Posts Tagged ‘December 10’

Who Is Your Ally This Week?

Posted in General on December 10th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

December 10, 1508:  Everyone Hates Venice

If Pope Alexander VI had a dispute with the Doge of Venice, it is likely that the Venetian leader would have suddenly succumbed to an inexplicable case of  food poisoning.  Pope Julius II was not quite so subtle; he did have a dispute with the Doge, so he plunged Europe into war.  His Holiness organized an alliance, known as the League of Cambrai, on this day in 1508. France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal States were arrayed against the Venetian Republic. Venice discovered the disadvantage of being small and rich. Of course, all those riches did allow the Republic to field armies of mercenaries; so at least Venice was not completely defenseless. Nonetheless, the coalition was overwhelming–and Venice was losing ground–especially to France.

Now, the French wanted to keep all that they had won. They were not good at sharing, and considering that they were guests in Italy, the Pope was especially offended. So Julius decided in 1510 to switch sides and ally the Papal States with Venice. It took Spain and the Holy Roman Empire about a year to figure out which side that they were on, but they eventually joined the war against France. Of course, England never had any doubts–it was just Anti-French and young Henry VIII wanted to play soldier. So if England was on one side, then Scotland had to be on the other.

The Italian alliances, however, lacked that kind of clarity. More of a soldier than a theologian, Pope Julius was able to maintain the Anti-French alliance despite the conflicting interests of the theoretical allies. (The Hapsburgs proved just as bad guests as the French). Unfortunately, in 1513 Julius was 69–and he acted his age. His successor Leo X was no soldier or diplomat (but he would have made a good host for an art series on PBS); he did not like the Hapsburgs but was too lethargic and maladroit to curb their expansion. A frustrated and endangered Venice had no alternative but irony; in 1513 it switched sides and allied with France.

(So, here is a summary of the alliances: first, everyone against Venice; then, everyone against France; finally, France and Venice against everyone else.)

Surprisingly, that last combination actually worked. The Hapsburgs were driven back–at least for a few years–and Northern Italy was left in the hands of the French and the Venetians. Pope Leo did not care; as it turned out, he was Pro-French, too. Besides, his Holiness apparently was preoccupied in organizing an alliance of Northern Europe against the Church; if so, that worked too.