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

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Niccolò Orsini: The Life and Battles of a Condottiero

Italian CondottieriNiccolò Orsini: The Life and Battles of a Condottiero

A captain who values victory over not losing, nor the advantage derived from a victory so significant as to outweigh the risk of a defeat. Endowed with a great creative faculty in his operations, balanced, he is one of the finest representatives of Italian military art of his time. He refuses to move to aid Bartolomeo d'Alviano in the battle of Agnadello because he does not want to risk defeat in a fight that involves the entire army at his disposal. Conversely, with the defense of Padua, surrounded by the troops of the League of Cambrai (French, imperial, Spanish, papal, and Este forces), he effectively contributes to the salvation of the Republic of Venice.

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

Key Military Engagements and Tactics of Niccolò Orsini

Niccolò Orsini of Pitigliano. Count of Pitigliano, Count of Nola. Lord of Fiano Romano, Morlupo, Filacciano, Montevitozzo, Ghedi, Leno, Malpaga, Montirone, Boiano, Ottaviano, Avella, Monteforte Irpino. In the Mantuan area, he owns the Casalmoro Castle and an estate in Asola (Cacciabella). Son of Aldobrandino Orsini, father of Ludovico Orsini and Chiappino Orsini. Father-in-law of Rizzardo Alidosi.

Born: 1442, October
Death: 1510, January

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
1458
Aug.ChurchViterboLazioHe has his first military experiences in the service of the Papal States. He expels the members of the Maganzesi faction from Viterbo.
1460
JulyAnjouNaplesCampaniaHe serves in the companies of Jacopo Piccinino. He takes part in the Battle of Sarno.
1462
Aug.ApuliaHe is also present at the Battle of Troia.
1463NaplesAnjouHe switches sides and ends the war in the Aragonese camp.
1464Naples77 cavalry
1465
June
1471
JuneCampaniaIn Naples. On the orders of King Ferdinand I of Naples (Ferrante d’Aragona), leading a squad of archers, he arrests Jacopo Piccinino in Castelnuovo. Napoleone Orsini accompanies him on this occasion.
1471
JuneHe seizes Pitigliano, expelling his father Aldobrandino from his possessions: he does not keep the promises made and has his stepmother and a half-brother killed.
1472
MayFlorenceChiaravalleTuscany, UmbriaLord of Pitigliano, he signs a new treaty of accomandigia with the Sienese. In May, he is sent by the Florentines to Todi along with Bernardino da Todi to support the commune in recovering castles that had recently fallen into the hands of the Chiaravalle.
1478
Jan.TuscanyIn Florence, a joust is organized by the captains of the Guelf faction. Twelve contestants participate in this event. The first prize goes to Giovanni da Napoli and is awarded by Ordini himself; the second to a son of Roberto da San Severino, recently hired by the Florentines.
JuneFlorenceChurch, NaplesField MarshalTuscanyHe is appointed Field Marshal of the army in collaboration with Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, Galeotto della Mirandola, and Alberto Visconti.
Aug.TuscanyHe raids up to the gates of Siena (Porta Camollia), setting fire to houses and taking prisoners.
Oct.TuscanyHe moves to relieve the siege of Monte San Savino with the commissioner Bongianni Gianfigliazzi and Ercole d’Este. Towards the end of the month, he meets with Giordano Orsini and Virginio Orsini, who are serving in the opposing camp; as late autumn approaches, he begins negotiations for a truce.
1479
May100 lancesTuscanyHe commands four squads of men-at-arms. His task is to strengthen the defenses of Poggio Imperiale.
JuneUmbriaHe defeats Matteo da Capua near Passignano sul Trasimeno. He joins forces with Ercole d’Este and Trivulzio; the action fails due to a lack of agreement among the various captains and the disorders that arise in the field.
Sept. – Oct.TuscanyAfter the Florentines’ defeat at Poggio Imperiale, he moves to San Casciano dei Bagni and from there goes to aid the defenders of Colle di Val d’Elsa.
1480
Mar.TuscanyAt the end of the conflict, he is in Foiano della Chiana: he writes to Corsetto, the lieutenant of Antonio da Montefeltro, captain of the Sienese, who has been ordered by the Signoria not to conduct any raids in the county of Asinalonga (Sinalunga). However, Orsini positions himself in ambush nearby; the next morning, Corsetto himself comes to confront him.
1481
Nov.LazioIn the pay of the Papal States. He is granted an annual provision of 8000 ducats. He incites Pope Sixtus IV against the King of Naples so that his relatives can regain possession of the counties of Albe and Tagliacozzo.
…………NaplesOttoman EmpireApuliaHe faces the Turks in the War of Otranto.
1482
…………NaplesOttoman EmpireApulia
JuneChurchNaplesGeneral Governor of 130 lances and 40 light cavalryLazioHe commands 520 cavalry and 40 mounted crossbowmen. His salary is set at 20,000 ducats a year. Leaving Quinto, he enters Rome and establishes his quarters in San Giovanni in Laterano: there is a hint of a brawl in the papal camp, quickly quelled by his intervention along with that of Virginio Orsini and Giordano Orsini. Upon hearing of the enemy army’s arrival, he exits through the gate for a sortie, repels the Aragonese, and captures 30 men.
JulyLazioHe is wounded in a skirmish while trying, along with Ulisse da Maiano, to prevent a raid by Aragonese and Florentines near Palestrina. They had plundered 200 animals, including horses and mules, and captured a significant number of men-at-arms. He then leaves Rome with Virginio Orsini and heads towards Marino with three squads of men-at-arms to confront the company of the Duke of Melfi, Traiano Caracciolo. Among the papal forces, 200 men are captured and taken to Marino.
Aug.LazioHe plays a major role in the victory at the Battle of Campomorto, where he commands the third squadron, consisting of 700 cavalry. He is wounded in the face by a harquebus shot while attempting to seize the artillery.
Nov.ChurchVenice50 lancesAlliances shift. Niccolò Orsini is sent by the pope with 50 men-at-arms to support the Aragonese against the Venetians.
1483
Jan.FlorenceVenice, RossiGeneral Captain of 130 lancesEmiliaHe switches to the payroll of the Florentines, who give him command of their troops, a contingent of 525 cavalry, and an annual provision of 25,000 to 30,000 ducats. He accompanies the Duke of Calabria, Alfonso of Aragon, in the Ferrara area, who commands the league’s troops opposing the Venetians. In Ferrara, he orders the execution of some Turkish mercenaries for fear that they might defect to the Venetian camp, as others have previously done.
Mar.EmiliaHe is noted between Massa Fiscaglia and Ostellato. He ambushes 1100 men led by the provider Michele Salamon at the castle of Massa Fiscaglia. Upon learning that Vittore Soranzo has landed at Comacchio with 2000 infantry, 200 stradiotti, and 40 men-at-arms, he embarks on the Po at Ferrara with his lances and surprises the enemies engaged in looting: in the encounter, the Venetians suffer the loss of 80 men and the capture of another 600 (including men-at-arms, stradiotti, the over-commander Alvise Marcello, and 12 constables). Ferrara chronicles, however, speak of 1000 dead, including those killed in battle and drowned in the river while attempting to flee.
Apr.EmiliaWith his lances and 1000 infantry, he undertakes a new cavalry raid at Massa Fiscaglia.
JuneTuscanyHe is recalled by the Florentines to Tuscany with two squads of lances and 25 mounted crossbowmen to confront the Rossi in Lunigiana. The opponents retreat.
Aug.Tuscany, LombardyIn the Val d’Elsa, targeting the Sienese exiles, he heads to San Quirico. After several days, he moves to Lombardy to confront Roberto da San Severino, who has crossed the Adda. He proceeds to Manerbio with Renato da Trivulzio commanding 125 lances and 500 infantry: he secures the locality along with Verolanuova, Breda Libera, Farfengo, Offlaga, and Monticelli Brusati under terms. The Venetian captain is forced to abandon the Milanese territory.
Sept.Tuscany, VenetoHe opposes the actions of Guido dei Rossi in Tuscany, forcing him to relocate to the Genoese area; he then moves to the Veneto region and, along with Francesco Secco, enters Villafranca di Verona: he plunders the territory up to the gates of Verona and seizes 200 carts of goods. He commands seven squads of cavalry.
Oct.LombardyHe embarks with many infantry on two galleons and takes control of a ship in front of Castelnuovo carrying 200 infantry. He captures the bastion of Sermide (where Giovanni Savelli and 400 Vicentine skirmishers, along with other infantry, are captured) and orders it to be leveled: the Venetian losses amount to 300, including those killed in combat and drowned.
Nov.LombardyHe defeats an opposing flotilla on the Po at Felonica.
1484
…………Lombardy, EmiliaHe remains in the Mantuan area to counteract the forces of the Serenissima; he moves to Concordia and from there advances to Carbonara di Po to defend Ponte Molino and Ostiglia.
JuneLombardyAt the camp in Quinzano d’Oglio with Gian Giacomo Trivulzio; he forces Gaspare da San Severino to leave the territory of Pumenengo.
Oct.FlorenceGenoaGeneral captainTuscanyHe fights the Genoese in the War of Sarzana. He operates near Pietrasanta, a locality controlled by the Bank of Saint George; he falls ill with malaria and sends his carriages to Pisa. The Florentines withdraw from this center. He resumes the siege; with the death of Antonio da Marciano, he remains as the sole captain. He organizes the troops and captures a bastion near the walls of Pietrasanta.
Nov.TuscanyPietrasanta surrenders following his actions.
Dec.TuscanyIn Livorno. Along with Ranuccio Farnese, he repels an attack by the Genoese on the port fortifications.
1485
JulyGeneral captainTuscanyHe is presented with the symbols of command: the banner and the baton of a General Captain.
Nov.FlorenceChurch1600 cavalryHe is sent by the Florentines to the Kingdom of Naples to support the cause of King Ferdinand I of Naples (Ferrante d’Aragona) against the rebellious barons.
Dec.CampaniaHe receives from the Neapolitan monarch the County of Nola, along with the fiefs of Avella, Boiano, Ottaviano, Cicala, Palma di Campania, and Monteforte Irpino.
1486
Jan.LazioVirginio Orsini and Giulio Orsini reconcile with Pope Innocent VIII; Orsini goes to Bracciano with 11 companies of cavalry. He falls seriously ill again.
Mar.LazioVirginio Orsini switches sides again. Niccolò Orsini now vainly attempts to reunite with other members of his house who are stationed at Bracciano.
MayLazio, TuscanyHe joins his relative Virginio Orsini at Palo on the Via Aurelia to protect the arrival of an Aragonese fleet bringing supplies to the Orsini lands. He connects with 500 cavalry and 1000 infantry led by Sforza and Florentine forces. Along with Alfonso of Aragon, he confronts San Severino. The army alienates the local population due to its violence; with the clash at Montorio, he is able to control the movements of the rival captain with eleven squads of cavalry. He doggedly pursues the opponents step by step.
JuneLazioHe reaches Anguillara Sabazia and Toscanella (Tuscania) while San Severino falls back on Rome. He besieges the capital with the Duke of Calabria, Virginio Orsini, and Jacopo d’Appiano. After three days of fruitless assaults, he is forced to retreat to Corneto (Tarquinia). Subsequently, he crosses the Tiber with Paolo Orsini and Paolo Vitelli with 17 squads of cavalry, 3 squads of light cavalry, and 1000 infantry; he arrives at Monterotondo.
JulyLazioOrgantino Orsini allows him to enter Monterotondo with 40 light cavalry and arms his vassals. Orsini persuades Cardinal Latino Orsini (who is favorable to the pope) to have a discussion with Virginio Orsini to seek a mutual agreement.
Sept.UmbriaHe is in the Perugian area, at San Bartolomeo di Solfagnano during a duel between Malatesta di Polidoro Baglioni and Miccia Oddi. He continues to pursue Roberto da San Severino in Romagna, who is forced by circumstances to flee towards the Venetian territory.
Dec.TuscanyIn Pitigliano with 200 men-at-arms.
1487
Apr. – MayFlorenceGenoaGeneral captainLiguriaHe again opposes the Genoese in the War of Sarzana. He aids the defenders of the Sarzanello fortress, who are besieged by Gianluigi Fieschi; he defeats the opponents and captures Gianluigi and Orlandino Fieschi. He prepares to besiege Sarzana, constructs three bastions between the city and the Magra River, and positions a battery of 8 to 11 bombards in front of the fortress. A breach is opened in the walls. The defenders surrender before a general assault order is given.
Oct.UmbriaIn Perugia for the funerals of Malatesta and Orazio Baglioni.
1488
Jan.PitiglianoSienaTuscanySome Corsican infantry treacherously kill Carletto Dolci, the castellan of the fortress of Montautolo in Maremma. Siena sends troops under the command of Commissioner Bertoldo Foscherari. The latter negotiates with the Corsicans and secures their withdrawal from the castle. Foscherari withdraws; the Corsicans call on Orsini, who then introduces weapons and artillery into Montautolo. The Sienese send new militias to the area; together with Massarino Massari, they achieve the restitution of the castle and the fortress.
Feb.TuscanyHe meets with Lorenzo de’ Medici in Arezzo for a war council.
June – JulyFlorenceBolognaEmilia, Romagna, TuscanyFollowing the assassination of Galeotto Manfredi in Faenza, urged by Commissioner Piero Capponi, he leaves Pisa with Ranuccio Farnese. He arrives at Castel Bolognese at the head of 28 squads of cavalry and many infantry; he reaches Faenza to prevent the city from falling into the hands of Giovanni Bentivoglio: he camps outside the Imola Gate at the Piardo Inn and remains in the area into the following month. He recaptures Piancaldoli.
Nov.UmbriaIn the Perugian area. He facilitates an agreement between the opposing factions of the Baglioni and the Oddi.
1489
Jan.Lazio, UmbriaHe leaves Rome with Ranuccio Farnese; in Perugia. He lodges with Pier Filippo della Cornia; along with Camillo Vitelli, he acts as a mediator between the Baglioni, and the partisans of the Oddi such as Berardino Ranieri and Everardo da Montesperelli.
Feb.UmbriaHe sends some crossbowmen to aid Todi, under the command of Orlando d’Acquasparta, following the attacks by the Savelli at Orte.
Mar.PitiglianoSienaTuscanyHe occupies the fortress of Montacuto.
May – JuneChurchGeneral Captain of 100 lancesHe is engaged by the papal forces with 100 lances; his annual provision is set at 9,000 ducats. The banner and the baton of command are presented to him (after kissing the slipper) by Pope Innocent VIII in the Apostolic Palace. In Rome, he lodges in the palace of Carlo Martelli near Campo Marzio: to celebrate him, a palio is run from Campo dei Fiori to St. Peter’s Square.
Aug.ChurchRebelsLazio, UmbriaHe leaves Rome and moves to Todi with a few cavalry to meet Rodolfo Baglioni; at San Gismondo, he has discussions with Cardinal Orsini and Cardinal Raffaello Riario of San Giorgio. He confronts the rebels against the Papal States, burns Gualdo Cattaneo, and besieges Montegiove with 10 squads of cavalry and 200 infantry.
…………RomagnaIn Faenza, where he witnesses a duel between Pandolfo da Castello and a famous swordsman who refuses to surrender.
Nov.UmbriaHe mediated yet again in Perugia the disputes that had arisen between the Baglioni and the Oddi. The inhabitants of Montacuto rebelled against the Sienese to come under his lordship: he was joined by Gian Giordano Orsini and the Florentine ambassador Pierfilippo Pandolfini who persuaded him to return the center to the Sienese. There were some delays as the inhabitants of Pitigliano were opposed to the cession. During the same days, he was accused by Lorenzo de’ Medici of favoring in Perugia the Oddi faction against the Baglioni, allies of the Florentines.
1490
Mar.UmbriaHe met in Todi with Pierfilippo Pandolfini, who requested on behalf of the republic the return of the fortress and the castle of Castiglione Chiugino (Castiglione del Lago).
MayLazioIn Rome, for the wedding of Orso Orsini with Giulia Farnese, concubine of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, who would later become Pope under the name Alexander VI (Alessandro VI).
1491
JuneUmbriaHe went to Perugia with 400 horsemen to once again bring peace between the Oddi faction and that of the Baglioni. A compromise was reached: the Oddi would abandon their stronghold of Castiglione del Lago while the Baglioni were required to return the movable goods they had taken in a raid on their rivals’ homes and to recognize the immunity of their family’s dowries. In the city, he was a guest of Pier Filippo della Cornia; he dismantled the castle of Agello and transferred 17 of its residents as hostages. Lorenzo de’ Medici intervened on behalf of the Baglioni. Despite his presence, the exiled Oddi were repelled with much bloodshed from the city. Orsini returned to Todi.
Sept.MarcheAnother front opens for the papacy, provoked by the conflict between Ascoli Piceno and Fermo. He encamped near the former location with Cardinal Giovanni Balve.
Oct.MarcheHe fell ill along with the papal legate. He retreated to the territory of Ripatransone and stayed there for three and a half months.
1492
…………ChurchAscoli Piceno, NaplesMarcheHe returned to the Marches to assist Fermo alongside Pietro Colonna, Giulio Orsini, and Antonello Savelli; he unsuccessfully besieged Offida, occupied Castignano and Carturano, and laid siege to Monteprandone. The appearance at Monsampaolo del Tronto of the Aragonese forces led by Virginio Orsini, consisting of 40 cavalry units and 4,000 infantrymen, persuaded him to withdraw.
Mar. – Apr.LazioIn Rome. In March, he met with Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici; in April, he had discussions with the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d’Este.
MayLazioHe accompanied Ferdinando d’Aragona to Terracina and Rome, where the latter was to meet with the Pope; in Rome, along with Franceschetto Cybo, the son of Innocent VIII, and other nobles, he received the ambassador of the Sultan.
JuneRomagnaHe was in Cesena for a new policing action: with 5 squads of mounted crossbowmen and some stradiotti (mercenary troops), he controlled the city situation, which was characterized by internal struggles between the Tiberti and the Martinelli families.
JulyRomagna, LazioThe Pope died. Niccolò Orsini quickly left Cesena to reach Rome. During the conclave proceedings, he monitored the Borgo Leonino area to prevent any potential disorders.
Aug.LazioIn Rome for the enthronement of the new Pope, Alexander VI (Alessandro VI). At the ceremony, he appeared fully armed, his head covered with a helmet. He escorted the bearers of the Holy Sacrament in front of the Pope.
Nov.Tuscany, UmbriaHe hosted the Pope in Pitigliano. Along with the Bishop of Cosenza and Mariano Savelli, he left Todi to reach Assisi two days after the city had been sacked by the militias of Giampaolo Baglioni. The unrest continued for several days and encountered little resistance from the authorities: when Orsini left the city, he was given a gift worth 40 florins, despite everything. A bounty was placed on the assassins of Averardo and Federico de Nepis, and 30 troublemakers who had sided with the Baglioni were expelled from the city.
1493
JuneLazioIn Rome, for the wedding of Giovanni Sforza and Lucrezia Borgia. As the Bishop of Concordia slid the rings onto the fingers of the newlyweds, the condottiero raised his sword, as the General Captain of the Church, above their heads.
JulyUmbriaIn his camp in the Perugian territory, he offered to send troops to Recanati to quell the internal seditions. To thank him, the community sent him 2 falcons.
Nov.UmbriaWith Alexander VI (Alessandro VI) in Orvieto.
Dec.LazioHe hosted the Pope at his castle in Fiano Romano. That year, he obtained confirmation of Montevitozzo, a fiefdom previously recognized under his father, Aldobrandino.
1494
MayChurchDella RovereLazioAlongside Fabrizio Colonna and Gaspare da San Severino, he took the fortress of Ostia from the Prefect of Rome, Giovanni della Rovere, after a vigorous siege.
JulyNaplesFrance, Milan200 lancesHe was sent to Romagna with Gian Giacomo da Trivulzio and Ferdinando d’Avalos to oppose the expedition of the King of France, Charles VIII, aimed at conquering the Kingdom of Naples.
Aug.Umbria, Tuscany, Emilia, RomagnaHe was in Bastia Umbra with 25/30 squads of men-at-arms, the Duke of Calabria, Alfonso d’Aragona, and Trivulzio; they crossed the Apennines, passed through Borgo San Sepolcro (Sansepolcro) and via Pieve Santo Stefano headed towards Parma. From there, he pushed into Romagna. He visited Pandolfo Malatesta in Rimini and moved to Pennabilli where he was joined by Guidobaldo da Montefeltro. At San Martino sul Savio.
Sept.RomagnaHe set up camp between Cotignola and Sant’Agata; he challenged the Sforza army led by Giovan Francesco da San Severino to battle. With the arrival of the French, he followed his prudent nature by taking a defensive stance: the Italian infantry, moreover, was numerically inferior to the Swiss, and his artillery was less powerful than the French; even the Neapolitan men-at-arms were not a match for those of the adversaries.
Oct.RomagnaHe entered the Cesenate with 50 horsemen and arrested Tiberto Brandolini. This man confessed that along with Guido Guerra da Bagno, Polidoro, and Achille Tiberti, he had intended to defect from the Aragonese camp to the Sforza camp. Orsini left 30 mounted crossbowmen in Cesena and quickly returned to his camp: he had received news that Gaspare da San Severino was moving to ambush him with his light cavalry. He did not attack his opponents (probably against the orders of the King of Naples) and allowed the French to march between his lodgings and those of Trivulzio at Sant’Agata sul Santerno. At the end of the month, he left the Faenza area, headed towards Imola, and did not assist Barbano, which was besieged by the adversaries.
Nov.RomagnaHe moved to Cesena with 700 infantrymen. The Tiberti persuaded the keeper of the Porta delle Trove to open the gates for them. They stormed into Cesena followed by some units of French cavalry. The town square was thrown into chaos. Orsini was attacked by Guido Guerra da Bagno in the Palazzo dei Signori at the moment he was negotiating with the city priors about provisioning his troops. He was captured. The reaction from the Martinelli, enemies of the Tiberti, was swift. These, through the castellan of the fortress, Giovanni Canozio, and numerous Aragonese pikemen led by Alfonso d’Avalos and Bartolomeo d’Alviano from nearby Bertinoro, engaged in a fierce battle at the Trebbio di San Paolo where the rivals were defeated. Orsini‘s counterattack was immediate. The Aragonese men-at-arms ravaged and pillaged the homes of the Tiberti and their supporters. The treacherous keeper (Bartolomeo Fabbri) was dragged through the streets tied to the tail of a mount, to be eventually beheaded. His head would hang for months on top of the clock tower. Orsini withdrew towards Tuscany and Lazio.
Dec.LazioThe French were supplied with provisions from his lands. Niccolò Orsini appeared under the walls of Rome to aid the Pope alongside Giulio Orsini, Virginio Orsini, and Alfonso d’Aragona, bringing 10,000 cavalry and 5,000 infantrymen. He was forced to retreat southward in the face of the mounting French pressure. He refused every engagement, even when challenged to battle by 5,000 Corsican infantrymen. He then moved towards Tivoli, heading for the Kingdom of Naples.
1495
Jan.Lazio, CampaniaTogether with Virginio Orsini and Gian Giacomo da Trivulzio, he tried to stop the opponents along the Garigliano/Liri line initially and then on the Volturno River. Alongside Jacopo Conti, he defeated French militias at the bridge of the tower of Cassino, resulting in 80 French casualties. However, he was soon repelled from the pass due to the overwhelming number of adversaries compared to his forces. The enemy had 12,000 cavalry, 6,000 Swiss infantry, 8,000 cavalry for transporting artillery and wagons; to these troops, an additional 600 men-at-arms gathered by the Colonna and Savelli families and 1,500 Abruzzese infantry led by Giovanni della Rovere were added.
Feb.CampaniaHe fled towards Capua, pursued by Montpensier. The city surrendered to Trivulzio; he took refuge in Nola with Virginio Orsini, even though he still had 400 men-at-arms under his command. He surrendered without a fight to a company of 200 cavalry led by Luigi d’Ars because he believed he would benefit from a safe conduct. Initially, he was imprisoned in Castellammare di Stabia and subsequently in the fortress of Mondragone.
Mar.CampaniaA bounty of 50,000 ducats was placed on him and Virginio Orsini. He went to Naples with Luigi d’Ars (who received his share of the ransom) with the purpose of meeting Ligny there: Prospero Colonna sent his own security guarantee for him. He was not released due to recurring rumors about the formation of the Italian League against the French.
Apr. – JuneCampania, LazioHe was offered to switch to the French payroll with a company of 100 men-at-arms and to follow Charles VIII to France. He was in Rome at the time.
JulyEmilia, PiedmontDuring the Battle of Fornovo, he fled to the camp of the League with 3 horses; he took command of 3 squadrons of cavalry and reorganized the Italian lines, which were about to be overwhelmed by the French. His intervention prevented the formation from disintegrating. He pursued the fugitives, rallied them, and led them back into the battle. In the following days, along with Giovan Francesco da San Severino, he met with Argenton, an emissary of the French sovereign; the Venetians provided him with 1,000 ducats; Niccolò Orsini joined the troops of the Serene Republic in pursuing the enemies. He reached the Sforza camp at Galeazzo da San Severino; together with Giovan Francesco da San Severino and Virginio Orsini, he opposed the plan to besiege Novara because the city was well-defended.
Aug.VeniceFranceGeneral governor, 200 lances and 40 light cavalryEmilia, PiedmontHe met with Annibale Bentivoglio in Bologna. He was led by the Venetians as the general governor under the command of Francesco Gonzaga, with whom he was friends. He was offered an annual provision of 30,000 florins in peacetime and 40,000 in case of conflict; he refused, stating that the King of Naples granted him a salary of 33,000 florins in peacetime and 49,500 in wartime. This was followed by intense negotiations that led him to accept (at the most auspicious time according to astrologers) a salary of 33,000 florins in peacetime and 50,000 in wartime: the contract was set for three years of active service and one year of reserve; it was established at 200 men-at-arms and 40 mounted crossbowmen for a total of up to 1,000 horses. In the field, he suggested relocating the encampments to Vespolate; he unsuccessfully explored other options with Giovan Francesco da San Severino. Mid-month, along with other commanders, he attended the ceremony in which Gonzaga was presented with the baton and standard of the General Captain of the Italian League. Gonzaga immediately sent him with Pandolfo Malatesta towards Granozzo and Casalino to intercept a supply convoy headed to Novara. In the field, his action was decisive in quelling a riot that broke out between Italian and German infantry, resulting in the death of 10 to 12 soldiers: the disturbances were so violent that the Serenissima detached 500 provisioned troops as his bodyguard. He actively participated in various operations of the siege: with Galeazzo da San Severino, at the head of 8,000/10,000 men, he attacked the suburbs of Novara to set them ablaze. The attack was repelled due to the inactivity of the Sforzeschi and ended with the death of 64 Venetians and 200 French. During the same days, he noted that Giovan Francesco da San Severino and Gaspare da San Severino also participated in the war councils, whom he suspected of being too pro-French. A new assault was launched during which he took control of the suburbs near the church of San Nazzaro; he placed a garrison of 200 men-at-arms and 300 infantry there and began to position several large pieces of artillery.
Sept.PiedmontIn the village of Sant’ Agapito, he was wounded in the back, below the right kidney, by a musket ball: the Venetians sent him 500 florins for medical treatment; he was hospitalized in the bastion of San Nazzaro. Francesco Gonzaga and the provveditor Melchiorre Trevisan came to comfort him. Novara then began to be bombarded by artillery.
Oct.Piedmont, VenetoA truce was signed with the French. He traveled to Chioggia and proceeded to Venice with an entourage of 60 people; he was welcomed aboard the Bucintoro. He was received by the Doge and hosted in the palace of the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d’Este. He was treated by doctors from Padua; his living expenses were covered, totaling 25 ducats per day.
Nov.Veneto, LombardyOn the day designated by astrologers, he was presented with the standard and the baton of the General Governor; he was also gifted two mounts that had previously been donated to the Venetians by the Sultan. During this period, he established his usual residence in Ghedi.
1496
Jan.LombardyIn Ghedi, he finally had some fragments of the musket ball that had wounded him at Novara removed.
Nov.1000 cavalryLombardyHe left Brescia and traveled to Mantua to attend a memorial mass at the Church of San Francesco for the recently deceased King of Naples, Ferdinand II of Aragon (Ferdinando d’Aragona).
1497
Jan.LombardyHe left Ghedi and reached Milan with 600 men, including stradiotti and light cavalry. The Sienese renewed the agreements they had with his family: they also requested him to switch to their payroll to counter the Florentines at Montepulciano.
Feb.General captainLombardy, PiedmontIn Milan, he was welcomed by the Duke of Milan, with whom he had a discussion first at the palace of Giovan Francesco da San Severino and then in the Sforza Castle. He received from Ludovico Sforza the baton as captain of the Milanese army; he was at the head of an army comprising 25,000 infantry and 2,000 lances. He entered Alessandria with Bernardino di Montone and Giovan Francesco Gambara.
SpringThe Sienese signed an alliance pact with the Count of Pitigliano; Niccolò Orsini joined their payroll to counteract the local exiles.
Apr. – MayPiedmontGian Giacomo da Trivulzio returned to Asti without having gained any advantage; Niccolò Orsini, having signed a truce, returned to Milan and Brescia.
JuneGeneral captainLombardyIn Ghedi, upon being informed of the dismissal of Francesco Gonzaga by the Serenissima, he is appointed general captain in his place and retains this position until his death.
Sept.LombardyCaterina Cornaro travels to Brescia to visit her brother Giorgio Cornaro, the city’s podestà. The procession for the entry of the former Queen of Cyprus includes the stradiotti, 260 mounted crossbowmen from her company, as well as the men-at-arms of Marco da Martinengo and those of Giovan Francesco Gambara. A few days later, Gaspare da San Severino and Galeazzo da San Severino arrive from Milan.
Oct.LombardyIn Brescia, for the muster of the men-at-arms.
Dec.VeniceFranceLombardy, PiedmontThe relatives ask for his help to confront the papal forces: the Serenissima does not give him permission to leave the Brescia area; Orsini immediately intervenes with Alexander VI (Alessandro VI) to divert the papal attention from their offensive intentions towards the other Orsinis. He is sent to Novi Ligure (recently conquered by Trivulzio) to assist the troops of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, against the French.
1498
Jan.LombardyIn Ghedi.
MayLombardyFollowing the defeat of the Orsini at Montecelio against the Colonna, he asks the Venetians to move to Lazio to fight in support of his relatives: the Venetians prefer to assist him through diplomatic action.
Aug.LombardyAt the muster of the troops, he complains about the rumors that want Trivulzio as the next general captain of the Venetians. He quarters his troops along the Oglio River.
Oct.Lombardy, VenetoHe leaves Ghedi and arrives in Venice incognito with a retinue of 25 people: he resides at Sant’Eufemia in the Giudecca at the expense of the republic. He requests an increase in his military command (condotta) and to be able to return to his possessions in Pitigliano. The Collegio dei Pregadi increases both his condotta (which includes 300 lances and light horses up to a maximum of 1500 horses) and his salary (50,000 ducats per year) valid both in peacetime and in war; the term is set at three years plus one year of grace. He accepts with some resistance. He returns to Ghedi.
Dec.LombardyIn Ghedi. He is informed of the death of a son.
1499
Jan.VeniceFlorenceLombardy, Veneto, RomagnaHe is dispatched to Romagna to lead an attack in Casentino against the Florentines. He is given 4,000 ducats; leaving Ghedi with 160 lances, 160 mounted crossbowmen, and 500 infantrymen. He rapidly marches through Desenzano del Garda, Peschiera del Garda, Vicenza, Padova, Chioggia, and Ravenna. He receives an additional 8,500 ducats and requests the support of 5,000 infantrymen.
Feb.Romagna, MarcheHe meets in Cesena with Polidoro Tiberti, his friend, to dissuade him from allying with the Florentines. He arrives at Casteldelci: his requests now are for 7,000 infantry and 1,000 light cavalry to effectively intervene in the defense of Bibbiena.
Mar.Romagna, TuscanyHe plunders the countryside of Galeata: soon his march is halted on the Apennines at Pieve Santo Stefano by both bad weather and the actions of Paolo Vitelli. He suggests diversionary tactics in the Perugian area and the territory of Cortona, which are not heeded.
Apr.Romagna, MarcheHe returns to Ravenna having accomplished nothing; soon the Venetians and Florentines reach an agreement. He meets with Montefeltro in Casteldelci.
MayRomagna, Emilia, LombardyFrom Ravenna, he takes the route through the Polesine of San Giorgio in the Ferrara area and continues his journey by river. In Brescia, he sends a secretary to Venice to conduct the muster of his troops.
JuneLombardyHe becomes entangled in a conflict with the new podestà of Brescia, Paolo Trevisan, who has imprisoned two of his men and sentenced one to death on charges of murder: he secures a suspension of the civil sentences.
July206 lances, 100 light cavalryLombardyIn Ghedi, he initially receives a payment and then two more as the warnings of war with the Duke of Milan become more imminent. He attends the muster of his own companies. At the end of the month, the community of Bergamo sends him in the field three carts of wine, two barrels of muscatel, two wheels of cheese, ten pairs of packaged goods, two marzipans, six pairs of salted tongues, and fifty quails.
Aug.VeniceMilanLombardyThe Venetians grant, at his request, a command of 100 men-at-arms to his son Ludovico (soon converted into a provision of 2000 ducats), a guard of 100 provisioned men for his own person, the lifting of a ban on his recommended associate (Polonio di Boni); he is also promised support in securing the bishopric of Cividale del Friuli for his son Aldobrandino. In the Council of Ten, however, he is suspected of conducting secret negotiations with Ludovico Sforza to switch to the service of the Duke of Milan. Requesting the 4000/5000 ducats he is owed, he moves from Ghedi towards Pontoglio at the head of 1630 lances and 9100 infantry: he is accompanied by capable commanders such as Bartolomeo d’Alviano, Bernardino di Montone, and Giovambattista Caracciolo. D’Alviano persuades him not to head directly for Cremona, but to penetrate into Ghiaradadda. Thus, various localities are conquered including Calcio, Caravaggio (where he prevents looting), Mozzanica, Vailate, Ripalta Secca (Ripalta Cremasca), Treviglio, Brignano Gera d’Adda, Covo, Antegnate, Fontanella, and Soncino. Finally, his men raid into the Milanese territory.
Sept. – Oct.LombardyIn September, he enters Cremona with 201 lances. In October, he returns to his quarters in Ghedi.
Nov.TrentinoIn Rovereto, for an inspection of the border lines.
Dec.Veneto, LombardyIn Venice, he is accommodated in the palace of the Duke of Ferrara; accompanying him are 150 people. He is allotted a daily expense of 15 ducats. He reads a report, requests the settlement of his dues, and reminds the Venetians of their commitment to grant the bishopric of Cividale del Friuli to his son Aldobrandino. At the end of his mission, he moves to Chioggia, embarks for Cremona, and from there, travels by land to Ghedi. During this period, he is granted the fiefdom of this locality, along with the neighboring towns of Leno, Castelletto, Malpaga, and Montirone.
1500
Feb.VeniceSforzaLombardyLudovico Sforza attempts to recover the Duchy of Milan: Orsini moves to Treviglio. He is tasked with providing aid to Lodi on behalf of the French allies.
Mar.LombardyHe sends light cavalry and infantry to Piacenza to keep Lodi loyal to the French. He returns to Treviglio with 1500 cavalry and 1000 provisioned troops; he remains faithful to his strategy of keeping a low profile, as has been imposed on him; he repels some light cavalry and infantry from Cassano d’Adda who had come out to attack the Venetian vanguard. His men continue to raid along the border.
Apr. – MayLombardyIn April, he conducts a muster of his companies and crosses the Adda at Rivolta d’Adda. At the end of the conflict (May), he is still in Treviglio.
JuneVeniceOttoman EmpireLombardyHe is sent to Friuli to oppose the raids of the Turks: he moves only after receiving three payments in addition to the completed month. His sons Ludovico and Mariano also follow him.
JulyVeneto, FriuliHe passes through Lonigo, Treviso, and Motta di Livenza, always accompanied by local authorities. He arrives in Udine ill.
Aug.FriuliIn Gradisca d’Isonzo, he meets with the provider Piero Marcello. He requests 1000 sappers for defense preparations and reinforcements of 300 men-at-arms, 2000 light cavalry, 4000 infantry, and 8 cannons. He falls ill.
Nov. – Dec.Veneto, LombardyHe receives permission from the Collegio dei Pregadi to leave Friuli and return to Ghedi. He is in Vicenza with Piero Marcello, passes through Verona, and is in Ghiaradadda.
1501
Jan.LombardyIn Ghedi.
Mar.LombardyHe purchases lands in Asola valued at 3500 ducats.
May – JulyVeniceOttoman EmpireLombardy, Veneto, FriuliHe is invited to deploy his light cavalry in Friuli once again to counter the raids of the Turks. He himself sets out at the head of his troops with 60 horses, passing through Verona and Treviso, and arrives in Friuli: he employs his usual tactic aimed at buying time.
Oct.FriuliHe renews the agreements with Siena (similarly, this will occur later in 1506).
Nov.Friuli, VenetoHe has permission to leave Friuli and travel to Venice.
1502
Oct.He resumes his efforts to request the bishopric of Nicosia for his son Aldobrandino (as his request for Cividale del Friuli had not been fulfilled).
Nov.RomagnaIn the countryside of Ravenna. On patrol along the borders with the Papal States.
Dec.LombardyHe oversees the construction of the fortress at Asola. He seeks the support of the Venetians because it appears that Cesare Borgia wants to take away his fiefdom of Fiano Romano.
1503
Jan. – Mar.At Ghedi, he renews his concerns regarding the pontiffs, for which he requests the protection of the Most Serene Republic over his Pitigliano estates. He sends 2000 ducats to Giulio Orsini (Giulio Orsini) and Fabio Orsini (Fabio Orsini) to support them in their resistance against the pontiffs; he strengthens the defenses of Pitigliano and diplomatically backs Gian Giordano Orsini (Gian Giordano Orsini), who is similarly threatened in his estates by Duke Valentino (Duca Valentino).
Aug.In Ghedi for the inspection of his horses. Upon the death of Pope Alexander VI (Papa Alessandro VI), he sends his secretary Piero da Bibbiena (Piero da Bibbiena) to Venice to inform the authorities that the Orsini family (Orsini) have been approached by both the French and the Spanish to enter their service.
Nov.He receives offers from Cardinal George of Amboise (Cardinale Giorgio di Amboise) to transfer to the payroll of the Transalpine forces. The Venetians send him to Faenza: he hesitates because he claims credits of 34,000 ducats. Having received 4,400, he leaves Ghedi with 200 light cavalry and heads through Brescia, Peschiera del Garda, Verona, Legnago, and Badia Polesine towards Romagna. He crosses the Ferrara area; reaches Ravenna where he is met with news of the surrender of Faenza. He intervenes on behalf of Antonio Maria Ordelaffi (Antonio Maria Ordelaffi) in his claims on Forlì.
Dec.RomagnaHe initiates negotiations in Cesena for the handover of the fortress to the Venetians. He checks the state of the defensive structures in Faenza.
1504
Jan.RomagnaHe advises on some defensive works in Faenza and then travels to Ravenna. He is approached by both the Florentines and the pontiffs to join their payroll; however, the negotiations fail because Pope Julius II (Papa Giulio II) refuses to grant him the title of General Captain, as he requested. Instead, this title is conferred upon him by the Venetians, who reappoint him for another two years, plus an additional year of courtesy.
Feb.RomagnaThe annual salary proposed to him remains at 50,000 ducats per year. He begins to make counteroffers aimed at increasing his commission, pressuring the pontiff for a cardinal’s hat for his son, and securing entries in Venetian territories for his other two sons. Doge Leonardo Loredan (Dogi Leonardo Loredan) accepts his requests except for the one concerning the increase of his allowance. He sends 30 light cavalry to Rome to recover the possessions of Vicino Orsini (Vicino Orsini), who died recently; he is contacted by the Spanish castellan of Cesena, Pietro Remiro, to explore a potential Venetian interest in the fortress of Cesena; he maneuvers so that Ludovico Ordelaffi (Ludovico Ordelaffi), who has served in his companies, might seize Forlì from the Papal States. Pope Julius II (Papa Giulio II) warns Orsini not to continue in this direction.
Mar.RomagnaIn Ravenna, he demands payment of his credits. He heads towards Cesenatico with Giacomazzo from Venice (Giacomazzo da Venezia); on the way, he encounters the pontifical condottieri Giovanni da Sassatello and Melchiorre Ramazzotto: as a result, he advises the Venetians to increase surveillance in the area. He returns to Cervia and approves the terms that have been proposed for his conduct (300 lances, 300 light cavalry, title of General Captain). The command insignia are solemnly delivered to him in Ravenna by Marino Trevisan and Leonardo Emo.
Apr.RomagnaHe warns Giovanni da Sassatello who has conducted a raid in the Massa countryside under Venetian control; in Ravenna, at the Church of Saint Basil, Marino Trevisan and Leonardo Emo present him with the banner and the baton, symbols of his captaincy. Three jousts solemnize the ceremony.
SummerLombardyHe returns to Ghedi. The palace he owns in this city becomes his logistical base. The location is perhaps chosen more with the annual muster of a permanent army in mind rather than for the defense of a threatened frontier, as was the case with Malpaga for Bartolomeo Colleoni (Bartolomeo Colleoni).
1505
Oct.300 lancesLombardyIn Ghedi for the review of his companies.
1506
Aug.LombardyIn Ghedi, he is put on alert due to the approach of German militias towards the borders of the Republic.
Sept.He attempts to provide assistance to the Bentivoglio family (Bentivoglio), who are under attack in Bologna by the pontifical forces.
Oct.RomagnaHe meets with Guidobaldo da Montefeltro in Faenza.
Nov.His contract is renewed for another two years of active service and one year of reserve.
1507
Feb.King Ferdinand of Spain (Re Ferdinando il Cattolico) restores to him the County of Nola.
MayLombardyIn Ghedi for the review of his companies. He moves to Ghiaradadda with Bartolomeo d’Alviano (Bartolomeo d’Alviano) to strengthen the defenses of Caravaggio, while the troops of Emperor Maximilian of Austria (Imperatore Massimiliano d’Austria) are descending into Italy via the Grisons and Lake Como routes. He monitors the movements of these militias, stopping between Trezzo sull’Adda and Cassano d’Adda. He sends 300 light cavalry and 300 infantry, mounted on the latter’s horses, in pursuit: the Venetians are informed that the enemy column has already passed and is moving towards Bergamo.
Aug.Veneto, LombardyHe is summoned to Venice along with Bartolomeo d’Alviano and Caracciolo for some political consultations: he demands to be received in the city with the pomp befitting his rank. He arrives by river at Chioggia and from there continues to Venice. He is welcomed at San Biagio. He visits Padua and then returns to Ghedi.
Nov. – Dec.LombardyHe is once again put on alert due to the advance from Trentino towards the Veronese area by imperial infantry. He moves to Bussolengo with the General Provisions Manager Giorgio Emo: 1200 Germans reach Bozzolo in the Mantuan area. Forced to return to Trentino, the soldiers re-enter Veneto unarmed.
1508
Jan.VenetoHe attends the muster in Verona where, along with his companies, those of Giampaolo Manfrone, Lucio Malvezzi, and Caracciolo are also reviewed. The parade takes place in front of 12,000 people, the city rectors, and the Provisioner Giorgio Emo.
Feb.VeniceEmpireVeneto, TrentinoIn Bussolengo, where he establishes his headquarters. He moves to Serravalle at the Adige with Giorgio Emo, 250 light cavalry, and 500 provisioned troops following the fall of Castelbarco. He inspects the passes of Brentonico and Rovereto with Gian Giacomo da Trivulzio (who commands the French contingent) and the Provisioner Andrea Gritti.
Mar.TrentinoHe firmly positions himself along the Rovereto-Riva line in Val Lagarina with 400 men-at-arms and many infantry. He sets fire to Besagno and Calliano. Confronted by opponents, he is forced to retreat after suffering numerous losses. Similarly to Trivulzio’s French forces, he interprets the conflict in more defensive than offensive terms.
Apr.TrentinoAt Ala heading towards Nago, he is criticized in the College because he refuses to take any initiative, citing the lack of sufficient forces as his reason. He negotiates with Trivulzio to obtain the castles of Agresta and Castelnuovo.
May – JuneTrentinoHe falls ill; Bartolomeo d’Alviano assumes command of the army. In June, Alessandro da Trivulzio visits him at the camp on behalf of Chaumont.
Oct.In the Council of the Wise, there is a discussion about whether or not to renew the year of courtesy for Niccolò Orsini.
1509
Jan.LombardyHe is summoned to Venice for consultations on the general situation: he cannot travel there due to the cold and the pain caused by syphilis.
Feb.VenetoHe goes to Venice: the Doge meets him at San Biagio; he is allocated 25 ducats per day for his expenses, while Bartolomeo d’Alviano is granted 15. Both participate in meetings held in the Council of the Wise, where the prospects of the upcoming war are discussed. Orsini secures from the Senate an exemption from taxes for the properties he has purchased in the Brescia area; he is added to the Great Council and is tasked with assessing Gonzaga’s intentions.
Mar.VeniceFrance, Empire, ChurchGeneral Captain of 1500 cavalryLombardyHe moves to scout in Cremona and Ghiaradadda; he stops at Trezzo sull’Adda: 200 French cavalry and an equal number of infantry lie in ambush to capture him. He escapes the trap because local peasants forewarn the Venetian authorities of the danger.
Apr.LombardyFrom Ghedi, he moves to the camp at Pontevico: he has direct command of the first column, consisting of 450 men-at-arms, 4,600 infantry, and 200 mounted crossbowmen. Under his command, there are a total of 2,000 lances, 3,000 light cavalry and stradiots, 15,000 Italian infantry, and 15,000 cernite; he also commands numerous artillery pieces. Bartolomeo d’Alviano advocates for an attack in Lombardy; however, Orsini suggests retreating to the fortified camp between Orzinuovi and Orzivecchi and there waiting for the enemy to retreat due to the probable difficulties they would encounter in supplying a large army. The Senate chooses a middle path and orders that the defensive line not be moved from the Adda to the Oglio, that Ghiaradadda be defended, and that a pitched battle be avoided. Orsini heads towards Fontanella, moves to assist Cremona, Caravaggio, and Bergamo. Chaumont retreats beyond the Adda. Orsini misses the opportunity to attack the opponents while they are crossing the river; instead, he heads towards Treviglio as per the Senate’s instructions.
MayLombardy, VenetoThe Venetians sack Treviglio. Bartolomeo d’Alviano is attacked by the French at Agnadello: Niccolò Orsini refuses to move to his aid because he disagrees with the strategy of his deputy and because he does not want to risk losing the entire Venetian army in a single battle. The defeat is severe, and its consequences are more painful and unexpected: the army, already outnumbered by the French, is reduced to perhaps 7,000 cavalry and 10,000 infantry; even the cernite return to their homes and many men-at-arms desert. Without hope, he must helplessly witness the desertion of one unit after another. In a few days, the Venetian army is reduced to 6,000 cavalry and 7,000/8,000 infantry. Niccolò Orsini, along with provisioners Andrea Gritti and Giorgio Corner, retreats to Chiari, surpasses Brescia (where his wife Guglielmina remains as a guest of Battista da Martinengo). The city refuses to welcome the defeated, touches Verona, and stops at the Campo di Marte of that location. Even in this case, the inhabitants refuse to open their gates to his army, offering themselves in allegiance to Maximilian of Austria. Lacking supplies and forage, he leaves the city and continues his retreat towards Venice.
JuneVenetoUpon hearing of the loss of Peschiera del Garda, he approaches Montagnana, Saletto, and Sambruson where he fords the Brenta River: he finds refuge only in Mestre; everywhere else, the inhabitants refuse to host his troops. His wife leaves the Brescia area and moves to Mantua; his fiefs in Ghedi, Leno, and Malpaga are confiscated by the French and are given by King Louis XII of France to Cardinal d’Amboise. Overwhelmed by despair, he considers relinquishing command: his reputation declines in proportion.
JulyVenetoFrom Mestre, he heads to Treviso, targeting Cittadella. Meanwhile, Padua is reclaimed by the Venetians. Mid-month, Orsini takes over its defense with Lucio Malvezzi and the Provisioner Gritti. The houses of the Jews and 80 churches are immediately sacked by the troops. With Provisioner Gritti, Orsini is forced to issue a proclamation forbidding looting on pain of hanging. Among others, the palace of the rebel Antonio Capodivacca, who owes him 12,000 ducats, is saved from the fury. The city is soon besieged by 700 French lances from La Palisse, 200 pontifical lances, 200 from the Estensi, 600 Italian men-at-arms, 18,000 German infantry, 6,000 Spaniards, 6,000 mercenaries, and 2,000 Italians under the command of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este: the nominal command of the operations belongs to the Emperor.
Under Orsini’s command are 600 men-at-arms, 1,500 light cavalry, 1,500 stradiots, 12,000 Italian infantry, and 10,000 foot soldiers comprising Slavs, Greeks, and Albanians taken from the rowers of the fleet. There is a general assembly of the soldiers in Prato della Valle (where an altar is erected); the troops are given the battle cry “Italy! Freedom”.
Aug.110 lancesVenetoOrsini welcomes the new captain, Zaccaria Dolfin, to the city; he soon regains his spirits, especially after the capture of Gonzaga at Isola della Scala. As an outward sign, he has his beard, which he had grown since the defeat at Agnadello, shaved off. He is praised for his diligence, which he demonstrates day and night with numerous inspection rounds throughout Padua: his colonel specifically monitors the stretch of walls from Porciglia to Ognissanti and Pontecorvo; he orders the gates of San Giovanni and Porciglia to be walled up. The Venetians renew his command with a monthly salary of 1,000 ducats: he accepts the new, albeit less favorable, conditions wholeheartedly.
Sept.VenetoAlways keen to impart ideological significance to the resistance, Orsini orders all defenders to wear a red cross on their armor as a sign of distinction from the enemies. At the beginning of the month, the real siege operations begin: the usual raiding parties are sent out, attempts are made to divert the waters of the Bacchiglione, and the walls are bombarded with artillery; the Venetians respond with more vigorous raids carried out by light cavalry and stradiots, and with artillery.
Mid-month, the walls at Porta Codalunga are bombarded, starting a fierce bombardment against the forward bastion defended by Zitolo da Perugia. Three furious assaults led by German and Spanish infantry are repelled: the attackers are allowed to approach the walls, where they are met with gunfire from arquebuses and pushed back by pikes. The Emperor vainly requests German and French cavalry to support the infantry in attacks on the walls.
Oct.VenetoAt the beginning of the month, the imperial forces abandon their camp at night and move to Vicenza.
Nov.VenetoNiccolò Orsini reaches Camisano Vicentino; he marches towards Vicenza; he assaults the city, which is defended by Prince Rodolfo of Anhalt. He enters following negotiations with Gaspare da San Severino and Anhalt himself, aimed at avoiding the sack of the city by the troops of the Most Serene Republic. After its capture, he proceeds towards Lonigo and Montagnana, where he is greeted everywhere with great festivities: he hangs four infantrymen at the windows and doors of houses where they were caught stealing.
He aims for Verona with 600 men-at-arms, 1,000 light cavalry, and 6,000 infantry; he leaves San Bonifacio and Colognola ai Colli and orders a sortie at the village of San Lazzaro. A squad of cavalry exits Verona to confront the Venetians; Orsini returns to Colognola ai Colli. He joins forces with Lucio Malvezzi at San Martino Buon Albergo.
Dec.VenetoHe stops at Lonigo with the General Provisions Manager Piero Marcello.
1510
Jan.Veneto

Sources

-“Vecchio di età, lento, impassibile, ostinato era il Pitigliano uno di coloro che reputano vincere il non perdere, né il vantaggio di una vittoria così grande da superare il pericolo di una sconfitta.. Cattivo capitano in aperta campagna e nelle arrischiate fazioni, ottimo nella difesa delle terre, e in tutte quelle imprese, a compier le quali fosse uopo specialmente di prudenza e di fermezza.” RICOTTI

-“Capitano di non grande facoltà creativa nei suoi disegni d’operazione, ma equilibrato e tecnico eccellente, fu uno dei migliori rappresentanti dell’arte militare italiana di questo periodo.” PIERI

-“Morì nella fine di questo anno il conte di Pitigliano.., uomo molto vecchio e nell’arte militare di lunga esperienza; e nella fede del quale si confidavano assai i viniziani, né temevano che temerariamente mettesse in pericolo il loro imperio.” GUICCIARDINI

-“Più onore gli fece la lode di non aver mai tratto guadagno dall’esercizio delle armi. Fu abile capitano.” BRIGANTE COLONNA

-“Nelle cose e arti della guerra illustre.” BEMBO

-“Salito in riputazione di valente guerriero per cagione assai più del suo prudente temporeggiare, che non di quell’audacia che signoreggia gli avvenimenti.” SISMONDI

-“Uomo valoroso e assennato, da tutti reputato grande nell’arte militare.” CONTI

-“Excelente e degno e fidato capitanio…El nostro capitanio, conte di Pitigliano non val zero, è vechio e non à cuor, crida, tamen si convien aver paciencia.” SANUDO

-“Huomo per prudenza e longa isperienza di guerra molto celebre.” MOCENIGO

-“Il Fabio veneziano.” ZANETTI

-“Egli si vantava, siccome uomo romano, di non aver mai prese le armi per re stranieri, avendo sempre combattuto per la gloria, la salute e la riputazione della patria. A’ veneziani molto gradito perché sempre prudente, la lunga esperienza e il suo criterio avendogli fatto conoscere, quello il mezzo migliore per giungere al fine. Gentiluomo onoratissimo non trasse alcun guadagno dalla professione delle armi.” LITTA

-“Homo veterano et bene experto in le arme et non meno de li modi de Franzesi.” da una cronaca riportata dal VISCONTI

-“Personaggio nobile, di gran perizia nella guerra, ed in ogni sua azione prudente, e riservato molto, e di singolar fede verso la Repubblica.” BONIFACCIO

-“Hommo molto experto in le arme.., di grande governo et sopratutto molto fedelle ala Republica Veneta.” PRIULI

-“Homo de gran vedere, animoso e strenuo.” ZAMBOTTI

-“Huomo oltra la nobiltà del sangue, dotato di gran prudenza, di fortezza, e di tutti gli honori della militia, e benemerito della Signoria di Vinegia.” MARCELLO

-“Questo huomo naturalmente accorto, e non punto inclinato a combattere, il quale havea più tosto imparato a provedere di non esser egli vinto, che vincere altrui..Con questo honorato calvitio, e con la barba rara, e con l’habito antico armato alla leggera, mostrava il conte di Pitigliano un vigilantissimo et veramente grave Capitano..Sempre s’acquistò fama d’accorto et de costante.” GIOVIO

-“Lodi ciascun, ch’Italia ama e honora,/ Et è figlio di lei caro e gradito,/ Il Capitano Orsino saggio e ardito:/ la cui fama sia chiara e viva ogn’hora:/ Perch’ei de la sua patria amico, allhora/ Ch’Italia tutta danno hebbe infinito,/ Et fu ‘l Senato Veneto smarrito,/ Mosse a lo scampo suo senza dimora./ Da lui fu contro i Barbari difesa/ Padova antica: ei fu ch’invitto e solo/ Tanti nemici d’Italia spinse./ Ei col suo gran valor la guerra accesa,/ Ch’arsa havea quasi homai Venetia estinse:/ Poi lieto verso il ciel prese il suo volo.” A.F. Ranieri, da un sonetto raccolto dal GIOVIO

-“A true esponent of the methods of the condottieri, who could not bring himself to risk a resolute blow even though it promised certain victory.” TAYLOR

-Con Giulio Orsini e Paolo Orsini “Viris fortissimis.” ALBINO

“Quale era stato et era strenuo homo et Capitanio della signoria de Venetia molti anni, et homo da bene.” T. DI SILVESTRO

-“Hor piagne, Italia, et con gran pena, et duolo,/ Ch’or son tue forze extreme al tucto sparte,/ Per cui temer solean, da parte in parte,/ La terra, el mare, el ciel de polo in polo,/ Spento è quel divo ingegno invicto et solo/ Ch’era in tuo scudo un nuovo e fiero Marte,/ Et per tuo mal dal mondo se disparte,/ Volando al ciel, con espedito volo.” Da un sonetto raccolto da T. DI SILVESTRO

-“Capitano esercitatissimo e generale all’hora de’ Venetiani.” OROLOGI

-“The count was cool, deliberate and cautious.” ROSCOE

-“Con fatti chiari in guerra acquistò nome singolarissimo..Era il conte di alta e quadrata statura e forti membra; il volto hebbe rubicondo, gli occhi castagnicci e il pelo rosso.” ROSCIO

-“Esaltò molto la casa col maturo consiglio e con la salda prudenza.” SANSOVINO

-“Gran providenza è in questo principe, e molto veloce discorso nella mente, per le quali virtù di lontano perviene a consigli de nemici, e con somma accortezza antivede i loro movimenti, né gli manca l’animo nell’opporsi a gli impeti loro, né arte, né industria a reprimerli, o metterli in fuga, o finalmente vincerlo.” Da un discorso di C. Landino, riportato dal SANSOVINO

-“Quel che fu l’ornamento, e il fior di quanti/ hebbe Italia giamai pronti guerrieri/ Quel che tra suoi per lo chiaro grido alteri/ Par che la fama ancor esalti e canti./ Quel, a cui non durò nessuno inanti,/ Et che vinse e domò i regi più fieri,/ Quel che nato a gran sorte, i sommi imperi/ Non men car l’opre che co’ sembianti,/ Miri chi è vago di valor sovrano,/ Et dica, qual fu il vero gesto in lui/ Se questo è sì feroce, e insieme humano?/ Scritto in la fronte se gli legge. Io fui/ L’Orsin che volli in pregio alto Romano/ Esser secondo, e mai non seppi a cui.” C. Passi, da un sonetto raccolto dal SANSOVINO

-“Huomo, allora chiarissimo, e valoroso per autorità e per scientia militare..Esso non stimava che nel Capitano fosse di gran lode l’esser desideroso di combattere..ma diceva che si amministrava più felicemente la guerra col consiglio e con la prudenza.” EGNAZIO

-Con Bartolomeo d’Alviano “Viri ambo militari experimento celebres.” VERI

-“Era l’Orsini un duce assai provetto,/ Di fama intatta, in guerreggiar temuto,/…/..di prudente avea concetto,/ Sperando ognor dal tempo amico ajuto.”. GAMBARA

-“Integrae fidei viro, principaliumque mandatorum exactissimo cultori.” ARLUNO

-“Acquistossi fama di buon capitano.” BOSI

-“Capitano di stirpe, fatti, fedeltà generosa e eccelente, di presenza grave, nell’arte della guerra peritissimo.” BELLAFINO

-Con Virginio orsini, Gian Giacomo da Trivulzio “Celeberrimo tota Italia, ac gloria militari clarissimi duces.” BEAUCAIRE

-“Fu valorosissimo e così esperimentato nell’armi, che arrivò ad essere generale di S. Chiesa sotto tre sommi pontefici, de’ Fiorentini, degl’istessi Senesi, degli Aragonesi regi di Napoli, e finalmente de’ Veneziani per i quali si portò egregiamente e con grande fedeltà.” GAMURRINI

-“Non crebbe in reputazione, che assai lentamente, essendoché il suo carattere riflessivo e riservato, poco lo faceano distinguere nei gradi subalterni in mezzo ad una folla di rivali, i quali lo eclissavano con doti di valore personale, a quei tempi reputati quasi prima caratteristica del bravo capitano.” PAOLINI

-“Pitigliano was already by the late 1480s recognized as the leading soldier in Italy….Già prima del 1490 era considerato il miglior soldato d’Italia.” MALLETT

-Con Bartolomeo d’Alviano “Two formidable soldiers.” MALLETT

-Con Bartolomeo d’Alviano “Uomini entrambi di valore e di fama.” A. ZENO

-“Fu uno dei più insigni capitani del secolo XVI.” BRUSCALUPI

-“Bello come un eroe, con l’azza in mano/ ognor di sangue rossa/ Coi fiidi accanto e con l’amico Zitolo (Zitolo da Perugia)/ Niccolò terzo il prode capitano,/ Dalle difese padovane mura/ Guarda nell’ampia valle i fuggitivi/ Alemanni dispersi: la pianura/ N’è coperta: e i più celeri/ Salgono verso gli euganei clivi.” da un’ode del BRUSCALUPI

-“Certo, s’è sferza e sprone/ Gloria paterna alle virtù divine,/ Ei per l’Italia, onde fu sol campione,/ Forte nell’armi in sì crudel tenzone/ Ben rimembrossi ben l’arti Latine/ E le corone Orsini.” CHIABRERA

-“../ e te, gran Pitiglian che più riluci/ frà Romani fortissimo campione.” G. STROZZI

-“Uomo facoltoso e valorosissimo che si vantava di non aver usato le armi che a vantaggio d’Italia.” SOMMI PICENARDI

-“Et fece poi spiegare il gonfalone/ dov’era il giglio glorioso segno/ & an triompho alla terra s’andoe/ & quivi apparechiossi ogni disegno.” Da “La guerra di Sarzana” in GUERRE IN OTTAVA RIMA

-“E comenzò voler ogni schiera/ il franco capitan da Pitigliano/ cridando Italia viva lui in primiera/ orsù fioli ognuno sta soprano/ son rotti gli franciosi ogni maniera/…/ che tutto il campo fu recuperato.” Da “La rotta di Parma” in GUERRE IN OTTAVA RIMA

-“El conte da Pitiano el buon barone/ el conte bernardin famoso e degno/ e carlo orsino con soncin benzone/ ciaschun di forza e di valor sì pregno/ con it’altrri condutier di gran ragione/ generosi di cori e grande ingegno/ enverso di milan son inviati.” Da “Storia di Ludovico duca di Milano” in GUERRE IN OTTAVA RIMA

-Alla battaglia di Agnadello “…Conte valoroso/ De pitiglian Capitano generale/ mai fu pigro o né mai fu narciso./ Sempre in sua vita l’é stato leale/ Sopra d’un monticel facea riposo/ Col campo e lo stendardo triumphale/ Provedendo al bisogno notte e giorno/ Artelaria e fosse havea d’intorno.” Da “Guerre orrende d’Italia” in GUERRE IN OTTAVA RIMA

-Alla difesa di Padova “… El conte Pitiglian ver Capitano/ Non spande il tempo o le parole invano/ Dil sacro imperatore uno trombetta/ Ne viene drento a dimandar la terra:/ Che a suo corona la rendino in fretta:/ Se non che aspetten presto cruda guerra:/ Et che han iurato metter a falcetta/ Ogni persona che drento si serra:/ Vengono inanti a loro disse il buon conte/ Sepur di haverla hanno sue voglie pronte/ Molte fiate fu questo venire/ Che pur se li rendesse Padua bella:/ El conte rietro li mandava a dire/ Che sua maiesta fe di cervella:/ Che quando la hebbe la dovea tenire/ Che alhor ppitia (poteva) in ben li era suo stella:/ Et che hor non è più tempo da pigliare/ Con un trombetta Padua singulare/…/ Lo illustre conte Nicolao orsino/ Si drento è capitano generale:/ Qual spiega di S. Marco almo e divino/ Ognhor la bella insegna trionphale/ et hor dimostra a grane & picholino/ Ne l’arte militar quanto sia & vale:/ Magnanimo: solido & constante:/ Strenuo: benigno: astuto: & vigilante.” CORDO

-“Che direm del Conte glorioso/ cha se vegendo tante gente intorno/ assai più che Scipion venne animoso/ né creder che (ri)posasse notte o giorno/ per la città n’andava curioso/ che bellezza veder quel vecchio adorno/ mo per la terra, mo intorno ale mura/ Ponendo in ripararsi ogni sua cura.” SACCHINO

-“Capitano di grande esperienza.” SCARDIGLI

-“I veneziani piansero questo fedele servitore del quale, come ha scritto il Guicciardini, non “temevano che temerariamente mettesse in pericolo il loro impero”; un tipo alla Gattamelata, ma con in più una nobiltà di nascita. E la Serenissima lo onorò con pubbliche esequie e un monumento nella chiesa dei Ss. Giovanni e Paolo; Battista Egnazio ne pronunziò l’orazione funebre paragonandolo agli eroi omerici. Più onore gli fece la lode di non aver mai tratto guadagno dall’esercizio delle armi, ha osservato il Brigante Colonna, e nei confronti di un capitano di ventura il giudizio appare un controsenso; lo si può considerare in fondo un lusinghiero apprezzamento alla professionalità “onesta” di un mercenario.” RENDINA

-“E’ uomo prudente, preferisce attendere; è riservato e cortese, lento ma impassibile, per lui già “vincere il non perdere”.” E. e G.N. PITTALIS

-“Il quale con fatti chiari in guerra acquistò nome singolarissimo.. Era il Conte di alta, e quadrata statura, e forti membri: il volto hebbe rubicondo: gli occhi castagnicci: e il pel rosso.” CAPRIOLO

-“Il talento militare di Niccolò Orsini conte di Pitigliano è perfettamente rispondente alla strategia di Lorenzo il Magnifico, il quale ama l’equilibrio e ha una visione dell’arte militare molto funzionale alla gestione diplomatica dei conflitti..E’ un vero maestro dell’arte della guerra all’italiana…Occorre ridimensionare il momento dello scontro bellico, questa è l’arte della guerra all’italiana, fatta sul piano strategico di guerre che tendono a essere prolungate e consistono nel tendere trappole al nemico in modo tale da indebolirlo, per cui sarà alla fine fagocitato dai suoi stessi elementi di debolezza. Si lavora a sgretolare la solidità del nemico più che a prevalere in modo subitaneo su di lui.” PELLEGRINI

-Ad Agnadello “…quod si Petilianus non tantum invidiaae induisisset, seu potius si ut docuit Livianum inclytam victoriam iam tenentem adiuvisset, si tantum concordi virtute proficisset, quantum invidia nocuit, ille dies Italiae calamitatibus finem fecisset, nec barbarae gentes in nostro solo unquam radices egissent. Hoc proelio per Italiam nuntiato, reliqui coniurati, qui belli eventum timide spectabant, fortunam secuti audacius arma sumpserunt.” G. Borgia, riportato da E. VALERI 

-“Chiarissimo generale dei Veneziani.” COLESCHI

-“Prezioso nell’ambito degli arruolamenti di fanti e “homeni d’arme”, in quanto disponeva di notevoli capacità e conoscenze nel mondo militare italiano, proveniente come era da una dinastia di antica nobiltà guerriera.” LENCI

-“Il Pitigliano famoso per condotte militari a Napoli, Firenze, Roma e Venezia morì a Lonigo, ricchissimo.. Il Nassini lo descrive come “huomo grande et grosso et bello et iustissimo coronato de virtù e piacevole”. Da Venezia si fece donare proprietà a Leno, Malpaga e soprattutto a Ghedi, ove si eresse un magnifico palazzo, affrescato dal Romanino ed un elegante sepolcro in S. M. delle Grazie, nel quale tuttavia il suo corpo non fu trasportato come era suo desiderio; vi fu sepolto, in suo luogo, un suo figlio giovinetto che gli premorì. A Ghedi invece cessò di vivere l’Alviano nel 1515. Il palazzo fu incendiato nel 1516 dai soldati tedeschi ed i figli del Pitigliano abbandonarono il nostro territorio per ritirarsi altrove.” PASERO

-“Il talento militare di Niccolò Orsini conte di Pitigliano è perfettamente rispondente alla strategia di Lorenzo il Magnifico, il quale ama l’equilibrio e ha una visione dell’arte militare molto funzionale alla gestione diplomatica dei conflitti. Di conseguenza, il conte di Pitigliano, che è il suo più fedele interprete, è un vero maestro dell’arte della guerra all’italiana.. La guerra è un affare costoso e va amministrato saggiamente. E’ meglio non rischiare il proprio capitale bellico in uno scontro campale, laddove un esito distruttivo potrebbe essere un danno economico molto pernicioso, a cui non corrisponde un adeguato guadagno.. Questa è l’arte della guerra all’italiana, fatta sul piano strategico di guerre che tendono a essere prolungate e consistono nel tendere trappole al nemico in modo tale da indebolirlo.. Si lavora a sgretolare la solidità del nemico molto più che a prevalere in modo subitaneo su di lui.” PELLEGRINI

-Epigrafe posta a Venezia sotto il suo monumento nella chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo “Nicolao Ursino Nolae, Pitilianiq.; principi longe cla/ rissimo, Senensium, Florentini populi, Sixti, Innocentii,/ Alexandri Pont. Max., Ferdinandi, Alphonsiq.; iunioris re/ gnum Naapolin. imper. feliciss. Venetae demum reipub.,/ per XV annos magnis, clarissimisq; rebus gestis, novis/ sime a gravissima omnium obsidione Patavis conser/ vato, virtutis, ac fidei singularis Senatus Venetus/ M.H.P.P. Obiit LXVIII aetatis MCIX”

-Epitaffio che compare sulla sua tomba “Nicoleon belli terrorem caede superbum,/ Pugnantum, et factis contegit hic tumulus./ Implevit qui re nomen, virtute triumphis,/ Eximiis titulis: quae super astra tulit./ Aetas nulla virum talem, nec secla tulerunt,/ mente, fide, dextro, consilioque parem./ Foelix, forte tua marmor, cui claudere soli:/ Quem miles, legio, dux tremuere, datum est./ Qui dux Etrusci victricia signa leonis/ Partenopes regis Pontificumque tulit,/ Qui Veneta armorum moderaverat agmina, quique/ Militiae ipsorum dux fuit inde ducum,/ Spiritus aetherea erexit eum in sede: sepulcrum/ Ursini tegit hoc corpora Nicoleos.”

-Nella cattedrale di Pitigliano è posta la seguente epigrafe commemorativa “Nicolaus III comes Ursinus, Lodovico filio fa/ vente, capitaneautu gloriae peracto reipublicae florentine,/ romanae Ecclesiae, Partenopei et Venetorum, Deo familiae/ et patiae Pitilianensi templum dedicavit. A.D./ MDVIIII

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