Battle of Agnadello


May 25, 2022

The battle of Agnadello, also called the battle of Ghiaradadda (Gera d'Adda), was fought on May 14, 1509 as part of the war between the forces of the League of Cambrai (established five months earlier) and the Republic of Venice, which had to succumb to French forces of Louis XII.


The pact of the League of Cambrai, long prepared, was signed in great secrecy at the end of 1508. It consisted of two parts: one obvious and one hidden, which brought together numerous European powers against the Serenissima, at that moment at the height of its power with mainland Italian possessions that reached close to Milan, territories in Romagna, in the Marches and even in Puglia. In winter it was not customary to prepare military operations: the armies wintered in the countryside and in the villages, usually at the expense of the inhabitants of the countryside. With the arrival of the good season the French moved before the others: they already had an impressive and very efficient army, undoubtedly considered the most powerful in Europe, stationed in the lands of the Duchy of Milan, which was then a possession French. Famous for its heavy cavalry and its very modern artillery, it counted among its ranks of knights of great prestige such as La Palisse, Chaumont, Trivulzio, Pietro Baiardo and others. After a crescendo of frontier activities made up of sorties, raids, robberies and territorial devastation, on April 15, 1509, under the direct command of King Louis XII, these armed formations invaded the Veneto territory by crossing the Adda river, a natural and consolidated border between the territories of the Serenissima and those of the Duchy. Treviglio surrendered itself without undergoing an unsustainable siege which would then subject it to sacking: leaving a thousand infantry there with a small contingent of spears, the French crossed the river to settle in Cassano d'Adda. As early as 1504, as a consequence of the news received about the Treaty of Blois which could be assumed as the background of Cambrai, the Serenissima had decided to face the situation, in the awareness of its own economic and military power. In this circumstance against the French enemy, currently considered the most dangerous because the only one capable of handling a powerful army, he had concentrated troops from all over the domain (Brescia, Veneto, Friuli, Dalmatian, Albanians, Greeks). There was obviously no military conscription system and the armed men were all mercenary in nature, about forty thousand men: from the famous Brisighella, to many Italian conducts such as those of Antonio Pio, Lucio Malvezzi or Citolo da Perugia, glorious defender of the Bastione della Gatta during the subsequent siege of Padua. Also present were Pandolfo Malatesta, lord of Cittadella, and Giacomo Secco da Caravaggio: the first, a full-blown traitor shortly thereafter, the other in a strong smell of betrayal during the battle. There were many Sorts or Ordinances, peasant recruiting foot people, poorly trained and unreliable, poor people leaving the arduous land they starved, contenting themselves with a five-year tax exemption and hoping for some lucky looting. On the occasion of this military campaign, the Venetian army will count almost half of the infantry forces as Ordinances, coming from almost all parts of the state from the ground. They flanked the Provisionate: infantry of short-term professionals who received a personal allowance: a salary of three ducats every forty days. As in use in the legal systems of the Serenissima, which paid a lot of attention to an underground but strict control of men and situations, the command was not unitary. This responsibility was practically shared by the cousins ​​Niccolò Orsini count of Pitigliano, captain general of the militias, and Bartolomeo d'Alviano, governor of the arm