Wednesday, October 22, 2008

First banking statements and war-bulletins

A list of the assets and liabilities from the Parish of Fondi (late 12th century) makes up another text most quoted in the annals of the Italian language. Unfortunately it is difficult to make out its exact meaning since father Antonio, son of Niccolò di fondi has no better grasp of its dialect than its latin, and the text appears to be a mish-mash of both:

Item vinale unu posto alla veterina a llatu Antoni de Trometa et a sancto Antoni a la via a longu la macera.

Item Pastena deve dare pro olo sanctu at pro cridima tometa de granum novem rase.

The first accounting books from a Florentine bank

This is the first text from a Florentine bank (called banco at the time, from the wooden desk on which transactions were first made), and in spite of its rather prosaic content it is considered of the greatest importance since it helped scholars understand the evolution of 12th century Florentine.

Luckily, the text is remarkably long, its spelling shows a certain linguistic maturity though many believe there may be more texts of the kind still awaiting discovery. The transaction dates to 1211, and was later used for binding a 14th century book, as happened with many more manuscripts called palimpsests (the lack of available parchment led writers to recycle, sometimes erasing valuable work).

MCCXII. Aldobrandino Petri e Buonessegna Falkoni no diono dare katuno in tuto libre lii per livre diciotto d'imperiali mezani, a rrascione di trenta e cinque meno terza, ke demmo loro tredici dì anzi kalende luglio, e diono pagare tredici dì anzi kalende luglio: se più stanno, a iiii denari libra il mese, quanto fosse nostra volontade. Testi Alberto Baldovini e Quitieri Alberti di Ponte del Duomo.

Carta di Montieri

The list of carte we spoke about in the last two posts include the Chart granted to the Men of Montieri (1219), in the Maremma Toscana, but its importance is more historical than literary, as this is pehaps the first document we have so far marking the emancipation of communal society (or city states) from feudal tutelage.

Although we know some documents must have first emerged in the early eleventh century, the most important charts usually date to much later than this period. The Carta di Montieri is also intriguing in that it contains a number of corrections by the parties who could not come to a quick settlement of the dispute.

The Pergamena volterrana

There are more court proceedigs resulting from occasional lawsuits over the property of a number of lands. Perhaps the most interesting is that contained in the Pergamena Volterrana ("The Parchment of Volterra, 1158"), and concerns the settling of a territorial dispute in Travale in the mid twelfth century, following a litigation between two brothers, Count Ranieri Pannachieschi and Galgano, bishop of Volterra. Ranieri claims that some properties (as houses) held by his brother belong to Travale, and are not under the bishop's jurisdiction, which his brother obviously denies.

At the audience, a number of witnesses are heard by judge Balduino, one of the most striking depositions being that of a guard, who was excused from his service in Travale after cracking a joke against the scarcity of his ration:

"Guaita, guaita male, non mangiai ma' mezo pane".

This is one of the oldest Italian proverbs ever recorded. To this time date the first political tracts describing how communes acquired their independence: that includes bulletins of war written in Italian for the first time, full of cavalier remarks on enemies conduct - the result of feuds between cities and the first war propaganda in the new language - in a few years energies will find their way into satiric poetry, in the genre of "sirventese", with Tuscan troubadour poets modeling their work on the French sirventois.

If today we talk of left and right, once it was all about pope and empire, guelf and ghibellin, with bloody feuds that reached deep inside the city with families, their members pitted against one another by one faction or another, with the pope supporting the French against the group of cities backed by the emperor. Even without the gulfs and the ghibelins these rivalries escalate in the Renaissance - when the strife between regional states leads to numerous plots to assassinate eminent politicians.

The ambition for political unity, unchecked by political wisdom and a strong national leader - which Machiavell noted in his Prince - will divide rather than unify the peninsula, putting it at the mercy of foreign powers like France, by then grown into modern European nations and capable of manipulating Italian politics.

Ritmo bellunese

One of the earliest 'bulletins' of war in Italian consists of a fragment of four verses on the battle of Belluno (a city in northern Veneto) against the fortress of Casteldardo. The story contains a quote in Italian from a knight who took part in the fight written by the an historian who is also the author another quote on a battle between a faction from Lucca and rivals from the neighboring towns, 1213) in his Latin chronicle. (N.B. "Tarvisio" is an old variant of Treviso):

De Casteldard avì li nostri bon part

i lo getà tutto intra lo flumo d'Ard

e sex cavalier de Tarvis li plui fer

con se duse li nostri cavaler.


Over Castel d'Ardo our men had the upper hand

They threw them all (=the enemy) into the river Ardo

And the six most valiant knights from Treviso

Led our knights to victory.

minor edits on typos - Oct. 27 2008

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