Arrigo Della Rocca (Corsican: Arrigu) was a nobleman who dominated the
political life of
Corsica during the second half of the 14th century.
Partisan of an aristocratic regime, he was supported by the kingdom of
Aragon and opposed by the plebeians and the Republic of Genoa.
2 Soldier of fortune
3 Feudal reaction
4 Popolari leader
5 See also
His father, Goglielmo, was a lord of the Banda dei Fuori family,
located in Rocca, one of the five great noble clans of the south of
the island, known of the Cinarchesi. Since 1299,
Corsica had been
colonized by the
Republic of Genoa
Republic of Genoa in a bid to impose its domination
over the whole Western
Mediterranean against the rival kingdom of
Aragon. The Aragonese had a claim on the sovereignty over the island
and intended to add
Corsica to their empire as they already controlled
Sardegna and Sicily.
In 1340, Goglielmo della Rocca was nominated vicar of the Genoese
governor in charge of the southern half of the island. Maybe stirred
by the consequences of the Black Death, the political framework in
Corsica started evolving fast and the lords' rule was contested by the
popolari who found immediate support from the first elected Genoese
doge Simone Boccanegra.
According to the medieval custom, Goglierlmo had been forced to offer
his son as a hostage to the Republic, in effect, a token of his
allegiance. Still, in 1353, unable to stand the recent political
evolution, he rebelled against Genoa and declared himself openly in
favour of Aragon. He was promptly defeated and died mysteriously in
Soldier of fortune
Arrigo was held hostage for two years in Genoa but managed to escape
during a revolt in 1356. Back in Corsica, he was confronted with the
great anti-feudal revolt of 1357 but managed to escape to Aragon.
There, along with a number of Corsican exiles, he joined the army of
the king and fought for him against the Sardenians rebels.
In the early 1370s,
Corsica was bitterly divided between two popolari
parties, the Rusticacci and the Caggionacci, and the Genoese grip over
the island was further weakened by a prolonged dearth. In February
1372, Arrigo landed in Valinco with a group of Aragonese soldiers and
quickly rallied the south of the island (where the aristocratic party
was still strong) to his cause.
The Genoese put Franceschino d'Evisa, one of the leaders of the 1357
rebellion, in charge of a small army with the mission of driving
Arrigo out of Corsica. But Arrigo had Franceschino assassinated and
rapidly conquered the rest of the island except the two Genoese
fortresses of Bonifacio and Calvi. In 1373, at the assembly of
Arrigo della Rocca
Arrigo della Rocca was elected count of Corsica.
Arrigo recognized the sovereignty of the Aragonese king over the
island but, in 1376, he had to face a first Genoese attempt to re-take
Corsica. Finally, in 1378, an uneasy peace was signed between the king
and the Republic. But the same year, the Genoese created the moana di
Corsica, an association of creditors to the state who had been offered
the fiscal revenues of the islands in exchange of funds to re-conquer
The maonesi were initially successful and Arrigo was compelled to
retreat into the south of the island. Using diplomacy, the Genoese
then offered him to integrate the maona as a shareholder and he
accepted. In the south of the island, he established a new
administration based on the feudal system and backed by the great
Cinarchesi families. Aware of the danger posed by this independent
power at their doorstep, the moanesi launched a military operation
against the South in 1379 but they were routed and forced back into
their northern strongholds.
Martin I of Aragon who visited
Corsica in the winter of 1397.
For a dozen years, Arrigo kept the maonesis at bay and supported the
Aragonese imperial ambition as far as Palermo. In exchange, he was
offered a number of revenues in Sargengna by the king. But in 1392,
Republic of Genoa
Republic of Genoa dissolved the maona and funded directly a new
invasion of Corsica. Arrigo and his son Anton-Lorenzo were forced to
flee to Aragon.
In 1394, Arrigo returned to Corsica, once more with a troop of
Aragonese soldiers. He rapidly reconquered the island, but this time
he did not seek the support of the Cinarchesi who had betrayed him two
years earlier and sided with the Genoese. On the contrary, he rested
his legitimacy on the defense of the rights of the people, becoming de
facto the leader of the anti-aristocrratic popolari party.
The new rule felt so secure that in 1397, the king of Aragon, Martin
I, could tour the island. The same year, a new Genoese attempt to
Corsica is crushed at the battle of Bibuglia. The next year
a new Genoese attack was mounted under Raffaelle de Montaldo, Arrigo
once more was pushed south. In 1400, he assembled an army to
re-conquer the ground he had lost, but the following spring as he
prepared to march north, an epidemics of plague broke out. Numerous
soldiers and civilians died from the disease and Arrigo himself was
struck. He died in Frasso in June 1401.
^ Cancellieri, Jean-Antoine (1989). "Dizionario biographico dei
Italiani". Retrieved 1 March 2012.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Colombani, Philippe (2010). Héros corses du
Moyen Age. Ajaccio: Albiana. p. 185.
Middle Ages portal