Thursday, March 9, 2017

The War of the Oaken Bucket

It's 1325, and Italy is having some difficulties getting along.

Image result for war of the bucket 1325
Highlighted portions are the states
going to war for no good reason.
It's unsurprising really, I mean, the enormous Roman Empire broke apart, and the world has been squabbling over the crumbs ever since. Italy, in particular, was a small peninsula of turmoil. The upstart Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa had invaded just a bit earlier, the different states couldn't get along, and then there were those assholes in the Papal States claiming to have supreme power over the entire world, because God or something. Italy was a mess, and tensions were high.

After Barbarossa's invasion Italy was divided into two major factions, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. I know those names sound made up, but they're not. The Guelphs were the merchant class, city slickers, who supported the pope, and the Ghibellines were the simple country folk who thought the Holy Roman Empire was pretty nifty.* Needless to say, they hated each other.

So, two factions, both alike in dignity, on the fair Bologna-Modena border where we set our scene, are going at it pretty hard. It's Guelphs vs. Ghibellines, with Bologna for the Guelphs and Modena for the Ghibellines, and they've been skirmishing over this border for a long time, to the point where fighting is just a part of the landscape. So, one day, during a routine foray into Bologna, a few Modenese soldiers stole a loot filled bucket from a well, and hauled ass back to Modena.

Now, you would think that the Bolognese would have said something along the lines of, "Oh well, it's a bucket. Yeah, there was stuff in it, but we've got lots of other stuff, and it's not like we can't find another bucket." But no, the exchange went something more like this:

Bologna: Hey, bro, I know we don't get along, but can we have our bucket back?        
Modena: We stole that bucket fair and square. This is how this works, stupid.          
Bologna: Please?        
Modena: No?      
Bologna: Fine. Well then. You won't give us back our bucket? LET'S HAVE A WAR.

Image result for war of the bucket 1325
the Bucket of contention
And so the War of the Bucket began.

Luckily, this particular war didn't drag on for too long. There was only one battle, the Battle of Zappolino, and it was pretty decisive.

So Bologna, with the help of Pope John XXII, raised an army of 32,000 men. The Modenese met them with a force of 7,000 men--and the Modenese won.

The Modenese victory has a lot to do with the fact that 30,000 of the Bolognese soldiers were poorly armed, and even more poorly trained. Additionally, the Modenese had the higher ground. The Modenese were coming down the slopes of hills to their Bolognese enemies who were hanging out on the plain below. It was a thorough rout, and the Modenese chased the Bolognese back to their city.

The Modenese didn't bother sacking the main city, they settled for destroying some castles, diverting the river away from Bologna, and kidnapping some 26 nobles. Oh, and most delicious, the Modenese returned to their city with another bucket stolen from the Bolognese.

That bucket, the second one, is still on display in Modena today. You can find a replica outside on the city's main well, and the original inside the museum. Hundreds of years later, and the Modenese aren't letting go of that one.

*I feel it is worth noting, that a big part of the faction alignments had to do with who was most likely to invade your state. If the pope was knocking at your door, the Holy Roman Emperor seemed like a pretty swell fellow.

War History Online
Battle of Zappolino
Military History Now
War of the Bucket

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