How the Trace Italienne

How the Trace Italienne Changed Warfare During the Italian Wars, 1494-1559

Jacopo Pessina, PhD, Pisa
Chair of the Program Committee of the 2022 International Committee for the History of Technology, ICOHTEC

 The spread of firearms in European armies changed Western warfare from the second half of the fifteenth century. The appearance of artillery on the battlefields encouraged military architects to develop a new outline for Medieval castles permitting them to resist cannonballs: the bastion fort (best renowned as trace italienne). The bastion fort was a low and deep fortification that could be considered the turning point for the Renaissance European art of war: it made fortresses impregnable by assaults. This forced besiegers to adopt strategies to cut off forts’ supply lines, waiting until defenders were short of food, and forced them to surrender: the sieges lengthened from many months up to years. As a result, the governments faced permanent conflicts and established standing armies, increasing military expenditures.

The lecture aims to show the importance of trace italienne in changing European warfare during the Italian Wars (1494-1559), taking into consideration the case study of the Republic of Siena. The most important military architects of the Italian Wars, such as Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Baldassarre Peruzzi, were born in Siena. Moreover, Siena was a central place for developing military technological enhancements. Last, the War of Siena (1552-1555) is useful to understand the role of the trace italienne in the first half of the sixteenth-century conflicts.

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