The Italian Wars Portal


The Battle of Pavia by unknown Flemish artist (16th century).

The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Italian Wars or the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars or the Renaissance Wars, were a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559 that involved, at various times, most of the city-states of Italy, the Papal States, the Republic of Venice, most of the major states of Western Europe (France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and England), as well as the Ottoman Empire. Originally arising from dynastic disputes over the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples, the wars rapidly became a general struggle for power and territory among their various participants, and were marked with an increasing number of alliances, counter-alliances, and betrayals.

Relying on brilliant diplomacy as well as on the military commanders and techniques forged in the war against Granada, King Ferdinand was chiefly responsible for making Spain into a major European power. The main opponent was France, both along the frontiers that separated the two states and also in Italy, where Aragón's traditional interests were threatened by French efforts to dominate the peninsula. The struggle began with the successful campaign of 1494 to 1498 in southern Italy and continued intermittently for two decades, until Ferdinand’s death. By then Spain had won control of southern Italy, all Navarre south of the Pyrenees, and farther north, the regions of Cerdagne and Roussillon. Ferdinand's anti-French strategy was continued in a series of wars (1521–1526, 1526–1530, 1536–1538, 1542–1546, 1551–1559) that made Spain a dominant power in northern as well as southern Italy.

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Swiss mercenaries and landsknechts engaged in a push of pike
The Battle of Ceresole was an encounter between a French army and the combined forces of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire during the Italian War of 1542–46. The lengthy engagement, which historian Bert Hall characterized as "marvelously confused", took place on April 11, 1544, outside the village of Ceresole d'Alba in the Piedmont region of Italy; the French, under François de Bourbon, Count of Enghien, defeated the Spanish-Imperial army of Alfonso d'Avalos d'Aquino, Marquis del Vasto. Despite having inflicted substantial casualties on the Imperial troops, the French subsequently failed to exploit their victory by taking Milan.

Enghien and d'Avalos had arranged their armies along two parallel ridges; because of the topography of the battlefield, many of the individual actions of the battle were uncoordinated with one another. The battle opened with several hours of skirmishing between opposing bands of arquebusiers and an ineffectual artillery exchange, after which d'Avalos ordered a general advance. In the center, Imperial landsknechts clashed with French and Swiss infantry, suffering enormous casualties. In the southern part of the battlefield, Italian infantry in Imperial service were harried by French cavalry attacks and withdrew after learning that the Imperial troops of the center had been defeated. In the north, meanwhile, the French infantry line crumbled, and Enghien led a series of ineffectual and costly cavalry charges against Spanish and German infantry before the latter were forced to surrender by the arrival of the victorious Swiss and French infantry from the center.

Ceresole was one of the few pitched battles during the latter half of the Italian Wars. Known among military historians chiefly for the "great slaughter" that occurred when columns of intermingled arquebusiers and pikemen met in the center, it also demonstrates the continuing role of traditional heavy cavalry on a battlefield largely dominated by the emerging pike and shot infantry.

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Instead of the peace and tranquillity that many hoped must result from it, the truce gave rise to endless calamities among the Italians and even bloodier and more devastating wars than in the past. For although there had already been, for fourteen years in Italy, so many wars and so many changes of state, yet because these things often ended without bloodshed, or else the killings took place, for the most part, amongst the barbarians themselves, the people had suffered less than the princes. But now the door opening to new discords in the future, there followed throughout Italy, and against the Italians themselves, the cruelest accidents, endless murders, sacking and destruction of many cities and towns, military licentiousness no less pernicious to their friends than to their enemies, religion violated, and holy things trampled under foot with less reverence and respect than for profane things.

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The Death of Gaston de Foix in the Battle of Ravenna.jpg

The Death of Gaston de Foix in the Battle of Ravenna on 11 April 1512. Oil on canvas by Ary Scheffer, c. 1824.

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Louis XII
Louis XII the Father of the People (French: Louis XII le Père du Peuple) (June 27, 1462–January 1, 1515) was King of France from 1498 to January 1, 1515. In an attempt to make good his claim to the duchy of Milan, Louis led several invasions of Italy. He successfully secured Milan in 1499 from his enemy Ludovico Sforza, and it remained a French stronghold until 1511, when Pope Julius II formed the Holy League to oppose the French ambition in Italy. The French were eventually driven from Milan by the Swiss in 1513. Louis also pursued Charles VIII's claim to the kingdom of Naples with Ferdinand II, King of Aragon. Each power took a partition of this kingdom during the Treaty of Granada (1500), but were eventually at war over the partitioning, and by 1504 France had lost its share of Naples.

Major topics

Italian War of 1494–98
Battle of Seminara
Battle of Fornovo
Italian War of 1499–1504
Battle of Ruvo
Battle of Cerignola
Battle of Garigliano
Featured article War of the League of Cambrai
Battle of Agnadello
Siege of Padua
Battle of Ravenna
Battle of Novara
Battle of Flodden Field
Battle of Marignano
War of Urbino
Featured article Italian War of 1521–26
Featured article Battle of Bicocca
Battle of the Sesia (1524)
Italian campaign of 1524–25
Battle of Pavia
War of the League of Cognac
Sack of Rome
Siege of Florence
Battle of Gavinana
Italian War of 1536–38
Featured article Italian War of 1542–46
Siege of Nice
Featured article Battle of Ceresole
Siege of St. Dizier
First Siege of Boulogne
Second Siege of Boulogne
Battle of the Solent
A-Class article Battle of Bonchurch
Italian War of 1551–59
Battle of Marciano
Battle of Renty
Battle of St. Quentin
Battle of Gravelines
Religious leaders
Pope Julius II
Pope Leo X
Pope Clement VII
Thomas Wolsey
Martin Luther
National leaders
Henry VIII of England
Andrea Gritti
Ludovico Sforza
Maximilian Sforza
Francesco II Sforza
Charles VIII of France
Louis XII of France
Francis I of France
Henry II of France
Ferdinand I of Spain
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Philip II of Spain
Military leaders
Niccolò di Pitigliano
Bartolomeo d'Alviano
Prospero Colonna
Giovanni dalle Bande Nere
Francesco Ferruccio
Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard
Gian Giacomo Trivulzio
Gaston de Foix
Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
Guillaume Gouffier, seigneur de Bonnivet
Anne de Montmorency
Odet of Foix, Viscount of Lautrec
Piero Strozzi
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba
Fernando d'Avalos
Georg von Frundsberg
Francesco Guicciardini
Leonardo da Vinci
Armed forcesOther topics
Types of units
Pike and shot
Mercenary groups
Black Bands
Swiss mercenaries

Franco-Ottoman alliance

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