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Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Siena

by William Caferro

  • ISBN: 9780801857881
  • ISBN10: 0801857880

Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Siena

by William Caferro

  • List Price: $55.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 05/01/1998
  • ISBN: 9780801857881
  • ISBN10: 0801857880
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Description: The Italian city-state of Siena had the misfortune of being too rich and on the main highway to Florence, a road much traveled by the infamous thirteenth-century marauders known as "Companies of Adventure". Composed of professional soldiers and adventurers from throughout Europe, these companies sold their services to the highest bidder in times of war, and staged ruinous raids in times of peace. In this groundbreaking volume, William Caferro explores the companies' social, economic, and administrative impact in the fourteenth century, from the arrival of Werner of Urslingen and the Great Company in 1342 until the fall of the Sienese republic in 1399.

During this time, Caferro explains, Siena endured some thirty-seven raids, characterized by arson, pillage, and looting in the countryside and extortion of enormous bribes from the city government. Caferro shows that the raids constituted a persistent and significant drain on both the human and financial resources of Siena. The stresses caused by the mercenaries were greatly exacerbated by plague and famine, which often coincided precisely with the raids -- each disaster serving to intensify the effects of the other.

Caferro concludes that the stress of the companies acted as an agent of change on the machinery of state, bring both decentralization and confusion. If, as some historians have argued, military expenditure led to more streamlined bureaucracies and helped "make" modern states elsewhere, it is nonetheless clear that the same phenomenon helped "unmake" Siena. The raids, therefore, were more than an exotic nuisance, but a key factor in Siena's decision to abandon independence in 1399.

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