Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Fiore dei Liberi and his treatises Fior di Battaglia/Flos Duellatorum c.1410.
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Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby TyHar7 » 22 Jul 2012 08:25

http://www.worksofrichardmarsden.com/fioreandmercenaries.htm

Upon reading this it got me thinking could Fiore passed from company to company to learn his art? This would have been a perfect way to meet other masters, gain skills and knowledge and pay for his travels, if so there maybe even some record of it? Thoughts?
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenarie?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 10:56

Unfortunately the article is not the most accurate.

MS Harely 3542 is not dated by anybody to the 14th century is it? My understanding is that it is probably mid or late 15th century.

Fiore's manuscript was not 'printed' in 1410. The printing press didn't come into use until later in the 15th century.

In regard to 'Doebringer', Harley 3542 and Fior di Battaglia the author says "All three documents were probably written by masters who were in their fifties or older."
This is complete speculation, except in the case of Fior di Battaglia.

These sort of errors (not to mention the bad spelling!) don't exactly fill a person with confidence.

Now, on to the actual theory being promoted and to try and answer Ty’s question:

We actually know far more about Fiore’s life than almost any other medieval fencing master. We know where he was from, we know many of the cities he travelled to, we know that he assisted in the defence of Udine, we know the names of some of his students and we know that he assisted in the running of several knightly duels. He even tells us that he fought in five mortal duels and engaged in combat ‘in the barriers’, but he never mentions soldiering or war. These actions and the roles he played, puts him into a quite different category to someone like Sir John Hawkwood, in my opinion. In every known ‘job’ that we see him in he is either teaching a nobleman or assisting noblemen to conduct knightly duels. We don’t know the circumstances behind his assistance to Udine, but he was put in charge of either crossbows or siege equipment by the town officials and was listed as ‘Master’ (ie. Of fencing). None of these things point to him being a mercenary during his later working life – rather he seems to have been a traditional fencing master, which was a form of court servant. He served noblemen, like an artist or a horse-breeder. There is also no real evidence that he was a mercenary in his youth – he says that as a youth he learned ‘combat in the barriers’. This was tournament fighting. He says nothing about war. The only strong connection I can make between Fiore and the mercenary world was that he was obvious close to Galeazzo da Mantova. Galeazzo was a condottieri, of sorts, though he was also a nobleman who probably engaged Fiore to train him for a duel with Marshall Boucicault.

Part of the problem with this whole topic is that there is no hard and fast definition for what a ‘mercenary’ was at this time. At the most basic level we could say that anybody who took pay for military service in return was a mercenary. Well then nearly all medieval soldiers were mercenaries! I would personally discount regular soldiers though – In this context I think of mercenaries as freelance soldiers who would fight for whoever paid them the most and offered the best employment ‘package’ (as Hawkwood did). In other words, I see mercenaries in this context as soldiers who were pretty much ONLY fighting for pay and were not geographically, socially or politically bonded to their bosses. In that definition of mercenary I do not see any evidence for Fiore having been a mercenary, because we only know about him having taken part in one war and there is no evidence to suggest that he was doing it as a mercenary or as part of a mercenary company. In contrast, he was listed at that time already as ‘Master Fiore’. So his job was presumably as a fencing master, not a soldier.

So, my answer to the question of this thread is: No, probably not, and there is no evidence to suggest that he was.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby TyHar7 » 23 Jul 2012 12:58

Fiore does state that he traveled a lot and was taught by many masters, I know you don't think Fiore was a noblemen, so I just wonder what he would have done to pay for the travel and training during his youth? Obviously we're just speculating, but do you have any theories?
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 14:30

I think the implication in his own prologue is that he paid for his travels by being a fencing teacher. He says that he attended the courts of many rich noblemen, so presumably he was being paid for his services. Incidentally, all the places we know he definitely went to are in Italy. We don't have any fixed record of him travelling outside what we now call Italy - he says he learned from and taught both Italians and Germans, but there were lots of 'Germans' living in Northern Italy at the time (as well as English, French, Hungarians etc).
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenarie?

Postby Michael Chidester » 23 Jul 2012 15:42

admin wrote:MS Harely 3542 is not dated by anybody to the 14th century is it? My understanding is that it is probably mid or late 15th century.

It has been commonly presumed to date to the mid-late 1500s, but according to the translation and analysis that Terry Brown released a few years ago, most recently a certain J. Hester analyzed it for his dissertation (2006) and judged based on the writing style that it most likely dates to the "late fourteenth or the very early fifteenth century."

admin wrote:There is also no real evidence that he was a mercenary in his youth – he says that as a youth he learned ‘combat in the barriers’. This was tournament fighting. He says nothing about war.

Come now, that's a bit disingenuous isn't it? You know as well as I that he also says he learned "maximamente chose de combatter ad oltrança." That doesn't make him a mercenary necessarily, but he clearly says that in addition to fighting in the barriers he learned about fighting in when his life was on the line.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenarie?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 16:15

Michael Chidester wrote:It has been commonly presumed to date to the mid-late 1500s, but according to the translation and analysis that Terry Brown released a few years ago, most recently a certain J. Hester analyzed it for his dissertation (2006) and judged based on the writing style that it most likely dates to the "late fourteenth or the very early fifteenth century."


This is news to me. I wonder why this hasn't been commonly accepted?

You know as well as I that he also says he learned "maximamente chose de combatter ad oltrança." That doesn't make him a mercenary necessarily, but he clearly says that in addition to fighting in the barriers he learned about fighting in when his life was on the line.


Michael, I think you're missing my point. He talks about one-on-one fighting, fighting in the barriers, with both rebated and sharp weapons, duels with other masters, training named noblemen for knightly duels etc. His techniques touch on general fighting skills, both civilian and perhaps military. There is not a single mention of war or soldierly life anywhere in his prologue though. The closest thing we have to it are some parts of the actual lessons, such as facing horsemen with a partisan (not something you'd be likely to see in a duel!). Every reference we have for Fiore lists him as a fencing master, not a soldier - even during his military involvement in Udine he is listed as 'Magister'! Not Capitano or suchlike.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 16:19

p.s. The answer remains "there is no evidence for Fiore ever having been a mercenery". That is a fact at the moment. We know quite a lot about what Fiore DID do in his life, but none of those things could be described as 'mercenary'. I may as well speculate that Fiore was a chef. He may have been, but there isn't any evidence for it.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby TyHar7 » 23 Jul 2012 17:15

admin wrote:I think the implication in his own prologue is that he paid for his travels by being a fencing teacher. He says that he attended the courts of many rich noblemen, so presumably he was being paid for his services. Incidentally, all the places we know he definitely went to are in Italy. We don't have any fixed record of him travelling outside what we now call Italy - he says he learned from and taught both Italians and Germans, but there were lots of 'Germans' living in Northern Italy at the time (as well as English, French, Hungarians etc).


Surely there would have been a period where he would have had to learn his craft before he could teach it? Would Fiore have needed to be quite established before he attended courts?
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby TyHar7 » 23 Jul 2012 17:29

admin wrote:p.s. The answer remains "there is no evidence for Fiore ever having been a mercenery". That is a fact at the moment. We know quite a lot about what Fiore DID do in his life, but none of those things could be described as 'mercenary'. I may as well speculate that Fiore was a chef. He may have been, but there isn't any evidence for it.


Absolutely wild speculation is useless, I'm just try to establish what possible career paths could lead to becoming a fencing master at that period. There would of been a period of learning with other masters/teachers for him to become skilled enough to be called one himself? So if he wasn't teaching for a living, what might he be doing?
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 17:43

TyHar7 wrote:Surely there would have been a period where he would have had to learn his craft before he could teach it?


He covers this in his prologue. He studied under various other fencing teachers and ultimately became a fencing teacher himself. No mention of being a soldier.

Would Fiore have needed to be quite established before he attended courts?


Yes. Again, he covers this in his prologue. Here's the relevant part of the prologue (my translation):

Fior Furlan de Civida d’Austria son of Messer Benedetto, of the noble house of dei Liberi of Premariacco, of the diocese of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, in his youth wanted to learn how to fight and the art of combat in the barriers. Of Spear, Axe, Sword and Dagger, and of fighting on foot or mounted, armoured or not armoured. Also, he wanted know 'temper' of steel. And features of each weapon, both for defence and for offence, and most of all the matters of combat to the bitter end. Also, other amazing and undisclosed things which are known by very few men in the world. And these are things very true, and of a massive offence and great defence, and they are things in which you can not fail, as they are very easy to do. Which art and teaching have been mentioned above. And the aforementioned Fiore learnt these things from many German masters and from many Italians in many provinces and in many cities with immense and great expenses. And for the Grace of God from many masters and students. And in the meantime, in the courts of great Signori, Princes, Dukes, Marquis', and Counts, Knights and Squires, he learnt this art. So that the mentioned Fiore was many many times requested by many Signori, and Knights, and Squires, [they requested] to learn this art from the mentioned Fiore, of fighting and combat in the barriers to the bitter end. This art he has shown to many Italians and Germans and other great Signori, who had to fight in the barriers. And also to infinite numbers who did not need to fight.


So as the author of Fior di Battaglia describes it, Fiore basically travelled around learning from fencing masters and noblemen, ultimately becoming good enough to be invited to teach other people all over Northern Italy (and possibly beyond). He mentions that five times he was challenged to duels by other jealous masters. So presumably there was a pretty competitive market in being a fencing teacher. There is no mention of anything to do with war or soldiering though. It seems like he would have listed any military experience if he had any.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby Michael Chidester » 23 Jul 2012 17:48

I think what he's asking, though, is that assuming for a moment Fiore wasn't born noble, how did he raise money for food and clothings and assorted other things-that-cost-money in the period before other people were paying him to teach?
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 17:55

TyHar7 wrote:I'm just try to establish what possible career paths could lead to becoming a fencing master at that period.


Most fencing masters would start out as fencing students (Macionlino and Marozzo both studied under Di Lucca, for example). The best students would be trained up to become the next generation of teachers and ultimately they would go out and start their own schools or take over from their master once he got to old or died. Fencing schools were like family businesses.

Fencing masters who had formerly been soldiers were pretty rare I think. Paulus Kal was briefly a soldier, I believe, and Saviolo seems to have been a former soldier. Most pre-19thC fencing masters I can think of have no documented military background (in any case, being in the military does not mean you have seen action - civilian life may have presented more opportunity for sword-use than military life in many cases!). A modern parallel would be to ask how many modern MMA fighters and teachers have a military background. Some, but not that many.

So if he wasn't teaching for a living, what might he be doing?


Living off his father's money? He was clearly educated, being able to read, write and draw. Given that he seems to have had an expensive education and moved in high social circles it seems likely to me that he was probably from a fairly wealthy background. He may not have needed a 'job' when he was a youth. If he did earn money before he was a fencing teacher he doesn't mention anything about it. He could conceivably have been a page to a squire or knight.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 17:56

Michael Chidester wrote:I think what he's asking, though, is that assuming for a moment Fiore wasn't born noble, how did he raise money for food and clothings and assorted other things-that-cost-money in the period before other people were paying him to teach?


The same way he learnt to read, write and draw? I'm guessing daddy Benedetto paid for it. :)
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby TyHar7 » 23 Jul 2012 20:32

admin wrote:
He covers this in his prologue. He studied under various other fencing teachers and ultimately became a fencing teacher himself. No mention of being a soldier.


admin wrote:So as the author of Fior di Battaglia describes it, Fiore basically travelled around learning from fencing masters and noblemen, ultimately becoming good enough to be invited to teach other people all over Northern Italy (and possibly beyond). He mentions that five times he was challenged to duels by other jealous masters. So presumably there was a pretty competitive market in being a fencing teacher. There is no mention of anything to do with war or soldiering though. It seems like he would have listed any military experience if he had any.


admin wrote:Most fencing masters would start out as fencing students (Macionlino and Marozzo both studied under Di Lucca, for example). The best students would be trained up to become the next generation of teachers and ultimately they would go out and start their own schools or take over from their master once he got to old or died. Fencing schools were like family businesses.


Well with all this taken into account it raises some more questions? Do you think it would be common or acceptable practice to move and train between fencing schools? As you said it would be pretty competitive between fencing teachers and schools certainly their would be rivalries? I also find it curious that he doesn't specify who he learned the art from?
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby admin » 23 Jul 2012 21:29

I don't know the answers to these questions - I don't think anybody does, because as far as I know there just hasn't been enough research turned up to fill in these gaps (for this period at least). It may well be that there are a load of Italian sources from the 14thC waiting to be studied which will shed further light on the context of fencing schools though.

For the record, the Pisani-Dossi version of Fior di Battaglia does mention a German that Fiore supposedly studied under - this is covered on our website:
http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/fiore/
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby TyHar7 » 23 Jul 2012 22:25

admin wrote:For the record, the Pisani-Dossi version of Fior di Battaglia does mention a German that Fiore supposedly studied under - this is covered on our website:
http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/fiore/


I've only been studying the Getty at moment, although I have read that part of the site I must of over looked it. Thanks Matt.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby Ariella Elema » 27 Jul 2012 00:19

TyHar7 wrote:Do you think it would be common or acceptable practice to move and train between fencing schools? As you said it would be pretty competitive between fencing teachers and schools certainly their would be rivalries?


At the time, it was pretty common for scholars of other sorts to wander long distances from one master or university to another and compete in debating contests. I wouldn't be surprised if students of armizare had a similar system, but even less formal.

I think Fiore's treatises make it clear that he was primarily concerned with individual deeds of arms rather than soldiering, even though several of his students had significant military experience. The teachings consistently assume that the fight is a single combat. Having now seen some Arabic martial arts treatises from the same period, I'm coming to realize how odd the European material is in that regard.

On the subject of Fiore's birth, it looks as though the dei Liberi were the Friulian equivalent of country gentry. Fiore says he was "born of a noble line of free men" (de nobili prosapia liberorum natus). They were probably big men in the village of Premariacco, but I once ran across a book of contemporary charters from Cividale and noted that neither Fiore nor Benedetto were mentioned on the witness lists. The concept of nobility was very fluid in northern Italy at the time. One was noble if one could get others to acknowledge one's claim to nobility.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby leonardo daneluz » 27 Jul 2012 18:13

Ariella Elema wrote:
TyHar7 wrote:Do you think it would be common or acceptable practice to move and train between fencing schools? As you said it would be pretty competitive between fencing teachers and schools certainly their would be rivalries?


At the time, it was pretty common for scholars of other sorts to wander long distances from one master or university to another and compete in debating contests. I wouldn't be surprised if students of armizare had a similar system, but even less formal.

I think Fiore's treatises make it clear that he was primarily concerned with individual deeds of arms rather than soldiering, even though several of his students had significant military experience. The teachings consistently assume that the fight is a single combat. Having now seen some Arabic martial arts treatises from the same period, I'm coming to realize how odd the European material is in that regard.

On the subject of Fiore's birth, it looks as though the dei Liberi were the Friulian equivalent of country gentry. Fiore says he was "born of a noble line of free men" (de nobili prosapia liberorum natus). They were probably big men in the village of Premariacco, but I once ran across a book of contemporary charters from Cividale and noted that neither Fiore nor Benedetto were mentioned on the witness lists. The concept of nobility was very fluid in northern Italy at the time. One was noble if one could get others to acknowledge one's claim to nobility.

I don´t know if this amount something but the oral history of my family (from a nearby town of Cividale) portrays a scenario with three classes: the true nobles, the servs and the free country men. The latter owned their lands instead of being servs but weren´t nobles properly. However they claimed to be "of noble origin". That was the case of my own family. When I asked more about the matter to my grandfather it was evident that a "real" noble class existed and some animosity too (they were considered foreigners). At the same time a high stress was made in the fact we weren´t the lower class, not merchants or smiths.
While serving in the Austrian empire army the real nobles kept the higher ranks and the "free men" just made NCO or similar. Unsurprisingly all my family left the austrian army to join Garibaldi forces.
All what I read about Fiore seems to fit into a similar scheme: that of the people who were free, owned land, weren´t townsmen but they weren´t nobles neither. Always trying to look as if they were more important.
The fact that Fiore makes clear that he was from a lineage of "free men" says it all to me. I doubt a true noble would feel the need to clarify that point.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby admin » 27 Jul 2012 19:15

Agreed.
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Re: Fiore, was he a mercenary?

Postby Sean M » 28 Jul 2012 16:43

admin wrote:Michael, I think you're missing my point. He talks about one-on-one fighting, fighting in the barriers, with both rebated and sharp weapons, duels with other masters, training named noblemen for knightly duels etc. His techniques touch on general fighting skills, both civilian and perhaps military. There is not a single mention of war or soldierly life anywhere in his prologue though. The closest thing we have to it are some parts of the actual lessons, such as facing horsemen with a partisan (not something you'd be likely to see in a duel!). Every reference we have for Fiore lists him as a fencing master, not a soldier - even during his military involvement in Udine he is listed as 'Magister'! Not Capitano or suchlike.

The challenge here though is that the prologue is not a complete description of Fiore's life, but a summary of some points which he wants to be remembered or which he thinks will impress his readers. I don't think we really know what activities Fiore would have been likely to mention in the prologues. He had reason to portray himself as a respectable and educated person who could teach nobles a prestigious skill, and I have no idea if service as a man-at-arms in some scruffy little wars would have counted. I think it is likely that if he was ever someone's retainer, he did odd jobs for that someone, some of them armed. I also think that this purpose explains why he is vague on how he made a living (too much concern for money was vulgar).

admin wrote:
Michael Chidester wrote:I think what he's asking, though, is that assuming for a moment Fiore wasn't born noble, how did he raise money for food and clothings and assorted other things-that-cost-money in the period before other people were paying him to teach?


The same way he learnt to read, write and draw? I'm guessing daddy Benedetto paid for it. :)

However, travelling around as much as Fiore seems to would have been expensive. His book education was probably over by the time he was 14 (learning his letters and basic Latin wouldn't have taken many years, and many boys of 14 were well enough educated to go to university) and conducted at home or close by. Even if he relied on the hospitality of the church and nobles who knew his father, it would have cost money. We can infer that he had at least one older brother, because in his old age he was hanging around Niccolo d'Este not back in Premariacco managing his family estate, so Benedetto had at least two sons to support. It would be good to know whether Benedetto's income was closer to £5 English or £50 English but I would guess towards the lower end of that range.
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