Civilians fight back!

‘Total’ war is a modern term but not a modern invention and historians have begun to analyse its nature and causes in the early modern era. For example, the striking level of violence inflicted by soldiers on civilians in Germany during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) can be related to the structures of military supply and accommodation in place at the time.[1] Soldiers were not simply provoked and driven to irrational cruelty and civilians were not merely passive victims of violence; both sides were involved in a struggle over resources, including money, which was marked by the threat or use of force. The ransoming and kidnapping of civilians by soldiers was a customary part of this ‘negotiation’ (as it has been termed) and some ‘quarter’, or protection for civilians, might be given during a sack in return for money. On the other side of the negotiation, civilians who faced successive waves of attackers in the course of intense and localised military campaigns might try to mitigate the troops’ demands with reference to the assaults and robberies already endured, or they could fight back.[2]

This model of military threat, exploitation and ‘negotiation’ is relevant to the civilian experience of the Italian Wars. In the first place, the mercenary commanders, or condottiere, were awarded a right to plunder and ransoms according to the terms of their contract.[3] The other ranks also sought wealth on the campaign in Italy. One study shows that the hired Swiss who were so vital for the wars included artisans, the better-born (including the poet and artist Niklaus Manuel), shoemakers and butcher’s sons, as well as young men (some barely into their teens) struggling with debt, poverty, or other difficulties at home. As one of them, Peter Falk of Freibourg, wrote home while on the march towards Milan and Pavia in 1512: ‘Never have our comrades seen such splendid and wealthy encampments as these that we have had up until now in town and country. Everything that a man could desire has been found in sufficiency. The soldiers are full of money and marvelous things that belonged to the French and have been harvested everywhere … We are so happy and in such good heart for which we thank the Lord God for eternity.’[4]

The French king and the emperor, who paid dearly for these Swiss mercenaries, were obviously drawn to Italy by its wealth, which could be extracted as plunder, taxation, and annual tributes. According to one recent historian, though, it would be wrong to assume that Italy alone financed the campaigns of the French: ‘At best the Italian possessions assured an equilibrium between income and expenditure.’ The failure of sufficient funds to arrive from France naturally increased the demands made on civilians in Italy.[5] In addition, it seems as if the prices of goods on the road could rise and consequently depreciate the real value of pay.[6] All of these difficulties of feeding and accommodating the large armies passing through Italy fuelled ‘negotiations’ between soldiers and civilians, stoked rising tensions and encouraged local resistance to soldiers in Italian cities.

The sense of tension was palpable in 1494 when the commander Galeazzo Sanseverino reported to the duke of Milan a conversation with French archers and gentlemen outside the king’s lodging in Florence about the fact that the Florentines were still in arms and the French ‘avid for plunder’ (‘cupidi de preda’). He wrote that the danger that a ‘very great scandal with much loss of blood’ would occur as a result of this tense situation led him to advise the king to keep the troops in the city in good order.[7] As he wrote a few days later the situation was not helped by the great want of victuals in the city as the French lived at the expense of the country, did not pay the price of the things taken, despite orders for them to do so (as in Lombardy), and were also stealing.[8]

As Dr Christine Shaw has rightly pointed out, these tensions could erupt into civilian violence against troops. In 1500 the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole I d’Este, instructed his ambassador at the French court to congratulate King Louis XII on his acquisition of Milan, to confirm his support for him, and to advise the king to furnish his troops, which were coming through Ferrarese territory, with abundant supplies and comfortable billets given that some soldiers had ‘used a thousand cruelties, meanness, and rapine, and sacked Bondena [to the north-east of Ferrara], and killed many men, and some good and honourable citizens, for which injuries they were deservedly cut to pieces by our subjects.’[9]

The presence of large imperial armies throughout the Venetian mainland empire after 1508 placed huge burdens on the civilian populations in town and countryside. In December 1509 the Paduan nobleman and soldier Giovan Francesco Buzzacarini described how troops of all nations crowded into Verona for their winter quarters enjoying reasonable food and putting the whole of the Veronese to plunder (’in preda’). The Germans were unpaid and sacked the piazza in Verona three times a day. They were so hungry that they were only interested in goods they could eat.[10] Imperial troops, who left Vicenza by an accord with the Venetians the previous month, had clearly behaved little better while in occupation for they found that while they were exercising at arms on the piazza their recent payment of cloth was covered with excrement, urine, and hot water, and thrown into the street out of the windows of their (now locked) lodgings by the Vicentines.[11]

During the same period peasants in the Venetian countryside took up arms against imperial troops with impressive and deadly effect.[12] Buzzacarini, who fought with the imperial and Spanish armies during the War of the League of Cambrai (1508-17), left a vivid and illuminating account of these encounters (now published). He described the ‘terrible’ sight of peasants coming from the mountains in great numbers with arrows, crossbows, and handguns and crying ‘[St] Mark! [St] Mark!’ as a signal of their support for Venice. These peasants followed the imperial camp with net bags hanging from their belts and were for the most part unshod. When imperial forces burned Vigodarzere in August 1509 and killed or captured those few inhabitants who had not fled for Padua to the south they found that the peasants had fortified it with barrels and tubs filled with earth, behind which they waited with handguns and crossbows. Around the same time six thousand peasants commanded by Gianconte Brandolini, a condottiero in the service of Venice, took Seravalle from the Spanish and Germans and inflicted a massacre on both defending troops and inhabitants who had killed some of their fellow peasants.

Buzzacarini also records the process of ‘negotiation’ with the peasants. He and his brother were asked by the emperor to persuade the peasants at Bovolenta to change sides; they were threatened with hanging by the peasants when they tried to do so. The process of negotiation continued as the brothers told the emperor of their failure and then returned to threaten the peasants with the sacking of their homes, taking their beasts, shaming their wives and daughters, and those not killed taken prisoner ‘bound up like dogs’ (‘e menadi ligati come canni’). When the peasants remained obstinate the stakes were raised once again and two falconets (light cannon) were brought in to give cover while the army crossed the river and the proceeded to steal beasts up to the value of 250,000 scudi before setting camp from which troops emerged to grab ‘a world of beasts’ (‘un mondo de bestiame’) every day. As Buzzacarini noted, from this devastation arose the obstinacy of the peasants, who had lost both goods and honour.[13]




Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Giovan Francesco Buzzacarini, Cronaca delle guerre in Italia dall’anno 1482 fino al 1520. Gino Capponi, cod. CLXXII

Milan, Archivio di Stato, Carteggio Sforzesco, potenze estere, Firenze e Pisa, 940

Modena, Archivio di Stato, Archivio segreto Estense, cancelleria, ambasciatori, agenti e corrispondenti all’estero, Francia, busta 2


Amaseo, Leonardo, Gregorio Amaseo, and Giovanni Antonio Azio. Diarii Udinesi dall’anno 1508 al 1541. Ed. Antonio Ceruti. Venice: Fratelli Visentini, 1884

Dumont, Jean. Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens; contenant un recueil des traitez d’alliance, de paix, de toutes les conventions, et autre contrats, qui ont été faits en Europe depuis le regne de l’empereur Charlemagne jusques à present. 8 vols. The Hague: P. Husson and Charles Levier, 1726-31

Guyon, Fery de. Mémoires. Ed. A.L.-P. Robaulx de Soumoy. Brussels: Société de l’Histoire de Belgique, 1858

Machiavelli, Niccolò. Arte della Guerra, scritti politici minori, ed. Jean-Jacques Marchand, Denis Fachard, and Giorgio Masi. Rome: Salerno, 2001

The Art of War, ed. and trans. Christopher Lynch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003


Asch, Ronald G. “‘Wo der soldat hinkömbt, da ist alles sein’: Military Violence and Atrocities in the Thirty Years War Re-examined”. German History 18.3 (2000): 291-309

Esch, Arnold. I mercenari svizzeri in Italia: L’esperienza delle guerre milanesi (1510-1515) tratta da fonti bernesi. Verbania: Alberti, 1999

Hamon, Philippe. ‘L’Italie finance-t-elle les guerres d’Italie?’. In Jean Balsamo (ed), Passer les Monts: Français en Italie – l’Italie en France (1494-1525). Xe colloque de la Société française d’étude du Seizième Siècle, 25-37. Paris and Florence: Honoré Champion Editeur and Edizioni Cadmo, 1998

Outram, Quentin. ‘The Demographic Impact of Early Modern Warfare’ Social Science History 26.2 (2002): 245-72

Shaw, Christine. ‘Popular Resistance to Military Occupation during the Italian Wars.’ In Samuel Kline Cohn Jr and Fabrizio Ricciardelli (eds.), The Culture of Violence in Renaissance Italy: proceedings of the International Conference; Georgetown University at Villa Le Balze, 3-4 May, 2010, 257-72. Florence: Le Lettere, 2012

Tallett, Frank. War and Society in Early Modern Europe, 1495-1715. London: Routledge, 1992

Ulbricht, Otto. ‘The Experience of Violence During the Thirty Years War: A Look at the Victims.’ In Joseph Canning, Hartmut Lehmann, and Jay Winter (eds), Power, Violence and Mass Death in Pre-Modern and Modern Times, 97-127. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004

[1] Outram, ‘Demographic Impact’; Asch, “‘Wo der soldat”’. On the impact of war on civilians see Tallett, War, 148-67.

[2] Ulbricht, ‘Experience’, 103, 110 (quotation), 124-5.

[3] For example, see the condotta drawn up for Francesco Gonzaga, marquis of Mantua, by Florence in June 1505 in Dumont, Corps, 4.1: 64.

[4] ‘Mai prima i confederati avevano visto accampamenti sì splendidi e ricchi come quelli, che abbiamo avuto finora in città e campagna. Tutto ciò che l’uomo desidera, lo si trova a sufficienza. Per tale motivo i soldati sono pieni di soldi e di cose meravigliose, appartenute ai francesi e raccolte dappertutto … Siamo così felici e stiamo così bene per cui il Signore Iddio sia ringraziato per l’eternità.’ Translated into modern Italian and quoted in Esch, Mercenari, 5. On the mercenaries’ range of social backgrounds, ages and motives for joining up see ibid., 20-28, 85-6.

[5] ‘Au mieux les possessions italiennes ont dû assurer l’équilibre entre recettes et dépenses.’ Hamon, ‘Italie’, 32 (quotation), 35.

[6] Esch, Mercenari, 76, quoting a letter of 1512 written by a Bernese soldier at the siege of Locarno.

[7] Galeazzo Sanseverino to duke of Milan, Florence, 21 November 1494, in Milan, Archivio di Stato, Carteggio Sforzesco, potenze estere, Firenze e Pisa, 940.

[8] Galeazzo Sanseverino to duke of Milan, Florence, 27 November 1494, in Milan, Archivio di Stato, Carteggio Sforzesco, potenze estere, Firenze e Pisa, 940.

[9] ‘Et benche quelli fanti usasseno mille crudelita, deshonesta, e rapine, e sachegiasseno il Bondeno, e amazasseno molti homini, e alcuni boni e honorabili Citadini, per la quale Iniuria seriano <meritamente> stati tuti tagliati in pezi da li subditi nostri.’ Modena, Archivio di Stato, Archivio segreto Estense, cancelleria, ambasciatori, agenti e corrispondenti all’estero, Francia, busta 2, fasc. 32, letter dated 2 March 1500. The word in angle brackets is in the margin of the manuscript. In general, see Shaw, ‘Popular Resistance’.

[10] Giovan Francesco Buzzacarini, Cronaca delle guerre in Italia dall’anno 1482 fino al 1520, Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Gino Capponi, cod. CLXXII, 244-5.

[11] Ibid., 239.

[12] In 1509 the peasants (‘vilani’) of the Mestre and Trevisano provoked murderous and cruel reprisals against even babies in their cradles because they had off the balls of some German soldiers: Amaseo, Amaseo, and Azio, Diarii, 120. On peasants slaughtering French troops on retreat from the siege of Naples in 1528 see Guyon, Mémoires, 44. In his Art of War (1521) Machiavelli has his interlocutor Fabrizio Colonna recommend that troops should be selected primarily from hardy countrypeople used to working the land: Machiavelli, Art, 22, 26 (1.141, 196).

[13] Giovan Francesco Buzzacarini, Cronaca delle guerre in Italia dall’anno 1482 fino al 1520, Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Gino Capponi, cod. CLXXII, 215, 218-19, 224, 229-30, 231-3, 270-71.

Who were the civilians?

In Niccolò Machiavelli’s late comedy Clizia the unseen Clizia is described as the war booty of Bertram the Gascon, snatched at the age of five and brought back to Florence from Naples in the course of Charles VIII’s invasion of Italy during 1494-5. Machiavelli did not concoct an implausible scenario for his audience – according to every chronicler the rape, ransom, capture, and killing of girls and women by soldiers were regular occurrences during the Italian Wars.[1] It is true that the assembly of canon and civil laws that constituted ‘just war’ theory during the Middle Ages, supported by some Christian and chivalric notions, specified that certain groups (including women) were to be left unharmed during war. In practice, though, the ‘inhumane’ or ‘cruel’ acts (as some theorists put it) of soldiers against women and the unarmed did not vitiate the conflict so long as it rested on a just cause.[2]

There are signs that the horrors of the Hundred Years’ War and the Italian Wars began to shift the balance of attention from causes to conduct around 1500. For example, Philippe Contamine has argued that the concept of bonne guerre, by which non-combatants were spared and those who surrendered were not executed, was spreading from the second half of the fifteenth century and was implemented during the wars of the sixteenth century, including the Italian Wars.[3] The military manuals of the sixteenth century regularly emphasize the discipline and humanity towards the unarmed which soldiers should use, and some praise the adoption by captains of the political virtues of clemency and temperance.

Girolamo Garimberto, in his Il Capitano Generale (published in 1557), allowed that severe tactics could help to subdue rebellious territories. He himself witnessed this at Parma in 1551 when in place of an imperial siege in the name of Pope Julius III the territory was opened to the depredations of the city’s neighbouring enemies and eventually looked like ‘a true image of death’. He also described how it was sometimes necessary in siege conditions for the captain to use, or threaten to use cruelty to put terror (terrore) into the besieged. However, for Garimberto this was an excusable necessity provoked by the abuse of the captain’s ‘humanity’ (l’humanità) and vitiating any thought of clemency by interpreting the law ‘humanely’ (humanamente). It stood in sharp contrast to the case of the person who ‘merits the name of cruel, who by nature or by anger passes beyond the limits of legal severity in punishment, not by any necessity but by choice’. In this way, he argued, like the doctors who, when other medicine has failed, cut of a part of the body to prevent the spread of disease so the cruelty used by captains was to be praised for preventing the spread of obstinacy among the larger part of the people.

Garimberto went on to write that it was in fact more divine than human to show humanity and clemency and to spare the lives of others in a sack and avoid the destruction of a city, a nation, or people. Therefore, in conquering a territory the captain must ensure that it is not sacked and dishonoured on the point of victory for a pardon and clemency brought greater glory than vendetta and destruction and would be of greater utility and bring greater fruits. Indeed, those who were pardoned by the captain would always be his creditors unlike the victims of his vendetta. After all, those who witnessed the sack of their property, the rape of their wives, daughters, and sisters were filled with a spirit of fury and disdain, and would die in pursuit of vendetta. Moreover, allowing soldiers to sack a city would corrode the army’s discipline and he recalled the example of Prospero Colonna who protected Bergamo when the imperialists wished to sack it. [4]

Raymond de Fourquevaux, the author of the Instructions sur les faicts de guerre (first published in Paris in 1548 under the more prestigious name of the noble diplomat Guillaume du Bellay) also argued that the captain should avoid cruelty after a victory in battle, or after having taken a town by force:

But what thing is more inhumane than after having piled at the feet the ensigns of the enemy, sacked their camp, having broken up, put to flight, and undone their battles [sc. troops in battle array] in heat, yet to kill in cold blood those who did not die during combat? Or, after a breach has been forced, and killed those who defended it, still to cut up those who have surrendered? And the poor inhabitants, old and young, notwithstanding that they are unarmed and innocent? And, beyond this, to permit women and girls be forced and sometimes killed, the churches plundered and the sacred things stolen and turned to base uses? Truly, it is worse than cruelty.[5]

The commander was therefore supposed to refrain from ordering such acts except during battle when defenders were still in arms, although even they were to have the opportunity to lay down their weapons and be left untouched.[6]

Many of these concerns about excessive cruelty or inhumanity towards non-combatants are evident in medieval literature, and so I am wary of constructing a narrative of changing attitudes towards non-combatants during the Italian Wars akin to the civilizing process outlined by Norbert Elias (and criticized by a number of historians).[7] Like the attempt to apply the concept of ‘total war’ to the early modern period the sketching of such a narrative immediately raises questions about the definition of ‘civilian’ and the degree to which the civilian can be distinguished from the soldier in this period.

An analysis of the terms used by ancient and modern authors in English and Latin is a good place to start and can be revealing. The English word ‘civilian’, which I have often used in these posts as a neutral term, originally derived from the Old French adjective civilien (pertaining to a student or practitioner of Civil Law) and was a nineteenth-century creation with no pejorative meaning except when used oppositively such as when it was suggested in 1864 that ‘military men view any civilian interference with dislike’.[8] The term ‘non-combatant’ referring to a civilian in time of war, or to a member of the army or navy who did not fight (such as a surgeon or chaplain) originated around the same time, and again did not generally have a pejorative meaning.

By contrast, the Latin term imbellis could refer to those simply unsuited to warfare, including women and children,[9] to those not trained or ready for war,[10] but also to unwarlike animals such as the dove,[11] and frequently in a derogatory sense to those people not disposed to war or fighting, cowardly.[12] In this last case, one of the best-known examples is found in Horace’s Odes (III.2): ‘Tis sweet and glorious to die for the fatherland [dulce et decorum est pro patria mori]. Yet Death o’ertakes not less the runaway, nor spares the limbs and coward [imbellis] backs of faint-hearted youths’.[13] This negative sense was sometimes intended by Renaissance writers including Paolo Giovio who recounted pithily (in c. 1515) that once the French bombardment and assault of Gaeta (near Naples) began in 1495 ‘in every place the populace, bold in words but cowardly [imbellis] in deeds, and assaulted by sudden fear were cut to pieces cruelly’, and therefore some decided to open the gates and throw their arms on the ground before the French.[14] The historian Francesco Carpesani also applied it in this negative sense to the comments made by the French in 1503 about the unwarlike and cowardly nature of the Spanish and Italian troops.[15]

However, the Latin term which perhaps comes close to that of the modern sense of ‘civilian’ as an antonym of ‘soldier’ is ‘paganus’. For example, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan Pliny mentioned ‘milites et pagani’ as two groups that benefited from the humanity and justice of a particular unnamed soldier.[16] The Roman historian Tacitus described how restless and mutinous soldiers in winter quarters with the tribes of Treviri and Lingones, who had been punished harshly by Galba, were ‘demoralized by mixing with these civilian inhabitants [paganos]’.[17] In the fourth century Vegetius seemed to oppose ‘miles’ and ‘paganus’ in a similar fashion, noting in an aphorism popular with medieval and Renaissance readers of his popular text on military matters that ‘in battle, skill is of more benefit than strength; for, if skill in the use of arms is absent, a peasant [paganus] differs not at all from a soldier.’[18]

Even this term lacks the generally neutral sense of English ‘civilian’ or ‘non-combatant’, or even ‘inermis’ (unarmed), which Renaissance writers sometime employed. Tacitus had Antonius address his praetorians before a battle: ‘As for you, clowns [pagani] that you are, if you do not win today, what other general or other camp will take you in?’[19] The term was also applied derogatively in 1124 to the stipendiary knights of King Henry I’s household, who were described as ‘pagenses et gregarii’ (‘country bumpkins and mercenaries’).[20] The Neapolitan chronicler Giuliano Passero may have used the word in a more neutral way when he described how in November 1495 King Ferrante took Nocera from the ‘pagani’ by battle, and it was immediately put to ‘blood and fire’ with prisoners taken and goods sacked. The king issued an edict prohibiting violence against women and ordered that all should be honourably treated like sisters.[21]

Linguistic study can therefore offer some useful hints of the pejorative value which attached to non-combatants during the Italian Wars, and has been noted in Renaissance military memoirs. Further study of the writings of sixteenth-century just war theorists and the manuals of combat advice, for example, may also reveal how the web of meaning might have stretched to encompass as non-combatants those who would not fall into my modern category of civilian, and vice versa. This may reflect the fact that the meaning of civilian was highly contingent on circumstances, and that armies, companies, and soldiers were raised seasonally and did not constitute a permanent force in society. With the appearance of permanent armies and the specialization of functions during the sixteenth century it may be argued that society was more clearly demilitarised. This sharper demarcation of functions may have led to the emergence of a clearer and more stable categorization of civilian, one to be sharply distinguished from that of soldier who would no longer be considered, following Vegetius, merely a peasant trained up in arms.

Finally, research may also show whether concerns about ‘inhumanity’ (as Raymonde de Fourquevaux put it) towards the unarmed increased. Did the consideration of conduct in warfare over the cause of war grow? Returning to Garimberto the answer this question seems to be yes. As he wrote, not all methods (modi) of winning are honourable and a victory can be glorious or inglorious depending on the method used, or according to whether the war is just or unjust. The honourable and glorious means of winning is to shed as little blood as possible, while the inglorious and dishonourable victory involves much bloodshed. There is no doubt about victories in a just war, which being necessary to it are just and consequently praiseworthy; while those in an unjust war are unjust and infamous (infame). But just as some unjust wars have had as an end a victory acquired with prudence, and consequently worthy of praise, so the victories of some just and praiseworthy wars have been lacking in glory. He goes on to suggest that some bloody victories (vittoria insanguinata) are necessary, if not praiseworthy, such as when those defeated in battle and preserved by the captain’s clemency break faith and he is forced to become cruel. However, causing bloodshed simply for the love of bloodshed is to be condemned and there is greater glory, and a greater reputation to be gained by the captain, in pardoning and saving lives. Therefore, acting in the place of reason the captain must restrain the appetites of his soldiers (Bk 3, Ch. 8).



All classical texts are cited using editions published in the Loeb Classical Library.

Carpesani, Francesco. Commentaria Suorum Temporum (1476-1527). Ed. Giacomo Zarotti. Parma: La nazionale, 1975

Garimberto, Girolamo. Il Capitano Generale. Venice: Giordano Ziletti, 1557

Giovio, Paolo. Dell’Istorie del suo Tempo. Trans. Lodovico Domenichi. 2 vols. Venice: Giovan Maria Bonelli, 1560

Historiarum sui Temporis. Ed. Dante Visconti. 2 vols. In Paolo Giovio, Opera. Vols. 3-4. Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1957

Passero, Giuliano. Storie in forma di Giornali. Ed. Vincenzo Maria Altobelli. Naples: Vincenzo Orsino, 1785

Raymond de Forquevaux [Published under pseud. Guillaume du Bellay]. Instructions sur le faict de la Guerre. Paris: Michel Vascosan, 1548


Allmand, Christopher. The De Re Militari of Vegetius: The Reception, Transmission and Legacy of a Roman Text in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011

Cohn Jr., Samuel K. ‘Repression of Popular Revolt in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy’. In The Culture of Violence in Renaissance Italy: Proceedings of the International Conference; Georgetown University at Villa Le Balze, 3-4 May, 2010, ed. Samuel Kline Cohn Jr. and Fabrizio Ricciardelli, 99-120. Florence: Le Lettere, 2012

Contamine, Philippe. ‘The Growth of State Control. Practices of War, 1300-1800: Ransom and Booty.’ In idem (ed.), War and Competition between States, 163-93. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000.

Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process, trans. Edmund Jephcott, 2 vols. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978-81

The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations, trans. Edmund Jephcott, ed. Eric Dunning, Johan Goudsblom and Stephen Mennell. Revised edn. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2000

Charters, Erica, Eve Rosenhaft and Hannah Smith (eds), Civilians and War in Europe 1618-1815 (2012)

Johnson, James Turner. Ideology, Reason, and the Limitation of War: Religious and Secular Concepts, 1200-1740. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975

Kaeuper, Richard W. Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999

Lynn, John. Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008

Russell, Frederick H. The Just War in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975

Strickland, Matthew. War and Chivalry: The Conduct and Perception of War in England and Normandy, 1066-1217. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996

Wilson, Peter H. ‘German Women and War, 1500-1800’. In Jeremy Black (ed.), Warfare in Europe 1650-1792, 45-78. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005 [First published in War in History, 3 [1996]: 127-60]

[1] For the period after 1618 see Charters, Rosenhaft and Smith, Civilians; Wilson, ‘German Women’.

[2] Johnson, Ideology, Reason; Russell, Just War; Kaeuper, Chivalry; Strickland, War.

[3] Contamine, ‘Growth of State’, 186.

[4] Garimberto, Capitano, 233-4, 285-90, 299-305.

[5] ‘Mais quelle chose est plus inhumaine, qu’apres avoir foullé auz piedz les Enseignes des ennemis, saccagé leur Camp, avoir rompues, mises en fuitte, et detrenchees leurs batailles sur la chaulde, achever encores d’occire a froid sang ceulx qui ne seront mortz durant le combat? Ou apres que l’on aura forcee une breche, et occiz ceulx que se seront mis en defense, detrencher encores ceulx qui se seront renduz? Et les paouvres habitans vielz et ieunes, nonobstant qu’ilz soient desarmez et innocens? Et en oultre, permettre que les femmes et les filles soient forcees, et aucuneffois occises, les temples pillez, et les choses sacrees ravies, et converties en villains usages? Veritablement c’est plus que cruaulté.’ Raymond de Forquevaux, Instructions, fol. 93v [recte, 92v].

[6] Ibid.

[7] On the violence and cruelty of the Middle Ages increasingly restrained by rules and states see Elias, Civilizing Process, 1: 191-217; 2: passim, but especially the synopsis in pt 4. Elias was careful to state that: ‘Our kind of behavior has grown out of that which we call uncivilized. But these concepts grasp the actual change too statically and coarsely. In reality, our terms “civilized” and “uncivilized” do not constitute an antithesis of the kind that exists between “good” and “bad,” but represent stages in a development which, moreover, is still continuing.’ Ibid., 59. He explicitly rejected the idea that medieval manners represented ‘the stage of “barbarism” or primitiveness”’ at ibid., 62, and he questioned the idea of ‘progress’, emphasizing that certain customs must not be viewed as a ‘lack of civilization’ but ‘as something that fitted the needs of these people and that seemed meaningful to them in exactly this form.’ Ibid., 68. He also asserted that: ‘The civilizing process does not follow a straight line.’ Ibid., 186. The preface to the 1968 reprint of his work also clarifies some of his views on the relationship between the ‘civilising process’ and ‘progress’. It was published in English translation in 2000: idem, Civilizing Process, 449-83. On the rise of at least one form of violence – cruel punishment and executions – in Italy after c.1390 see Cohn, ‘Repression’.

[8] However, the OED, which is my source here, records the (presumably short-lived) use of ‘civilianization’ in 1946 as a pejorative term applied to the replacement of members of the armed forces involved in administration by civilians.

[9] Livy, 28.23.2, on the ‘turbam feminarum puerorumque inbellem inermemque cives sui caederent’. Frontinus, Stratagems, 2.4.20 writes of the king of Scythians who ‘iussit a feminis puerisque et omni imbelli turba’ to take part in a ruse. At ibid., 3.9.3 he writes of the castellans of a town recalled from its defense ‘ab imbelli multitudine’ under the mistaken belief that the town had already been captured from the rear, and at ibid., 2.5.19 there is a reference to ‘imbelles’ as the non-combatant part of the population. In Vegetius, Epitoma, 240 (4.7) we find the following recommendation to prevent famine in a besieged town: ‘Inbellis quoque aetas ac sexus propter necessitate victus portis frequenter exclusa est, ne penuria opprimeret armatos a quibus moenia servabantur.’

[10] Livy, 23.46.11, on ‘peditem inbellem’ or ‘infantry unfit for war’; Frontinus, Stratagems, 3.10.1 on ‘Suessetanos quosdam ex auxiliaribus maxime imbelles’.

[11] Horace, Carmina, 4.4.31.

[12] Sallust, Jugurtha, 20.2, contrasting Jugurtha ‘acer, bellicosus’ with his victim Adherbal ‘quietus, inbellis’; Vergil, Georgics, 2.172, on Emperor Augustus driving the ‘imbellum … Indum’ or ‘craven Indian’ (sc. Eastern nations) from the hills of Rome; Livy, 21.16.3, contrasting the Roman impression of the fierce and warlike Carthaginians victorious at Saguntum with a Rome that seemed ‘desidem … atque imbellem’, or ‘torpid and unwarlike’; Livy, 26.2.11, contrasting the warlike Carthaginians with an army of Roman citizens ‘ignavi et inbelles inter hostes essent’; and Quintilian, Institutes, 7.1.43, ‘pro viro forti contra inbellem’, or ‘a war hero against a coward’.

[13] Horace, Carmina, 3.2.15, ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. / mors et fugacem persequitur virum, / nec parcit imbellis iuventae / poplitibus timidove tergo.’ Much more poetic is Jonathan Swift: ‘How blest is he, who for his country dies; / Since Death pursues the Coward as he flies. / The Youth, in vain, would fly from Fate’s Attack, / With trembling Knees, and terror at his Back; / Though Fear should lend him Pinions like the Wind, / Yet swifter Fate will seize him from behind’.

[14] ‘Passim ferox dictis populus, factis autem imbellis, et subito timore consternatus, crudelissime trucidatur’. Giovio, Historiarum, 1: 95.

[15] ‘Nam inter huiusmodi contumeliarum iactationes, audita est vox cuiusdam Galli plus aequo ferocientis et imbelliam ignaviamque Hispanis atque Italis eiusdem commilitii exprobantis. Quam indiginitatis notam minime ferendam rati Itali, misère communi nomine ad Gallos, qui renunciarent, quando imbelles ignavique a se haberentur, eorum praeiudicio cupere secum manu conserta per aequas bellatorum manus utri bello praestarent experiri.’ Carpesani, Commentaria, 87.

[16] Pliny, Epistulae ad Traianum, 10.86b(18).2.

[17] ‘unde seditiosa colloquia et inter paganos corruptior miles’. Tacitus, Historiae, 1.53.

[18] Vegetius, Epitome, 59 (2.23). ‘Postremo sciendum est in pugna usum amplius prodesse quam vires; nam si doctrina cesset armorum nihil paganus distat a milite.’ On medieval and Renaissance readers of Vegetius see Allmand, De Re Militari.

[19] ‘“Vos […] nisi vincitis, pagani, quis alius imperator, quae castra alia excipient?”’ Tacitus, Historiae, 3.24.

[20] Waleran de Meulan quoted by the twelfth-century chronicler Orderic Vitalis and quoted in Strickland, War, 288.

[21] ‘Alli 3 di novembre 1495 lo signore re Ferrante have pigliata Nocera delli pagani per forza de battaglia, e subito fo messa a sangue, e fuoco, e lo signore Re subito fece andare uno bando che a pena della vita non fosse persona nessuna, che facesse violentia alle donne; ma che ognuna fosse honorata come sorella, ma foro ben tutti sacchiati, e l’huomini puosti presuni.’ Passero, Istorie, 88. Passero goes on to describe how the king took the castle of Nocera three weeks later. Therefore, by referring to ‘pagani’ in the aforementioned passage he may have intended to draw a contrast between the inhabitants of the town and the troops in the castle: Passero, Storie, 89.