Battle of Tagliacozzo, 23 August 1268


Defeat for Conradin, son of Conrad IV (HRE), the last Hohenstaufen in Sicily. He invaded the kingdom of Sicily with German and Spanish allies in 1267, seeking to make good his claim against Charles of Anjou. Suppporters revolted against Charles in Sicily. The battle was fought in central Italy as Conradin advanced south. Charles took position behind the River Salto. Conradin’s men failed to take the bridge but others crossed further up and attacked the Angevins on the flank. Then the bridge was crossed. Charles recovered by leading a charge with a hidden reserve when many of the enemy, thinking victory theirs, pursued Angevins off the field. He then defeated the returning enemy. It was largely a cavalry battle, a costly victory: `never was victory so bloody, for nearly his whole army had fallen’. Conradin fled but was captured and executed in Naples in October. It ended German Hohenstaufen rule in Sicily, leaving the Angevins in control.

Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufens, together with Frederick of Baden, was in command of 5-6,000 cavalry, mainly Germans and Italians but also including Castilians as well as Sicilians. He found his road blocked by an opposing force of some 3-5,000 French horse under Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily. The French drew up behind the River Salto in three divisions; two formed into column by a bridge while the third, including Charles himself, was secreted behind a fold in the ground about a mile from the flank. Henry of Cousances, commanding the second column, wore the royal surcoat and bore Charles’s standard in order to trick the enemy in to believing the entire French family was in view. Conradin’s army also drew up in three battles.

The Van, led by Henry of Castile, stormed the bridge, while the second and third, under Calvano Lancia and Conradin respectively, managed to ford the river downstream and then wheeled to attack the flank of the enemy battle. Henry of Cousances was finally slain and the French, badly mauled, broke in flight. The royal standard was seized in the confusion. Conradin held some of his men, but most chased after the French and set about looting their camp. It was now that Charles, having impotently observed the rout of his main force, charged up with his division and scattered the few troops who surrounded Conradin. When the imperial looters saw their commander in flight, they also took to their heels. Henry of Castile managed to rally a number of horsemen and advanced against the Angevins. However, 40 French knights feigned flight to draw out the enemy. As they broke ranks they were attacked by Charles’ battle, while the 40 knights wheeled to strike their flank. Despite a rally, they could not hold off the Angevins, and fled. Conradin, Frederick and Galvano were caught a few weeks later and, like those taken in the battle, were executed. Henry of Castile was imprisoned for 23 years.

Brother of St Louis. He conquered the Norman kingdom of Sicily and ruled it as Charles I from 1266. In 1246 he married Beatrice heiress to Provence. The papacy offered Sicily to Charles against the descendants of Frederick II. He invaded and was crowned in 1266. He defeated Manfred at Benevento and Conradin at Tagliacozzo. He suppressed revolts in Sicily. He developed Mediterranean interests. He took Corfu in 1267 but failed to recover the Byzantine Empire for the Franks. He was involved in St Louis’ crusade to Tunis in 1270. He was crowned King of Jerusalem in 1278 and became Prince of Achaea. He developed interests in northern Italy, becoming Imperial Vicar in Tuscany and Senator of Rome in 1268. He was defeated by the Genoese in 1273, and in 1275 at Roccavione. His greatest setback followed the Sicilian Vespers in 1282 with the French loss of Sicily. His fleet was defeated off Naples by the Genoese in 1284. He died on 7 January and was succeeded by his son Charles II. His descendants ruled in Naples and Hungary.

Son of the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad IV who died in 1254 and descendant of Frederick II, He was named Duke of Swabia, King of the Romans, and King of Sicily from 1254 though his position was challenged by his uncle Manfred. He was named as King of Jerusalem but never ruled there. After the invasion of Sicily by Charles of Anjou, Conradin tried to recover his kingdom in 1268. He was defeated at Tagliacozzo, captured and executed on 29 October.


Battle of Fontenoy June 25, 841



The largest, bloodiest, and most destructive battle of the ninth century began at 6 in the morning on Saturday, June 25, 841, at Fontenoy-en-Puisaye, now a tiny village 22 miles (35 kilometers) south of Auxerre in France. Exactly how many men took part is uncertain. We know that probably between 25,000 and 30,000 were killed and many more injured, which indicates large armies and extreme violence. This battle was fought as part of what German historians call the Brüderkrieg, “brother war.” Emperor Lothar fought on one side against his brother Louis the German and their half-brother Charles the Bald on the other. All were sons of Louis the Pious, and this was just one incident in the long civil war fought between them. The battle signaled the end of any possibility of restoring the unified empire stretching across France, Germany, the Benelux countries, Italy, and northern Spain that the three combatants’ father, Louis the Pious, had inherited from his father, Charlemagne. After the Battle of Fontenoy, the possibility of an ordered state and good government vanished in Western Europe.

The battle didn’t have to end in such bloodshed. According to Nithardus’s reliable Four Books of Histories, Charles and Louis had spent the previous three days negotiating with Lothar, begging him “to remember that they were brothers  . . . [and] asking him ‘to leave the Church of God and the whole Christian people in peace.’” They offered him generous terms. Nithardus, a well-educated public official and soldier in the service of Charles the Bald, says that Lothar equivocated. Pretending to consider Charles and Louis’s pleas, he was actually playing for time, awaiting the arrival of troops under Pippin II of Aquitaine. Once Pippin arrived, Lothar broke off negotiations. So “Louis and Charles rose at dawn, occupied the peak of a mountain [it was actually a low hill] near Lothar’s camp . . . and waited for Lothar’s arrival and the striking of the second hour [6 a.m.]. . . . When both had come they fought a violent battle.”

The actual battlefield was a flat expanse surrounded by low hills. There seem to have been two interrelated fronts, as Charles and Louis attacked Lothar from separate low hills. Leading any of the armies at Fontenoy would have been difficult because tenth-century armies were not the highly organized and disciplined forces with clear lines of authority that we know today. The emperor or king would have been the overall leader, but his armies were made up of diverse units led by local warlords. Unused to cooperation with others, some of whom would have previously been their enemies, warlords would have found it difficult to submit to the king’s instructions. The desire to achieve glory by exhibiting heroics would have been far stronger than any sense of discipline and obedience to the commander. Even though well trained and in good physical condition, the foot soldiers as well as the warlords would have been psyched up to enhance their reputation as warriors.

Tactics in this era were generally consistent from battle to battle. Action would begin with the terrifying war cries of foot soldiers. The core of the infantry was the Heerbann, a kind of trained militia. They usually opened the battle by moving forward in close formation protected by a strong shield wall. Their basic weapon was a long-handled throwing ax. Some wore light armor and used a stabbing sword. When the commander decided the time was right, he would order a mass charge of mounted knights, or any man who could afford a horse. Wearing body armor and carrying a spear as their primary offensive weapon and a shield for defense, the mounted troops usually rode sturdy Barb horses, a strong, wiry breed with a fiery temperament and good turn of speed, ideal for cavalry charges. Large massed cavalry charges would be followed by the kind of mounted hand-to-hand conflict between horsemen with swords that led to many of the injuries and deaths.

The Battle of Fontenoy proceeded indecisively for hours. It wasn’t until about noon that finally a cavalry charge broke through Lothar’s lines. This was followed by the bulk of the slaughter, in which many of the elite of the Frankish nobility were killed. According to the Annals of Saint-Bertin (which was sympathetic to Louis and Charles), “Many were slain on both sides; still more were wounded. Lothar suffered a shameful defeat and fled. The slaughter of fugitives continued . . . until Louis and Charles, aflame with generous feelings, ordered an end to the carnage.”

Nithardus, who fought in the battle, says, “The booty and slaughter were immense and truly astonishing.” According to his telling, Charles and Louis “ceased fighting and plundering and returned to camp . . . to talk over what they ought to do next.” Next day they celebrated Mass, and the bishops who accompanied the armies asked for prayers and a three-day fast for the remission of the sins of both sides. While violent in combat, Frankish foot soldiers were otherwise generally well disciplined, sober, and religious, believing that God was on their side. They were supported by a well-organized commissariat. Accompanying this was a bevy of camp followers, including merchants who supported the army with supplies and brought women who prepared food and did other tasks and who acted as prostitutes when needed. The merchants always defended their supplies, and they were notorious for being drunken, lecherous, and foul-mouthed.

Fontenoy was unlike modern battles. It was not the impersonal, industrial-style modern warfare of World Wars I and II. It was man-to-man, one-on-one combat with long (5-foot, or 1.5-meter) and short (3-foot, or 1-meter) swords, spears, and lances (6 feet, or 2 meters), daggers (6 inches to 1 foot long), and crossbows and hand axes, all weapons that inflicted terrible wounds. Alain Mounier Kuhn has examined many medieval sources describing wounds and has found that more than half were to head, face, and neck. The most effective weapons were lances, swords, and bows and arrows. Body armor seems to have protected the torso, so most injuries were to the upper body, and Kuhn says that many injuries seem to have been sustained when soldiers were unable to defend themselves. It was personal and brutal, kill or be killed. Part of the explanation for this kind of fighting was that people then were much more easily stirred up emotionally, violence was more generally accepted, and, as noted earlier, personal self-control was in short supply. Also, a warrior satisfied his lust for glory by killing, while at the same time believing that God was on his side. And given the nature of the weapons used (with the exception of longbows or crossbows), the only way the warrior could kill someone was up close and personal. Many also died soon afterward of the terrible slashing wounds inflicted, especially in light of ninth-century medicine. For many it would have been better to have been killed outright.

The Italian Wars–Fornovo in July 1495


Charles VIII is attacked, Battle of Fornovo, 6 July 1495.


The first full scale battle of the wars was fought at Fornovo in July 1495. Charles’ triumph in conquering Naples was short-lived. Those internal elements which had contributed to the overthrow of the Aragonese dynasty soon realised that French rule was not a satisfactory alternative, and increasing unrest made the position of Charles’ army a difficult one. The Italian states, with the exception of Florence, which was now permanently committed to the French cause, came together in an alliance to evict the French, and began to receive increasing encouragement from Spain and the Empire. At the end of May, Charles decided to return to France with the core of his army, leaving a skeleton force under Montpensier to defend Naples. The armies of the Italian League began to gather to oppose this return march, but there was still little real political unity, as some thought it best to let the French pass on their way out of Italy rather than risk a confrontation with them. However, the opportunity, as Charles marched northwards with a relatively small army, was too good a one to be missed and Francesco Gonzaga, the Marquis of Mantua, Venetian captain general and commander of the combined army, elected to bring the French to open battle rather than simply hold the Apennine passes against them. The latter course would have involved little risk and could well have led either to the eventual surrender of the army as it was cut off from its base, or at least to a hazardous transhipment by sea. It would have been a strategy very much in the Italian tradition, but Gonzaga felt both sufficiently confident and sufficiently determined to achieve the personal glory of defeating the French, to go for a crushing victory.

The French retreated along the route they had come in the previous year. This meant crossing the Apennines between Sarzana and Parma by the Cisa Pass, and coming down into the valley of the Taro at Fornovo. Here, below the town where the valley widened out, the huge Italian army was waiting for them in a camp fortified with a ditch and a palisade. Gonzaga described his army as ‘the finest and most powerful that has been seen in Italy for many years’. It numbered about 25,000 men of whom about 5,000 were in Milanese service and the remainder in that of Venice. Two thousand two hundred heavy cavalry lances of five men each formed the core of the army, but there were also about 2,000 light cavalry, mostly stradiots, and 8,000 professional infantry. Four thousand Venetian militia had also arrived, although the bulk of the militia forces were still on the march, as was most of the Venetian heavy artillery. The French numbered about 900 lances of heavy cavalry, 3,000 Swiss infantry, 600 archers of the royal bodyguard and 1,000 artillerymen, a total of about 10,000 men.

When it reached Fornovo, the French army crossed the Taro and began to move down the left bank of the river in front of the Italian camp. Its left flank was thus protected by the hills and its right by the river. In the circumstances the French not surprisingly expected the main assault on them to come from straight up the valley, and to counter this the Swiss marched in a tight square close behind the cavalry advance guard. Two further large columns of cavalry completed the order of the march with the King commanding the centre himself and the rear led by Gaston de Foix. The baggage train laden down with loot from the campaign was placed towards the rear and close to the line of the hills; the artillery moved on the right flank along the river bank.

The Italian battle plan was drawn up by Ridolfo Gonzaga, uncle of the Marquis and himself a veteran of the Burgundian wars, with just these dispositions of the enemy in mind. The tactical conception was masterly, although the details for its execution were over-elaborate. Basically the plan was to block the French advance with a holding force and launch the main attack across the Taro on the flanks of the centre and rear columns. This would have the effect of pinning the enemy against the hills, splitting his extended line of march, and destroying the columns in detail. To carry out this operation the Italian army was divided into nine divisions. The Count of Caiazzo, with the main body of the Milanese cavalry and supported by a mixed infantry force and a large cavalry reserve, was to cross the Taro in front of the French and engage the vanguard. Gonzaga himself with his personal troops was to cross in the centre, engage the French centre, and split it off from the vanguard. Bernardino Fortebraccio had command of the third prong of the attack, made up of the leading Venetian cavalry squadrons, and was to attack the rearguard. In close support to Gonzaga and Fortebraccio came the cream of the Venetian infantry, and then in reserve two further columns of cavalry. The first of these comprised the lanze spezzate known as the Colleoneschi and commanded by the son-in-law of the legendary Colleoni, who had died nearly twenty years earlier. The second reserve column was led by Antonio da Montefeltro, the illegitimate son of that other leading figure of the preceding generation, Federigo. While all these divisions were attacking directly from across the Taro, the stradiots were to pass right around the rear of the enemy and attack the vanguard downhill, thus causing further confusion and preventing stragglers from escaping into the hills. Finally a strong guard of cavalry and militia was left in the camp.

The intelligent use of reserves has sometimes been described as one of the distinguishing features of modern military tactics, and the concept was certainly one that had been widely explored by the condottieri. But in this case there was too much emphasis on reserves. Whether this was because Gonzaga had more men than he knew what to do with or whether it was a sort of natural caution is hard to say. However, part of the intention was clearly to prevent the reserves being committed too early or all at once, and the leaders of the various reserve divisions had strict orders not to enter the fray until called forward by Ridolfo Gonzaga and no one else.

The battle opened in mid-afternoon with a brief artillery duel across the Taro. But heavy rain had dampened the powder and the guns on both sides were more than usually ineffective. The rain had also swollen the river suddenly, and this was seriously to affect the Italian plan. When the signal to advance was given the three spearhead columns began to cross the river. The Count of Caiazzo attacked the van with indifferent success; his infantry were badly cut up by the Swiss who outnumbered them, and elements of his troops were soon fleeing towards Parma. However, he achieved his task of keeping the French vanguard occupied. The stradiots also reached their first objective and harried the French left flank. But when two of their leaders were killed, they drew off and began to plunder the baggage train, which their encircling movement had placed at their mercy. In the centre Gonzaga found it impossible to cross the river where he had intended and moved further upstream to cross close to Fortebraccio’s troops. This led to delay and some confusion; but above all it meant that instead of striking the gap between the French centre and the already committed vanguard, he crossed between the centre and the rearguard, thus exposing his flank to the full weight of the French centre. Here in the space of less than an hour the battle was decided. The element of surprise was lost by the delays, and Gonzaga and Fortebraccio found their squadrons depleted by the difficulties of crossing the river. They bore the full brunt of the counter-attacks of the French and no reserves came forward, as Ridolfo Gonzaga was mortally wounded at the height of the battle. Thus more than half the Italian army never got into action at all. The heavily mauled divisions of Gonzaga and Fortebraccio gave almost as good as they got; the two leaders particularly fighting with exceptional gallantry. At one point they came close to capturing Charles, but so furious a battle could not last for long. Both armies drew back to regroup, and then approaching darkness prevented a resumption of fighting.

The outcome of the battle appeared uncertain, and both sides claimed a victory. The French had achieved their aim of opening a road northwards, as they were able to resume their march stealthily the next night. They had inflicted the heavier casualties on Gonzaga’s army which lost over 2,000 men, including a number of captains. The Italians could claim to be the masters of the field as the French drew off, and they captured the French baggage, including Charles’ personal illustrated record of his many amorous conquests. They also took more prisoners. These perhaps, in terms of Italian warfare, were indications of victory; but Fornovo was fought for specific objectives, and Gonzaga failed to achieve his objective; so he can be said in real terms to have lost the battle. But he lost it not because the Swiss infantry and French artillery were invincible; neither of these elements played much part. Nor did he lose it because the French fought better or with more determination. He did not even lose it because a part of his army got out of hand, notably the stradiots, and another part, the Milanese, did not press their attack (perhaps on instructions from Milan), although these were the excuses given for the lack of success. Three factors really contributed to the Italian failure. First there was the sudden rising of the Taro which badly disrupted the Italian plan and caused last minute confusion. Secondly both Francesco Gonzaga and his uncle elected to lead the army, and thus no one was really in a position to direct the whole battle. Gonzaga, although he showed great personal bravery and many of the ideal qualities of a subordinate commander, had not appreciated that so large and complex an army needed to be directed from behind.

This was by no means a typical Italian mistake; neither Braccio nor Sforza would ever have allowed themselves to make it. Finally the sheer size of the army and complexity of the battle plan frustrated success. This sudden attempt to translate tactics which could work well with a small army used to cooperation to a large composite army which had come together for the first time, was bound to run into difficulties. More traditional tactics would probably have won the day by sheer weight of numbers, which is a curious reflection on the theory that Italian methods were outdated and superseded.

Fornovo was one of the two major battles in the whole period between 1494 and 1530 when a largely Italian army met the invaders in the open field. It is therefore one of the few occasions when one can seek to assess the relative merits of Italian and ultramontane military methods. For the rest of the time the political disunity of Italy and political weakness of most of the states made combination against the invaders and a real trial of strength impossible. Italians fought, sometimes distinguished themselves, and occasionally disgraced themselves, on both sides in the wars, but the warfare was increasingly becoming international rather than Italian. It only remains therefore to analyse briefly the Italian contributions to the changes which were taking place during these protracted wars.

Durazzo 1081

Varangian guard

Varangian Guard


Norman Infantry

Battle of Dyrrhachium (1081)

Battle of Dyrrhachium (October 18, 1081): 1,300 Norman cavalry under the Duke of Apulia Robert Guiscard, were initially repulsed by the Varangian Guards. The Varangian Guard were in turn routed by a counterattack to their flanks by Norman infantry, fled to the sanctuary of a nearby church which the Norman forces burnt down. The Norman knights then charged the Byzantine line again, and caused a widespread rout. First recorded instance of a successful and decisive ‘shock’ cavalry charge.


Dyrrhachium (Durazzo to Italians, Epidamnos to Greeks) was the capital of Illyria, and is modern Durres in Albania. Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemond besieged it in 1081 in the Norman attempt at Mediterranean expansion against Byzantium. Guiscard left Otranto with a fleet and army in May 1081. A Venetian fleet allied to the Byzantines to defeat the Normans in June, after the Normans suffered damage in a storm. Guiscard could not blockade from the sea as intended. The siege was an attempt by the Normans to gain safety within. The defence was led by George Palaeologus. The Normans built a belfry, countered by a wooden tower and later destroyed by fire. The defenders used catapults, pitch and Greek Fire. The Normans suffered illness and starvation. Alexius I Comnenus came to the relief. The battle was fought on 18 October. Against the odds the Normans won through using archers and cavalry against the Varangian Guard (including Anglo-Saxon exiles). Guiscard’s wife Sigelgaita participated in the ensuing battle, brandishing a spear and helping to rally the troops. Alexius was wounded in the forehead but escaped to Ochrid. The Byzantines retreated and Dyrrhachium surrendered on 21 February 1082. Guiscard returned to Italy. Bohemond continued to Larissa where he was defeated by the Byzantines.

Oman, p. 164, reports in detail on this battle because he sees in it the last engagement for 300 years in which actual foot troops like those of Harold at Hastings, and not dismounted knights or simple militia or marksmen, played a role, the last battle between the Anglo-Saxon battle-axe and the Norman lance supported by the bow.

Robert Guiscard had crossed the Adriatic and was besieging Dyrrhachium (Durazzo). Emperor Alexius moved up with a relief army that also included the Varangians who were in the service of Byzantium. Anna Komnena, 6: 6, describes these men who carried double-edged swords or battle-axes on their shoulders, as well as shields. She recounts that they dismounted from their horses and attacked the Normans in a closed formation. Initially, she reports, they had also thrown the Normans back, even though they did not wait until the mounted archers had worked the enemy over. But in this action they had become separated from the rest of the Byzantine army and were overcome by the Norman horsemen.

This description does not correspond as closely to the conduct of the thanes at Hastings as it does to the ancient German wedge. For the thanes at Hastings sought to win in a purely defensive action, while the Varangians at Dyrrhachium attacked like the ancient Germans.

But why did they dismount from their horses? The result shows that they were too bold in their attack. Perhaps it was only a question of insufficient cooperation with the other units of the Byzantine army. But since we are not clearly informed on this point and Anna Komnena is not such a reliable source, this battle can hardly be evaluated from the viewpoint of military history.

The other sources, too, which report on this battle, particularly the Gesta Roberti Wis-cardi (Deeds of Robert Guiscard), Mon. Germ. SS., 9. 369 ff-, do not provide the answers to those questions.


Prince from 1098 through the First Crusade, the son of Robert Guiscard and Alberada. Anna Comnena described the impact on the Byzantine court (and herself) of the tall, muscular, stooping, blond Norman. He fought for his father against the Byzantines in the unsuccessful attack on Albania in 1081. His younger brother Roger received the Apulian lands, and Bohemond inherited little. On the First Crusade, leading the Normans from Sicily, he fought at Dorylaeum and Antioch. The author of the Gesta Francorum was probably in his retinue. Bohemond founded the principality of Antioch despite Byzantine claims, but by the Treaty of Devol in 1108 recognised Byzantine overlordship. He was captured by the Turks near Aleppo in 1100 and imprisoned in Anatolia until ransomed in 1103. He was defeated by the Turks at Harran in 1104. He returned to the west in 1106, seeking reinforcements, and married Constance daughter of Philip I of France. With a new force Bohemond besieged Durazzo from 1107 but failed to take it. He returned to Italy and died in Apulia. His nephew Tancred and then his own son Bohemond II succeeded to Antioch.


Emperor from 1081, restoring much imperial territory. He was emperor during the First Crusade and the hero of his daughter Anna Comnena’s Alexiad. His wife was Irene. He commanded armies before becoming emperor and was an able diplomat. He succeeded through a coup against Nikephorus III. He faced attacks on Byzantine territory by the Italian Normans under Robert Guiscard, including an attempt on Durazzo that was held off. He defeated the Pechengs at Levunium. He employed Turkish mercenaries and allied with Venice, to whom he granted privileges. Alexius recovered territory in Europe. He rebuilt the navy, regaining Crete and Cyprus. He manoeuvred the Franks on the First Crusade through his territory and into Asia Minor. As a result of the Crusade’s success he recovered much of Anatolia from the Turks. He received some recognition from the new crusading states. His son John II succeeded.




Irish Galloglass

“galloglasses” (gallóglaigh, troops of heavy-armored Scots from the Western Isles). The first galloglasses arrived in the mid-thirteenth century, but their numbers were reinforced by political exiles from Scotland after the Bruce wars. They too were billeted on peasant farmers in the Gaelic lordships, an exaction known as “coyne and livery.”



Conor O’Dea of Thomond and a small contingent of Munstermen held the ford of the Fergus river against an advancing Anglo-Irish force under Richard de Clare. De Clare heedlessly rushed across the river with some of his knights, only to be surrounded and killed. De Clare’s main force then crossed over and surrounded the O’Deas in turn, but were thrown into disarray by the arrival of Irish reinforcements and routed.

The armies of the Irish chieftains over the same period became increasingly professional. Instead of relying on musters of their own subjects, chiefs employed bands of “kernes” (ceithirne, ceatharnaigh; light-armed native Irish mercenaries) and “galloglasses” (gallóglaigh, troops of heavy-armored Scots from the Western Isles). The first galloglasses arrived in the mid-thirteenth century, but their numbers were reinforced by political exiles from Scotland after the Bruce wars. They too were billeted on peasant farmers in the Gaelic lordships, an exaction known as “coyne and livery.” The chieftains themselves, with their families and household guards, formed the cavalry, wearing suits of mail and helmets, and armed with long spears. A series of major Irish victories in the fourteenth century demonstrated their effectiveness: in 1318, at Dysert O’Dea, where the death of Lord Richard de Clare and the subsequent failure of his heirs ensured lasting independence for the Ua Briain lordship of Thomond; in 1346, when Brian Mór Mac Mathgamna (MacMahon) of Monaghan defeated the Anglo-Irish of Louth, killing four hundred of them; or in 1374, when Niall Mór Ua Néill defeated and killed the Seneschal of Ulster at Downpatrick. However, real territorial gains for the Irish chiefs came from a gradual war of attrition on the borders of the colony, resulting in considerable expansion for Ua Conchobair Failge (O’Conor Faly) along the southern borders of Meath and Kildare, for Ua Broin and Ua Tuathail (O’Byrne and O’Toole) in Wicklow, for Mac Murchada Caemánach (MacMurrough Kavanagh) in Wexford and Carlow, and for Ua Cerbaill (O’Carroll) in Tipperary. In Ulster, the murder of Earl William de Burgh in 1333, and the absenteeism of his heirs, led to virtual independence for the chiefs there, but in Connacht and Desmond, or south Munster, the Anglo-Irish Burkes and Fitzgeralds respectively dominated the local chiefs, although the English government itself had little control in those areas.

Battle of Tertry, (687)


FRANKS – Scola Heavy Cavalry and Scara Bodyguards


8th Century Frank Scara


Pepin II of Herstal

Important battle in the rise of the Carolingian dynasty that helped secure the place of the Carolingians in Austrasia and the Frankish kingdom as a whole. Although a decisive victory for Pippin II of Herstal, it was not the decisive turning point in Carolingian history that it is often made out to be. The battle did strengthen Pippin’s position as mayor of the palace, but it was two generations before another Carolingian, Pippin III the Short, claimed the kingship of the Franks.

During the seventh century, as the fortunes of the Merovingian dynasty declined and the kingdom was once again divided among the later descendants of the first great Merovingian king, Clovis (r. 481–511), into the regions of Austrasia, Neustria, and Burgundy, rival aristocratic factions competed for power against each other and against the Merovingian do-nothing kings (rois fainéants), as they have traditionally been called. In the region of Austrasia the descendants of Arnulf of Metz, the sainted bishop and ancestor of the family, had once again taken control of the office of mayor of the palace. In Neustria, the Arnulfing Pippin faced the powerful Ebroin and the Merovingian king Theuderic III. Pippin had been defeated by Ebroin in 680, but he survived his rival, who was assassinated and whose murderers gained asylum at Pippin’s court. Ebroin’s successor made peace with Pippin but was deposed by his own son, Ghislemar. Both Ghislemar and his successor, Berchar, remained on bad terms with Pippin, and war once again broke out between the mayors of Austrasia and Neustria.

The war broke out as a result of the long-standing hostility between the Austrasian and Neustrian leaders and the civil strife in Neustria. Berchar had alienated many Neustrian nobles, who joined Pippin and invited him to become involved in the struggle in Neustria. According to one near-contemporary, pro-Carolingian account, Pippin asked his followers to join him in war against the Neustrians. Pippin sought war, according to this account, because Theuderic and Berchar rejected his appeals on behalf of the clergy, the Neustrian nobility asked for aid, and he desired to punish the proud king and his mayor. Pippin’s followers agreed to join in the war, and after marshalling his troops, Pippin moved along the Meuse River to meet his rival. Theuderic, learning of the advance of Pippin, levied his own troops, and he rejected, on Berchar’s advice, any offers of a peaceful settlement from Pippin. Having been rebuffed, Pippin prepared for battle and at dawn on the day of battle at Tertry quietly moved his troops across the river. Theuderic and Berchar, learning that Pippin’s camp was empty, moved in to plunder it and were ambushed by Pippin’s army. The king and his mayor fled while their troops were massacred. Berchar too was killed while wandering, and Pippin captured Theuderic, along with the royal treasury. The victor at Tertry, Pippin took control of the king and his wealth and united the three kingdoms of Austrasia, Burgundy, and Neustria under his authority. The Battle of Tertry was a significant victory for Pippin and his descendants, but it was only under his son, Charles Martel, and grandson, Pippin the Short, that power was consolidated in Carolingian hands.


Bachrach, Bernard S. Merovingian Military Organization, 481–751. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751–987. London: Longman, 1983.

Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Battle of Curzola (Korčula), (7 September 1298)

The greatest naval battle fought between Genoa and Venice. At war with Venice since 1294, the Genoese sent an armada of more than 90 galleys into the Adriatic in the summer of 1298 under the command of Lamba Doria. The armada was missing some galleys because of a storm, and most of the fleet proceeded up the Dalmatian coast to the island of Curzola (Korčula), then a feudal possession of the Venetian noble family Zorzi. The Genoese captured and burned the city of Curzola on 5 September 1298. Meanwhile, the Venetians, learning of the Genoese intrusion, had sent a fleet commanded by Andrea Dandolo. When the opposing fleets came into visual contact late on 6 September, the Venetian galleys probably outnumbered the Genoese 96 to 76.

The battle began early on Sunday, 7 September, and seems to have been fought in the channel between the island and the mainland, to the southeast of the city of Curzola. The Venetians, facing southeast, had the morning sun in their eyes. The battle lasted until the afternoon and was marked by heavy casualties on both sides. The Venetians had the advantage initially, capturing 10 Genoese galleys, but later the Genoese were able to take advantage of disorder in the Venetian line and gain a decisive victory. Nearly the entire Venetian fleet was captured or destroyed, except for a dozen galleys that escaped. Andrea Dandolo, the defeated commander, either died in the battle or afterwards as a prisoner (either of fever or suicide). The war ended with the peace treaty of 25 May 1299.

According to a tradition first recorded in 1553 and usually accepted, Marco Polo was taken prisoner in this battle; it was during his imprisonment in Genoa that he dictated his account of his travels.

Caro, Georg. Genua und die Mächte am Mittelmeer, 1257–1311. Vol. 2. Halle an der Salle, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 1899.
Lane, Frederic C. Venice: A Maritime Republic. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973
Manfroni, Camillo. Storia della Marina Italiana dal trattato di Ninfeo alla caduta di Costantinopoli (1261–1453). Leghorn, Italy: Reale Accademia Navale, 1902.
Polo, Marco. The Book of Ser Marco Polo the Venetian concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East. Trans. and ed. Sir Henry Yule. 3d ed. Revised by Henri Cordier. London: John Murray, 1903.