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                  as a nation in the fifteenth century. While Italians shared a culture, they did not yet share a national identity and were instead fragmented into a patchwork of independent cities and duchies. Fifteenth century Italy comprised five main states and many smaller ones that grouped together into defensive leagues that were called upon to keep any individual body politic for dominating any
of the others. These disparate groups were more than willing to call outside their leagues for foreign aid to settle local disagreements, and France was an oft looked to ally. King Charles used this to
his advantage as he moved his forces through the Italian peninsula. Many cities and local nobles were unwilling to risk warfare with France when their cities were not the primary targets. Italy’s leaders grew distraught as they saw the ease with which the French moved south towards the target of Naples. The first shock was when the fortress
of Mordano refused to surrender to the French army. French artillery quickly brought down the walls of Morando and on the twentieth of October 1494, the fortress fell, and the French slaughtered the inhabitants. This spread fears throughout Italy and many cities and forts opened their gates to the French rather than risk a similar fate. King Charles’ forces sacked and burned those cities that did not surrender. The drive to claim Naples ended when Monte San Giovanni fell after only a few hours of artillery fire on the ninth of February 1495, and its sister fortress, Ischia fell three weeks later. Ischia only held out as long as it did in thanks to its island position and the French being unable to blockade supplies coming in by ship. Italian leaders held their breath, hoping that this was the end of the troubles with France, but when the French decided then to fight with the republic of Venice, and defeat the Venetian army at Anadello in 1509, the doge
of Venice realized the position they were in when facing French artillery and set into motion an accelerated modernization of Italian defenses.
The French had embraced artillery technology during the middle of the fifteenth century and used this advantage to help defeat the English who had occupied a large portion of France during the Hundred Years War and they continued to use this technology to great effect. French cannons proved so effective that those few walled cities that did not open their gates to Charles willingly had their wall cast down in short order and were taken
by force. France introduced all of Europe to their new method of siege warfare. This tactical change signified the end of the old defensive paradigm and provided the impetus to develop another tactical idea. The idea of the defensive position needed to be reevaluated.
The designers of castles had to find a solution
to withstanding sieges where the main threats to the defenders, besides running out of supplies, was a breach of the walls. Answering this dilemma, castles had depended high walls to prevent scaling and round towers from which to defend. Stout
gates surrounded by gatehouses or barbicans that were castles onto themselves defended access
points through the walls. At the end of the fifteenth century, the ideal tower had a round base designed to provide 360-degree security while not presenting any architectural corners to the attackers, a weak point in design that was structurally weak and obscured fields of fire. The round tower had worked well for hundreds of years and was an advancement on towers built with flat walls. Wherever walls came together in a corner presented a structural weak point that could be exploited by bombardment with devices such as the trebuchet, or through other physical means, such as under-mining the corner
to cause a collapse. The round tower presented its own weakness as the armies of France began to
rely more on firearms to attack fortifications. The bases of the round towers now served as cover for Infantry that secured a position there. Each tower became an island, unable to support the others as the towers themselves masked the fields of fire. Defenders could only overcome this masking effect if they modified the geometries of towers to reduce this masked dead space. A maximized field of fire was the defender’s chief concern.
Illustration showing the dead space created by round towers as compared to the acute angles of the trace itallienne bastion.
Trace Itallienne
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