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

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Giovanni Greco Della Guancia’s Leadership in Light Cavalry Skirmishes

Italian CondottieriGiovanni Greco Della Guancia's Leadership in Light Cavalry Skirmishes

"Fidelissimo nostro" according to the Venetian chroniclers. A condottiero of great spirit, an excellent captain of light cavalry (mounted crossbowmen). He is particularly distinguished by his skirmishes to relieve the defense of Padua when the city was besieged by the anti-Venetian troops of the League of Cambrai (France, the Empire, the Papal States, Ferrara).

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

The Tactical Excellence of Giovanni Greco Della Guancia in Light Cavalry Operations

Giovanni Greco dalla Guancia of Giannina.

Born: 1428
Death: 1511, December

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
1483
Aug.VeniceMilanLombardyHe commands the garrison of Pontevico. After a raid by the Sforza forces in the territories of Quinzano d’Oglio and Verolanuova, he responds with a similar action in the Cremona area, during which he gains little booty and loses four men. On the way back, he tries to intercept a Sforza column heading to Seniga.
Sept.LombardyHe plunders the territory surrounding Brescia. He recaptures San Gervasio Bresciano and Bassano Bresciano.
1487
Apr. – MayVeniceAustriaTrentinoHe fights the troops of Duke Sigismund of Austria (Sigismondo d’Austria). Besieged with 100 men in the castle of Rovereto, he is forced to surrender due to a lack of reinforcements.
July – Aug.TrentinoHe follows Roberto da San Severino towards Rovereto: he is tasked with attacking, along with Lucio Malvezzi and Pietro d’Erba, the enemy with 30 light cavalry and 100 infantry, including crossbowmen and pikemen. He advances beyond Noriglio on a path halfway up the right side of the Leno; at Serrada, he turns towards the valley of Rossbach and seizes the castle of Beseno with the help of the men of Folgaria. He attacks a bastion of Castel Pietra at dawn: in the clash, 85 opponents are killed; however, the Venetians are forced to retreat. He participates in the Battle of Calliano; he escapes with Guido dei Rossi to an island in the Adige: at night, he and his men are ferried to the shore controlled by the Serenissima.
1493Governor, light cavalryHe obtains command of the light cavalry upon the death of Pietro d’Erba. He will hold this position until 1509.
1494
Summer50 light cavalryVenetoAt Badia Polesine with 50 light cavalry to monitor the border with the Duchy of Ferrara.
1495
Apr.Venice, France100 light cavalryVeneto, LazioHe leaves Badia Polesine with his company and goes to Rome to assist Pope Alexander VI (Alessandro VI), who is threatened by the French forces of King Charles VIII (Carlo VIII).
JuneUmbriaGiovanni Greco Della Guancia escorts the pope from Perugia to Orvieto at the head of his mounted crossbowmen.
JulyEmilia, Piedmont, LiguriaHe participates in the Battle of Fornovo. He is redirected to the siege of Novara; from there, he is sent with Carlo da Pian di Meleto towards Genoa to cut off the supply lines to the Piedmontese city.
Aug.PiedmontHe guards Trecate with his mounted crossbowmen and 100 infantrymen.
1496
Dec.80 light cavalryPiedmontHe is given a payment. He brings his men to Alessandria to assist the troops of Ludovico Sforza.
1497
Feb.PiedmontHe is still stationed in the Alessandria area. He sets out with 60 mounted crossbowmen towards Bergoglio with Piacentino and Battaglia; near there, he intercepts 2,000 German infantry, attacks them, and inflicts a loss of 30 men: many others are wounded.
Dec.TuscanyHe is sent to Tuscany to assist the Pisans against the Florentines. He commands 200 mounted crossbowmen and 100 arquebusiers.
1498
July120 light cavalryTuscanyHe returns to the Pisan territory with his mounted crossbowmen.
Aug.TuscanyHe leaves Barga and goes to Pisa in the San Marco district. He moves to Cascina with 100 mounted crossbowmen; he remains to guard the location with 800 provisioned men.
Sept.TuscanyAt the head of 150 mounted crossbowmen, he joins 1,000 infantrymen commanded by Gorlino Tombesi and Giacomo di Tarsia to capture the bastion of Dolorosa near Pisa. Greco is repelled after an assault that lasts an hour: he retreats and discovers that the passes are under Florentine control. He escapes by fleeing.
Oct.TuscanyHe moves with 80 mounted crossbowmen to defend Sano. He repels an attack by the Florentines, who brought 700 infantrymen.
Dec.TuscanyIn Pisa, he complains about the delay in payments.
1499
Jan.TuscanyHe follows Filippo Albanese, Ferrante d’Este, Gorlino Tombesi, Annibale da Doccia, and the provveditore Vincenzo Valier (140 lightly equipped men-at-arms and another 500 men, including mounted crossbowmen and stradioti) on a night raid. They ford the Arno near Pontedera and suddenly attack Montopoli in Val d’Arno. The locality is sacked with the intervention of Gorlino Tombesi. He connects with Annibale da Doccia and the provveditore Valier (400 horsemen and stradioti) for a new raid in Val di Nievole: in Fucecchio, they seize 100 head of cattle without encountering obstacles from Ludovico della Mirandola.
MayVenetoWith the signing of the peace between the contenders, he goes to Venice in search of money for his company.
JulyVeniceOttoman empire150 light cavalryFriuliIn the Collegio dei Pregadi, his name is mentioned as a probable captain of the Venetian infantry. He moves to Gradisca d’Isonzo and, by mid-month, is transferred to the Brescia area.
Aug.VenetoHe falls ill. He stops in Vicenza while his company continues to the Brescia area. He goes to Padua for treatment.
Sept.LombardyHe reaches Brescia and is sent to Val Camonica to oppose the possible passage of German infantry heading to Italy. He arrives in Breno and falls ill again in Iseo. He does not fail to ask for money for his wages.
Nov.RomagnaIn Ravenna, he is with the provveditore Cristoforo Moro when Cesare Borgia attacks Forlì and Imola.
1500
Apr.VeniceSforzaLombardyIn Crema, 30 stradioti from his company clash with the men of Angelo Francesco da Sant’Angelo. With the defeat of Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza at Novara, he crosses the Adda and heads towards Calci. He moves to Cassano d’Adda, where his horse is killed, and he is wounded in the thigh by an arquebus shot.
MayLombardyHe arrives in Caravaggio; when the Venetian infantry abandon Treviglio due to lack of money, his mounted crossbowmen threaten to follow their example.
Aug.Discussions take place about the renewal of his contract.
1501
Jan.FriuliIn Gradisca d’Isonzo.
1502
………100 light cavalryHe commands 100 light cavalry.
………ChurchRomagnaHe serves under the pay of Borgia.
1503
Aug.Venice125 light cavalryVenetoIn Lovadina, for the review of his men (125 mounted crossbowmen).
Oct.RomagnaHe is with Franco dal Borgo in Ravenna; subsequently, he moves with Giampaolo Manfrone and Giacomazzo da Venezia to Rimini to persuade the papal castellan Maldonato Valdonsello to surrender the fortress to the Venetians.
Nov.VeniceFaenza, FlorenceRomagnaHe moves to Val di Lamone; he captures Brisighella with Franco dal Borgo and Vincenzo Naldi: the surrounding territory raises the banners of San Marco. He enters the fortress of Faenza with Naldi and Cesare da Variana, and begins to besiege the city with 130 mounted crossbowmen. He then joins Franco dal Borgo in Oriolo (Oriolo dei Fichi) and prevents the Florentines, stationed in Castrocaro Terme, from aiding Faenza. With the fall of the city, his men receive one month’s pay; with 25 crossbowmen, Giovanni Greco Della Guancia escorts Franceschetto and Astorre Manfredi, who have surrendered to the Venetians, to Bagnacavallo; he then moves to Cervia and Castiglione di Cervia.
Dec.RomagnaWith Franco dal Borgo and Meleagro da Forlì, he weaves a plot in Forlimpopoli; the conspiracy is unsuccessful.
1504
Jan.RomagnaIn Ravenna and Rimini. He sends part of his men to guard Cesenatico.
Mar.RomagnaHe heads to Cesenatico with Giampaolo Manfrone to prevent possible movements by the papal forces. He agrees on defensive measures with Niccolò Orsini and moves to Rimini.
1506
Sept.RomagnaHe is reported to be still in Rimini.
1508
Feb.RomagnaIn Faenza with 50 mounted crossbowmen.
Oct.RomagnaHe returns to Rimini with Manfrone.
Dec.RomagnaIn Rimini, his annual pay amounts to 3,450 ducats. His company also includes some mounted arquebusiers.
1509
Apr.VeniceChurch, France, Empire130 light cavalryRomagnaDefending Rimini.
MayRomagna, MarcheHe arrives in Ravenna; at the head of 300 light cavalry, he conducts some raids in the Cesenate with Ermes Bentivoglio. He attempts to defend Russi: he leaves the capital through Porta Adriana with Marco Grossi and Cola da Venezia. He positions himself with 100 light cavalry to guard a bridge in Valtorta, where the locks controlling the release of water from nearby marshes are located. He falls into an ambush and tries to resist to allow the infantry accompanying him to retreat in good order: his horse falls, and Giovanni Greco Della Guancia is captured by Filippo Doria and Giovanni Vitelli. The other commanders accompanying him escape by fleeing into the marshes near the sea. He is taken to Cardinal Francesco Alidosi of Pavia. Francesco Maria della Rovere has him imprisoned first in the fortress of San Leo and then in Urbino.
July – Aug.150 light cavalryMarche, VenetoHe ransoms himself with a payment of 500 ducats; he returns to Venice, is welcomed in the Collegio dei Pregadi, has his contract renewed, and is given 50 ducats for his expenses. He moves to the defense of Padua with 150 mounted crossbowmen; he fights under Orsini‘s orders. He leaves the city and captures two French men-at-arms; he conducts another sortie with Giano Fregoso and Dimitri Megaduca (150 lances, 120 mounted crossbowmen, and 120 stradioti) and intercepts at San Martino di Lupari, near Longare, 800 imperial cavalry escorting some pieces of artillery from Vicenza to the camp and tasked with protecting the sappers’ work to divert the waters of the Bacchiglione. In the clash, Filippo dei Rossi is captured with 300 cavalry.
Sept.VenetoIn Padua, he leaves through Portello and clashes with 25 cavalry (killing four crossbowmen and capturing two to four men-at-arms). A few days later, he sets up an ambush with Domenico Busicchio near Cittadella with 300 light cavalry; he surprises some papal and Burgundian cavalry escorting artillery pieces from Vicenza to Padua. He is wounded in the head.
Oct.VenetoThe adversaries abandon the siege of Padua. With Montacuto di Montacuti, he harasses the retreating enemies; they capture about ten horses, which are brought into the city through Portello. With 600 stradioti and some mounted crossbowmen, he seizes the castle of Bovolenta: during the raid, 100 imperial infantrymen are killed and another 200 are captured along with 70 horses. The Venetians also seize 400 moggia of grain, 60 to 100 carts of provisions, 250 head of livestock, and 25 pieces of artillery, including 3 bronze cannons, 5 sakers, 15 iron falconets, and 2 bronze falconets. Greco is wounded, albeit slightly, in the leg by an arquebus shot.
Nov.VenetoHe remains to guard Padua with Zanone da Colorno when the army moves to conquer Vicenza.
1510
Jan.VenetoHe moves into the Polesine. Upon hearing that some Este infantry have left Pontelagoscuro, he surprises them and recovers the spoils; he also manages to set fire to the galley of Andrea Trevisan, which had fallen into the hands of the adversaries in December.
Feb.150 light cavalryVenetoHe leaves Badia Polesine with Antonio Pio, Zitolo da Perugia, and the provveditore generale Giovanni Paolo Gradenigo to head to Castelnuovo sul Po. They send 25 cavalry ahead as scouts, who then allow themselves to be chased by the adversaries, leading the pursuers into a village where an ambush is set. Alessandro Rizzeri is captured along with 30 lances and 60 mounted crossbowmen.
MayVenetoHe is still stationed in Badia Polesine; he meets with the provveditore Gradenigo to discuss their strategy before the French attack on the territory. They decide to abandon Rovigo due to the lack of gunpowder. He connects with Meleagro da Forlì, Ludovico Battaglia, and the provveditore Federico Contarini to monitor the situation between Cittadella, Bassano del Grappa, and Marostica.
JuneVeniceFrance, Empire, Ferrara150 light cavalryVenetoHe is at the Brentelle camp, near Padua. He joins Taddeo della Volpe and Meleagro da Forlì and defeats 600 cavalry near Vicenza, who had left the city with Federico and Ludovico Gonzaga da Bozzolo. In the clash, 100 cavalry are captured: Giovanni Greco Della Guancia is wounded on the cheek and loses half his nose. He returns to the camp, where his men do not behave perfectly; he complains about the treatment he has received in recent years. The Consiglio dei Savi immediately grants him an annual provision of 200 ducats from the assets of the rebels.
JulyVenetoHe reaches Treviso with Giovanni Forti and 240 mounted crossbowmen. He conducts a reconnaissance towards Castelfranco Veneto; as 800 French cavalry approach the city, he leaves Treviso with Giovanni Forti to monitor their movements. He then moves to Mestre to protect the work in the fields. He is accused of having robbed an imperial trumpeter of the money he was carrying.
Aug.150 light cavalryVenetoReceiving money from the provveditore Alvise Mocenigo, he connects with Zitolo da Perugia and Giovanni Forti. He leaves Treviso, accompanied by many peasants, and heads towards Asolo, where Michele Fressener is defending with many cavalry. The inhabitants, urged by Niccolò da Rugolo, open the gates for him; 30 imperial soldiers, who cannot escape in time, are captured. They are taken to Treviso. Giovanni Greco Della Guancia, during his actions, captures Marostica, which surrenders to his threats of setting fire to the gates with the wood and straw gathered nearby. He enters the town with 150 cavalry and 650 infantry and besieges the fortress, which surrenders under terms. He reaches Bassano del Grappa and, along with Zitolo da Perugia, attacks Belluno. There is a violent artillery barrage from 30 guns; this city also surrenders under terms. Later that month, Greco is reported at the camp in Padua, again in Marostica, and at the camp in Torre, still near Padua.
Sept.VenetoHe takes part in the siege of Verona; he positions himself in front of Porta Vescovo with 800 light cavalry. Forced to retreat to San Martino Buon Albergo, he connects with Niccolò da Pesaro. He moves to Valpantena to confront 800 enemy cavalry who are plundering the territory. Leading 300 cavalry, he attacks the adversaries, defeats them, and pursues them to Monte di San Felice: the imperials suffer a loss of 200 men, between dead and prisoners. After receiving reinforcements from the provveditori Sigismondo Cavalli and Federico Contarini, he returns to camp laden with booty. He is then sent towards Vicenza with Meleagro da Forlì and Bernardino da Sessa upon hearing that German troops have appeared in the foothill region. Alongside provveditore Cavalli (with 300 cavalry and 300 levies), he confronts them at Schio and Tresenta.
Nov.VenetoAriano Polesine.
1511
Feb.Governor, light cavalryVenetoHe is still in Polesine; with Giovanni Brandolini he is stationed at the guard of the bridge of Canda on the Po. In Trecenta; with the death of Fra Leonardo Prato, he assumes command of the light cavalry.
MayVenetoThe Venetians and the Papal forces are defeated by the French at Casalecchio di Reno: he offers to lend the Signoria 500 ducats and to maintain at his own expense for a year five lances. The provveditore generale Andrea Gritti sends him to guard the passes of Schio.
JulyVenetoIn Schio, with 143 light cavalry.
Aug.VenetoHe is reported near Vicenza, where he has a violent quarrel with Pietro da Longhena.
Sept.VenetoHe falls seriously ill: his position as governor and his company are entrusted to Meleagro da Forlì.
Dec.VenetoHe dies in Vicenza. He is buried in the church of Santa Corona.

Sources

-“Nostro fidelissimo.” SANUDO

-“Delle cose di guerra espertissimo.” CONTI

-“Uom di grande animo e di chiara fede.” BEMBO

-“Uomo fidato del Stato Veneto.” PRIULI

-“Huomo valoroso.” P. GIUSTINIAN

-“Armorum gloria praesignis.” ARLUNO

-“Optimus prefecto hippotoxotarum (balestrieri a cavallo). Ductor, in quo plurimum spei positum a nostris habebatur.” G. ROSSI

-“Fedele e valoroso.” A. MARCELLO

-“Capitano molto stimato da’ Veneziani.” REPOSATI

-“Capitano molto stimato da Venitiani.” LEONI

-“Principale conduttore della gente venetiana.” VERDIZZOTTI

-“Capitano molto accreditato presso i Veneziani.” COLUCCI

-Con Saccardo da Soncino e Giano Fregoso “Tutti valorosissimi Capitani.” CARRARI

-“Homo estrenuo e de gran conto.” FANTAGUZZI

-“El provido Zuan greco non posava/ che con suo balestreri anchor usciva:/ Ognhor bottino grande entro menava/ Er con honor de tutti riusciva/…/ Mentre Zuan greco fa quel che’l suol fare/ Provedendo per tutto ove bisogna:/ Ogniun spronando forte al battagliare/ Desedando (destando) qualunque dorme o sogna:/ Che hogi nel mondo a lui non trovò pace:/ Che mai de cosa alcuna hebbe vergogna/ Astuto, forte, ingenioso & fiero/ Et strenuo, & vigilante a tal mestiero.” CORDO

-“De balestrieri il capitan Giovanni greco/ in romagna ancho fu mandato in fretta./ Il qual una gran schiera mena seco/ di gente tutta quanta in arme elletta./ Questo fu quel, se il ver ben penso meco,/ ch’a franciesi pono più una stretta/ fidel al suo san marco mentre visse/ pronto d’ingiegnio fin ch’el greco visse./…/ Così faceva l’ardito Ioan greco/ sopra un caval che non trovava loco./ Menando con due man colpi da cieco/ sì che l’arma faceva uscir foco/ non pol guerrier durar a petto seco/ e facea rincular a poco a poco/ ogni franco campion, tal che resembra/ un forsennato lupo a trittar membra./…/(Attacco a Verona) Il gagliardo Ioan greco da la guancia/ da franco cavallier s’adoperava/ e duo thedeschi uccise con la lancia./ Poi dal fianco la spada for cavava/ passando a questo il petto, e a quel la pancia/ sì che a fronte nessun non li durava/ ma come suol un folgoro di vento/ scorrea per tutto quasi in un momento. ” DEGLI AGOSTINI

-Alla difesa di Padova “El provido Zuan greco non possava (riposava)/ Che con sui balestrieri anchor usciva/ O come il suo ingegno dimostrava/ Che per san Marco mai fatica schiva/ Ognhor bottino grande entro menava/ Et con honor de tutti reusciva/ Che donde il va io vedo andarli seco/ Senno & astucia de Capitan greco.” Da “Guerre orrende d’Italia” in GUERRE IN OTTAVA RIMA

-“Un esperto conestabile.” MALLETT

Featured image: wikipedia

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