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The second of the Italian Wars, also know as the Second Italian War or Louis XII’s Italian War was initiated by Louis XII to make good on the claims that Charles VIII could not.

Louis XII decided to press claims on Milan and Naples. While he had familial ties to the thrown of Milan, his claim upon Naples was rather dubiously that he had inherited the claim from the fact that his predecessor had seized control. If walloping on minor Italian countries with one of the world’s most powerful armies wasn’t unsportsmanlike enough, Louis secured the backing of the other major powers.

With Venice, he agreed to grant them some of Milan’s territories, once conquered, in exchange for a military alliance. To Pope Alexander VI, he promised to back the machinations of Cesare Borgia, Alexander’s illegitimate son who was attempting to build his own fiefdom in Northern Italy.

Louis was also concerned about an attack from Spain while his armies were busy in Italy. To that end, he made a further promise to Spain to split up the conquered Naples in exchange for treaty.

After the combined forces of Spain and France defeated Naples and Louis claimed the crown, the details of the division of spoils proved divisive. War ensued, now between the French and the Spanish. Battles between the Spanish and the French reflected those of the First Italian War, but Spain had learned lessons in the previous conflict. France suffered significant defeats in 1503 at the battle of Cerignola(April 28th) and Garigliano (December 29th). At the outset of 1504, Louis was forced to abandon Naples to Spanish control.


My newly devised pike and shot formations begin the work of driving back the French from Cerignola’s defenses.

The Cerignola scenario is a user-created addition to Pike and Shot. It reproduces the battle where the Spanish armies defended against numerically superior French. Neverthless, the Spanish had several key advantages (in addition the advantage of the defense). Despite the French having superior artillery, that artillery had not yet been brought up for the battle, meaning the French were forced to close at the mercy of Spanish artillery. Also, the Spanish commander had learned his lesson from the First Italian War, and began experimenting (so says the screen shot) with combined pike and arquebus formations capable of holding their own against the French and Swiss pike.

The scenario played out similarly enough to what the historical record suggests. The battle ultimately came down to the close combat between the French Kiels and the Spanish Colunelas. Both effectiveness and flexibility (in the game, the Spanish has more but smaller heavy infantry) seemed to propel the game to an inevitable Spanish victory. There were some moments where I worried that the French would not break soon enough, but eventually they did.

This battle is given the distinction of being the first European fight where gunpowder played the decisive roll. It also marked the end of the French dominance of the battlefields of Europe. For nearly 150 years hence, it would be the Spanish armies that would seem invincible.

About those Borgias

Being Showtime, we open the TV series The Borgias right up with a little Rama-lama-ding-dong. It’s a fine line to walk. Is the soft-core porn just to please the Showtime audience, or is it an important part of establish Bishop Cesare Borgia’s decidedly non-ecclesiastical moral fiber?

As the show develops, the gratuitous nudity might even be a tad subdued relative to what has come to be the formula from HBO and Showtime. In fact, given that I’ve come to expect a discernible difference in quality between the HBO and Showtime -produced series, I will compliment this series saying I might mistake it for the former. I’m only a couple of shows into the series, and I’ve yet to see whether (and if, then how) they handle the large, cinematic battles that have also come to mark the HBO productions since their release of Rome.

So far, the stage is mostly restricted to the inner sanctums of the Vatican, allowing the center of the Christian world to be portrayed by a handful of actors and sets. Costuming, sets and the acting, particularly with Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander, rises to the occasion. As seems to be the case with series of this kind, the second season earned a more positive reception than the first, which suggests that following through with the series will be rewarded.

The series begins some years before the Second Italian War, opening with Pope Innocent VIII’s death (in 1492) and Alexander’s election. Cesare Borgia is still …

One thing that struck me, actually even before watching the first episode, is the ages at which these historical figures became such. Cesare Borgia was a Bishop at age 15, an Archbishop at 17 and became a Cardinal at 18. Remarking on his daughter Lucrezia, the Pope says that at 14, it is high time she should marry. And he would surely think such a thing. Lucrezia is played by a 23-year-old actress and is described as 14 to soften the impact of the truth. In point of fact, Lucrezia was first married at age 11.

Not that I would advocate for 11-year-olds getting married, but there was a time when teenagers accepted adult responsibilities in the world and accomplished much. While extending the protection of childhood to underdeveloped teenage personalities is appropriate, infantilizing our offspring into their early 20s is absurd. We would do well to remember how different things were a few generations back.

That said, I’ll not be letting my children view The Borgias any time soon.