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Le monde de l’itinérance

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Claudia Moatti
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Wolfgang Kaiser
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Christophe Pébarthe

Exils et proscriptions

Reporting by political exiles in Renaissance Italy

Christine Shaw

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1Political exile was not unique to Italy in fifteenth-century Europe, but it is probable that Italy had by far the greatest number of exiles. A conspicuous part of political society, they could play significant roles in shaping relations between states. Consequently, those who were expelled from their home communities would not be dismissed from the minds of those who had ordered that they should leave. Efforts would be made to track and control their movements and activities. One way was to require exiles to go to a specific place and to send reports that they had reached it, and sometimes further reports that they continued to be resident there. It is this practice and the documents to which it gave rise that will be discussed here, with particular reference to Siena, one of the most prolific sources of political exiles in Renaissance Italy.

  • 1 This account of political exile in fifteenth-century Italy is based on my book, The Politics of Ex (...)

2The focus will be on the second half of the fifteenth century, when the Italian state system was dominated by five states: the kingdom of Naples, the duchy of Milan, the republics of Florence and Venice, and the Papal States. There were, however, still many other states and political communities of varying dimensions and degrees of independence, including the republic of Siena. Within the larger states, many subordinate towns and cities maintained a lively political life, even when there might be little effective political power to fight over. Some of the most persistent and bitter political feuds were between factions in such subject towns. It was faction-fighting that gave rise to the largest numbers of exiles, especially when, alongside the men who had been most actively engaged in conflict, their families were expelled or fled to escape persecution. Political violence also produced waves of self-exiles, those who chose to leave, perhaps because they feared they would come under suspicion of sympathizing with the vanquished, sometimes just to avoid being caught up in the conflict against their will. Fifteenth-century Italy was full of exiles, from states and political communities of every size and type of government, from barons exiled from the kingdom of Naples to peasants exiled from small mountain communities because they had supported the losing side in a conflict among the members of a family of minor lords, as well as thousands of exiles from towns and cities1.

3The category of political exiles to be discussed here is those who were subject to sentences of exile imposed by political authorities or by judicial authorities under political instruction. Political exile was the sanction most frequently imposed on the internal enemies of a regime in Renaissance Italy, in principalities as well as republics. Executions for political offences did occur, but if more than a few were executed and especially if the condemned had not been directly involved themselves in the shedding of blood, these could arouse widespread disapproval in that state and in other states. Excessive judicial bloodshed by governments could be seen as a sign not only of vindictiveness but of weakness, of fear, of instability rather than of strength. Imprisoning political opponents was also a much less common way of dealing with them than was exiling them.

4Some political exiles would just be expelled from the territory, without any orders as to where they should go. Alternatively, exiles could be ordered to go to specific places, either within or outside the control of the authority issuing the sentence, or to keep a certain distance from a city or from the borders of a state. Those who were simply expelled from the state’s territory, with no direction as to where they should go, would not normally be asked to report – the system of reporting was used to keep a check on those exiles who had been assigned a place or bounds of exile.

5Not all even of that class of exile would be ordered to report, however, and there was sometimes no obvious logic behind the decision as to which members of a particular group would be ordered to report and which would not. Sentences of political exile were essentially political decisions, and usually they were decided ad hoc by the political authorities with no legal code to guide them, even if the sentences might subsequently be officially declared by the judicial authorities. As a consequence, there was great variation in the sentences imposed – in the period of exile, in whether or not a place of residence was fixed, in the conditions of exile (including stipulations as to reporting) – on different groups of exiles from the same state or community.

6Governments did not rely on reporting by exiles to keep a check on where they were. Again, there were great variations in practice between one state and another, and in how the same state or community acted at different times. Spies might be employed to keep an eye on exiles, discover their plans and report back. Ambassadors and other envoys, even couriers, would be expected to pass on any intelligence on exiles that came their way, or any observations they made themselves. Ordinary citizens, merchants and others travelling and working away from home, might feel it their duty to keep the authorities back home informed of where the exiles were, and what they were doing.

7Governments might also ask friendly states, their neighbours or allies, to keep watch on their exiles and to inform them if the exiles seemed to be plotting. They might ask other governments to warn exiles to behave themselves, or to move them away from border areas, or to detain or expel them. Expecting allies and neighbours to keep a check on exiles could cause problems, especially if the exiles in question had been politically prominent back home. Such men could easily have ties of friendship and interest with powerful individuals and governments in other states. Exiles could get sympathy and help even from governments who were ostensibly friendly to those who had sent them into exile. Arguments that it would be better to treat exiles well and not to drive them to desperation by persecuting them were always to hand.

  • 2 Siena, Archivio di Stato (henceforth ASS), Balia 4, f. 97r-v; ASS, Balia 28, f. 8r-v.
  • 3 ASS, Balia 26, f. 146r. The officials “di Guardia” had responsibility for monitoring and investiga (...)
  • 4 Little work seems to have been done on these officials. For their importance in the duchy of Milan (...)

8Efforts were also made to control the communication of exiles with their family and friends at home. Sometimes it could be ordered that all letters had to be submitted to the authorities. Even if this was not an official requirement, or if attempts were made to bypass the controls, exiles and their contacts could suspect, with good reason, that their correspondence was being intercepted and read. In Siena, officials called officiali delle bullette were sometimes ordered to supervise the correspondence of exiles with friends and family back home, and could be given powers to investigate further anything suspicious they found in the letters they examined2. Their name perhaps derived from seals or stamps to be placed on letters they had checked: regulations in November 1482 forbade receiving any letters from exiles “quam prius non fuerunt bullate solito bullettino per officialis bullettarum si extaret et eo deficiente per notarium officialium custodie”3. In some other towns and cities, officiali delle bullette (or bollette) seem to have been permanent, not occasional as in Siena, and to have had the task of supervising all movements of stranieri, outsiders and non-residents, in and out of the city4. This could include attesting to other governments that exiles had been reporting to them, so officials delle bullette could have had a role simultaneously in the supervision both of the exiles from their own state, and of those from other states.

9It cannot be said that the Sienese government in general was notably more efficient or ambitious than others in attempting to exert control over its citizens and subjects. The city itself had about 15,000 inhabitants, and dominated an extensive territory in southern Tuscany, but the subject towns were small and much of the territory was depopulated and malarial, given over to seasonal grazing for livestock from other areas of Italy. The days when Sienese bankers were among the richest and most enterprising in Europe were long gone; most banking and trading were on a relatively modest scale. Politically, Siena had one of the most “popular” governments in Italy, that is, a government in which large numbers of citizens participated. Following a characteristic pattern of Italian civic government, each board of what was for most of the century the supreme executive body, the Concistoro, consisting of (usually) nine priors, and a Capitano del Popolo, held office for only two months. Appointment to these positions was by sortition, that is, names would be drawn from electoral purses. These purses would be filled with enough name slips to last several years, and each name would appear only once, so several hundred men would have a prospect of taking a seat in the supreme executive committee of the city during that period. An unusual and significant feature of the structure of government in Siena was that all those who had sat even once in the Concistoro would have a seat for life in the major deliberative assembly, the Consiglio del Popolo. Most Italian towns and cities had some deliberative assembly – what was unusual in Siena was that such a large number should have seats in it for life.

  • 5 Summarized in Shaw 2000, 40-53. See also Isaacs 1996, and Shaw 1996-1997.
  • 6 ASS, Concistoro 697, ff. 4r-7v for the ceremony; the list of those who took the oath is at 8r-17v.

10Sienese government was also characterized by the allotment of seats in the Concistoro and other government bodies among the official political factions, the monti. Serious conflicts and feuds between the different monti developed in the 1480s and 1490s, leading to frequent changes of regime5. These gave Siena the unenviable reputation of being one of the most divided and politically turbulent cities in Italy and particularly in the 1480s, of one that produced a great many political exiles. A large proportion of those eligible for political office spent some time in exile during these decades. Over a third, 225 (36 per cent) of the 627 citizens who took an oath imposed on all members of the Consiglio del Popolo in November 1482, were exiled at least once between 1480 and 15006. Other members of the Consiglio del Popolo could not take the oath because they were in exile at the time. Not surprisingly, those who were most prominent politically ran the greatest risk of being exiled. During these two decades, much of the Concistoro’s power was lost to another executive body, the Balia, that was supposed to be an extraordinary, temporary, commission, but which was becoming a permanent and dominant part of the government. Of the 170 men who sat on the Balia at some time during the 1480s and 1490s, 72 (42 per cent) passed some of that period in exile. But the troubles at the end of the century had roots that went back long before, and political exile was by then a familiar expedient to the Sienese.

  • 7 ASS, Concistoro 490, ff. 44v-45r. Similar conditions were imposed on a further forty men who were (...)

11Requirements to report could be imposed on whole groups of exiles, or only on some individuals among a group. They could be imposed on those who were being ordered to go to a place in Sienese territory, or to a location in another state. Usually, the exile was ordered to go to the place assigned to him within a specified time, often only a matter of days, and then to have confirmation of his arrival there sent back to the government. A group of sixteen men exiled on 27 October 1447, for example, were instructed “quod sub pena capitis debeant exisse civitate Senarum per totam diem crastinam et ire et se conferre personaliter” to the places assigned to them. Those whose assigned locations were within twenty-five miles were to arrive there by 30 October, and those sent further away were given until 1 November. They were to have the officials of their places of exile attest their arrival, and to report daily to them, “de qua presentatione fiat scriptura cum testibus”7.

  • 8 ASS, Balia 502, 15: Giovanni dei Guidoni, podestà of Foligno, 17 July 1480, Foligno.
  • 9 See, for example, attestations from the podestà of Ancona (ASS, Concistoro 2043, 96, 15 July 1480) (...)
  • 10 See, for example, instructions to men exiled on 12 July 1482 to report to the officials, priest, c (...)

12It was not enough for the exile himself to write a letter – there were, after all, no postmarks, for example, to prove that what he said of his whereabouts would be true. Nor was it sufficient to have an ordinary notary draw up a document confirming that he was where he said he was. He had to get some political or judicial authority to write on his behalf. At least some exiles took with them documents recording what was required of them that they showed. Thus, the podestà of Foligno in July 1480 certified to the Sienese authorities that “esse presentato da noi Ser Valeriano di Tome Vannini vostro ciptadino, per vigore de una certa vostra scripta facta per Ser Mino Tricerchio, notario dello vostro officio della Balia, et esse presentato nel termine che la prefata scriptura dice”8. Whether this was the written notification of the sentence given to the exile when he was told of his sentence or a document addressed to the authorities of his place of exile is not clear. A wide range of authorities could be approached to send the attestation. Judicial officials, such as a podestà, were frequently chosen, or the officials delle bullette. The local civic government, the equivalent of the Concistoro of Siena, or, in a subject town, the local representative of the central government, such as the vicar or the captain, were frequently used too9. If the place to which he had been sent was small, and no lay figure of authority was available, the exile (at least if he was in Sienese territory) could turn to a local priest, even a bishop, to send the letter10. Those exiles ordered to send confirmation of their arrival at their assigned confines, would generally be required to report regularly to the authorities as well – often, as with those exiled in October 1447, once a day, although it could be less frequently. Then, every so often, usually once a month, the exile would have to ask the authorities to write a letter to the Sienese government, the Concistoro or Balia, stating whether he had reported as he should.

  • 11 Shaw 2001, 13; the letter is reproduced on p. 30.
  • 12 ASS, Concistoro 2045, 2.

13A typical example of the form such letters took is that written by Pandolfo Petrucci, on 3 November 1481. He would become dominant in Siena, virtually the signore, the de facto lord, of the city in the early sixteenth century. At the time he wrote the letter, however, he was a young man who had just spent his entire childhood in exile with his father (who had been exiled in 1456 and only allowed to return to Siena in 1480), and he would be exiled again, this time on his own account, a year or so later11. In November 1481, he was holding a position as the vicar of a village in Sienese territory, Batignano, and an exile was appearing before him every day. (This kind of reversal of fortune was not unusual in Siena in the 1480s.) After a formal opening salutation the letter reads: “Queste solo per fare fede a Vostre Magnifici Signori come Pavolo di Galgano di Matheo di Domenico confinato qua in Batignano si he presentato dinanti il corte nostra ogni dì, de dì tre d’ottobre per fino in questo dì tre di novembre, una volta el dì, et così facciamo fede”12.

  • 13 ‘virtuoso et persona costumata’: ASS, Balia 503, 64: Priors of Viterbo, 13 Jan. 1481.

14This was the standard format and style of the letters – a straightforward certification that the exile had put in an appearance once a day, or however often he was required to do so, over a given period. Sometimes a comment would be added, commending the exile’s behaviour, as when the Priors of Viterbo, attesting that Daniele Vieri was observing the conditions imposed upon him, described him as virtuous and well-behaved13. Any absences, and any explanation the exile had given for those absences, would be notified.

  • 14 ASS, Balia 24, f. 80r (29 June 1481).
  • 15 ASS, Balia 506, 58: Leonardo Bellanti, 27 Nov. 1482, Lucca.
  • 16 ASS, Balia 28, f. 32v.
  • 17 ASS, Concistoro 2057, 28: Evangelista Salvi, 11 Jan. 1484(5), Venice.

15Instructions to officials in Sienese territory not to demand payment for providing these attestations of the exiles’ obedience14, obviously imply that they sometimes did demand payment for them. Presumably payment would have to be made to the officials of other states: it is difficult to imagine them providing such a service for free. The podestà of Lucca in November 1482 demanded five soldi a day and a florin for providing the attestation, but the exile who was being charged this, Leonardo Bellanti, considered it extortionate, and switched to reporting to the officials of the bullette instead15. It was apparently the responsibility of the exiles to find a way of sending the attestations, and in any case, they would have to pay for it. Some recognition of the difficulties that private individuals might have in sending letters on a regular basis was implied by the instructions given to a group of men sentenced on 24 April 1483. All were to report at least once a day; those exiled in Sienese territory were to send attestations every month; those exiled outside Sienese territory, within 100 miles of the city of Siena, were to send them once every two months, and those ordered further away once every three months16. Even once every three months would be too great an expense, one exile who had been ordered to go over the Appenines in 1484 pleaded, asking to be excused from this requirement17.

  • 18 See, for example, the attestations from the Officiale delle Bullette of Lodi for Antonio di Goro d (...)
  • 19 ASS, Concistoro 555, f. 12r.
  • 20 ASS, Balia 29, f. 3r.

16In general, no direction was given as to how long the exile was expected to continue to report regularly. The group sentenced on 24 April 1483 were instructed to carry on for two years. If, when no period was prescribed, there was an understanding that exiles should report throughout the term of their sentence, it is probable that not many did. Some few are known to have continued to report for several years. One man, Antonio del Catasta, sentenced to sixteen years’ exile in September 1456, persisted for at least eight years, frequently sending several copies of the attestation to ensure one arrived safely18. The surviving slips of paper bearing attestations are the only evidence available of the extent to which exiles obeyed orders to report. For all the interest the Sienese took in tracking their political exiles, there is little sign of consistent efforts to keep updated records of where they were. In 1459 the Concistoro ordered their notary to compile a “librettum in quo scribantur omnes confinati et loca ubi sunt deputati et tempus ad significandum eorum presentationes. Et post predicta continue ponantur presentationes et significatur fiende prout tenentur ita quod videatur continue eorum presentationes”19. No such register, compiled then or at any other time in Siena, has survived. Some attempt was made in June 1483 to chase up those exiles who had not yet sent attestations; they were to be challenged to explain themselves and give reasons why they should not fall under the penalties of those who failed to observe the bounds of exile set for them20. It is possible that attestations were originally kept in separate files, so that checks could have been made easily, but the files of correspondence to the Concistoro and Balia, which now include all the attestations, were reorganized by archivists and no evidence survives that there was once a separate series.

  • 21 Shaw 2002, 13-32.

17To a political historian, these little letters have a significance far beyond their routine content – in fact, it is their very routine nature that is most significant. They demonstrate attempts by a fifteenth-century government to control their citizens beyond the borders of the state, even when they had been expelled from the political community. They are also evidence of the routine co-operation of government officials and legal authorities in monitoring the activities of political exiles of other states, as an administrative, not a political, act. There is no evidence that the officials sending the attestations to Siena were acting on instructions from their own governments (although governments could enter into reciprocal agreements to control or expel each other’s exiles). Nor is there any evidence that when the Sienese government sent an exile to other states and required them to report, they saw any reason to inform the government of the state where he was directed to go, or to alert the local authorities there that he was coming. It was simply expected that the authorities would accept as a matter of course that an exile would be turning up regularly, and that they would agree to keep a record of his appearances. This is one way in which we can perceive a shared understanding in fifteenth-century Italy of how political society worked, for all the multiplicity of states and variety of forms of government. The little business-like letters testify to how political exiles were a significant part of the networks linking the disparate polities and regions of Italy together21.

Literaturverzeichnis

BIBLIOGRAPHY REFERENCES

Heers, J. (1995): L’exil, la vie politique et la société, Paris.

Isaacs, A. K. (1996): “Cardinali e “spalagrembi”. Sulla vita politica a Siena fra il 1480 e il 1487”, La Toscana al tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico. Politica, economia, cultura, arte, 3, 1013-50.

Leverotti, F. (1997): “Gli officiali del ducato sforzesco”, Gli officiali negli Stati italiani del Quattrocento (Pisa, 1997) (Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Classe di Lettere e Filosofia, Ser. 4, Quaderni, 1), 17-77.

Navarrini, R. (1984): “L’ufficio delle bollette e il controllo sanitario a Mantova nei secoli XV-XVII”, Civiltà Mantovana, n.s. 2, 11-27.

Starn, R. (1982): Contrary Commonwealth: The Theme of Exile in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, Berkeley.

Shaw, C. (1996-1997): “Politics and institutional innovation in Siena 1480-1498”, Bullettino senese di storia patria, 103, 9-102, 104, 194-307.

— (2000): The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy, Cambridge.

— (2001): L’ascesa al potere di Pandolfo Petrucci il Magnifico, signore di Siena (1487-1498), Siena.

— (2002): “Ce que révèle l’exil politique sur les relations entre les états italiens”, Laboratoire italien: Politique et société, 3, 13-32.

Anmerkungen

1 This account of political exile in fifteenth-century Italy is based on my book, The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy. For other general accounts of political exile in medieval and Renaissance Italy, see Heers 1995, and Starn 1982.

2 Siena, Archivio di Stato (henceforth ASS), Balia 4, f. 97r-v; ASS, Balia 28, f. 8r-v.

3 ASS, Balia 26, f. 146r. The officials “di Guardia” had responsibility for monitoring and investigating political disaffection and public disorder.

4 Little work seems to have been done on these officials. For their importance in the duchy of Milan, see Leverotti 1997, 42-3. I have not seen Navarrini 1984, 11-27. None of the records of this office appear to have survived in Siena.

5 Summarized in Shaw 2000, 40-53. See also Isaacs 1996, and Shaw 1996-1997.

6 ASS, Concistoro 697, ff. 4r-7v for the ceremony; the list of those who took the oath is at 8r-17v.

7 ASS, Concistoro 490, ff. 44v-45r. Similar conditions were imposed on a further forty men who were exiled the next day (ASS, ff. 46r-v).

8 ASS, Balia 502, 15: Giovanni dei Guidoni, podestà of Foligno, 17 July 1480, Foligno.

9 See, for example, attestations from the podestà of Ancona (ASS, Concistoro 2043, 96, 15 July 1480); the Priors and camerlengo of San Cosme, a Sienese subject town (ASS, Balia 502, 30, 5 Sept. 1480); the Priors of Viterbo (ASS, 35, 13 Sept. 1480); the Officiali delle Bullette of Bologna (Balia 510, 61: Notary of the Officiali delle Bullette ‘et presentationum forensium’, 20 May 1483); and the vicar of Radicondoli, another Sienese subject town (ASS, 53, 16 May 1483).

10 See, for example, instructions to men exiled on 12 July 1482 to report to the officials, priest, camerlengo or sindaco of their place of exile (ASS, Balia 26, ff. 36v-38v); for attestation by a bishop, see Balia 532, 18: Bishop of Pienza, 21 Aug. 1487, Monasterio di S. Antimo.

11 Shaw 2001, 13; the letter is reproduced on p. 30.

12 ASS, Concistoro 2045, 2.

13 ‘virtuoso et persona costumata’: ASS, Balia 503, 64: Priors of Viterbo, 13 Jan. 1481.

14 ASS, Balia 24, f. 80r (29 June 1481).

15 ASS, Balia 506, 58: Leonardo Bellanti, 27 Nov. 1482, Lucca.

16 ASS, Balia 28, f. 32v.

17 ASS, Concistoro 2057, 28: Evangelista Salvi, 11 Jan. 1484(5), Venice.

18 See, for example, the attestations from the Officiale delle Bullette of Lodi for Antonio di Goro del Catasta for January to December 1459 (ASS, Balia 495, 83-7, 89-97, 99).

19 ASS, Concistoro 555, f. 12r.

20 ASS, Balia 29, f. 3r.

21 Shaw 2002, 13-32.

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