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The Battle of Benevento was a major medieval battle fought on 26 February 1266, near
Benevento Benevento (, , ; la, Beneventum; Beneventano: ''Beneviénte'') is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance ...

Benevento
in present-day
Southern Italy Southern Italy ( it, Sud Italia; nap, 'o Sudde; scn, Italia dû Sud), also known as ''Meridione'' or ''Mezzogiorno'' (, literally "Midday"; in nap, 'o Miezojuorno; in scn, Mezzujornu), is a macroregionA macroregion is a geopolitical subdivis ...
, between the forces of
Charles I of Anjou Charles I (early 1226/12277 January 1285), commonly called Charles of Anjou, was a member of the royal Capetian dynasty and the founder of the second House of Anjou. He was Count of Provence (1246–85) and County of Forcalquier, Forcalquier (12 ...

Charles I of Anjou
and those of King
Manfred of Sicily Manfred ( scn, Manfredi di Sicilia; 123226 February 1266) was the last King of Sicily The monarchs of Sicily ruled from the establishment of the County of Sicily in 1071 until the "perfect fusion" in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1816 ...
. Manfred's defeat and death resulted in Charles' conquest of the
Kingdom of Sicily Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy A monarchy is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, ente ...

Kingdom of Sicily
, effectively ending the rule of the
Hohenstaufen The Hohenstaufen (, , ), also called Staufer, was a noble dynasty of unclear origin that rose to rule the Duchy of Swabia The Duchy of Swabia ( German: ''Herzogtum Schwaben'') was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval German Kingdom. I ...

Hohenstaufen
dynasty in the
Italian Peninsula The Italian Peninsula (Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Reg ...
and marking the rise of the royal Capetian House of Anjou. The engagement was part of the conflict which pitted
Guelphs The Guelphs and Ghibellines (, , ; it, guelfi e ghibellini ) were faction Faction or factionalism may refer to: * Political faction, a group of people with a common political purpose * Faction (literature), a type of historical novel based o ...
against
Ghibellines The Guelphs and Ghibellines (, , ; it, guelfi e ghibellini ) were faction Faction or factionalism may refer to: * Political faction, a group of people with a common political purpose * Faction (literature), a type of historical novel based o ...
.


Background

The
Papacy The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is the bishop of Diocese of Rome, Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state o ...
had long been in conflict with the
Imperial Imperial is that which relates to an empire, emperor, or imperialism. Imperial or The Imperial may also refer to: Places United States * Imperial, California * Imperial, Missouri * Imperial, Nebraska * Imperial, Pennsylvania * Imperial, Texas * ...
house of Hohenstaufen over their rule in Italy. At the time of the battle, the Hohenstaufen ruler of the Kingdom of Sicily (which included Sicily and southern Italy) was Manfred, illegitimate son of
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German la ...

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
. However, the rightful heir to the kingdom was Frederick's legitimate 14-year-old grandson
Conradin Conrad (25 March 1252 – 29 October 1268), called ''the Younger'' or ''the Boy'', but usually known by the diminutive Conradin (german: link=no, Konradin, it, Corradino), was the last direct heir of the House of Hohenstaufen. He was Duke of S ...

Conradin
, living with his uncle and guardian
Louis II, Duke of Bavaria Louis the Strict (german: Ludwig der Strenge) (13 April 1229 – 2 February 1294) was Duke of Upper Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine from 1253. He is known as Louis II or Louis VI following an alternative numbering. Born in Heidelberg, he ...
. Manfred, acting as
regent A regent (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repu ...
since 1254, took advantage of a false rumor of Conradin's death and
usurped A usurper is an illegitimate or controversial claimant to power (politics), power, often but not always in a monarchy. In other words, a person who takes the power of a country, city, or established region for themselves, without any formal or le ...
the throne in 1258.
Pope Urban IV Pope Urban IV ( la, Urbanus IV; c. 1195 – 2 October 1264), born Jacques Pantaléon, was the head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 bi ...

Pope Urban IV
determined to take the Kingdom from him, and in 1263, concluded a secret treaty with Charles, promising him the Sicilian throne. After Pope Urban's death in October 1264,
Pope Clement IV Pope Clement IV ( la, Clemens IV; 23 November 1190 – 29 November 1268), born Gui Foucois ( la, Guido Falcodius; french: Guy de Foulques or ') and also known as Guy le Gros (French language, French for "Guy the Fat"; it, Guido il Grosso), wa ...

Pope Clement IV
continued his predecessor's support for Charles.


Prelude

Charles reached
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
in May 1265, but was temporarily halted by the need to obtain financing for his military operations. Manfred, however, instead of vigorously taking countermeasures, spent his time hunting. He obviously assumed that the Ghibellines in the northern Italian cities would already have stopped the advance of the enemy. For the rest he trusted the fighting strength of his German knights and Saracen horsemen. He did not take the field against him until January 1266, when Charles' main army had crossed the Alps. Alarmed by the ease with which many towns and castles surrendered to the French and by desertions among his followers, Manfred sought to bring Charles to battle as swiftly as possible, fearing further treachery. Charles attempted to turn Manfred's position at
Capua Capua (, ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public services ...

Capua
by a perilous crossing of the
Apennines The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (; grc-gre, links=no, Ἀπέννινα ὄρη or Ἀπέννινον ὄρος; la, Appenninus or  – a singular with plural meaning;''Apenninus'' (Greek or ) has the form of an adjective, which wou ...
which wrecked his supply line; but Manfred had intelligence of his move and waited in a strong position across the
River Calore
River Calore
, which could only be crossed by a single bridge.


Ghibelline forces

Manfred's army was composed of very heteregeneous elements. His infantry was essentially composed of
Saracen file:Erhard Reuwich Sarazenen 1486.png, upright 1.5, Late 15th century German woodcut depicting Saracens Saracens () were primarily Arab Muslims, but also Turkish people, Turks, Persian people, Persians or other Muslims as referred to by Christian ...
archers set up in the fore. Behind them was his first battle, the best of his troops, consisting of 1,200 German mercenary knights and men-at-arms, not wearing the usual mail-shirt and gambeson of the 13th century, but coats of plates, the armor which was just beginning to come into fashion. They were commanded by his cousin Giordano d'Anglano and Galvano of Anglona. The second battle consisted of around 1,000 Italian mercenary cavalry and 300 to 400 Saracen light horsemen, commanded by his uncle Galvano Lancia. The third battle consisted of the barons of Manfred's kingdom, and numbered 1,400 knights and men-at-arms, under his personal command. Manfred stayed with the Italo-Norman noblemen and they did not form his reserve for nothing. He distrusted them. Manfred's forces enjoyed a slight numerical superiority and a strong defensive position across the Calore.


Guelph forces

Charles' army consisted of 600 mounted knights, 2,400 men-at-arms and mounted sergeants, 600 crossbowmen, 3,900 heavy infantry and 4,500 light infantry, totalling around 12,000 men. It was probably above all the prospect of loot that prompted numerous French nobles to come to Lyon, where Charles had assembled his army in autumn 1265. His cavalry was also divided into three battles. The first battle consisted of 900
Provençal
Provençal
knights and sergeants commanded by Marshal of France Hugh of Mirepoix and
Philip of Montfort, Lord of CastresPhilip ΙΙ of Montfort (died 24 September 1270) was a French nobleman, Count of Squillace in Italy from 1266/68, then List of Counts of Castres, Lord of Castres in 1270. He was the son of Philip of Montfort, Lord of Tyre, Philip I of Monfort, Lord o ...
.Steven Runciman, ''The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century'', (Cambridge University Press, 2000), 92–94. Behind them was the second battle, which consisted of 1,000 knights and men-at-arms from Southern and Central France under the personal command of Charles; their chiefs were the Count of Vendôme, the Bishop of Auxerre, Guy de Monfort, Peter de Beaumont and Guy de Mello. Finally, the third battle consisted of men from Northern France and
Flanders Flanders (, ; Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * ...
under Grand Constable Gilles de Trasignies and Count
Robert III of Flanders Robert III (1249 – 17 September 1322), also called Robert of Béthune and nicknamed The Lion of Flanders (''De Leeuw van Vlaanderen''), was the Count of Nevers from 1273 and Count of Flanders from 1305 until his death. History Robert was the ol ...
. In addition, the invaders numbered 400 Italian men-at-arms of the Guelf faction led by the Florentine Guido Guerra. It is unknown where exactly they stood; apparently they were not in the reserve but struck in with the second line at the moment of contact. Charles ordered his men-at-arms to have a couple of foot soldiers behind them whose task would be to aid the horsemen of his army in case they were dismounted and to slay those of the enemy who were overthrown. The rest of the infantry and crossbowmen were thrown in front of the line to skirmish with their Saracen counterparts. Charles had the advantage of leading an army which was practically homogeneous; save the few Italians, all were vassals of the French and Provençal crowns. In addition, beyond the low esteem in which both sides held their foot-soldiery, Charles' horsemen were fairly equal to each other in military worth, something Manfred did not have the luck to benefit from.


Battle

The battle began in the morning when Manfred sent his Saracens forward. Charles' infantry and crossbowmen advanced to meet them but were driven back by the foot-archers and light cavalry. The Saracens, however, having left themselves exposed in the open were charged by Provençal sergeants of Charles' first line and swiftly overwelmed. It is not known whether they acted rashly or if they were ordered to do so by Manfred but the German knights and men-at-arms who formed his first battle crossed the bridge and moved up to attack the Provençal cavalry. The Germans had at first the upper hand. They enjoyed a slight numerical advantage, were heavier men on heavier horses and their armor was quite impenetrable to the strokes of their opponents. They slowly but effectively pushed the Provençals before them and Charles felt compelled to commit his second battle to aid the first. Accordingly, the French chevalerie charged and with them his 400 Italians as well. Outnumbered, the Germans still held out gallantly; they seemed invulnerable to the French swords as their armor kept repelling all blows. But the enemy had soon discovered the weak point of their equipment. Some sharp-eyed French knight noted that the new plate armor, which was still in its infancy, did not protect their armpits when the arm was lifted to strike. Closing in and wedging themselves between the somewhat shaken ranks of the German heavy cavalry, the shorter and more acutely pointed blades of the French horsemen were much more effective in close quarters than the German longswords. In a few minutes, a considerable number of Germans were mortally wounded. Overwhelmed and broken, the whole corps was pratically annihilated. The tide had now evidently turned against Manfred. The long time spent crossing the narrow bridge meant a very wide space arose between his first corps, which had prematurely charged, and his second, which he had deployed to assist them. By the time Manfred's second battle arrived to aid the Germans, they had been cut to pieces and they themselves were now in a precarious situation as Charles had already ordered his third battle to charge them. While some did so from the front, others swept round their flanks and beset them from the rear. Shaken in spirit by the sight of what the French had done to the Germans, they made a very poor resistance; seeing themselves about to be surrounded, they broke and attempted to flee but most were slain. Realizing defeat was imminent, most of the nobles in Manfred's third corps deserted, leaving the king to his fate. Manfred was now left with a choice himself: death or instant flight. His undaunted spirit led him to take the first alternative. After exchanging the royal
surcoat A surcoat or surcote is an outer garment that was commonly worn in the Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the in ...
with his friend Tebaldo Annibaldi to whom he had also given his royal armor prior to the battle as not to attract too much notice in the mêlée, Manfred closed up with the few faithful of his followers left and rode straight into the midst of the enemy. He found the death that he sought. The battle saw the French give little quarter; only a few prisoners were taken, the most notable being Giordano Lancia and his cousin, Count Bartolommeo. The river was at the back of the fugitives and only the bridge was safe; those who tried to swim the flooded Calore in their heavy mail were mostly drowned. Only 600 of Manfred's 3,600 heavy cavalrymen managed to escape death or capture. Also, the Saracens had fought as mercenaries for Holy Roman Emperors since
Frederick II Hohenstaufen Frederick II (26 December 1194 – 13 December 1250) was King of Sicily from 1198, King of Germany from 1212, King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 and King of Jerusalem from 1225. He was the son of emperor Henry VI, Holy Roman Empero ...
planted a colony of some 35,000 Saracens near Lucera. For many decades, this colony had provided the German emperors with 5,000 archers per year. The unit was wiped out at Benevento.


Aftermath

The destruction of Manfred's army marked the collapse of Hohenstaufen rule in Italy. The remainder of the Kingdom of Sicily was conquered almost without resistance. Settled in his new kingdom, Charles awaited the coming of Conradin, the last hope of the Hohenstaufen, in 1268, and met him at the
Battle of Tagliacozzo The Battle of Tagliacozzo was fought on 23 August 1268 between the Ghibelline The Guelphs and Ghibellines (, also ; it, guelfi e ghibellini ) were factions supporting the Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pa ...

Battle of Tagliacozzo
.


References


Sources

* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Benevento, Battle Of 1266 in Europe 13th century in the Kingdom of Sicily Benevento Battles involving the Kingdom of Sicily, Benevento 1266 Battles in Campania Wars of the Guelphs and Ghibellines Conflicts in 1266 Charles I of Anjou