Italian history meme: 1/?
↳ Battle of Montaperti
The Battle of Montaperti was fought on September 4, 1260, between Florence and Siena in Tuscany as part of the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. It gained notoriety for an act of treachery that turned the tide of the battle, which was immortalised by Dante Alighieri in his epic poem Divine Comedy.
The Guelphs and Ghibellines were rival factions that nominally took the parts of the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, respectively, in Italy in the 12th and 13th centuries; in practice, their allegiances often had more to do with competing local interests than with the contesting claims of the papacy and the Empire.
In the mid-13th century, Guelphs held sway in Florence whilst Ghibellines controlled Siena. In 1258, the Guelphs succeeded in expelling from Florence the last of the Ghibellines with any real power.
The feud came to a head two years later when the Florentines, aided by their Tuscan allies, moved an army of some 35,000 men toward Siena. The Senesi* called for help from King Manfred of Sicily, who provided a contingent of German mercenary heavy cavalry. The Senesi forces were led by Farinata degli Uberti, an exiled Florentine Ghibelline. Even with these reinforcements, though, they could raise an army of only 20,000.
The two armies met at the hill of Montaperti, outside Siena, on the morning of September 4; at the head of the Senese** army was the formidable band of German mercenary cavalry. The battle raged all day, but despite their superior numbers, the Florentines were unable to make headway against the determined Senesi. As evening approached and the Florentines exhausted themselves on their opponent’s defensive lines, the Senese forces launched their counterattack, led by the Count of Arras.
The charge of the Senesi was a signal to a member of the Florentine forces, Bocca degli Abati. Bocca had been a partisan of the Guelph for the sake of complex allegiances, but was at heart a Ghibelline.
Seizing the opportunity, hundreds of Florentine Ghibellines attacked their Guelph compatriots as the main Senese army charged, and the Florentine Guelphs were routed, pursued by their enemies as they fled. It is estimated that 10,000 men died on the Guelph side.
Dante mentions the battle in the 10th Canto of the Divine Comedy and describes Arbia’s creek as red because of the blood of the fallen soldiers.
After the battle, the German soldiers in the Senese army used part of their pay to found the Church of San Giorgio in Pantaneto. The Germans had called on Saint George as their battle-cry during the fighting.
*the people from Siena are called “senesi”.
**Senese means “from/of Siena”.