Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2013
[“I giochi militari e l'addestramento delle fanterie,” in Aldo A. Settia, Comuni in guerra. Armi ed eserciti nell'Italia delle città (Bologna, 1994), pp. 29–52]Translated by Valerie Eads
The “Little Battles”
Italian communal armies were, as is well known, largely made up of infantry. Admittedly, the strength of these latter would have resulted more from numbers and determination than from combat experience; still, the term “infantry” properly means “a group of soldiers with a certain level of training and discipline,” two qualities that result only from some form of instruction. And yet, if we wish to develop at least a rough understanding of the military obligations of the mass of the population, of the armament the people had to provide for themselves, and of how it (the population) was mobilized to train for war – with the exception of some late provisions concerning marksmen – the sources as a rule are simply silent concerning training.
One can certainly maintain that economic reasons would have prevented regular exercises for the communal infantry in times of peace, but it is difficult to believe that all training would have taken place on the battlefield or in the course of the socio-political conflicts between milites and pedites. There is, however, a third possibility offered by certain war games – a sort of plebeian rival to the aristocratic tournaments – practiced specifically by those classes that furnished the infantry for the city militia.