Also appearing are Accamano dei Brunelleschi (banner of the Dragon; vex draconis),269 Filippo Tedeschi dei Foraboschi (banner of Unicorn; vex vincorri),270 Caroccio Angnoli dei Frescobaldi (banner of the Shells; vex nicchi),271 Giovanni Rossi and Falco dei Gianfigliazzi (banner of the Unicorn; vex viconni),272 Messer Maffio di M. Canto dei Pigli (banner of the Red Lion; vexilli leonis rubi),273 Biligiardo and Lodovico di M. Bindo della Tosa (banner of the Yellow Dragon; vex draconis bindis) and Messer Rosso di M. Giovanni della Tosa (banner of the Dragon of the quarter of S. Giovanni; vex draconis),274 and Niccolò Filippi degli Scali (banner of the Unicorn; vex vincorri).275 This list of thirty-three men, representing twelve of the eighteen traditional martial lineages studied in this chapter (approximately 67 percent), confirms that members of the Florentine chivalric elite continued to vigorously cultivate the profession of arms in the early 1360s.
This percentage is almost certainly even higher given the number of other knights and men-at-arms who fought in the Florentine-Pisan War but who do not appear in the 1362 “military roll.” An anonymous chronicle located in Manoscritti Vari 222, for example, allows for the partial reconstruction of the leadership of the Florentine army assembled in the following year (1363). Among them is Messer Manno dei Donati (whose early career was examined above), Messer Luigi dei Gianfigliazzi, Messer Andrea di Gualtiero dei Bardi, and Messer Giannozzo di M. Uberto dei Cavalcanti.276 Of these leading knights, only Messer Andrea of the Bardi appears in the financial records for the summer campaign of 1362.
Not appearing in either list are a whole host of men belonging to chivalric lineages, including Filippo Giovanni degli Adimari, who served in the summer of 1362 as captain of two horse and thirty infantry, and Baschiera della Tosa, who was under contract for two months in June 1362 as captain of seven infantry.277 Jacopo Lapi of the Mazzinghi is listed in the budget records as captain of thirteen infantry in that same month, while Paccio dei Donati served as captain of thirty infantry for ten months in 1362 and of four infantry for four months in 1363.278 Archino degli Adimari also appears in the records as the constable of the horse in the same Florentine army.279 Geno di Giovanni dei Frescobaldi meanwhile appears in May 1363 as under contract to serve as captain of seventeen infantry, while Leonardo di Niccolò dei Frescobaldi served in the Florentine army near Pisa in June 1363.280 Bastione Franceschini dei Tosinghi served as captain of nine infantry for four months in the spring and summer of 1363.281 Ruggiero Guemacci dei Nerli was contracted in the summers of both 1362 and 1363 to serve as captain of seven infantry for seven months and four infantry for four months, respectively.282 In the closing months of that year, Sinibaldo di M. Amerigo di M. Corso dei Donati, along with Messer Niccolò of the Buondelmonti lineage, served as captain of four hundred Pistoian infantry and over five hundred Florentine exiles, who were sent to San Miniato a Monte in order to guard it against the Pisans and the English mercenaries in their employ.283 Filippo Villani notes that both Sinibaldo and Niccolò were exiles (“erano in bando della persona”) who had served the Florentine commune in a military capacity on a number of occasions. Thus, the total participation in 1362–63 for the lineages in question was actually much higher.
It is possible to also identify several men from chivalric lineages who served in the Florentine military in the months leading up to the famous Battle of Cascina in July 1364. Pieraccino (Peracemo) Biagi dei Cavalcanti appears in the budget records on May 22, 1364, as under contract to serve as captain of twenty-one infantry.284 On July 7 of that same year, only weeks before Cascina, Pieraccino’s contract was renewed for several months.285 Messer Manno dei Donati, whom the anonymous Florentine author of the Cronichetta d’incerto described in May 1364 as “brave and wise in war,” served as one of the leading knights in the army that defeated Pisa at Cascina (July 28).286 In fact, several months after the victory at Cascina, the Florentine Signoria sent a letter to the lord of Padova thanking him for allowing Messer Manno to help Florence in the war against Pisa and attesting to Manno’s valor and military virtue.287 He was not alone, however, with many other Florentine knights and men-at-arms playing leading roles. Messer Andrea di Tingo of the Bardi lineage held the royal banner in the Florentine army during the battle.288 Messer Amerigo dei Cavalcanti also served in the Florentine army during this campaign, along with many other “noblemen and popolani, on foot and on horse.”289
An examination of the documents related to the Florentine campaigns against Pisa in the years 1362–64 confirms that a majority of the chivalric lineages under consideration in this chapter, more specifically fifteen of the eighteen, continued to cultivate the profession of arms over the entire period of 1260–1364. Only members of the Bostichi, Tornaquinci, and Visdomini lineages do not appear in this extensive, but not exhaustive survey of what is a significant body of evidence. Of these lineages, members of the Tornaquinci and Visdomini both appear in Florentine armies during the 1350s, and Tornaquinci and Visdomini men can be found bearing arms throughout the last decades of the fourteenth century. In short, it is clear that these eighteen traditional martial lineages, like the larger body of knights and men-at-arms who comprised the Florentine chivalric cultural community, continued to cultivate the profession of arms as a central element of their chivalric identity throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Given the sheer weight of evidence presented in this chapter, there can be little doubt that the profession of arms was a constitutive feature of the Florentine chivalric community. Florentine knights and men-at-arms understood war to be an ennobling enterprise, and they treated the battlefield as the best place to demonstrate their prowess and valor, winning in the process not only wealth, but also the glittering reward of honor. Their military service reinforced claims to social superiority and political authority during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. Perhaps more importantly, the chivalric elite continued to vigorously cultivate the profession of arms well into the late fourteenth century, after both the obligation to perform military service (cavallata) fell into obsolescence and a new, mostly nonmartial, officeholding and economic elite cemented itself at the top of the Florentine social and political hierarchy. This is a clear testament to the enduring connection between chivalric identity and war in late medieval Florence.