The Funny Condottieri

Italian warfare during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was often dominated by mercenary groups known as condottieri. Armies of these soldiers roamed throughout the city states and principalities of the the Italian peninsula, finding ample employment opportunities. Much of the time they would be feared and loathed by the people.

Facino da Casale, known as Facino the Dog, was one such condottieri captain. Between 1382 and 1412 he would lead mercenary forces and gain a reputation for ruthlessness and cruelty. He would also be one of the condottieri who made the pages of Poggio Bracciolini’s Facetiae. Bracciolini was a famous 15th century writer and one of his books was a collection of jokes and funny tales. Here is what he had to say about Facino the Dog:

Facino, with the aid of the Ghibelline faction had taken over the town of Ticino by agreement, and his men were only to sack the goods of the Guelph faction. But when he had made an end of them, he began to empty the houses of the Ghibellines, since they were filled with the goods of the Guelphs; and when the Ghibellines complained to the leader that they were unworthily robbed, Facino cried out, “Very true, my children; you are all Ghibellines, but the goods are Guelphs; and so, making no distinction of parties, the goods of both were spoiled.”

A certain man complained to Facino the Dog, who was a cruel man and a leading captain of our age, that he had been robbed of his cloak by one of his soldiers. But Facino, looking at him, and seeing him clad in a good coat, asked if he had that on when he was robbed, and the other answered yes. “Be off about your business” Facino said. “The man whom you say robbed you can never be one of my soldiers, for none of my men would have left you so good a coat.”

You can read more of Poggio’s Facetiae on Google Books.

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