Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From Medieval Mercenaries To Da Vinci

It's so strange how time and again medieval history and modern life come together.

Recently we have been reading "The Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson. The story is enchanting and covers 700 years of history. So not much different than many romances? Oh, but this book introduced us to a very interesting term - "Condotta". In the book it's used to refer to bands of 14th century mercenary soldiers, principally Italian (with cross bows), who were available for hire across the fledgling German states.

So what can we find out about this term? Well, Wikipedia uses the term "Condottieri" as opposed to "Condotta". This is because the condottieri were the actual leaders of the condotta bands of mercenaries. The Wiki page in itself is fascinating reading - full of historical notes and very well written.

So where to next? Well, bizarrely we found this page which talks about toy soldiers recreating the Condotta but it as at the bottom of this page that the real surprise comes ... for this links takes you to a page about Leonardo da Vinci and how he might have created a Condotta. It is a wonderful piece of fantasy, essentially dealing with the idea of what could have happened if the Duke of Milan had developed some of Leonardo's ideas for warfare machines. The wonderful sketches that Leonardo left to posterity are evidence enough of his genius for invention - designs for tanks, assault chariots, flying machines and even helicopters!

Incredibly interesting how spotting an unusual term can take you on a journey through history, across different countries and from war through to great art. Such is the true power of language!

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