Dino Compagni, Battle of Campaldino (1289)

Dino Compagni was a prominent silk merchant and an active member of the Florentine government until 1301.  His chronicle, which deals mostly with the internal turmoil of Florence, contains an account of a battle between Arezzo and Florence in 1289.

Chapter VII – Preparations for war on both sides, 1289

The powerful Florentine Guelfs had a great desire to attack Arezzo; but to many others – popolani – this did not seem fitting, both because they considered the enterprise was not just, and because of the indignation they felt against them (the nobles) with regard to office.  Nevertheless they hired a captain, called M. Valdovino of Soppino, with 400 horsemen; but the Pope detained him, and therefore he did not come.

The Aretines summoned many noble and powerful Ghibellines from Romagna, from the March (of Ancona) and from Orvieto; they displayed great boldness in desiring battle, and prepared to defend their city and to seize the most advantageous positions of the enemy’s line of march.  The Florentines summoned the Pistojans, the Lucchese, the Bolgonese, the Sienese, the Sanminiatese, and Mainardo of Susinana, a famous captain, who had taken to wife one of the Tosinghi.  At that time King Charles of Sicily came to Florence on his way to Rome, and was in honourable fashion presented with gifts by the Commonwealth, and entertained with races and tilting.  The Guelfs requested him to grant a captain, together with his royal standard; and he (accordingly) left them one of his barons and noblemen, M. Amerigo of Narbonne, who was young and very handsome, but inexperienced in the deeds of arms.  His tutor [William of Durfort], however, an aged knight, remained with him, besides many other knights tried and expert in war, who had high pay and ample provision.

Chapter VIII – The Bishop of Arezzo attempts to make his own terms with Florence, but his design is frustrated by the Aretines (1289)

The Bishop of Arezzo, considering, like a wise man, what the consequences of the war might be to him, sought to bargain with the Florentines to quit Arezzo with all his family, assigning to them his Episcopal fortresses as pledges; and as compensation for the revenues and feudal services of the vassals he wanted 3000 florins a year, to be guaranteed by M. Vieri de’ Cerchi, a very wealthy citizen.  But the Priors who were in office at the time – from the 15th of April to the 15th of June 1289 – were at great variance with one another.  They were M. Ruggieri of Cuona, doctor of law, M. Manfredi Adimari, Pagno Bordoni, Dino Compagni, the author of this Chronicle, and Dino de Giovanni, surnamed Pecora.  The cause if the disagreement was that some of them wanted to get the Bishop’s fortresses, and especially Bibbiena, which was a fine fortress and strongly built, while others did not; and they were adverse to war, considering the evil consequences which war involves.  At length, however, they all consented to take over the fortresses, but not in order to dismantle them; and they agreed to empower Dino Compagni, because he was a good and wise man, to act in the matter as he might think fit.  He sent for M. Durazzo, who had recently been knighted by the bishop, and charged him to make the best terms with bishop that he could.  In the meantime the Bishop of Arezzo had reflected that if he were to consent to the agreement he would be a traitor; and therefore he assembled the chiefs of his party and urged them to come to terms with the Florentines, affirming that for his part he did not wish Bibbiena to be lost, but rather it should be strengthened and defended: if they refused, he should come to terms with them himself.  The Aretines, enraged at his words, for all their scheme was frustrated, determined to have him slain; but Guglielmo de’ Pazzi, a kinsman of the bishop, who was present at the council, said that he would have been well satisfied if they had done it without his knowledge, but as he had been asked to do it, he would not consent, for he would not be a murderer of his own blood.  They then decided to take Bibbiena themselves, and, like desperate men, prepared to do so without further deliberation.

Chapter IX – The Florentines decide to set out against the Aretines by way of the Casentino.  Arrival of the allied troops at Florence.

When their decision was known among the Florentines, the captains and those that had control of the war held a council in the church of S. Giovanni, to consider the best way to go, so that the army might be supplied with what was necessary.  Some recommended the way by Valdarno, inasmuch as if they went by another, the Aretines might raid this district and burn the large houses of the Contado.  Others recommended the way through the Casentino, saying it was a better route, and assigning many reasons for preferring it.  A wise old man named Orlando of Chiusi, and Sasso of Murlo, who were great feudal lords, being anxious about their weak fortresses, gave as theur advice that this way should be taken, fearing lest, if another were taken, these might be destroyed by the Aretines, for they were in their territory; and M. Rinaldo de’ Bostoli, one of the Aretine exiles, agreed with them.  There were many speakers; the secret ballot was taken; the route by Casentino gained the majority, and notwithstanding it was the more doubtful and dangerous way, it turned out for the best.

Having come to this decision the Florentines welcomed their allies, who were the Bolognese with 200 horsemen, the Lucchese with 200, the Pistojans with 200, over who M. Corso Donatoi, a Florentine knight, was captain; Mainrdo of Susinana with 20 horsemen and 300 foot soldiers, M. Malpiglio Ciccioni with 25, ad M. Barone Mangiadori of Sanmainiatol the Squarcialupi, the Colligiani and others from fortresses in Valdelsa, so that the number was 1300 horsemen and a great many footsoldiers.

Chapter X – Battle of Campaldino.  The Florentines fail to take full advantage of their victory (1289).

On the day appointed the Florentine army set out to invade the enemy’s territory, and passed through Casentino along bad roads, where, if they had found the enemy, they would have received great hurt.  But God did not permit this.  And arriving near Bibbiena, at a place called Campaldino, where the enemy was, they halted there and set themselves in battle array.  The captains of the war placed the picked cavalry in front of the main body, and those armed with large shields bearing the red lily on a white ground were drawn up to support them.  Then the Bishop, who was shortsighted, asked, “What walls are those?” and received the answer, “The enemy’s shields.”

M. Barone de’ Mangiadori of Saminiato, a bold knight and experienced in deeds of arms, assembled the men-at-arms and addressed them thus: “Sirs, the wars in Tuscany were wont to be won by attacking well, and they did not last long, and few men lost their lives in them, since it was not the custom to slay them.  Now the manner is changed, and victory comes by standing steady.  I therefore counsel you to stand firm and to leave the attack to them.”  This they prepared to do.  The Aretines attacked the army so vigorously and with such force that the main body of the Florentines fell back some distance.  The battle was very fierce and stubborn.  New knights had been made on both sides.  M. Corso Donati, with the troop of Pistojans, assailed the enemy’s flank; arrows fell like rain; the Aretines had few of these, and were taken in flank, where they were uncovered.  The sky was covered with clouds, and the dust was very great.  The Aretine footsoldiers crawled, knife in hand, under the bellies of the horses and disemboweled them; and some of their picked cavalry rushed forward so eagerly, that many of both sides were slain in the midst of the [Florentine] main body.  Many who hitherto had been esteemed for their prowess proved cowards that day, and many distinguished themselves of who formerly no mention had been made.  Great praise was won by the captain’s tutor, who was slain there.  M. Bindo del Baschiera Tosinghi was wounded, and therefore returned to Florence, but died within a few days.  On the enemy’s side there was slain the Bishop, and M. Guglielmo de’ Pazzi, a bold knight, Buonconte, and Loccio of Montefeltri, and other brave men.  Count Guido [Novello] did not await the end, but departed without striking a blow.  M. Vieri de’ Cerchi, with one of his sons, a knight, at his side, acquitted himself right well.  The Aretines were defeated, not owing to cowardice or want of valour, but by the overwhelming number of their enemies, who put them to flight, and slew them in pursuit.  The Florentine mercenaries, who were accustomed to carnage, massacred them, and the auxiliaries had no pity.

M. Talano Adimari and his followers hastened home.  Many of the Florentine mounted citizens remained inactive; many knew nothing until the enemy were defeated.

They did not rush to Arezzo in the full tide of victory; for they expected to secure the place with little trouble.  The Captain and the young knights, who were in need of rest, thought they had done enough by winning the battle, without pursuing the enemy.

They captured many flags from the enemy and many prisoners; and they slew many of them, which brought loss on all Tuscany.

The said defeat was on the 11th of June, S. Barnabas’ Day, at a place called Campaldino, near Poppi.  After the said victory, however, all the Guelfs did not return to Arezzo; but some ventured to do so, and they were told that if they wished to remain there, they might do as they pleased.  Peace was not made between the Florentines and the Aretines; but the Florentines kept the fortresses they had taken, namely Castiglione, Laterina, Civitella, Rondine, and several others; and some were destroyed.  A short time after, the Florentines sent back troops to Arezzo, and encamped against it; and two of the Priors went there.  And on S. John’s Day they caused a race to be run there; and they attacked the town, and burned what they found in the outlying territory.  After that they went to Bibbiena, took the place and destroyed the walls.

Those two (I mean the two Priors) were much blamed for having gone to join the army, because it was not their business, but that of nobles accustomed to war.  After this the Florentines returned home, having gained little advantage, for the expedition had involved heavy expenditure, together with personal hardships.

This translation comes from The Chronicle of Dino Compagni, translated by Else C.M. Benecke (London, 1906).  An improved edition can be found in Dino Compagni’s Chronicle of Florence, translated by Daniel E. Bornstein (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986).  See also Herbert L. Oerter, “Campaldino, 1289”, Speculum 43 (1968): 429-450.


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