The Medieval Review 11.07.23

Tognetti, Sergio. Firenze e Pisa Dopo Il 1406: La creazione di un nuovo spazio regionale. Atti del convegno di studi, Firenze, 27-28 settembre 2008. Biblioteca Storica Toscana, a cura della Deputazione di storia patria per la Toscana, LXIII. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2010. Pp. vi, 189. . . 22 EUR. 978-88-222-5998-1.

Reviewed by:

Blake R. Beattie
University of Louisville

It is not inappropriate, perhaps, that the fall of Pisa--one of the architects of the great Italian commercial revival of the central Middle Ages--should have hinged on two very large and exceptionally controversial business transactions at the junction of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In 1399 the hard-pressed Pisan signore, Gherardo Appiani, sold the government of the city to the formidable duke of Milan, GianGaleazzo Visconti (1378-1402), for the colossal sum of 200,000 florins and a new job as signore of Piombino. GianGaleazzo intended to use his new acquisition, among other things, as a staging ground for a final great assault on his archrival, Florence, which was only delivered from GianGaleazzo's fury by the duke's untimely death at the age of fifty in September 1402. In the division of his vast dominions, Pisa was given over to an illegitimate son, the weak and ineffective Gabriele Maria Visconti, who sold the rights to the city to Florence in the summer of 1405. (The deal, in which the Genoese had a hand, was exceedingly complex; in the end, Gabriele received just 80,000 florins--though, under the circumstances, he was glad to get even that much.) Not surprisingly, the Pisans, for whom antipathy to Florence far exceeded resentment at Milanese domination, refused to honor the arrangement of their erstwhile overlord, and Florence prepared for war. After a long campaign, prolonged and complicated by several high-profile command changes, Florentine troops captured the city on 9 October 1406, and Pisa took its place alongside San Miniato, Arezzo, Pistoia, Cortona, Livorno, and a host of lesser, formerly independent cities in the growing sphere of Florentine domination.

The Florentine conquest of Pisa was a major event in the history of later medieval Italy. It brought to a close the ancient rivalry between two of Italy's leading commercial centers, and it effectively ended the independent history of one of the peninsula's great maritime republics; with the exception of a brief period of renewed autonomy (1494-1509), Pisa would remain a Florentine satellite until the unification of Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. For Florence, the conquest marked a huge leap forward in a program of systematic territorial expansion dating back to at least the second quarter of the fourteenth century. It not only provided Florence with one of Europe's most important ports; it also gave inexorable momentum to the Florentine conquest of nearly the whole of Tuscany, with the exceptions of Lucca and Siena, over the course of the next few decades. In the larger context of Italian affairs generally, the conquest followed soon after the death of GianGaleazzo Visconti, whose boundless ambitions drove the affairs of northern Italy in the final decades of the fourteenth century, and immediately preceded the central Italian campaigns of King Ladislas of Naples (1400-14), whose activities inaugurated the flurry of events that ultimately resulted in the Peace of Lodi (1454) and the effective division of the peninsula into five broadly co-equal spheres, dominated by Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples. In this respect, it is one of several important events signaling the break between two discrete phases of later medieval Italian military and diplomatic activity.

For all its importance, the Florentine conquest of Pisa remains relatively understudied. The story is generally told from the Florentine perspective, with insufficient attention to the domestic implications of the conquest in Pisa itself. This is symptomatic, perhaps, of a larger problem in the historiography of later medieval Italy: cities have long been regarded as valid objects of serious scholarly attention only during the periods of their independence; after their incorporation into larger regional polities, they tend, if not to disappear altogether, then at least to fade from historical view. Sergio Tognetti's Firenze e Pisa dopo il 1406 is an important addition to a growing body of scholarship that looks to rectify this historiographical problem. The seven articles of the collection began as papers presented at a conference in Florence in September 2008 (or possibly 2007: there is a discrepancy between the date on the book's cover and the one provided in the preface by Giuliano Pinto, president of the Deputazione di storia patria per la Toscana). Gathered together in a single volume, they explore various aspects of the conquest, with a particular (and welcome) focus on Pisa, and its place in the transformation of Tuscany from a collection of autonomous city-states to what would become, in the sixteenth century, the Medici Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

The first two articles provide essential context to the discussion that follows. Giovanni Ciccaglioni examines the evolution of the highest Pisan magistracies between 1284, when the city adopted a popular communal government (sporadically interrupted by generally short-lived but still tenacious reassertions of aristocratic signorie), and the end of Pisan independence in 1406 ("Priores Antianorum, primi tra gli anziani: Criteri di preminenza, cicli economici e recambio dei gruppi dirigenti popolari a Pisa nel XIV secolo," pp. 1-47). During the fourteenth century, Pisa's changing social and economic circumstances induced various reforms and constitutional changes and played constantly upon the demographics of power in the city, sometimes dramatically: in the last quarter of the Trecento, for example, the merchants (both great and small) of the wool sector joined and began to eclipse older mercantile elites among the Priors, thanks in part to the formation of the Compagnia di San Michele in 1369. Pisa's long and vital tradition of communal self- government came to an end with the Florentine conquest, which is described with admirably clarity by Laura de Angelis ("Contra Pisas fiat viriliter: Le vicende della conquista," pp. 49-64). The thickets here are dense and tangled--old enmities and Florentine ambition coil around the competition among various Pisan factions, the machinations of prominent Pisans, Genoese and Milanese interests, and fear of Venetian power, all under the lengthening shadow of the king of Naples. If later medieval Italian politics are notorious for their complexity, de Angelis is a steady and clear-headed guide, who reminds us just how seldom important events can be reduced to single causes or simple explanations.

The next four articles concern themselves with the conquest's effects on Pisan society as Pisa was transformed from an independent social and political entity into part of the "new regional space" of the expanding Florentine state in Tuscany. Relying chiefly on the works of the chroniclers, Isabella Lazzarini ably situates the conquest in the context of other programs of territorial expansion operative in contemporary Italy ("La conquista di Pisa nel quadro del sistema territoriale italiano: La testimonianza delle cronache," pp. 65-83). Andrea Zorzi examines the practical organizational and administrative implications of the process in "L'inquadramento di Pisa e del suo territorio nel dominio fiorentino" (pp. 85-108). Together, the two articles reveal that, for Florence, the conquest of Pisa (and of Tuscany in general) was the natural extension of an organic (and more or less universally northern and central Italian) territorial policy aimed at expanding and consolidating the Florentine contado. The roots of the process can be traced to the twelfth century; if it became programmatic during the thirteenth century, it only matured in the fourteenth century, with the development of "material structures, institutional apparatus and judicial instruments" capable of administering the greatly expanded Florentine sphere (86).

The mechanics of Florentine domination in Pisa are described by Giuseppe Petralia ("1406: Il dissolversi di una società tardocomunale come premessa alla construzione di uno stato toscano," pp. 109-135) and Mauro Ronzani ("La chiesa pisana dopo il 1406: Arcivescovi e capitolo della cattedrale," pp. 137-150). Petralia shows how the Florentines gradually but steadily dismantled the native political establishment in Pisa; if they relied on prominent and favorably disposed Pisans (e.g., Giovanni Gambacorta) in the period immediately following the conquest, they were ruthless in destroying powerful local opponents (both real and perceived) and quick to intrude their own men into the Pisan power-structure. It was not long before Florentines--and especially those associated with the ascendant Medici--came to displace virtually the entire Pisan elite in the tenure of local offices and exercise of local power. Ronzani demonstrates that something analogous took place in the Pisa church. Just two days after the conquest, the Florentine ambassador to the curia successfully petitioned Pope Innocent VII to replace the native Pisan archbishop, Ludovico Bonito, with a Florentine from a magnate family, Giovanni Albizi. The appointment of Albizi became emblematic: thanks to aggressive Florentine lobbying at the Roman curia, the highest ecclesiastical offices in Pisa (most notably the archbishopric and the cathedral chapter) quickly passed from the control of local families into the hands of Florentines or Florentine clients. Appointments were inevitably conditioned by papal interests which sometimes clashed with those of the Florentine regime--hence the archbishopric of Francesco Salviati (1475-78), a leading figure in the Pazzi Conspiracy--but almost always traced their origins to Florentine rather than Pisan houses. Thus, in both the civic and the ecclesiastical spheres, Pisa came under the governance of something not unlike a Florentine "colonial elite." In the final entry, Sergio Tognetti examines the economic and political implications of the conquest, particularly with respect to Florence, in "Firenze, Pisa e il mare (metà XIV-fine XV sec.)," pp. 151-175. Certainly, the acquisition of Tuscany's greatest port was a boon for Florentine commerce, which now had direct access to the waterways of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The attendant intensification of Florentine maritime commerce not only served to expand the material bases of the Florentine ascendancy; it also led to the development of new maritime technologies, techniques and strategies, with important consequences for the future. Thus, as so often in Italian history, the seemingly local event had implications far beyond the local sphere.

Collections of articles are not always easy to review; topical (and sometimes qualitative) differences in their contents have a tendency to blur the thematic integrity of the work as a whole. Thankfully, this particular collection overcomes many of the problems inherent in such works. It is consummately organized; each article is in exactly the right place, setting the stage for the one that follows--indeed, the articles read more like contingent chapters than separate entries. Thematically, Ciccaglioni's fine contribution is a bit of an outlier, though it presents a clear picture of the social and political world that was lost as a consequence of the Florentine conquest (particularly when taken as a partner to Petralia's entry). Collectively, the articles provide a thorough discussion of an important event in Italian history. The scholarship is of a uniformly high quality, based on extensive consultation of the narrative and archival sources and current in the pertinent secondary literature. This is a very useful contribution to the field of later medieval Italian history, a reminder of the richness and complexity of Italian urban societies even after their absorption into larger political entities--and, one hopes, an invitation for more work of this sort.