War in the Renaissance
Of all the soldiers, the battle was especially deadly and very unequal for the French cavalry, for lead balls were sprayed by the Spanish surrounding them and ready on every side for their deadly volleys. These were shot no longer with the lighter firearms (as had been custo Mary a little before) but with the heavier ones, which they call arquebuses, and they penetrated not only an armored horseman, but also often two soldiers and two horses. Thus the fields were covered with the pitiful slaughter of noble horsemen and by heaps of dying horses.
Paolo Giovio, quoted in Hans Delbrück, History of the Art of War, trans. Walter Renfroe, ( Westport, Conn., 1985), 4, p. 43. Giovio, a sixteenth-century biographer, was describing the Battle of Pavia of 1525.
In the preceding chapters there has been little occasion to mention Italy, for Italy in military matters, as in so many other aspects of life, followed a different drummer during the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Far more urbanized by 1100 than the rest of Europe, northern Italy also had a large noble class living within the cities. It provided a cavalry force to be used with the city militia, which consisted of spearmen and, later, crossbowmen. Bitter rivalries among the cities, and often within them, provided ample opportunity for the Italians to hone their military skills.
In the twelfth century the northern Italian military was put to good use against the Holy Roman Emperor, who for 200 years had had some jurisdiction there. Frederick I Barbarossa was determined to make good his claim to real authority in the region. From 1160 on, Frederick almost annually led an army across the Alps to dispute control of northern Italy with a group of cities known as the Lombard League. It was centered around Milan, the major prize in most of the wars in the region. In 1176 Frederick, while marching with part of his army, all cavalry, to join up with the rest of it, ran into a large Italian force north of Milan near Legnano. The charge of the German knights easily broke the ranks of the Italian cavalry