European Forces Moving Around and Towards Italy Part I

It is a time when all kings looked to Italy; they drew Italy, little or a lot, in the circle of their ambitions and their intentions. As they feel more secure at home and gain more freedom of movement for foreign policy, they move towards the Mediterranean and Italy. An ancient fact, this: but now with greater breadth and urgency. Through the Alpine passes you feel the pressure of the Habsburgs who obtained Tyrol and Trieste at the end of the 14th century: and at the beginning of the 15th century, with Sigismondo, they attempted a great effort of claims in Istria and Friuli and beyond, to damages of Venice. It was a vain effort, but the hope and the will to try the test again, on the Austrian and German side and on the Hungarian side, did not fall. Meanwhile, there was a slow German infiltration down the Adige: and in the course of the 15th century, more than one German bishop ascended the chair of Trent. Then, in the second half of the century, Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, liberated his land, meditates on the repurchase of Dalmatia, binds in kinship with Ferdinand of Naples by marrying his daughter Beatrice, he advocates in favor of his relative Federico d’Aragona the Vicariate of Milan in order to have some authority in the affairs of Lombardy, behind his enemies Venetians, cultivates friendships with the cities of the Marche and, occupying Vienna after 1485, Carniola, Styria, is located right at the gates of the peninsula. German people are also knocking at other doors, as well as in Trento and Friuli: and it is the Swiss mountaineers who, during the Visconti crisis, at the beginning of the 15th century, they had occupied part of the Ossola Valley and made it a bailee, Valle Anzasca, Valmaggia; finally Bellinzona (1419). Pushed back, with the rescue of Filippo Maria, they returned to the assault after his death. Fierce struggles with Sforza between 1477 and 1483. The duke and the chapter of the Milanese church ceded the Leventina valley to the canton of Uri. The victory of the Swiss militias in Giornico was decisive. The ambitions of the cantons grew at the sight of the beautiful flat lands in front of them. It seemed possible for them to carve out a domain in the Milan area; at the very least, to prevent any other power from seizing it. Savoy was also within the sphere of expansion of the Swiss Confederates, especially of Bern. And this perhaps held back the king of France, who among the Swiss enlisted the best infantry of him,

According to EJINHUA, there is France which boasts the Angevins’ rights over Naples and does not forget that a Valentina Visconti had married a Duke of Orleans, indeed she considers Sforza a bit of her vassal for the Milanese. Genoa is also under his aim: Genoa is the key to Lombardy, a great port, a thriving navy, a lot of money, possession of Corsica, a base for naval operations in Naples. Even the Aragonese had been keeping their eyes on her for some time, but with less luck. They frightened, with their commercial intrusiveness, their almost mastery of the western Mediterranean, their ambitions for Corsica. Preferable the king of France; and more than once the republic of Genoa, in order to escape from a closer or more dangerous lord or to put some order in its internal disorder, had given itself in subjection to the king of France. Who is no longer so busy with the big wars with England, a decisive fact for his future orientation and also for the destinies of Italy. Sure, therefore, behind him, he can better attend to the things of Burgundy and Italy. Louis XI is in close relations with Francesco Sforza, as his predecessors already with Gian Galeazzo Visconti. He turns his thoughts to a possible annexation of Savoy: a thought that will then never be abandoned. And his sister Iolanda goes to marry Duke Amedeo IX, faithfully serves the royal brother and, being widowed, taking the regency, almost governs the dukedom for him. In 1482, King Louis assumes the tutelage of Charles, born of that union. The year before, he had annexed Provence to France. And now, only death interrupts the development of this policy towards Italy.

Then there is the South of Italy. Towards it, the kingdom of France and the kingdom of Spain or scions of French and Spanish dynasties have been competing for a long time. At the end of the 13th century, the king of Aragon, almost the vanguard of Spain in the Mediterranean and towards Italy, had wrested Sicily from the French, then united with Spain. After Sicily, the Aragonese had swallowed Sardinia. And later, also the kingdom of Naples, in competition with the Angevins of France. A cultured prince and a lover of human letters, he is King Alfonso of Aragon, of Sicily, Sardinia and Naples, where he is based. He is always mixed with the things of Italy and has in mind other Italian conquests, Corsica, lands of Tuscany and Lombardy. But Spanish is its language, its culture, its religiosity. This South of Italy has just absorbed and Italianized a foreign conqueror, and here are others, and we have to start over: Normans, Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese. The immigration of Catalans and Castilians that had begun some time ago in Sicily and Sardinia, and now fills Naples, is also accentuated. With Ferdinand, who obtained only Naples from his father’s inheritance, and was interested in identifying the kingdom in front of Spain, the dynasty also became Italian. But by now the peninsula was open to Spanish influences: and not only the kingdom but also Rome and beyond Rome. There are Spanish prelates in the curia, Spanish cardinals, Spanish popes; kinship ties between the courts of Naples and those of Ferrara and Milan. Especially among the upper classes, culture, language, tastes and customs, games, shows, Spanish clothes spread. And Spanish agia, Spanish emphasis and haughtiness towards the diminutive people, Spanish disdain for the activities of the industrious bourgeoisie and trade. Most of them accepted this foreign commodity with great indifference. But in some there was certainly no lack of regret for their own and ancient custom, a certain awareness as of servitude and presentiment of greater servitude.

The march of the Turks in the East is more rapid and ruinous, where they almost affect the living flesh of Genoa and Venice. This is a story of its own, not closely linked to the organism of Central and Western Europe. However, the links are not lacking, through Genoa and, even more, Venice which is, at the same time, an Italian and European power and a Levantine or colonial power. Of course, these republics are pushed back towards the West, they are led to intensify their activity within the limits of Italy and Europe. In ‘430 Thessaloniki, which, years earlier, had given itself to Venice for fear of the Turks, ends up in their hands. The fall of Constantinople (1453) puts the Genoese colonies of the Black Sea at the mercy of the sultan, which must pay tribute to him. Immediately after, Phocaea with its mines, Thasos, Eno, Imbro, Lenno, Chios, that is, Genoese islands or islands of Genoese lords, not far from the straits, pass under Turkish rule or become tributaries of the sultan. Between 1470 and 1480, the Venetian colony of Tana falls in the Azov Sea; Pera falls in front of Constantinople, and, with much massacre, Caffa, at the bottom of the Black Sea, which are the two administrative and commercial centers of the Genoese, true supporting columns of the whole building of the republic in the Black Sea. In 1484, Baiazet buys Licostomo and Moncastro, emporî of Genoa in the lower Danube: and they are two doors for him to better penetrate the Danube countries and therefore in the center of Europe.

European Forces Moving Around and Towards Italy 1