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Reviews (ADR)

from Reviews (ADR)
concerning Guelfes et Gibelins

     A historical sketch, originally published as an article in the magazine Revue des Deux Mondes, in 1832, describing the century-long factional struggle that divided the medieval Florentine Republic. The sketch displays why Alexandre Dumas-as-historian is as entertaining to read as he is unreliable as a historiographer. Dumas, a staunch republican, and writing just after the July revolution in France, saw the medieval and renaissance Italian republics as progenitors of the republican and democratic ideals of the French Revolution--a very dubious parallel. Also, with his playwright's eye for the dramatic, he focuses on colorful scenes and heroic characters.
     In Dumas' sketch, the weakness of the Eleventh Century Holy Roman Emperor (Henry IV) in 1076 opened the way for Florence and other Italian city-states to declare their independence and to organize themselves as republics. The nobles of Florence divided themselves into two factions, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, whose rivalry exploded into warfare in about 1220 when a leading Guelph broke a marriage contract with a leading Ghibelline, and was consequently assassinated. After 40 years of warfare, the Ghibelline war-leader, Farinata degli Uberti (d. 1264), obtained a large army from King Manfred of Sicily, and, on September 3rd, 1260, defeated the Florentine-Guelph armies, leaving some ten thousands of his fellow citizens dead on the field of battle.
     Dumas closes his piece with a biographical sketch of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) author of The Divine Comedy, and exiled Guelph nobleman.

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