Ars Bellica

Battles In Brief

Battle of Campomorto

August 21, 1482

The opponents

Alfonso II of Aragon, King of Naples (Naples 1448 - Messina 1495)

Both lived in the fifth century and they were elected consuls together between 492 and 494 BC. Tito Veturius belonged to the gens Veturia, probably twin brother of Gaius Geminus Veturius Cicurino, consul in 499 BC, and the father of Titus Veturius Geminus Cicurino, consul in 462 BC. Aulus Virginius, however, belonged to the Gens Verginia, and was the father of Aulus Virginius Tricosto Celiomontano, consul in 469 BC, and Spurrier Virginio Tricosto Celiomontano, consul in 456 BC.

Roberto Malatesta called the Magnificent ( Fano 1442 - Rome 1482 )

Illegitimate son of Sigismondo Pandolfo and Vannetta Toschi. Legitimized by Pope Nicholas V, was soon involved in the political and military life, revealing himself as a talented commander: in the mission (1457) against Alfonso the Magnanimous of Naples, at war with his father, and in the campaign (1460-63) against Pius II. At the death of his uncle Malatesta Novello, took possession of Cesena, but fought Paul II, had to give up the dominion. Once died his father (1468), by deception took possession of Rimini, and once get rid of stepmother Isotta and stepbrother Sallust, he settled there. On June 25, 1475 was celebrated lavishly his marriage to Elizabeth of Montefeltro, long deferred due to the young age of the bride. He took part in the league of 1482 when Venice and Pope Sixtus IV had formed an alliance against the King of Naples, the Duke of Florence, Milan, and Ferrara.

With the rank of general of the Venetians moved to the Ferrarese, sacked some castles, attacked Bagnacavallo and Fossignano. Called in Rome by the pope, was forced to leave the war in Ferrara to defend the territory of the Church, threatened by the Duke of Calabria. He command the army in Castel Gandolfo, camped in Civita August 2, 1482 and near San Pietro in Formis, after six hours of fighting in the famous Battle of Campomorto, location between Astura Tower and St. Peter in Formis at Aprilia, August 21, 1482, forced the Duke of Calabria to flee on a galley, taking prisoner the Duke of Melfi and other enemies commander. Once sent the prisoners to the pope, he occupied Civita and other castles in the area and laid siege to Cavi.

He fell ill, possibly of malaria contracted in the swamps of the Roman countryside as other captains of his army, was conducted in Valmontone, then to Rome by order of the pope, who showed him all his kindness, and died there. He was buried in St. Peter's.

The genesis

Once strengthened the association with the Montefeltro family, through marriage with Elizabeth, the ambitious Roberto Malatesta returned to cultivate strategic relationships with S.See and, in September 1476, was hired, again, by the pope. As the captain of the papal militia took up arms against the brother-in-law Charles Fortebracci, sister Margaret's husband, guilty of having shown ambitious expansionist ideas. The militancy at the service of the Church led, subsequently, the Malatesta in the shocked Tuscany, in spring 1478, for the assassination of Giuliano de' Medici, victim of the Pazzi conspiracy. Delays in the payment and supplies to the troops, however, pushed back the Malatesta towards Rimini and to rescind its commitments with the pope. The relationship with the S.See, on the other hand, had already suffered a crisis with the emergence of the birth of a vast domain between Imola and Faenza, in which Girolamo Riario, nephew of Sixtus IV, had been invested as Lord. The Malatesta passed, therefore, under the salaries of Florence, promoter, toghether with Venice and Milan, of an alliance aimed at countering the Pope and the King of Naples. Appointed Captain-General of the League, the Malatesta, in June 1479, received a great victory in Magione, near Perugia, putting en route the opposing army. The peace agreement signed in the spring of 1480, thanks to the mediation of Venice, raise Rimini from the interdicted and the excommunication which had been condemned, in time of war, by the pontiff.

The reputation of invincibility earned by the Malatesta conferred to him a lucrative salary from Venice, that even appointed him captain of the army with a salary of 30,000 guilders in peacetime and 60,000 in wartime. Discharged from the command by the Florentine, the Malatesta, in February 1481, presented to the Senate of the Republic, who received him with every respect, noticed him in the small circle of the Venetian nobleman, transmissible to honor all legitimate descendants. Loyal to the orders of the Serenissima, the Malatesta is brought in to help in Forlivese Ordelaffi rebelled against the Church. The campaign, however, underwent an abrupt halt to the reversal of alliances.

Venice and Sixtus IV, in fact, laid down their hostility to forge a coalition in anticipation of a conflict that opposed them in Ferrara, Naples, Milan, Florence and Bologna. While Federico da Montefeltro carried out its role of supreme captain of the antipapal coalition, the Malatesta, supported by Girolamo Riario, gonfalonier of the Church, was elected chief of the Venetians. Sent to the reconquest of Città di Castello, fall again into the hands of Niccolo Vitelli, Malatesta was joined by a letter of the pope who convoked him urgently to Rome, threatened by the troops of Alfonso of Aragon , Duke of Calabria. The Malatesta quickly move, and on July 23, 1482, entered triumphantly into the city and leave it, after conferring with Pope Sixtus IV, August 15 , strengthened by 50 teams of horses and 12,000 foot soldiers. While Malatesta recovered stations, conquering castles and plunder in the countryside, Alfonso di Calabria had established his camp in Campomorto, unhealthy area of the Pontine Marshes.

The forces on the field

As mentioned, the papal could deploy on the field a number of 50 teams or cavalry lance (remember that the "lancia" is the term that designates not only the knight with heavy armor, encharged to resolve the battle, but, beside him, other people - mostly three, sometimes six or eight - that compone the spear with him.) with 12,000 infantry. The king, as described in"Istoria del Regno di Napoli" could count on a number of fighters equal to the Papal one: «were of equal force the two armies».

The battle

Camped at about two miles by the enemy, Roberto decided, August 21, that it was time to attack. In fact, his assault was not the classic impact of heavy cavalry. The strategies, but especially the technical evolutions in the late Middle Ages, now not leave much space for the heavy cavalries charges as definitive solution for the result of a battle. For this, the Malatesta let come, from the town of Velletri, a large number of crossbowmen: «Malatesta, general of pontiff weapons, when militated against Alfonso Duke of Calabria [...], order that the City (of Velletri) have to send 500 armed citizens in his field, and among these, there were 250 Balestrieri (crossbowmen)».

The choice of the Malatesta, to focus on crossbowmen proved to be decisive in the fate of the battle. In fact, in the early afternoon (it seems that the battle has taken place between 15 and 21), it started raining and this climatic condition not only made ​​almost impossible to use firearms, but led the cavalry, already in difficulty because the swampy territory in which they were, in a state of semi-immobility. As recounted by some historians of the nineteenth century : «since begin to rain, the enemy artillery have been rendered useless, so massacre of enemies did the Balestrieri (crossbowmen), considering that they were in large numbers. From that we noticed that, in this era, the soldier usually prefer gunpowder to crossbows».

At this point, he order the papal infantry to attack against the fortified camp of Alfonso. We must noticed that in that period, the Italian infantry (and the papal one above all) had reached a very high quality standard, probably not regulated like those of Switzerland, but equally effective, especially in tactical situations such as Campomorto, where the assault on a field fortification in swamps and wetlands could not be carried out by the heavy cavalry. The latter came on the scene much later in the clash, causing the final routing of the neapolitan army and closing the fate of the battle. Campomorto was one of the bloodiest battles of the entire century and in the field lasted about 1,200 men, of which, at least a thousand were members of the Alfonso's army.

The aftermath

Immediately after the victory over the troops of Alfonso, Roberto, at the height of his glory, became ill, probably struck by malarial fever. Transported to Rome, he received the last rites from the hands of the pope. On his deathbed he dictated in his will and testament to Raimondo Malatesta entrusting his son Pandolfo to the lordship, with the support of his mother and a council of protection. The Malatesta died in Rome on Sept. 10, 1482 and was buried in S. Peter, honored by a monument that well befitted the epithet of Magnifico. His sudden death took away from Italy its very ruler of the fifteenth century. The fame of military invincibility, achieved thanks to a series of successes on the field, had presented him as the most formidable opponent to all the kingdoms and lordships of Italy; also the tacit support of the papal state removed from the field his most dangerous opponents in the Italian political scene. Thus being able to exclude "foreigners" interventions against him (and also thanks to the victory of Campomorto), Roberto would no longer have had serious opponents in his rise to power over the entire peninsula. But the same success in the Pontine Marshes, which could sign his ascension, cost him his life, and with it the end of his dream.

The standard of Alfonso

From "Ragionamento de Mons. Paolo Giovio sopra i motti, et desegni d'arme" (Paolo Giovio 1556)

Particular, was the banner carried by Alfonso in Campomorto: «and it was , that approaching the war on the day of the battle of Campomorto above Velletri, to exhort his captains and soldiers, [ Alfonso ] painted a banner with three diadems of infantry together with a short word in the middle: VALER, meaning that in the day was to be shown the valor above everything».