Saturday, 8 February 2014

GAMES RIGGED? Lorenzo de’ Medici wins silver in men’s tournament.
No, not in Sochi.  In Florence, 1469. In his diary, Lorenzo expressed surprise: I am not a vigorous fighter nor a heavy hitter. Yet the first prize was adjudged to me: a helmet inlaid with silver, and a figure of Mars on the crest. Could it have something to do with the fact that Lorenzo paid for the games – 10,000 ducats (c. $ 1.5 million).

Like Extreme Wrestling today, fights staged in the Renaissance were primarily for show. Here is a description of a tournament, Florence, 1516:

At one moment, several of the men were seen to fall to the ground, and at once all their lances broke as if they had been canes. In any case, there was a flat iron piece at the end of the lances, to avoid serious injuries.  And their maces were made of weak Lombard iron, so that when they struck each other on the helmet or arms, the maces broke in their hands. (Source: Bartolomeo Masi).

Some pageants were meant to win hearts.
  • Lorenzo de’ Medici organized the 1469 tournament in honour of his mistress, Lucrezia Donati.
  • In 1464, Bartolomeo Benci had 200 riders parade past the window of Marietta degli Strozzi, to acquire greater favour with the said lady. He doesn’t mention what this extravaganza cost him. The riders carried branches of laurel, myrtle, cypress, fir, and rhododendron, all evergreens and fierce-burning, like Bartolomeo’s love.
In 1506, the Bentivoglio family staged a battle between Lent and Carnival before their palace in Bologna. Each side had four gladiators, four shield-bearers, six lancers, two detachments of foot soldiers and six horsemen. The gladiators did some mock-fighting, and the horse and foot soldiers made a show of milling around their standards. Carnival was a fat man on a stout horse, Lent a rich old woman on a lean horse. Carnival  won, as usual.(Source: Floriano degli Ubaldini)

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