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Comunicación política y diplomacia en la Baja Edad Media

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Néstor Vigil Montes

Multilayered networks: the political geography of Italian diplomacy in the early Renaissance (1350-1520 ca.)

Isabella Lazzarini

Résumé

As recent research has convincingly argued, late medieval and early Renaissance Italian diplomacy was a flexible political activity in which a full range of dynamics until now mostly considered separately – negotiation, information-gathering, representation, and communication – interacted in a process intimately linked to political and cultural transformations of power and authority. A map of diplomacy centred on the Italian peninsula between 1350 and 1520 results in a very complex picture of political protagonists and diplomatic features. International and infra-national, formal and informal political actors as well as territorial and non-territorial powers contributed to a geography of diplomacy which was both multilayered and multifaceted, everything but rigid. Finally, no straight or rigid boundaries separated what historians later defined as ‘diplomacy’ or ‘politics’, or ‘international’ or ‘internal’ politics. This paper aims at offering a survey of these different protagonists and their dynamics, and how the building of a cluster of diplomatic and political alliances and networks slowly produced both a hierarchy of polities and powers, and a grammar for their interactions.

Texte intégral

  • 1 VON REUMONT, 1857; DE MAULDE LA CLAVIERE, 1892 ; SCHAUBE, 1889.
  • 2 FEBVRE, 1954; SENATORE, 1994; PEQUIGNOT, 2012; LAZZARINI, 2012; MOEGLIN, PEQUIGNOT, 2017.
  • 3 LAZZARINI, 2015: this paper relies on the content of my book, to which I refer for more details and (...)

1Since the nineteenth century, Renaissance Italy has been on the front line of diplomatic research, mainly providing excellent case-studies for the theory associating the beginnings of permanent diplomacy and the emergence of resident ambassadors with the process of state-building1. More than a century later, however, the most recent research is moving away from diplomacy as an institutional tool of power, and is increasingly looking at it as a social and cultural practice that enabled both Europeans and non-Europeans to engage with each other in formal and informal, state and non-state contexts, through the elaboration of common languages, shared practices of communication, and political cultures2. In this sense, I will here consider diplomacy as a flexible political activity in which a full range of dynamics until now mostly considered separately—negotiation, information-gathering, representation, and communication—interacted in a process intimately linked to political and cultural transformations of power and authority. Gathering all the facets of this process under the banner of a hypothetical and teleological building of a ‘modern state’ is no longer necessary, and can be misleading3.

  • 4 LAZZARINI, 2003; THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE STATE, 2012; SOMAINI, 2013.

2The emergence of diplomacy in Italy as a flexible political activity is grounded on some important features of the Italian peninsular system, which it is well to introduce at the outset. The first is the political framework. The Italian peninsula in the late Middle Ages and early modern age provided a distinctive political environment, in presenting a wide assortment of political entities that varied greatly in size, form, and power. In a long Quattrocento that stretches roughly from 1350 to 1520, what we call ‘Italy’ was composed of a mosaic of polities and powers resulting from the slow concentration and definition of the much more fragmented landscape of the aftermath of the Hohenstaufen era. In the north were a number of territorial states of different size and power, born from the strongest among the communal cities, together with a few lay and ecclesiastical feudal principalities. In the centre lay the Papal States, and in the south were the two kingdoms of Sicily and Naples, temporarily unified under the personal rule of Alfonso of Aragon between 1442 and 1458. Minor lords, republics, and communities completed the picture. While the political independence and agency of all these powers was actually very broad, they were formally limited, as they were still subject to the more or less effective sovereign authority of the Empire (in the centre–north of the peninsula) and the Papacy (in the centre–south). This mosaic of territories and powers featured an even wider array of institutional and constitutional experiments. The more formal states included republics (large and small, with or without a maritime empire: Florence, Lucca, Siena, Genoa, Venice); principalities centred on episcopal and communal cities (such as the duchies of Milan and Ferrara and the marquisate of Mantua), and others based on feudal or ecclesiastical lordships (such as the duchy of Savoy, the marquisate of Monferrato, or the prince-bishops of Trent and Aquileia); together with the very peculiar papal monarchy, and the southern kingdoms. Politics was not only a matter for polities with a legally defined authority, however, but also for all those powers, communities, and individuals that controlled a fraction of political agency and gave expression to a political culture. The peninsular political system was therefore not reduced simply to duchies, kingdoms, republics; that is, to the formal framework of authority and power: it was the result of all the different political forces mutually interacting in complex patterns of conflict and negotiation. This constellation of polities and powers was, finally, closely connected by dynastic links and economic and political interests to a broader European and Mediterranean scenario4.

3Therefore, a map of diplomacy centred on the Italian peninsula between 1350 and 1520 results in a very complex picture of political protagonists and diplomatic features. International and infra-national, formal and informal political actors as well as territorial and non-territorial powers contributed to a geography of diplomacy which was both multilayered and multifaceted, everything but rigid. Finally, no straight or rigid boundaries separated what historians later defined as ‘diplomacy’ or ‘politics’, or ‘international’ or ‘internal’ politics. All these political actors and negotiation levels in fact intertwined and overlapped: the final picture needs to be explored step by step, but should be imagined as a whole.

4My paper will deal with all these political actors and negotiation levels intertwining and overlapping in a long Quattrocento that stretches roughly from 1350 to 1520 by taking into account firstly the timescale of the changing diplomatic interactions, and secondly their many protagonists.

1. Timescale

5Time-scale is highly significant in the processes of definition of political identities and of drawing geopolitical boundaries. It is worth identifying at this point the key moments and events in the historical process of the determination of the nature and boundaries of the Italian sub-system within the European and extra-European system of powers. This long and complex process of openings and closings, and of multilayered and conflicting interactions, had many phases and two major turning-points (the years around 1400, and the 1490s) which stand out for the increased density, acceleration, and diffusion of patterns and models of diplomatic change.

  • 5 ZUTSHI, 2000; PARTNER, 1972; CAROCCI, 2012.
  • 6 STORIA DELLA CHIESA XIV/1, 1967; BLACK, A., 1998; MILLET, 2009; FIRENZE E IL CONCILIO DEL 1439, 199 (...)
  • 7 LAZZARINI, 2011; SOMAINI, 2007.

6The papal move to Avignon (between 1309 and 1376, and then again during the Schism, between 1378 and 1403) imposed a new context and possibly new practices on negotiations with the curia for Italian signori and communes, and redefined both the international and the Italian profile of the Church, clearly polarizing the two5. Meanwhile, the drive towards territorial expansion started to become systematic in the final years of the fourteenth century, to culminate in the first decades of the fifteenth century by involving almost every major Italian political actor. On the other hand, the Conciliar era (Constance 1414–18, and Basle 1431–8) saw the development of a ‘nation’-based network of high-level diplomatic interactions and political representation, and the opening of a season of Italian-based international councils and diets (Ferrara–Florence, 1435/8–9, Mantua 1459–60)6. As a side-effect of such a redefining of the European and extra-European network of contacts, the Italian principalities broadened their dynastic strategies to include Western and Eastern European dynasties, their rulers at the same time gradually becoming imperial princes themselves7.

  • 8 Lorenzo de’ Medici to Giovanni Lanfredini, Florence, 6 June 1489, edited in LETTERE DI LORENZO DE M (...)
  • 9 WATTS, 2009: 287.

7Within the framework of the Italian League (1455), and its renewals, and partially as a consequence of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the second half of the fifteenth century saw at first a move towards a more deliberate and determined closure against ‘external’ pressures and influences. These agreements concretely monitored external contacts and discouraged alliances, and, more theoretically, elaborated and diffused an innovative idea of ‘Italy’ as a political whole, distinct in culture, political attitudes, and social customs from both the ‘Oltramontani’ (i.e. the Europeans) and the ‘Barbarians’ (i.e. the Muslims)8. The process was two-sided: political boundaries began to settle and become less permeable’9. This evolution was not painless: the system was troubled by many small conflicts and many traumas, the diplomatic arena became more selective, and authority concentrated within fewer hands.

  • 10 LES GUERRES D’ITALIE. HISTOIRE, 2002; LES GUERRES D’ITALIE. DES BATAILLES, 2003; THE ITALIAN WARS, (...)
  • 11 QUOTED IN CATALANO, 1956: 478.
  • 12 ANNALI VENETI, 1843-4: 328-9 ; THE FRENCH DESCENT, 1995.

8The broadened external political scenery, and the extremely dense tissue of internal and external Italian dynamics, imposed towards the end of the century an almost sudden – and involuntary – reopening of Italy: and under unpropitious conditions10. In 1495 Ludovico Sforza was fully aware of the novelty—and the potential danger for the Italian states—of such a change: the French armies had conquered the Kingdom of Naples with unprecedented ease, and he desperately tried to restore the old way by proposing—unsuccessfully—to Venice the formation of a ‘new league among Italian princes only’11. Europe was focusing once again on Italy, and a transitional and highly experimental period painfully opened the way to profound constitutional and political change. As Malipiero disconsolately stated, ‘we did not want to believe in the French descent, and now they are here, and we do not know what to do’12.

2. Identities

  • 13 PLÖGER, 2005; MARINESCU, 1959.
  • 14 CASTELNUOVO, 1994.
  • 15 STORIA DI VENEZIA, III, 1997; SHAW, 2012.
  • 16 BELLABARBA, 2012; GLI ANGIO, 2006.
  • 17 PRODI, 1982; CAROCCI, 2012; CHITTOLINI, 2012.

9Among the protagonists of ‘Italian’ diplomacy, a core group will include the Italian powers and polities, then open to the Christian West and finally comprise the Mediterranean, the Near East and the Levant. However, we need to emphasize the inadequacy of easy political etiquettes as ‘France’ or ‘Empire’ or, of course, ‘Italy’. None of these identifications was plainly correct, as none of these identities was unambiguous: contemporaries adopted different criteria in including or excluding states and dominions from particular circles or networks, and this has implications for what can be considered ‘Italian’. From the perspective of London or Bruges, fifteenth century Sicily and Naples belonged to the Iberian and Aragonese cluster of kingdoms and counties13. From France, Savoy looked for quite a long time like a principality whose official language was French and whose princes intermarried with the French royal family14. Venice and Genoa were Mediterranean and maritime empires as well as – if not even more than – Italian powers. Venice was never part of the Western Empire, while the Genoese recurrent tendency towards foreign protection – Milanese or French, Angevin or Aragonese – makes it difficult to classify the Ligurian city regularly as both independent and ‘Italian’15. Ecclesiastical principalities like Trent or Brixen thought of themselves as imperial lands, and some of the Piedmontese cities under intermittent Franco-Angevin rule were closer to Provence than to Lombardy.16 And finally, was the Papacy an Italian power?17 On the other hand, as we will see, even non-Italian and non-European counterparts were not easily labelled as French or German, Ottomans or Arabs. The map of diplomacy was by far a different one from what it would become, and much less familiar.

3. Italy

10In the mid-fifteenth century awareness of being part of different geopolitical networks was widespread: the peninsular diplomatic game knowingly involved many actors, now worth taking into account one by one.

  • 18 Antonio da Trezzo to Francesco Sforza, Ferrara, 29 Apr. 1453, quoted in MARGAROLI, 1989: 533.
  • 19 ILARDI, 1956; TENENTI, 1987; MARGAROLI, 1989; FUBINI, 2003.
  • 20 DEI, 1985, quoted in FERENTE, 2013: 10-11.

11Statesmen in the mid-fifteenth century were expected to be experienced in the ‘cose de Italia’: Francesco Sforza was ‘very prudent, and wise, and expert in the things (cose) of Italy’, and in 1451 Simone da Spoleto, the Milanese ambassador in Florence, reputed the Venetians wiser than King Alfonso the Magnanimous of Aragon because ‘they have a better understanding of the matters (pratiche) of Italy’18. ‘Italia’ was then a political space: classical culture provided Biondo Flavio with a strong framework for ordering historical change when he composed his deeply innovative Italia illustrata (1453), and the awareness of belonging to a common space – possibly more recognizable by comparison with others than by its nature – in the fifteenth century was growing among the Italian political elites, statesmen, ambassadors, princes, and prelates19. It did not conceal, however, its inner multiplicity: when the time came for concrete negotiation, Italy broke down into its basic components, and Fiorentini, Venitiani, Sienesi, el marchese de Mantoa or Sforza strongly re-emerged and polarized the political discourse20.

  • 21 MATTINGLY, 1955; GRUBB, 1991; ISAACS, 1994;
  • 22 MATTINGLY, 1937; QUELLER, 1967; FUBINI, 2000 ; LAZZARINI, 2015: 31-48.

12From the second half of the fourteenth century almost every autonomous polity – from the formally recognised ones (such as Milan or Florence, or the kingdoms of Sicily citra et ultra Pharum) to lords, alpine communities, and smaller cities – expressed at some stage a diplomatic agency formally defined and clearly recognizable. The flexibility imposed by the slow process of channelling intra-peninsular relationships towards a multilayered system of treaties, and partial and general leagues, through almost continuous negotiations, opened up to a great number of actors a variable and potentially endless diplomatic arena21. The intensity, regularity, and duration of the diplomatic assignments of the ambassadors sent by all these polities were different, and the extent of their mandate—as well as their actual influence—varied greatly case by case22. From the end of the fourteenth century, however, they all increasingly, and more and more regularly, gathered at least at the central points of the system, which, apart from the seats of the papal curia and the Conciliar cities, came to include Venice, the Neapolitan court, and Milan. Florence was less regularly frequented, and other courts or cities – such as Mantua, Ferrara, Monferrato, or Siena – normally hosted some ambassadors or representatives of other powers for shorter periods or specific reasons, or on their way to somewhere else. No linear and unambiguous pattern, though, is to be expected until at least the very end of the fifteenth century; moreover, special minor events increased the occasional centrality of minor cities.

  • 23 LAZZARINI, 2011; SHAW, 2007a; FLETCHER, 2015.

13The last two decades of the fifteenth century saw a partial changing of the scenery. The tougher rules of competition and the disciplining process triggered by some authoritative centres at the expense of others transformed the hierarchies of negotiation, reducing the protagonists in the diplomatic dialogue to a closed circle of major powers mostly gathered in certain key capital cities (Rome and Venice were pre-eminent, followed by Milan and intermittently by Naples and Florence)23.

4. Europe

14A complementary aspect of such a process was the opening of the Italian diplomatic arena to the rest of Europe. From the 1480s contacts and interferences between Europe and Italy deepened and became regular and reciprocal. Nevertheless, the intermittent contacts and influences between the European powers and Italy were of course much older, and in some cases more substantial.

  • 24 TITONE 2012; SENATORE, 2012; SCHENA, 2012.
  • 25 ABULAFIA, 1997; L’ÉTAT ANGEVIN, 1998.

15At least one of the Italian polities, the Kingdom of Sicily, had had close links with foreign dynasties since its very beginning, in 1130. In particular, from 1266 the Angevin princes and the Aragonese kings and their multilayered relations with the southern Kingdom of Sicily in its two separate branches represent a highly significant example of the difficulty of establishing rigid boundaries between and identities for supposedly distinct systems of diplomatic interactions on the basis of later political maps. Moreover, both the Angevins of Naples and the Sicilian Aragonese kings were cadet branches of their respective royal dynasties, with whom they maintained either acceptable or difficult relations, according to circumstances24. They were rulers suspended between different systems of powers, cultures, and languages: with their relatives the kings of France, or count-kings of Aragon, Valencia, and Barcelona, they maintained diplomatic relationships interwined with dynastic ties, and added to formal diplomatic embassies a more than usually dense network of family- and client- related contacts. This context sometimes generated unconventional situations: the great Mediterranean isles of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, even if for longer or shorter periods ruled by the same dynasty as Naples, almost disappeared from the Italian diplomatic map25.

  • 26 PIBIRI, 2011.
  • 27 LA COUR DE BOURGOGNE, 2013.
  • 28 SHAW, 2012.
  • 29 GUELFI E GHIBELLINI, 2005; FERENTE, 2013; MARGOLIS, 2016.
  • 30 DE VINCENTIIS, 2001; NEGOTIATIONS DIPLOMATIQUES, 1859.

16With the exception of the Aragonese- and Angevin-ruled southern kingdoms, the most privileged targets for formal embassies were both the Franco-Angevin and the imperial regions, even though different phases, channels, and degrees of intensity regulated these multiple interactions on both sides. The counts, then dukes, of Savoy swung – often dangerously – with both the kings and the princes of France, thanks partly to their dynastic relations26. The dukes of Burgundy and the cities of the Low Countries – halfway between France and the Empire – were firstly crucial economic partners for the mercantile and financial Italian elites, and became increasingly important as potential political allies in the second half of the fifteenth century, during the reign of Charles the Bold27. A whole communication would be necessary to address the extremely complex relationships between Genoa, the kings of France, and the princes of Anjou: the city’s habit of intermittently submitting itself to the Valois–Anjou represented a standard feature of the Italian political scene, at least from 1311 to 1528, even though it alternated with periods in which the Genoese elites monopolized the government, or the city submitted to other foreign rulers28. On the other hand, the Guelph–Angevin connection was intermittently centred on certain key points (Asti, Genoa, Ferrara, Florence), catalysed in the fourteenth and early decades of the fifteenth century by Naples, and linked to the condottieri bracceschi and their powerful mercenary army. During the long Quattrocento it spanned the peninsula and generated a flux of diplomatic agents and a network of open and secret contacts, at the same time confronting the increasingly powerful and settled alliance between the Sforza dukes, the Medici regime, and the Aragonese kings of Naples29. Florence, finally, was consistently part of this Guelph–Angevin connection from the second half of the thirteenth century; but Anjou did not automatically mean France, and economic and financial interests, like all the links between the Florentine companies and the kingdom of France, did not automatically trigger political alliances, even though they had to be carefully taken into account in every move30.

  • 31 BLACK, J., 2010.
  • 32 FAVRAU-LILIE, 2000; SOMAINI, 2007; GILLI, 2010.
  • 33 RUBINSTEIN, 1957; VARANINI, 1997; FUBINI, 2009b [2003].
  • 34 PIRCHAN, 1930; MAXIMILIAN I., 2011.
  • 35 JUCKER, 2004.
  • 36 FICHTER, 1976 ; ANTENHOFER, 2007; NOLTE, 2005; LUTTER, 1998.

17The signori of the Po plain maintained not always peaceful relationships with the Empire, or rather with the emperors and/or the candidates to the imperial crown. In the fourteenth century they needed an investiture as imperial vicars to strengthen their grasp over their cities: in 1395 Gian Galeazzo Visconti even succeeded in becoming an imperial prince thanks to a controversial ducal investiture regarding Milan31. This first concession of a princely title, followed by similar investitures in favour of the Gonzaga (marquises of Mantua in 1433) and the Este (dukes of Modena and Reggio in 1461), modified the institutional identity of the Italian lords, and multiplied the ‘German’ princes by admitting new ‘Italian’ members to the imperial diets32. The northern lords were not the only ones to look to the Empire for legitimacy. Both Florence and Venice asked for and obtained an unusual title as collective imperial vicars at the beginning of the fifteenth century, in concert with the crucial annexations of Pisa and Padua. Moreover, Venice had intensive dealings with the Empire along its eastern border at the end of both the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries33. The imperial court was therefore one of the most regular destinations for formal ambassadors and informal agents. Furthermore, despite the undeniable loss of incisiveness and focus of imperial activity in Italy if compared to the thirteenth and first half of the fourteenth centuries, the recurrent imperial descents into Italy (1354, 1431–3, 1452, 1495) interfered in the peninsular dynamics by legitimating – or avoiding legitimating – parties and rulers34. The imperial ‘commonwealth’, however, was not composed only by the emperors and their itinerant court. The cities and villages of the Swiss confederation were engaging more and more with the Italian powers, mostly, but not exclusively, with the duchy of Milan35. The German princely dynasties in turn – the likes of the dukes and counts of Wittelsbach, Brandenburg, and Tyrol – increasingly looked to Italian princes as suitable husbands and wives for their heirs. The resulting marriage alliances in some cases had a deep influence on the political enhancement of the Italian princes, at the same time offering the opportunity of cross-cultural interactions36.

  • 37 BEHRENS, 1934; TANZINI, 2014: 780.
  • 38 LAZZARINI, 2014a.
  • 39 GUERRA, 2012.
  • 40 EL REINO DE NAPOLES, 2004.

18Until the very end of the fifteenth century England, the kingdoms of Castile, Portugal, and Navarre, and Eastern Europe were more occasional interlocutors with Italy. Contacts were irregular and exploratory, and apart from some episodes, for example the admission of princes to some prestigious chivalric order such as the Garter or the Toison d’or, or some specific reasons, such as a marriage alliance (like the wedding between Edmund of Langley and Violante Visconti, or the more consistent link with Angevin Hungary), economic affairs (the king of Portugal was allowed to claim 20.000 ducats on Florence’s crediti del Monte in 1409)37, or the trade in horses, regular formal diplomatic relationships developed only from the end of the fifteenth century and the Italian wars. In such a pioneering context, the distinction between formal and informal diplomacy proves even more useless than usual: many tried and tested contacts were established through a variety of channels, such as the merchant circuits or dynastic alliances, who in case of need could provide information and contacts, or prepare more formal approaches38. Dynastic alliances, always a crucial element in diplomatic interactions, were particularly effective in opening new diplomatic and political frontiers: Beatrice, daughter of Ferrante of Aragon, king of Naples, married in 1476 Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, and one of the dynastic consequences of the marriage was the appointment of her nephew Ippolito d’Este (the eight-year-old son of her sister Eleonora, duchess of Ferrara) to the bishopric of Esztergom in 148639. As for the Iberian peninsula, the Spanish monarchs—that is, Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castile—were predictably the first to enter diplomatic interactions with the major Italian powers, thanks to their dynastic links with the Aragonese dynasty in Naples, and to their interest in the kingdom40. It should be clear now that ‘Italian’ and ‘European’ governments and powers interwined in the late Middle Ages in many variable ways.

  • 41 SENATORE, 1994: 74 ; FOSCARI, 1884: 747 (Francesco Foscari to the Doge, Innsbruck, 4 July 1496).

19Towards the end of the fifteenth century though, something was changing. On the one hand, once-intermittent contacts became more and more regular, and a common space for communication and negotiation was open. In 1462 Louis XI was annoyed by the Milanese ambassador’s pretension to follow him everywhere, and never really considered the hypothetical opportunity of sending a French ambassador to live day by day next to Francesco Sforza. Thirty years later Maximilian of Habsburg wanted to gather at his court the ambassadors of every important power in Europe41. It was not only a matter of practices: the second profound change was in political concepts and tools, and involved the ‘new’ awareness of a collective and shared Italian identity, mirrored of course by the development of equally ‘new’ French or Spanish ones. Despite its undeniably instrumental nature and its still partially cultural background, this identity was increasingly preventing the survival of a flexible and variable sense of belonging to more than one linguistic, cultural, even political community, and was therefore hardening distinctions, rules, and formality in diplomatic interactions.

5. The Papacy

  • 42 BLACK, A., 1998.
  • 43 CARAVALE, 1994; BLET, 1982.
  • 44 QUELLER, 1960; SCHMUTZ, 1972; PERRIN, 1967; BARBICHE, 2009; JAMME, forthcoming.
  • 45 BOMBI, 2012: 597
  • 46 See references and examples in LAZZARINI, 2015: 23-24, 42-43, 133-135.

20In such a complicated framework, the Church deserves separate attention. Both as a universal spiritual institution and a political power increasingly focused on a concrete territorial base, directly and indirectly nourished by, and linked to, immense patrimonial wealth scattered all over the whole Christian West, the Church was in fact – at least until 1517 – a very peculiar diplomatic actor42. On the one hand, the popes maintained relationships of varying frequency with almost every ruler in the West, in order to guide, counsel, and observe the spiritual behaviour andoften the political attitudes of princes and countries, to direct and protect the local clergy and their patrimonies, to secure the Church’s rights and prerogatives, to promote social and cultural patterns of Christian discipline, and to foster supposedly universal Christian enterprises like the crusades. On the other hand, since the Gregorian reform all these duties and prerogatives were conceived as being linked to the sphere of ‘government’ rather than to ‘diplomacy’. The concept of the universal power of the Church over Christendom as a whole is far from our interest here: however, it helps in understanding the apparently paradoxical coexistence of precocity and lateness in papal ‘diplomatic’ practices, and it throws some light on the role of the Papacy as a diplomatic actor within both the Italian peninsula and the wider Christian West43. From the eleventh century onwards, legati, iudices delegati, and then nuntii of different kinds (oratores, commissarii, collectores) developed diplomatic functions of some sort, variously mastering the prerogatives and the proctorial mandate to deal with lay rulers in order to solve conflicts and problems mostly involving ecclesiastical patrimonies, institutions, and persons. The border between politics and administration, and between matters of general interest and local situations, was of course very indefinite44. On the other hand, the practice of petitioning ‘concerned both the government of secular and ecclesiastical institutions and diplomatic relations between rulers who petitioned each other in order to carry out their foreign affairs’45. Legates and nuntii played a dual role in most of the contacts and interactions seen above, crossing effortlessly – from within a theoretically universal system of power – the already hypothetical boundaries between ‘Italian’ and ‘European’, and ‘internal’ and ‘external’ circuits of negotiation46.

6. The Mediterranean and the Levant.

  • 47 EDBURY, 2000; ZACHARADIOU, 1998; ISLAM, 1999 : Irwin (Mamluks), Brett (Maghreb), Abulafia (Granada)
  • 48 LAZZARINI, 2013, also for the bibliographical references.
  • 49 SETTON, 1976-85; WEBER, 2014; LUTTER, 1998.
  • 50 ASHTOR, 1983; CAVACIOCCHI (ed), 2006.
  • 51 TRACY, 2007; LAZZARINI, 2014b.
  • 52 IL MEZZOGIORNO, 1999; ABULAFIA, 1999; DEL TREPPO, 1978 e 1996.
  • 53 ORIGONE, 1996; HABERSTUMPF, 1995; GALLINA, 1985; ORTALLI, 1983; LAZZARINI, 2013; WEBER, 2014.
  • 54 L’EUROPA DOPO LA CADUTA DI COSTANTINOPOLI, 2008.
  • 55 LAZZARINI, 2014b; MESERVE, 2008; WEBER, 2014; LUTTER, 1998.

21The Mediterranean, the Near East, and the Levant constituted the final major diplomatic arena for the Italian powers. The flexibility and experimental nature that characterized contacts with the more remote European countries multiplied in the multifaceted interaction with a Mediterranean and Levantine world that encompassed both the Latin and Byzantine commonwealths and the Muslim East and South (Maghreb and North Africa, the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt and Syria, the Mongol dominion of Persia, the Ottoman princes of Anatolia)47. Between the East and West, a small and fluctuating constellation of cosmopolitan and scattered Latin outposts on the Mediterranean coasts and islands played a crucial role in mediating, translating, and fostering contacts and dialogue48. It was not an easy context: diplomatic relations with Muslim countries carried implicit theoretical and spiritual problems, and were biased by distance, conflict, and cultural and linguistic gaps; the Latin East and the Byzantine commonwealth were in turn only partially and intermittently welcoming and ready to acknowledge a cultural promixity, or to engage in alliances and treaties49. In this difficult world, the map of contacts, exchanges, and interactions was particularly complicated. Pisa, Genoa, and Venice had established since at least the eleventh century regular relations with countries and rulers, both Muslim and Byzantine: contacts, treaties, and agreements, however, were mostly implemented by means of men and institutions obeying mercantile and economic logics that only partially coincided with political strategies50. Republican cities relied on such networks well into the early modern age: however, more formal diplomatic missions increased towards the end of our period, mostly supported by – but sometimes conflicting with – the consular networks51. The southern Kingdom of Sicily, and its late medieval heirs of Sicily citra and ultra farum, had a huge maritime exposure and—consequently—a much more ancient and well-established Mediterranean vocation. The result was a long and complex history of contacts, relationships, conflicts, and agreements with the Levantine powers. The southern kingdoms – with their Byzantine, Arab, Norman, and Crusader antecedents and roots, and with their Angevin and Aragonese endings – clearly represent an exceptional case of almost uninterrupted and structural contacts52. The northern principalities, on the contrary, came last in such a world, and had an original gap to fill by comparison with both the mercantile cities and the South. Even though in the high Middle Ages they had occasionally interacted with the Byzantine, Latin, Muslim East in many ways – dynastic, military, intellectual, political – they did not create a real network of exchanges with the Mediterranean and the Levant, nor develop some sort of policy towards those regions until the first decades of the fifteenth century, and they started to implement proper – although intermittent – diplomatic interactions only in the second half of the Quattrocento, when the fall of Constantinople into the hands of Mehmed the Conqueror altered dramatically the whole eastern theatre and imposed a brutal redefinition of the balance of power in the Mediterranean53. Despite cultural distance, linguistic difference, and open conflict, therefore, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contacts with the Near East became increasingly dense and frequent. The trauma of the fall of Constantinople, and the following brutal advance of the Ottomans both by land and by sea during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror (1453–81) forced the Italian rulers to deal with interlocutors who represented primarily a hard and uncompromising military and political power rather than a familiar commercial partner54. Such a change had an interesting dual effect: on the one hand, it prompted the stipulation of treaties and truces negotiated by means of formal embassies; on the other, it rapidly inserted the new masters of what used to be the Byzantine Empire into the political game as played between the peninsular powers. While Galeazzo Maria, duke of Milan, secretly sent in 1471 the Genoese Oliviero Calco, disguised as a merchant, to explore the opportunity of a secret league with Mehmed the Conqueror against Venice and Naples, Pope Paul II was openly negotiating a league against the Ottomans with a Muslim ruler, Hasan Beg Bahador Khan, called Uzun Hasan, sultan of Persia, and the leader of the Turkmen Aq-Qoyunlu (1453–78). At the end of the fifteenth century, and during the reign of the less aggressive Bayazet II, another step towards the open integration of the dreaded Ottomans into a shared political framework was taken: Marquis Francesco Gonzaga was proud to show to all the Italian powers that he maintained a regular and formal exchange of letters, ambassadors, and presents with the sultan, and ordered his chancellors to copy Bayazet’s letters in the same lavish register in which his submission to Louis XII of France was transcribed55.

7. Boundaries: other actors

  • 56 SENATORE, 2018a; SENATORE, 2018b; LAZZARINI, 2018.
  • 57 LAZZARINI, 2015: 104-122.

22To conclude our map of diplomatic actors, a further step is needed: from the second half of the fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth century the Italian diplomatic arena was mostly open not only to formal governments and regimes, but also to every actor – individual, faction, community – more or less grounded on a territorial dominion, and more or less juridically autonomous, that was able to mobilize some power and to express some political agency. By talking of ‘other actors’ I will encompass two levels of potential interaction by crossing two ostensible boundaries, the internal/external and the formal/informal56. This point is crucial: both negotiations between a centre (a prince, a government, a court, a chancery) and a local interlocutor (subject cities, rural communities and lords), and between rulers and less formally defined or not entirely autonomous powers (condottieri, cities or lords submitted to another ruler, merchant nations, great prelates) were mainly managed as diplomatic interactions. Moreover, they were defined by practices in many ways similar to what the classic studies of diplomacy would have defined as ‘diplomatic’. All these people, in fact, would be ‘unexpected’ in a traditional survey of medieval diplomacy. Roughly from 1350 to 1450, the resulting and sometimes overlapping networks flexibly included most of the formal and informal polities in and around the peninsula while admitting almost anybody who could impose himself on a wider audience within the diplomatic arena. Territorial hegemony, political legitimacy, economic expansions and crises, individual cases, and universal enterprises were discussed within negotiated frameworks that could be inclusive or exclusive according to the political nature of the issues on the table, but not necessarily to the political identity of the protagonists involved in the negotiation57.

  • 58 COVINI ET al. 2015 (Senatore, ‘L’ambasciatore’); PEQUIGNOT, 2010.
  • 59 DURANTI, 2009; DURANTI (ed), 2007.
  • 60 FUBINI, 1994: 137.
  • 61 FUBINI, 1994 [1993]; SHAW, 2007b; ABULAFIA, 2009; ARCANGELI, 2003.
  • 62 PORZIO, 1964 : 64; STORTI, 2007.
  • 63 DELLA MISERICORDIA, 2005; GENTILE, 2005.
  • 64 FERENTE, 2005 : 7; DEL TREPPO, 1973; COVINI, 2005.
  • 65 PELLEGRINI, 2002.

23A few examples will throw some light on such interactions. Subject cities like Capua maintained with the Aragonese kings a channel of ‘uninterrupted negotiation’ that, when it came to crucial issues like wars, royal successions, general parliaments, or fiscal reforms, adopted a fully diplomatic grammar: the representatives of the city were carefully elected in the general council, were provided with credentials and instructions, and had to deliver, on their return, a final verbal report that was transcribed in a register preserved in the urban chancellery58. Similarly, Bologna, which enjoyed a partial autonomy as a community mediate subiecta but was formally subject to the Holy See, hosted foreign ambassadors—like the Milanese Gerardo Cerruti in the 1470s—who dealt directly with the city councils in taking significant decisions about the whole region of the Romagna and its cluster of troublesome semi-independent lordships, in between the territorial influences of Milan, Venice, and Florence59. Even smaller cities like Volterra could choose the path of negotiating with the dominant city60. Major and minor lords, individually or as a part of some factional alliance, maintained some autonomy and could act independently and sustain a fully operative diplomatic network. The great feudal lords—the Roman and Neapolitan barons, like the various branches of the great Orsini kinship, or Gian Giacomo Trivulzio and the gentiluomini di Lombardia—were just the tip of the iceberg, but the lists of recommandati et adherentes that accompanied the clauses of the general leagues—starting from the Peace of Sarzana in 1353—make manifest the complexity of the actual composition of what we tend to simplify as an Italian political system made up of a few big polities and some minor powers61. According to Camillo Porzio, in 1485 the Neapolitan barons who rose up against Ferrante were fighting to obtain from the king the concession of ‘keeping men of arms for the defence of their states…safeguarding their fortresses by their own troops…and without asking the king’s permission, being hired and going to war under any prince’. In a word, they claimed to act as almost independent lords62. When, in 1432 and again in 1447, the formally Milanese vassal and actual lord of the subject mountain city of Sondrio, Antonio Beccaria, opened up the strategic Valtellina valley to the Venetian army, the exchange of letters that preceded his choice was conceived as an act of diplomatic autonomous agency, and Beccaria was apparently ‘betraying’ his superior lord, the duke of Milan, for the sake of his Guelph factional identity63. Lords, cities, and communities were not the only ones who gave voice to their political agency by means of a certain amount of diplomatic activity: great captains and condottieri (sometimes minor lords themselves) acted in the same way. A military company ‘non era una città, né un castello o un villaggio rurale, ma una comunità itinerante e quasi aterritoriale’, and gave to its captain both strength and diplomatic initiative. Not only were great captains like Micheletto Attendolo, Francesco Sforza, or Jacopo Piccinino able to play a very sophisticated game between the governments keen to hire them, thanks in part to their having a proper chancery and some reliable diplomatic agents, but they regularly dealt with formal ambassadors sent to them by princes and republics64. High prelates – particularly cardinal-princes – also often behaved as autonomous diplomatic agents, not only acting as diplomats on behalf of the Church as legates or nuntii, or of their country and their family, but pursuing political strategies for themselves65.

8. Conclusive remarks

24According to Mattingly – or, maybe better, to the vulgarising of Mattingly’s book – during the Renaissance permanent and reciprocal embassies increasingly controlled by the centralised power of kings and princes gave birth to a ‘modern’ way of disciplining political interactions according to a newly defined and universally accepted jus gentium, thus counteracting the overlapping powers and multiple loyalties so characteristic of the middle ages. Such diplomacy, theorized by the likes of Gentili and Grotius between the 1590s and the 1620s, and put into practice for the first time in Münster and Osnabruck in 1648, became the trademark of a horizontal system of ‘modern’ states characterised by sovereignty, centralised power, and bounded territories. Its latest heir would be the 20th century liberal and democratic nation state, who would spread in the post-colonial world after WWII.

25In fact, in the past decades, at different pace, and from various angles, both medievalists and early modernists have revised such a model by questioning both the idea of ‘modernity’, and the grand narrative of the birth of modern diplomacy as a facet of the building of the sovereign modern state. In my paper today I have focused on one of the pivotal aspects of such a revision, that is the multiplicity of the protagonists of diplomacy in that very late medieval Italy that provided 19th and early 20th century scholars with their ideal case-study. Italian diplomacy in the long Quattrocento was a matter for many peninsular polities (that is, formally defined political entities) and powers (that is, less legitime and formal actors); its development was increasingly connected to the influence of many other European and Mediterranean political systems, and finally a clearcut divide between internal politics and external diplomacy was nowhere to be seen.

26In such a complex and multilayered context, the building of a cluster of diplomatic and political alliances and networks slowly produced both a hierarchy of polities and powers, and a grammar for their interactions. At the same time, this process not only defined which problems could be sorted out by negotiation but also who could have access to the negotiating arena. As a result, diplomacy slowly proved to be an all-consuming political activity which involved in many ways and at many levels a mosaic of powers and polities, each of them on the way to defining its identity and defending its autonomy both inside and outside its real or metaphorical walls.

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Notes

1 VON REUMONT, 1857; DE MAULDE LA CLAVIERE, 1892 ; SCHAUBE, 1889.

2 FEBVRE, 1954; SENATORE, 1994; PEQUIGNOT, 2012; LAZZARINI, 2012; MOEGLIN, PEQUIGNOT, 2017.

3 LAZZARINI, 2015: this paper relies on the content of my book, to which I refer for more details and a full bibliography (see in particular pp. 1-5, 11-30, and 106-112).

4 LAZZARINI, 2003; THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE STATE, 2012; SOMAINI, 2013.

5 ZUTSHI, 2000; PARTNER, 1972; CAROCCI, 2012.

6 STORIA DELLA CHIESA XIV/1, 1967; BLACK, A., 1998; MILLET, 2009; FIRENZE E IL CONCILIO DEL 1439, 1994; PICOTTI, 1996.

7 LAZZARINI, 2011; SOMAINI, 2007.

8 Lorenzo de’ Medici to Giovanni Lanfredini, Florence, 6 June 1489, edited in LETTERE DI LORENZO DE MEDICI, VOL. XV, MARZO-AGOSTO 1489, 2010, 1943; SORANZO, 1924 ; MARGAROLI, 1992; FUBINI, 1994.

9 WATTS, 2009: 287.

10 LES GUERRES D’ITALIE. HISTOIRE, 2002; LES GUERRES D’ITALIE. DES BATAILLES, 2003; THE ITALIAN WARS, 2012.

11 QUOTED IN CATALANO, 1956: 478.

12 ANNALI VENETI, 1843-4: 328-9 ; THE FRENCH DESCENT, 1995.

13 PLÖGER, 2005; MARINESCU, 1959.

14 CASTELNUOVO, 1994.

15 STORIA DI VENEZIA, III, 1997; SHAW, 2012.

16 BELLABARBA, 2012; GLI ANGIO, 2006.

17 PRODI, 1982; CAROCCI, 2012; CHITTOLINI, 2012.

18 Antonio da Trezzo to Francesco Sforza, Ferrara, 29 Apr. 1453, quoted in MARGAROLI, 1989: 533.

19 ILARDI, 1956; TENENTI, 1987; MARGAROLI, 1989; FUBINI, 2003.

20 DEI, 1985, quoted in FERENTE, 2013: 10-11.

21 MATTINGLY, 1955; GRUBB, 1991; ISAACS, 1994;

22 MATTINGLY, 1937; QUELLER, 1967; FUBINI, 2000 ; LAZZARINI, 2015: 31-48.

23 LAZZARINI, 2011; SHAW, 2007a; FLETCHER, 2015.

24 TITONE 2012; SENATORE, 2012; SCHENA, 2012.

25 ABULAFIA, 1997; L’ÉTAT ANGEVIN, 1998.

26 PIBIRI, 2011.

27 LA COUR DE BOURGOGNE, 2013.

28 SHAW, 2012.

29 GUELFI E GHIBELLINI, 2005; FERENTE, 2013; MARGOLIS, 2016.

30 DE VINCENTIIS, 2001; NEGOTIATIONS DIPLOMATIQUES, 1859.

31 BLACK, J., 2010.

32 FAVRAU-LILIE, 2000; SOMAINI, 2007; GILLI, 2010.

33 RUBINSTEIN, 1957; VARANINI, 1997; FUBINI, 2009b [2003].

34 PIRCHAN, 1930; MAXIMILIAN I., 2011.

35 JUCKER, 2004.

36 FICHTER, 1976 ; ANTENHOFER, 2007; NOLTE, 2005; LUTTER, 1998.

37 BEHRENS, 1934; TANZINI, 2014: 780.

38 LAZZARINI, 2014a.

39 GUERRA, 2012.

40 EL REINO DE NAPOLES, 2004.

41 SENATORE, 1994: 74 ; FOSCARI, 1884: 747 (Francesco Foscari to the Doge, Innsbruck, 4 July 1496).

42 BLACK, A., 1998.

43 CARAVALE, 1994; BLET, 1982.

44 QUELLER, 1960; SCHMUTZ, 1972; PERRIN, 1967; BARBICHE, 2009; JAMME, forthcoming.

45 BOMBI, 2012: 597

46 See references and examples in LAZZARINI, 2015: 23-24, 42-43, 133-135.

47 EDBURY, 2000; ZACHARADIOU, 1998; ISLAM, 1999 : Irwin (Mamluks), Brett (Maghreb), Abulafia (Granada).

48 LAZZARINI, 2013, also for the bibliographical references.

49 SETTON, 1976-85; WEBER, 2014; LUTTER, 1998.

50 ASHTOR, 1983; CAVACIOCCHI (ed), 2006.

51 TRACY, 2007; LAZZARINI, 2014b.

52 IL MEZZOGIORNO, 1999; ABULAFIA, 1999; DEL TREPPO, 1978 e 1996.

53 ORIGONE, 1996; HABERSTUMPF, 1995; GALLINA, 1985; ORTALLI, 1983; LAZZARINI, 2013; WEBER, 2014.

54 L’EUROPA DOPO LA CADUTA DI COSTANTINOPOLI, 2008.

55 LAZZARINI, 2014b; MESERVE, 2008; WEBER, 2014; LUTTER, 1998.

56 SENATORE, 2018a; SENATORE, 2018b; LAZZARINI, 2018.

57 LAZZARINI, 2015: 104-122.

58 COVINI ET al. 2015 (Senatore, ‘L’ambasciatore’); PEQUIGNOT, 2010.

59 DURANTI, 2009; DURANTI (ed), 2007.

60 FUBINI, 1994: 137.

61 FUBINI, 1994 [1993]; SHAW, 2007b; ABULAFIA, 2009; ARCANGELI, 2003.

62 PORZIO, 1964 : 64; STORTI, 2007.

63 DELLA MISERICORDIA, 2005; GENTILE, 2005.

64 FERENTE, 2005 : 7; DEL TREPPO, 1973; COVINI, 2005.

65 PELLEGRINI, 2002.

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