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Published on May 28, 2018
The Kingdom of Naples - Prelude to the Italian Wars
In 1494 the Kingdom of Naples was invaded by Charles VIII, the King of France. However trouble started much sooner for the beleaguered kingdom. Naples was ruled by the Anjou, a noble family closely related to the Valois who ruled France. In 1382 queen Joanna I of Naples died childless, and the throne became contested between two branches of the same family: the Anjou-Valois and the Anjou-Durazzo, plunging the kingdom in chaos. 80 years later another childless queen, Joanna II brought destruction to the kingdom that ended up in the hands of Alfonso V, King of Aragon. The rest of Italy fared better. After the Peace of Lodi that concluded the Wars in Lombardy, 40 years of peace and prosperity followed. Five major city-states: The Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Milan, Florence, the Papal States and Naples formed the Italic League, a mutual defense pact. This worked for a time however in 1494 troubles in Milan stoked up by the usurpation of Ludovico Sforza brought back war to the peninsula.
The Italian Wars was a series of conflicts that raged between 1494 and 1559 between the two major European powers, the Habsburgs who ruled the Holy Roman Empire and later Spain, and the Valois kings of France. At the height of the conflict the war involved Tudor England, the Ottoman Empire, Hungary, and all of Italy either as passive or active participants. In terms of military tactics and strategy the Italian Wars saw the greatest innovations since the Roman Empire. Artillery finally came of age during the war prompting radical changes in terms of fortifications and battlefield tactics. Swiss pikemen, Landsknechts, and Spanish musketeers were amalgamated into a new type of standardized European infantry, the pike and shot formation. Cavalry although diminished in numbers, retained its place on the battlefield, being differentiated into heavy cavalry (men at arms), light cavalry and dragoons. In terms of strategy frontal medieval charges were replaced by careful maneuvering, the use of natural or man-made obstacles, and a keen attention to logistics. Commanders no longer fought in the front lines, but rather became managers of their armies. Politically the war shaped and reshaped the destinies of European countries for centuries to come.