February 13, 1503: The Challenge of Barletta takes place. Barletta is in southern Italy and the challenge was fought in the countryside of Trani on the plains between Corato and Andria. Earlier in the year, French troops made their way to Canosa di Puglia where they ran into some Spanish troops and the two armies fought. During the fighting, some French soldiers were taken prisoner by the Spanish and moved to Barletta, a short distance from the fighting, where they were held. Among the French prisoners was Charles de Torgues, a nobleman also known as Monsieur Guy de la Motte.
On January 15, 1503, the French prisoners were invited to a banquet and during the feast, de Torgues insulted the honor of Italian soldiers who were at the time fighting alongside the Spaniards. De Torgues questioned both the valor and the courage of the Italian forces. There was a dispute with lots of words tossed back and forth until a challenge was issued. The Frenchmen listed specific rules of engagement where the Italians and the French would meet with each side having thirteen mounted knights facing each other. The French thought the Italians would simply decline due to their superstitions revolving around the number thirteen.
Instead, on this day, the two forces met. The most famous of the Italians was Ettore Fieramosca who had already fought against the French and King Charles VIII in 1493. After this battle he went on to serve Ferdinand the Catholic, King of Spain, and was made the Count of Miglionico. Each team also had to provide two hostages as collateral, should the wager not be paid. Prospero and Fabrizio Colonna were in charge of creating the Italian team. With Fieramosca as captain, they fielded another twelve knights and on this day, they were triumphant over the French.
As the losers, the French had to forfeit their weapons and their horses and make them a gift to the Italians. They were also forced to pay 100 ducats for each knight. Ducats were gold or silver coins which literally translated from Latin means “relating to a duke or dukedom so they were a duke’s coin. The losers therefore had to pay 1,300 coins to the winning team. Today, Barletta is called Città della Disfida (City of the Challenge) because of this day’s tournament. There is a monument within the city celebrating the Italian win over the French. The event inspired a historical novel to be written in 1833, by Massimo D’Azeglio, called Ettore Fieramosca, or La disfida di Barletta, commemorating the glorious afternoon.
Money won is twice as sweet as money earned. – From the movie The Color of Money
The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet. – Damon Runyon
Man is a gaming animal. He must always be trying to get the better in something or other. – Charles Lamb
The only use of an obstacle is to be overcome. All that an obstacle does with brave men is, not to frighten them, but to challenge them. – Woodrow Wilson
Also on this day: The Center of the Universe – In 1633, Galileo was brought before the Inquisition.
Charlie Brown and the Gang – In 2000, the last original Peanuts cartoon was run.
That’s Debatable – In 1815, The Cambridge Union Society is founded.
Old MacDonald – In 1692, the Glencoe Massacre took place.
Edison Effect – In 1880, Edison discovered the thermionic emissions from a light bulb.