Battle of Tagliacozzo
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The Battle of Tagliacozzo was fought on 23 August 1268 between the Ghibellines supporters of Conradin of Hohenstaufen and the army of Charles of Anjou. The battle represented the last act of Hohenstaufen power in Italy. The end of Conradin marked also the fall of the family from the Imperial and Sicilian thrones, leading to the new chapter of Angevin domination in Southern Italy.
|Battle of Tagliacozzo|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Charles of Anjou||Conrad V (Conradin)|
The German emperors of the Hohenstaufen line, who had inherited the kingdom of Sicily from its Norman rulers in 1197, had continually attempted to consolidate their more long-standing claims to northern Italy as well—an ambition which was vehemently opposed by many northern Italian states and by the papacy. The resulting struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire split the loyalties of many Italians and led to factionalism, the resulting factions being termed the Guelphs and Ghibellines. The death of the German emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in the midst of this struggle found his legitimate heir as King of Sicily, Conradin, in southern Germany, and Sicily under the rule of Conradin's uncle, Manfred of Sicily, the illegitimate son of Frederick II. Manfred's rule in Sicily was at first de facto—at times along with his legitimate half-brother, Conrad IV, at other times as regent for Conradin—but in 1257 Manfred simply declared himself king, despite Conradin's claim to the kingdom, purportedly because of rumors of Conradin's death.
Pope Clement IV, determined to check Manfred's growing power, excommunicated him and continued discussions with Charles of Anjou as a secular prince who might, by force of arms, replace the dangerous Hohenstaufens. (These discussions with Charles of Anjou had been initiated by Clement's predecessor, Pope Urban IV, another French pope.) Bolstered by papal resources, which included a crusading tithe granted to combat the "infidel" Hohenstaufen, Charles entered Italy and defeated Manfred at the Battle of Benevento, and began to establish himself as King of Sicily.
After Benevento, Pope Clement IV continued the papal policy of employing Charles to resist the power of the Ghibellines, although with this support was a fear that the Angevins themselves may, like the Hohenstaufen before them, attempt to dominate Northern as well as Southern Italy and thus menace the temporal power of the Holy See, despite explicit promises by Charles that he would not lay claim to Northern Italy. However, the papacy still considered its ancient enemy, the Hohenstaufen line, to be the deadlier foe by far, and when Conradin, now aged 16, challenged Charles' rule of Sicily, and the Tuscan Ghibellines rallied behind Conradin, Clement immediately sought Charles' support in defeating them in Tuscany, ultimately appointing Charles as papal vicar.
After considerable maneuver, Conradin's invading army confronted that of Charles of Anjou in the Palentine Plains plateau, outside the town of Tagliacozzo (more precisely, near Scurcola Marsicana). Each army deployed in three divisions. The first Hohenstaufen division was composed of Spanish and Italian knights, led by the Infante Henry of Castile; the second division was largely Italian but included a body of German knights, and was led by Galvano Lancia; the final division contained most of the German knights, and was led by Conradin himself, accompanied by his close friend, the youthful Frederick I, Markgraf von Baden. Charles's first division was composed of Italians, with some Provençal knights, under an unknown commander; the second division contained French knights under Henry of Cousances, and the final division, which Charles led along with the veteran crusader, Erard of Valery (who was referred to by the Italians as "Allardo di Valleri" ), was composed of French veteran knights—this final division was hidden by Charles at Valery's advice, in order to constitute a tactical surprise against the Hohenstaufen forces.
Conradin's forces won the initial phase of the battle, and broke up to pursue Charles's first two divisions, which were in flight, and pillage the Angevin camp. At this point Charles sprung his trap, his hidden reserve forces entering the fight and massacring Conradin's scattered forces. Conradin was forced to flee back to Rome, but was later captured, imprisoned, and executed. Thus ended the rule of the Hohenstaufens.
- The battle was given its name in Dante's Inferno (XVIII canto) since Tagliacozzo at the time was the largest town in the area.
- Kleinhenz, Medieval Italy, p. 232
- Longfellow, trans. Divina Commedia, note 17
- Kleinhenz, Christopher (1980). Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. I. New York and London: Routledge.