Submitted by geopol on 10/27/2010 21:00 -0500
Webster G. Tarpley
For Venice, so far so good: Florence,Naples, and Milan had been ruined. But ironically, the same dumbValois and Hapsburg giants which had taken out three dangerous rivalswere now to turn like Frankenstein’s monsters on the wily newRomans. Venetian manipulations were about to boomerang in the form ofan alliance of all of Europe against Venice.
This was the famous crisis of the Warof the League of Cambrai, which was assembled in 1508-1509. Theopposing coalition was made up of the pope (by then the GenoeseGiuliano della Rovere, as Julius II), the Holy Roman EmperorMaximilian I, France, Spain, Savoy, Mantua, and Ferrara. Theannounced purpose of this alliance was to expunge Venice from theface of the earth.
It nearly worked. At Agnadello, nearthe Adda River, the Venetian mercenary army was crushed by an armycomposed predominantly of Frenchmen. The Venetians were driven allthe way down the Po Valley to Padua, and they soon lost that as well.Machiavelli exulted that on the day of Agnadello, the Venetians losteverything that they had conquered in more than 800 years.Machiavelli was himself engaged in operations against Venice,bringing a grant of Florentine cash to the aid of the Franco-Imperialforces holding Verona.
With nothing left but the lagoons, theVenetian position was desperate. The doge sent a message to the popeasking for mercy, and announcing that Venice would vacate territorytaken in the past from the Papal States.
Inside Venice, Agnadello brought on anorgy of hysterical self-flagellation among the terrified patricians.The banker Girolamo Priuli wrote in his diary that Agnadello had beena punishment for the sins of the Venetian nobility, among which henumbered arrogance, violation of promises, lechery in nunneries,sodomy, effeminate dress, and luxurious and lasciviousentertainments. Antonio Contarini, newly appointed patriarch ofVenice, gave a speech to the Senate in which he characterized theSerenissima as a thoroughly amoral city. The defeat was a punishmentfor the city’s sins, he said. Nunneries were catering to the sexualneeds of the rich and powerful. Homosexuality was so widespread thatfemale prostitutes had complained to him that they had earned solittle during their youth that they had to keep working far intotheir old age.
But more significantly, the shock ofAgnadello set into motion a strategic review in the Venetianintelligence community which led to very far-reaching conclusions,some of which were not obvious before several decades had gone by.
The first Venetian ploy was to attemptto dismember the Cambrai coalition. They started with Pope Julius II.This pontiff was, as already noted, Genoese. Genoa and Venice hadengaged in a series of highly destructive wars up till about the endof the fourteenth century, but after that, Genoa gravitated towardthe status of junior partner and close associate of the Venetians.The Venetians had bested the Genoese by virtue of superiorconnections in the East, but otherwise their was a broad area ofagreement.
The symbol of Genoa was St. George thedragon-slayer, in reality no saint at all but a thinly disguisedversion of Perseus saving Andromeda by slaying the sea monster, alegend that is centered on the coast of Lebanon. The “George” issaid to come from the Gorgon Medusa, whose head Perseus was carrying.
Perseus is in turn nothing but awesternized variant of Marduk, the Syrian Apollo, a deity associatedwith the most evil forces of ancient Assyria and Babylon. TheVenetians had their own Marduk cult, although subordinated to St.Mark, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, home of a Dominicanmonastery and today of the Cini Foundation, one of the highest levelthink tanks in the world. The modern British preference of Gorgons istoo well known to need comment.
What probably accounted more directlyfor Julius II’s decision to reverse his alliances was a dealmediated with the Venetians by Agostino Chigi, the Siena Black Guelphbanker from whose financial empire the infamous Siena Group of todayderives. He proposed that the Venetians stop buying alum, needed intextile and glass manufacture, from the Turks, but contract for alarge shipment at higher prices from the alum mines at Tolfa in thePapal States – mines for which he, Chigi, was acting as agent. Tosweeten the pot, Chigi offered the Venetians tens of thousands ofducats in much-needed loans.
The Venetians, fearing a rapid Frenchoffensive, accepted. Their own state finances were in total shambles.Only the Chigi loan allowed them to hire enough Swiss mercenaries tohold out against the French and the Imperial Landsknechte.
To provide a plausible cover for hismove, Julius II suddenly discovered that the real issue was notVenice after all, but the need to expel the barbarians (primarily theFrench) from Italy. Julius stipulated an alliance with Venice. Hethen set up the slogan of Fuori Barbari! (Kick the Barbarians out!)which is still recorded by credulous writers of Italian school booksas the beginning of the struggle to unify Italy. Even the Venetianmercenaries, mostly Swiss, began using the battle cry of “Italy andFreedom!”
Thus the post-Agnadello crisis wasovercome. Some years later the Venetians tried the same tactic inreverse, this time with more lasting success. By 1525 the prevalentbarbarians in Italy were the forces of Emperor Charles V, who haddefeated the French at Pavia, capturing King Francis I. The Frenchlost their hold on Naples and Milan. At this point Doge AndreaGritti, whose portrait by Tiziano speaks volumes about hispersonality, decided to agitate once again the banner of Italianfreedom. This took the form of the Holy League of Cognac “for therestoration of Italian liberty,” uniting France, Venice, Milan,Florence, and the Papal States under Pope Clement VIII Medici. Afterhaving set up this alliance, designed to play the French againstCharles V once again to destroy Medici-controlled Rome, the last intact Renaissance center, theVenetians retired into defensive positions to await the outcome.
Venetian capacities to manipulateCharles V were formidable indeed. The emperor’s bankers andintelligencers were the Fuggers of Augsburg, a banking house and acity that must be regarded as Venetian satellites, within a contextof very heavy Venetian control of the cities of the Danube valley.Virtually every young male member of the Fugger family, and of theircolleagues the Welsers as well, was sent to Venice for a period ofapprenticeship at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. This was the case withJacob Fugger the Rich. Venice was the pivot for Fugger metalstrading, especially toward the East.
Thus, the Venetians stayed in theirphony war posture against Charles V, while the imperial army ofLutheran Lanzi under Georg Frundsberg devastated Italy. The sack ofRome in 1527 was the direct outcome of this combined Venetiandiplomacy and manipulation. To make Charles V’s triumph complete,the Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria, commanding the French fleet,defected to the imperial side. A Doria coup in Genoa then establisheda permanent de facto alliance with Venice.
In 1530, Charles V was crowned as HolyRoman Emperor and King of Italy in a ceremony at Bologna. Garrisonsof imperial troops were shortly stationed in every major city. Thanksto the tenacious policy of the Venetians, the main centers of theRenaissance had been subverted or destroyed. Venice was the onlymajor Italian state which had retained real sovereignty. With the endof the Renaissance, Venice could feel free to start a delphicRenaissance among the throngs of intellectuals seeking asylum in thelagoons.
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