Back To CourseAP European History: Exam Prep
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Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.
What happens when you combine five Italian city-states led by men with big egos and bigger ambitions? You get competition, intrigue, conflict, and especially war. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, Italy existed in a nearly permanent state of war with one independent city-state fighting another or several fighting all at once. Peace did not arrive until the Treaty of Lodi was signed on April 9, 1454.
Before we examine the treaty, let's set the stage by looking at the major players and their conflicts. Remember that Italy would not be a unified country for another 400 years. In the years leading up to the treaty, five major city-states controlled much of the Italian territory:
1. Milan was ruled by the powerful Visconti family during the Middle Ages. When the last male Visconti died in 1447, his son-in-law, military commander Francesco Sforza, took over. He was ambitious to the extreme and soon became a prince in a city that had been a republic, making quite a few enemies in the process.
2. Venice was one of Milan's primary enemies. Known as the 'Queen of the Adriatic,' this commercial city was a stable constitutional monarchy internally, but it was also looking to assert its preeminence in Italian trade and to expand its territory.
3. Naples was a port city, which was traditionally ruled by French nobility. In 1442, King Alfonso united Naples with the kingdoms of Sicily and Aragon.
4. The Papal States were under the direct control of the pope, who was a secular ruler as well as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Nicholas V was pope at the time of the treaty.
5. In Florence, 'the most beautiful of cities,' several powerful families strove to gain power. Eventually, the city came under the control of the Medici family. Patriarch Cosimo de' Medici typically opposed Italy's constant wars, but for quite a while, he could do little to end them.
In 1454, Milan and Venice were at war. Venice had been pushing its way into new territories, and Milan took offense. Florence and the smaller city-states Mantua and Genoa sided with Milan. Naples, Savoy, and Montferrat supported Venice. The Papal States were caught in the middle. This war was simply one more in a long string of conflicts over territory, trade, and especially pride.
This time, however, both sides were eager for peace. Venice was threatened by the Ottoman Empire to the east and needed stability and support from the rest of Italy. Francesco Sforza of Milan was still trying to firmly establish himself in his rule, and he didn't need an expensive, deadly war complicating matters. They decided to strike a deal.
Cosimo de' Medici of Florence worked out the details. Venice would recognize Sforza as the rightful duke of Milan and lean on its allies to do the same. Milan would let Venice retain some territory in northern Italy, especially in Brescia and Bergamo, which bordered Milan. Both sides signed the Treaty of Lodi on April 9, 1454. Their allies quickly agreed to the terms. They were either too weak to resist or too tired of war to disagree.
While the treaty ended the current war and established the beginnings of a balance of power in Italy, the major players were afraid that peace would not last. After all, Italy had a bad track record for conflicts, and everybody was a little nervous about how France kept eyeing Italian territory.
On August 30, 1454, Milan, Venice, and Florence signed a pact that created the Italian League. As members of the League, they agreed to remain at peace with each other for 25 years, defend each other from outside enemies, and refrain from making alliances with outsiders. Further, they confirmed the current borders of the Italian city-states and consented to leave them where they were.
Over the next few months, nearly all the Italian city-states joined the League and agreed to its terms. On March 2, 1455, Pope Nicholas V made the alliance official. Italy remained mostly at peace for the next 50 years except for a minor squabble now and then. Without the stress and activity of constant warfare, Italians could turn their attention to the artistic endeavors of the burgeoning Renaissance.
Unfortunately, however, peace did not last. Near the end of the 15th century, Naples, Sicily, and Aragon crowned a new king, who was hated at home and abroad. Milan's Sforza wanted to toss him off his throne, but he didn't want to do it himself. He made a deal with King Charles VIII of France. Sforza would offer the French safe passage through Italy if they would depose the bothersome king of Naples. What Sforza didn't realize was that Charles had ambitions of his own, ambitions that would shatter the peace of Lodi and the Italian League and plunge Italy into 35 years of chaos.
In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, Italy was made up of independent city-states that were often at war with one another. Five major city-states controlled much of the Italian territory: Milan, led by Francesco Sforza; Venice, a key commercial hub; Naples, a port city united with Sicily and Aragon; the Papal States, governed by the pope; and Florence, controlled by Cosimo de' Medici.
In 1454, Milan and Venice were at war but eager for peace, so they agreed on a deal. The Treaty of Lodi, signed on April 9, 1454, required Venice to recognize Sforza as the rightful duke of Milan in return for some territory in northern Italy. Worried that the treaty would not be enough to preserve peace, Milan, Venice, and Florence signed a pact on August 30, 1454, that created the Italian League. They promised to remain at peace, defend each other from outsiders, and retain the current borders of the Italian city-states.
Pope Nicolas V made the League official on March 2, 1455, and most other city-states joined it. Peace lasted for nearly 50 years before Milan's Sforza made a deal with France's Charles VIII to depose the king of Naples. Italy quickly plunged into 35 years of chaos.
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Back To CourseAP European History: Exam Prep
27 chapters | 244 lessons