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Biographical notes on War Captains and Mercenary Leaders operating in Italy between 1330 and 1550

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Diego della Ratta: The Spanish Noble Who Became a Condottiero in Italy

Italian CondottieriDiego della Ratta: The Spanish Noble Who Became a Condottiero in Italy

Valiant Condottiero, whether of Aragonese or Catalan origin, served in Italy under the kings of Naples, the Florentines, and the Este family, consistently opposing the militias of the Ghibelline states and the Imperial forces. He is remembered in a novella by Giovanni Boccaccio in "The Decameron" for winning the favor of the niece of the Bishop of Florence by paying her husband 500 counterfeit florins.

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

How Diego della Ratta rose from a scudiero to a count and a military leader in the turbulent 14th century Italy.

Diego della Ratta, also known as Diego Delarat (Diego de Rapta, Diego di la Racta, Diego de Larath, Diego de la Rath), was either Aragonese or Catalan. He held the titles of Count of Caserta and Montorio. He was the Lord of Mignano Monte Lungo, Valle di Maddaloni, and Ruviano.

The coat of arms of the Della Ratta family

Born: 1285 ca.
Death: 1328, June

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
Mar.SicilyHe moves to Italy during the time of the Sicilian Vespers. Owner of some properties in Ejea de los Caballeros, near Zaragoza, he arrives in Sicily following the Infanta Violante of Aragon, sister of King Federico.
1300SpainHe holds the position of squire in the service of his father-in-law, Giacomo d’Aragona.
1302CampaniaHe escorts Violante d’Aragona from Sicily to Naples, where she is to marry the Duke of Calabria, Roberto d’Angiò. He is granted the fiefdom of the castle of Ruviano in Terra di Lavoro.
Apr. – MayNaplesPistoia300 cavalryTuscanyHe arrives in Tuscany at the head of 300 Aragonese and Catalan horsemen and many foot soldiers armed with javelins (the so-called mugaveri). Coming to the aid of the Florentines and Lucchese, he lays siege in Pistoia to Tolosato degli Uberti and Angelo dei Pazzi of Valdarno, who enjoy the support of Pisan and Arezzo soldiers as well as the White Guelphs expelled from Florence, Prato, Volterra, and Lucca. With the Florentines and Lucchese are the militias of Siena, Prato, Volterra, San Gimignano, Città della Pieve, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Città di Castello, Orvieto, as well as exiles from Bologna, Pisa, Arezzo, Pistoia, and many Romagnol cities. Diego della Ratta surrounds Pistoia with several battifolli: one at the Bonelle bridge with ditches, palisades, and battlements guarded by Pistoiese exiles; others at Nespolo and Sant’Agostino. Some villages near the capital are also fortified. The main camp is located near the Porta di Ripalta and is jointly guarded by Florentines and Lucchese. Later, the attackers surround the entire city with a ditch and enclose it with palisades and battlements to prevent any outside assistance of men and provisions from reaching the city, and to prevent anyone from leaving.
Sept.TuscanyMid-month, two prelates sent by the Pope enter Pistoia: Guglielmo Durante, Bishop of Mende, and Piliforte, Abbot of Lombez. They impose a 15-day truce on the belligerents. The two parties are summoned to Pisa (the Pistoiese) and to Lucca (the Florentines and Lucchese) with the aim of finding an agreement. However, all proves to be futile.
Oct. – Nov.general captain of the Catalan militiasTuscanyHe takes command of the operations when Robert of Anjou leaves Tuscany to avoid being affected by the interdict cast on the Florentines and Lucchese by Cardinal Napoleone Orsini, the papal legate of Pope Clement V, who desires peace among the various Tuscan cities. He holds the title of marshal and general captain of the Catalan militias.
Jan.TuscanyHe leaves his position.
May – Aug.FlorenceUbaldiniTuscanyAt the head of the mercenaries in the service of the commune, he confronts the Ubaldini, the White Guelphs, and the Tuscan Ghibellines who have fortified themselves in the castle of Montaccianico. The siege lasts four months and concludes with the destruction of the fortress. Also participating in the operations are 753 members of the Guelph levy of Tuscany, led by Moroello Malaspina. The Florentine army is initially commanded by the Podestà Bino Gabrielli and, subsequently, by his brother Cantuccio, Podestà of Florence for the second half of the year.
JuneNaplesFerraraTuscanyHe is at the camp of the Guelph League in Gargonza with 300 horsemen and 500 foot soldiers, the mugaveri. He is sent to Bologna to oppose the Marquis of Ferrara, Azzo d’Este.
Sept.FerraraVerona, MantovaMarshal and general captainVeneto, Lombary, EmiliaWith the signing of peace between the contenders, he enters the service of Azzo d’Este to counter the Scaligeri, the Bonacolsi, and the exiles of Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Ferrara. He reaches Ficarolo with the Estensi, accompanied by 1200 Bolognese led by Dalmasio dei Banoli and 160 Hungarian horsemen. Advancing on Ostiglia with the Estense cavalry and infantry, at a certain point his men refuse to follow him because Azzo d’Este suffers from a severe hemorrhage accompanied by abdominal pain. With the Marquis’s return to the camp, della Ratta conquers Ostiglia, which is set ablaze; he forces Ramberto Ramberti and Salinguerra Torelli to retreat to Isola della Scala with the Scaligeri. He captures the castle of Serravalle a Po thanks to a courageous action by Cortesia Cavalcabò, who single-handedly crosses the moat. The commander seizes the river flotilla of Botticella Bonacolsi anchored there. The bridge and tower are destroyed after overcoming the resistance of the defenders (100 horsemen and 1000 foot soldiers), of whom 300 are captured or killed, not counting those who drown in the Po. Botticella Bonacolsi arrives; the Estensi withdraw, burning the castle. Disputes arise in the camp between Diego della Ratta and Azzo d’Este; these reach a climax with the order of Diego della Ratta to behead Malvasio da Melara. He returns to Ficarolo, to Ferrara, and to Bologna. In the latter city, he is tasked with quelling an insurrection: he is besieged in the citadel. In the melee, he defeats the attackers: 30 prisoners are hanged, and others are forced to redeem themselves by paying a large sum.
JuneNaplesGhibellinesRomagnaDiego della Ratta receives assistance from the Estes with 200 horsemen; he advances into the region of Imola, near the Conselice canal; he is appointed as the Count Camerlengo. For several days, he lays waste to the countryside, destroying crops and cutting down fruit trees.
Sept.NaplesDonatiTuscanyDiego della Ratta arrives in Florence with 250 Catalan horsemen. He aligns himself with the majority of the Black Guelphs against Corso Donati, who attempted to seize control of the city with the support of Uguccione della Faggiuola. He besieges Donati in his houses in the district of Porta San Pietro and pursues him when Donati manages to escape. Some of his Catalans capture Corso Donati at Rovezzano, and together with their prisoner, they make their way to Florence, resisting all attempts at bribery. The noble Florentine arrives at the abbey of San Salvi, one mile from the Porta di Santa Croce, where he dismounts from his horse. He is then fatally wounded with a lance thrust to the throat, ordered by Rosso della Tosa and Pazzino dei Pazzi. According to other sources, Corso Donati is killed by Diego della Ratta’s Catalan brother-in-law, Berengario Carroccio.
May – JuneFlorenceArezzoTuscanyHe moves to Monte San Savino with 200 horsemen and 100 infantrymen. He inflicts damage to the countryside as far as the gates of Arezzo.
Aug.NaplesEmiliaWith the victory of the Papal forces over the Venetians, he relocates to Ferrara as the vicar of the King of Naples. However, he fails to pacify the citizens and orders the hanging of 28 partisans of the Estes.
Feb.FlorenceArezzoUmbriaIn support of Città di Castello, he takes the route through the Valdarno with 400 horsemen and 6000 infantry. He enters the territory of Arezzo through Vallelunga and devastates the countryside. Uguccione della Faggiuola moves against him with the aim of surprising him near Cortona. He defeats the rival captain, putting him to flight and capturing three banners. Among the adversaries, 400 men are killed, including Vanni Tarlati and Cione dei Gherardini.
JulyFlorenceTodiUmbriaHe is appointed as the General Vicar in Provence and Romagna by King Robert of Naples, Roberto d’Angiò.
JuneNaplesEmpireCaptain General of the Guelph LeagueEmiliaHe is elected as the Captain of Tuscia and the Guelph faction for a period of six months. He opposes the troops of Emperor Henry of Luxembourg and participates in the defense of Bologna, leading 400 Catalan horsemen.
JulyRomagnaHe moves to Romagna and, along with Gilberto di Santilla, incarcerates all the Ghibelline leaders in Forlì, Faenza, and Imola to prevent them from joining forces with the imperialists.
Oct.Emilia, LiguriaHe is called back to Bologna but then relocates to Lunigiana, specifically Pietrasanta and Sarzana, to hinder the advance of Henry of Luxembourg, who is marching from Genoa towards Pisa.
Nov.TuscanyHe participates in the defense of Lucca.
Feb.Henry of Luxembourg reaches Pisa by sea, and from there, the Emperor proceeds to Rome.
May – JuneTuscany, Umbria, LazioLeading a force consisting of 300 Catalan horsemen, 1000 infantry, and an additional 200 Florentine horsemen, della Ratta departs from Florence. He makes his way to Orvieto and joins the confederate army in Rome, which includes 600 Catalan and Apulian horsemen under Giovanni d’Acaja, 300 horsemen and 1000 infantry from Lucca, and 200 horsemen and 600 infantry from Siena. Alongside him is his brother-in-law, Berengario Caroccio. With the support of the Orsini family, he drives Senator Luigi di Savoia from the Capitoline Hill, occupying half of the city, including Castel Sant’Angelo, San Pietro, and Trastevere, while the other half remains with the colonnese and the Emperor’s partisans. On the day of Saint John the Baptist, he holds a palio race in accordance with Florentine customs. Following his coronation at San Giovanni in Laterano, Henry of Luxembourg leads his army towards Tivoli and Todi.
Aug. – Sept.Umbria, TuscanyDiego della Ratta leaves Todi and Orvieto to move in defense of Florence with 2000 horsemen. The Emperor turns his attention towards the city, and della Ratta aims to obstruct his path at the castle of Incisa with 1800 horsemen. Despite the nearly equal forces in the field, the Florentines refuse to engage in combat. This allows their adversaries to circumvent the pass, and with the Count of Savoy and Henry of Flanders, they launch a sudden attack on his rear in Montelfi. Della Ratta is defeated, albeit with limited losses among his troops (25 horsemen and 100 infantry killed). He reaches Fiesole and begins the siege of Florence by the imperial forces. His prestige is considerably shaken by this event, leading the Florentines to entrust the defense of the city to his brother-in-law, Berengario Caroccio. The Guelphs quickly come to the city’s aid, and reinforcements arrive within a few days from various locations: Lucca (600 horsemen and 3000 infantry), Pistoia (100 horsemen and 500 infantry), Prato (50 and 400), Volterra (100 and 300), Colle di Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano, and San Miniato (each with 50 horsemen and 200 infantry), Bologna (400 and 1000), Rimini, Ravenna, Faenza, Cesena (a total of 300 horsemen and 1500 infantry), Gubbio (100 horsemen), and Città di Castello (50 horsemen). This army, consisting of 4000 horsemen and even more infantry, faces Henry of Luxembourg, who leads 1800 horsemen (800 Germans and 1000 Italians from Rome, the March of Ancona, the Duchy of Spoleto, Arezzo, Romagna, the Counts Guidi, and Santa Fiora) along with a substantial number of infantry.
Oct.TuscanyOperations continue for a month, marked by the usual skirmishes. Neither the attackers nor the defenders attempt any decisive assaults during this period.
Dec.TuscanyThe year continues with clashes, quarrels, and disorders among his soldiers and those of Ferrandino Malatesta. During this time, the Guelph cities not only revoke his position as Captain General but also authorize their ambassadors in Naples to negotiate directly with King Robert of Angiò regarding the recruitment of new mercenaries and the appointment of a Captain General for Tuscany and Emilia.
Feb. – Mar.TuscanyHe pursues the imperial forces, who retreat to San Gimignano, and he defeats them in Castelfiorentino. Henry of Luxembourg abandons Poggibonsi and seeks refuge in Pisa.
SummerCampaniaHe is removed from the position of Marshal of the Kingdom and assigned to other duties. Roberto d’Angiò grants him the fiefdom of the properties of Bartolomeo Siginolfo, who has fallen out of favor, including the land of Montorio in the Frentani region, along with the comital title.
Feb. – Apr.Emilia, RomagnaHe returns to Ferrara as the Angevin vicar, holding the title of Count of Romagna, replacing Adenolfo d’Aquino. In April, a tumult in favor of the Estes erupts, and della Ratta suppresses the insurgents. From there, he proceeds to Castrocaro Terme and Forlì, where he has Scarpetta Ordelaffi and two of his relatives incarcerated. However, he is unable to gain control of the city and consequently releases all the prisoners in exchange for 15,000 florins.
JuneEmilia, TuscanyReplaced in his position by Pino della Tosa, he departs for Bologna and Florence, taking with him Azzo d’Este, the son of Francesco, as a hostage.
…………CampaniaHe is appointed as the Grand Chamberlain of the Kingdom of Naples.
Apr.CampaniaThe Angevin court delivers 2000 florins to him as payment for his credits.
JuneRomagnaElected once again as the Vicar of Romagna, he is granted permission to have a personal bodyguard of 30 horsemen. Additionally, he is provided with a daily stipend of one ounce and 15 tarì.
Aug.NaplesPisaTuscanyHe participates in the Battle of Montecatini against Uguccione della Faggiuola. Initially, he is tasked with guarding the baggage. Positioned in the left wing, he fights alongside Piero d’Angiò. When the Angevin ranks are pushed back by della Faggiuola’s forces, he crosses the Bona stream and attempts to reorganize the disordered troops. He engages in renewed clashes with fresh squads but is forced to withdraw as his cavalry comes under attack and is flanked by Pisan foot soldiers and ballistae. This incident further diminishes the trust of the Florentines in him. In January of the following year, his involvement in negotiations aimed at securing support from Tuscan communes for Giacomo d’Aragona’s campaign to conquer Sardinia is deemed detrimental by the Aragonese ambassadors in Florence.
Sept.NaplesForlìRomagnaOn behalf of Calboli, he commissions the construction of a bastion in Castelnuovo, located a few miles from Forlì. Uberto Malatesta exits the city, attacks the fortress, and disarms and kills its defenders. Della Ratta decides to take the offensive with a force of 1300 horsemen and 1200 infantry. In the middle of the month, he positions himself at Salbagnone and conducts numerous raids in the neighboring territories. As the first cold weather arrives, he decides to abandon the undertaking.
MayChurchForlìRomagnaFor another year, he holds the positions of Count and Rector of Romagna, but in reality, the only areas under his authority are Bertinoro, Meldola, and Castrocaro Terme. In May, he relocates from Ferrara to Cesena with his family.
June – Sept.ChurchForlìRomagnaAlongside the Podesta of Cesena, Ferrandino Malatesta, he attacks the Forlivesi, led by Cecco Ordelaffi and Uberto Malatesta, at the Bevano stream. In September, peace is established between the parties.
Feb.ChurchRiminiRomagnaAlfonso de Vadio (or de Vayllos) is sent to Romagna, destined to succeed him as the General Vicar. Together with the latter, Diego della Ratta enforces a series of punitive measures against the people of Rimini for a real or perceived conspiracy.
JulyChurchd’EsteEmiliaHaving moved to Ferrara, he is expelled from the city following a popular uprising fueled by supporters of the Estes.
Oct.NaplesGeneral captain, 200 cavalryTuscanyHe returns to Florence as the vicar of the King of Naples, replacing Amelio del Balzo. He holds the same position for Pistoia and Prato and commands the Guelph forces in Tuscany.
Feb.TuscanyHe is also noted as the vicar of Prato and Pistoia.
Mar.CampaniaHe leaves Tuscany as he is called to Naples due to significant matters concerning Roberto d’Angiò and Pope John XXII.
Sept.RomagnaOn behalf of the King of Naples, he once again holds the position of Count and Vicar of Romagna, alongside Alfonso de Vadio. This appointment will conclude in August of the following year.
…………Grand ConstableCampaniaHe retires in the Kingdom of Naples and primarily focuses on the administration of his own properties, as evidenced by his disputes with private individuals and the bishopric of Caserta. He obtains the title of Count of Caserta and is also bestowed with the office of Grand Constable. For his merits, he is granted a perpetual annual stipend of 800 gold ounces.
Nov.NaplesSicilyCampaniaHe is invited to organize the troops to support the Duke of Calabria in his upcoming expedition against the King of Sicily.
JuneIn May 1325, he makes his last will and testament. He passes away at the end of June 1328. He is mentioned by Boccaccio in the third tale of the Decameron. In his first marriage, he weds Domicella di Maiorca, a favorite of the Queen of Aragon, Sancia, who brings him a yearly income of 50 gold ounces as a dowry. In a subsequent marriage, he marries Oddolina Chiaromonte, the Lady of Mignano Monte Lungo.


-“Diego era senz’altro persona dotata di un certo prestigio e di una certa esperienza e restò al servizio di Firenze con la sua compagnia per otto anni. La sua compagnia era assai.. stabile e numerosa.: Diego aveva ai suoi ordini 200-300 cavalieri e fino a 500 fanti; la sua compagnia costituì un nucleo stabile sia per l’esercito fiorentino sia per quello della Lega Guelfa. Divenne un personaggio ben noto per le strade di Firenze e si guadagnò l’immortalità attirando l’attenzione del Boccaccio che lo ricordò nel Decamerone. Il racconto del modo in cui era riuscito ad ottenere i favori della nipote del vescovo di Firenze versando al marito di lei cinquecento fiorini falsi ci palesa quanto meno quale fosse l’opinione in cui il Boccaccio teneva i mercenari. Ma giudicando da esperienze successive può ben darsi che, se Diego poté procurarsi moneta falsa, questa gli fosse stata data da Firenze in pagamento del suo soldo.” MALLETT

-“Pratichissimo e valorosissimo nell’arte militare.” RONCIONI

-“Huomo di gran valore, e governo.” SUMMONTE

-“Cujus opes in Beneventanis haud mediocres erant.” MERULA

-“Gentil uom catalano dal corpo bellissimo e via più..grande vagheggiatore.” BOCCACCIO

-“Boccaccio portrayal was unkind; Diego, who served Florence briefly in the early years of the fourteenth century, appears as a rascal who bought the affections of the niece of the local bishop by paying her husband in counterfait money.” CAFERRO

-“Era persona così nota a Firenze che ebbe perfino l’onore di un’apparizione nel Decameron di Boccaccio: è il bel cavaliere catalano che seduce la moglie di un avaro, pagando lo sciagurato con moneta contraffatta.” SCARDIGLI

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Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani è l'autore del sito Condottieri di ventura.