Showing posts with label Military Leaders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military Leaders. Show all posts

23 February 2024

Manfredo Fanti - military general

Risorgimento hero who founded Royal Italian Army

Manfredo Fanti's battlefield skills were vital to the unification campaign
Manfredo Fanti's battlefield skills
were vital to the unification campaign
The Italian general Manfredo Fanti, a key figure in the Italian Wars of Independence in the mid-19th century and the founder of the Royal Italian Army, was born on this day in 1806 in Carpi, a town about 20km (13 miles) northwest of Modena in what is now Emilia-Romagna.

Although he ultimately had a disagreement with Giuseppe Garibaldi, the figurehead of the Italian Unification movement, Fanti is still regarded as one of the heroes of the Risorgimento, as a result of the military victories he engineered against the Austrians in the second war of independence, which liberated Lombardy from foreign control, and against the Papal States and the Bourbons in the final push for unification in 1860.

Between the second and third wars of independence, after he had been appointed Minister of War in the Cavour government, Fanti organised the absorption of the army of the League of Central Italy into the Royal Sardinian Army, which he was later able to decree would take the name of the Royal Italian Army.

He also played a key role in freeing Italy from foreign domination and completing unification. As Garibaldi was leading his Expedition of the Thousand in the conquest of Sicily, Fanti led the simultaneous campaign in central Italy, winning significant victories against the armies of the Papal States and in the northern territories of the Bourbon-controlled Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Fanti grew up as a citizen of the Duchy of Modena and, in 1825, was admitted into the Pioneer Corps of the army of Duke Francesco IV d'Este. He studied at the military college in Modena, where he obtained a degree in engineering.

The Battle of Castelfidardo saw Fanti lead one of several key victories
The Battle of Castelfidardo saw Fanti
lead one of several key victories
Already drawn towards the vision of revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Mazzini and the growing Risorgimento movement, he took part in the uprising of 1830-31 in Modena before it was put down by the Austrian army, who condemned Fanti to be hanged. He escaped to France and later assisted the exiled Mazzini in his failed attempt to invade and capture the territories of Savoy.

He then moved to Spain, where he served in the army during a battle for power between the regent, Maria Cristina of Bourbon, and the supporters of Don Carlos, who felt he was the legitimate heir to the late King Ferdinand VII, before returning to Italy in 1848 to fight against the Austrians, who controlled most of northern Italy at the time. 

Assisted by French troops, he commanded a Lombard brigade of the Sardinian-Piedmontese Army, distinguishing himself on the battlefield with courage and tactical astuteness to win key victories at Palestro, Magenta, and Solferino in the Second Italian War of Independence, which ended with the Armistice of Villafranca and the return of Lombardy to Italian rule, along with most of the northern Italian states, although the Austrians initially retained control of Venetia.

Fanti supported but later had a disagreement with Garibaldi
Fanti supported but later had a
disagreement with Garibaldi
Fanti then organised the army of the Central Italian League, which included Tuscany, Modena, Parma, and Romagna, and prepared it for the annexation by Piedmont, the leading state of the Italian unification movement. 

In January 1860 , Camillo Count of Cavour, who returned to his position as prime minister of Sardinia-Piedmont after resigning following the Villafranca armistice, made Fanti his Minister for War and the Navy.

When the Expedition of the Thousand began in May, Fanti was appointed head of the army corps in central Italy. He again was an important figure on the battlefield, playing a significant part in the Battle of Castelfidardo and in the conquest of Perugia, which led to the Piedmontese annexation of Papal State territories in Marche and Umbria. 

He then became general of the army and chief of staff of the army in southern Italy, defeating the Bourbons at Mola and organising the successful siege of the fortress at Gaeta. 

Fanti's opposition to the admission of  5,000 officers of Garibaldi's volunteers into the new Royal Italian Army, with no loss of rank, was one of the reasons for his resignation from the army and government in June 1861, although the death of Cavour was also a factor.

He agreed to return the following year, taking command of an army corps in Florence, but fell ill soon afterwards. He died in Florence in April 1865 at the age of 59. His body was returned to Carpi, where he is buried in the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta.  There is a monument to Fanti in Piazza San Marco in Florence by the sculptor Pio Fedi, erected in 1873.

The Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Carpi, where Manfredo Fandi is buried
The Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta
in Carpi, where Manfredo Fandi is buried 
Travel tip:

Carpi, which sits in the Padana plain, the area of flat and fertile land through which the Po river flows, became a wealthy town during the era of industrial development in Italy as a centre for textiles and mechanical engineering. Its historic centre, which features a town hall housed in a former castle, is based around the Renaissance square, the Piazza Martiri, the third largest square in Italy, which is surrounded by historical buildings such as the Palazzo Pio di Savoia, the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, and the Teatro Comunale. The Palazzo Pio di Savoia houses the Museum of the Deportation, dedicated to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps, and the Museum of the City, which displays artworks and artefacts from Carpi’s past. Carpi was a major centre of the Italian Resistance movement in World War Two and there is a memorial at the site of the former Fossoli concentration camp, where thousands of Jews, political prisoners, and resistance fighters were detained and deported.

Stay in Carpi with

The monumental sculpture in Castelfidardo that commemorates the 1860 battle
The monumental sculpture in Castelfidardo
that commemorates the 1860 battle 
Travel tip:

Castelfidardo, which can be found about 21km (13 miles) south of the port of Ancona in the Marche region, is a charming hill town with a historical significance. It is renowned as the home of the accordion, which was actually patented in Austria in 1829 but underwent substantial redesign in Castelfidardo, where production of the instrument began in the late 19th century with the establishment of a factory opened by Paolo Soprani, who had bought one of the Austrian models after realising its potential. At one time 51,000 accordions were manufactured in the town in a single year, although production declined after World War Two as musical tastes changed. Nonetheless, it is still home to half of the accordion factories in the whole of Italy. There is inevitably an Accordion Museum, while the Monument of the Battle of Castelfidardo is commemorated with a dramatic monumental sculpture in the town’s Parco delle Rimembranze, by the Venetian sculptor Vito Pardo, which depicts in bronze a charge of infantrymen led by a figure on horseback descending from a mountain of white travertine boulders. 

Find accommodation in Castelfidardo with

More reading:

How the Battle of Solferino led to the founding of the Red Cross

Why Mazzini was the ideological inspiration for Italian unification

The Frenchman who called for Italians to unite as a single people

Also on this day:

1507: The death of Renaissance painter Gentile Bellini

1821: The death in Rome of English poet John Keats

1822: The birth of archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi

1834: The birth of ill-fated Sicilian banker Emanuele Notarbartolo 

1910: The birth of painter Corrado Cagli

(Picture credits: Carpi basilica by Attilios; Castelfidardo sculpture by Ermanon; via Wikimedia Commons)

(Painting of Battle of Castelfidardo by Giovanni Gallucci, Palazzo Comunale, Ancona)


16 March 2023

Tiberius – Roman Emperor

The decline of a leader who ruled from a beautiful place of exile

The Death of Tiberius, perhaps attended by Caligula, imagined in an 1864 painting by Jean-Paul Laurens
The Death of Tiberius, perhaps attended by Caligula,
imagined in an 1864 painting by Jean-Paul Laurens
After starting his reign in glory, the Emperor Tiberius slowly deteriorated and is reputed to have become steadily crueller and more debauched until he died on this day in 37 AD in Misenum, now Miseno, in Campania.

Tiberius had become the second Roman Emperor, succeeding his stepfather, Augustus, in 14 AD. As a young man, he had been a successful general, but at the age of 36 he chose to retire and go and live in Rhodes because he was determined to avoid getting involved in politics. 

However, after the deaths of both grandsons of Augustus, his ailing stepfather had no choice but to make Tiberius his heir.

Tiberius inherited the throne at the age of 54 and was at first a hardworking ruler, trying to pass sensible and far-seeing laws. He stopped pointless, costly conflicts and the waste of the empire’s money and was said to have left the imperial coffers much fuller than when he inherited them.

But he was constantly at odds with the Senate, who claimed he gave vague orders to them and that they had to debate the orders among themselves so that they could decide what to do and therefore some of his legislation was never passed.

Tiberius left Rome after 13 years and never returned to the city
Tiberius left Rome after 13 years
and never returned to the city
After 13 years, Tiberius decided he had had enough and he went to live in a magnificent villa on the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples. He never visited Rome again and delegated his power over the Senate to the commander of his guard.

As the years passed by, Tiberius became increasingly paranoid and brooded constantly on the loss of his son, Drusus Julius Caesar, who was said to have died in mysterious circumstances.

Many historians have claimed that Tiberius became steadily more cruel and vindictive as he grew older, and that he enjoyed torturing his victims, the people he perceived to be his enemies. He then liked to kill them by having them thrown off the cliffs at a spot on Capri that has become known as Salto di Tiberio - Tiberius’s Leap.

One senator was allegedly condemned to death just for having carried a coin, with the head of Tiberius on it, into a public lavatory with him.

The Emperor Tiberius was also reputed to have become a paedophile, bringing in young boys and girls to take part in imperial orgies at his villa on Capri.

When he was 71, Tiberius brought his 18-year-old great-nephew, Caligula, to live on Capri and subsequently named him as heir to the empire. For six years Caligula remained docile and obedient towards Tiberius, although he was said to occasionally display signs of the sadism that would subsequently blight his years as emperor.

Early in AD 37, Tiberius travelled to what was then Misenum to take part in military games. After injuring his shoulder throwing the javelin, he became seriously ill. He eventually lapsed into unconsciousness and doctors declared that his death would be imminent. Caligula then took the imperial ring from his great uncle’s finger and showed himself to a local crowd as the new Roman emperor.

Then Tiberius apparently woke from his coma and demanded food, which terrified Caligula. However, one of the heir’s quick-thinking allies rushed into the bedroom of Tiberius and finished him off by smothering him in a blanket. Tiberius was 77 when he died and he had been in power for 22 years.

The historian Tacitus wrote that people in Rome cheered when they heard that Tiberius was dead, only to panic when they heard he had recovered. Then they rejoiced again when they heard that the debauched emperor’s life had finally ended.

Modern Miseno, looking towards Capo Miseno,  which offers views across the Bay of Naples
Modern Miseno, looking towards Capo Miseno, 
which offers views across the Bay of Naples
Travel tip:

Misenum, where Tiberius was injured and died, is now known as Miseno and is one of the frazioni of Bacoli in the province of Naples. Nearby Capo Miseno marks the north western end of the Bay of Naples, from where there are incredible views of Capri, Ischia, Sorrento, and Mount Vesuvius. For centuries, Misenum was the biggest naval base in the Roman empire and housed thousands of sailors.  Its beautiful natural setting and proximity to the nearby Roman cities of Puteoli - modern Pozzuoli - and Neapolis (Naples), Misenum also became a popular location for Roman luxury villas.

Villa Jovis, as it might have looked in the time of Tiberius. Today, there are only ruins
Villa Jovis, as it might have looked in the time of
Tiberius. Today, there are only ruins
Travel tip:

Tiberius ruled his empire from the Villa Jovis on Capri and the sheer cliff beside the villa, known as the Salto di Tiberio - Tiberius’s Leap - is said to be the precipice from which the Emperor had his victims hurled to their deaths. The biggest of 12 residences Tiberius had built on Capri, Villa Jovis occupies a spectacular position at the top of Monte Tiberio on the north east corner of the island. With an elevation of 334m (1,096ft), Monte Tiberio is the second-highest peak on the island, topped only by Monte Solaro (589m; 1,932ft) in Anacapri. Access to the remains of the villa is only possible on foot, and involves an uphill walk of about two kilometres from Capri town along Via Tiberio.

Also on this day:

1820: The birth of tenor Enrico Tamberlik

1886: The birth of athlete Emilio Lunghi - Italy’s first Olympic medallist

1940: The birth of film director Bernardo Bertolucci

1978: The kidnapping of former Italian PM Aldo Moro


2 November 2015

Bartolomeo Colleoni - soldier

Death of an ‘honourable’ Italian military leader

Bergamo soldier Bartolomeo Colleoni, who became known for using his wealth to benefit people, died on this day in 1475.

Colleoni spent most of his life in the pay of the republic of Venice defending the city of Bergamo against invaders.

Statue of Colleoni in Venice
But he is remembered as one of the most decent condottieri of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements in Bergamo and the surrounding area when he was not involved in military campaigns.

Condottieri were the leaders of troops, who worked for the powerful ruling factions, often for high payments. 

Bergamo’s Bartolomeo Colleoni was unusual because he remained steadfast to one employer, the republic of Venice, for most of his career.

During a period of peace between Venice and Milan he worked briefly for Milan but the rulers never fully trusted him and eventually he was arrested and imprisoned. On his release, he returned to work for Venice and subsequently stayed faithful to them.

Towards the end of his life he lived with his family at his castle in Malpaga, to the south of Bergamo and turned his attention to designing a building to house his own tomb. 

This has given Bergamo’s upper town its most ornate and celebrated building, the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel).

Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo
Bartolomeo Colleoni left money to Venice in his will with a request that a statue of himself be erected in Piazza San Marco after his death. As there was a rule that no monuments were allowed in the Piazza, the statue, made by Andrea del Verrocchio, was eventually placed opposite the Scuola di San Marco in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Travel tip:

Visit Bergamo to see one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy.  
Cappella Colleoni was designed by architect Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the adjacent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, using pink and white marble to match the colours of the doorway of the basilica. Inside the chapel there is an elaborate two tier sarcophagus surmounted by a golden statue of Colleoni on horseback. The military leader’s body was placed in the lower sarcophagus, according to his instructions, where it still lies today. Above his tomb there are frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo.

Travel tip:

November 2 is All Souls Day, or the Day of the Dead, in Italy, when people visit the graves of their loved ones. Many areas observe their own rituals and have special foods, such as the slightly macabre ossi dei morti (bones of the dead), which are traditional biscuits eaten on All Souls Day in the Veneto region.