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Francesco di Sandro Altoni
|Francesco di Sandro Altoni|
|Patron||Cosimo I de' Medici|
|Notable work(s)||Monomachia ovvero Arte di Scherma|
Francesco di Sandro Altoni was a 16th century Italian fencing master. Little is known about this master's life; he seems to have been Florentine by birth and he is thought to have been fencing master to the court of Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574), Duke of Florence until 1569 and then Grand Duke of Tuscany. At some time during Cosimo's reign as Duke of Florence, Altoni wrote a treatise on fencing entitled Monomachia ovvero Arte di Scherma ("Dueling, or the Art of Defense") and dedicated it to Cosimo. The treatise survives in two manuscript copies, the MS II.iii.315 and MS L.V.23 The treatise begins with a letter and dedication to Cosimo, followed by a preface and introduction. The first weapon introduced is the sword alone, then two swords, sword and dagger, sword and dagger with an armored arm, sword and cape, bucker and targe, rotella, dagger, spadone, pike, partigianone, spiede, and partigiana in the 2nd book. The 3rd book contains the play of the half sword and presses (grappling) among other items.
In Progress Translation by Matthew Huller
Florence Version (1539-69)
Siena Version (1539-69)
PREFACE OF FRANCESCO DI SANDRO ALTONI FLORENTINE ON THE TREATISE ON ARMS TITLED MONOMACHIA
[01 recto] Counsel and arms have always been considered the true way to conquer and to defend. The Romans used this to divide their cities into senators and knights and ordered that one of the principal studies of the citizenry be the military arts. With this strong and knowledgeable aid, which they considered a good investment of their efforts, they conquered first their neighbors, then Italy, then lastly all the parts of the world which they knew. I will leave a discussion of counsel, as befitting a higher-placed person than I am, to the more experienced in practice, to the prudent by nature, to those who are anointed by God to rule, or to those who counsel those who rule. The arms in which I have trained for a long time, to the extent that my qualities and fortune have allowed me, seem to me most worthy of praise and especially necessary due to the high iniquity and malice of men -- about these I have wanted to write as much as I could, having learned as much about arms as my talent allowed, however much many excellent men have estimated them, also considering the great differences among them, and the deaths, occupations, and unhappy accidents of miserable Italy [that] force such men either to abandon the art, or to not teach it; or they die, as will happen to me in time. [Therefore I write] so that my efforts and my sleepless nights may benefit many people, indeed I have wished to share all I have in me, through my pen, with all those capable of receiving it,
[01 verso] attentively teaching, if possible for the goal of an everlasting or at least very long life, for those who wish to read, with little effort and in little time, my work -- that which I have learned, carefully and over many years, by thinking and doing. I am sure that many, either in an effort to criticize, or because they dislike what they do not know, or as a result -- almost natural and somehow most frequent in humans, to diminish and put down the efforts of others. Attaching their reasons, which seem to me nonsense and an unfortunate curiosity to correct, not being a master of words, or a professional rhetorician or philosopher, I would judge it wrong not to respond in part, and to not appear to confess that what they say is true and so that men even less educated than I am, and who have less of the true knowledge of arms than I have, by chance should not allow themselves to be deceived by the appearance of persuasions that consist of practice in the hands of those people. Therefore I will assume that it will happen, as I have heard it said, that those who criticize will not only criticize my work itself, but also the art as well, thinking that there cannot be a method in something that is judged to be so uncertain, particularly not knowing what the adversary is about to do, and estimating that any work one could read or teach would be a useless waste of time, and attaching the examples of a thousand grand captains, ancient and modern, or of many private military men who were the crudest in this practice, and who had no knowledge of this practice and yet have, therefore, been great condottieri or valiant men in battle
[02 recto] but in duels still, of what I would intend to volunteer, like how no tradesman is born who anticipates how to operate in the medium of his instruments, one thinks to know something of a trade without having any knowledge of the tools of his trade, and how they should be used, to take a useful example: a mason although he stands behind the judgement of the Architect, there being a great difference between them, not less if he would design to be valued never judging himself to be worthy of being a mason, if before he would not know how to perfectly line up the mortar and know bricks and their quality well to understand how he should lay wire to direct the work, how to place beams and what intervals to put between them, how thick a wall should be according to how tall it is, and similar convenient things, so too would a tiller of the soil be worthy of his job not knowing how to put in good work with spades, draft horses, rakes, and plows, not understanding the difference there would be in the work, depending on the quality of the soil, even in having no news on the best times to sow the fields? One more thing, then another, in which the writers have been so superstitious as to wish to lead themselves up to heaven to do astrology. And would a surgeon who does not know how to fully manage the instruments of his art be worthy of his title? Not to discuss all of the particulars of the many forms of human industry. Like the aforementioned examples, to think it is unnecessary to have and to use arms and unnecessary to always have arms
[02 verso] in one’s belt or in one’s hands and to not know all of the modes that one could possibly use to offend and to defend, has, I think, the likeness with the ignorance, for example, of a horseman who thinks to know much on how to ride, yet leads with the thighs and the feet and relaxes the bridle to move a horse and to do business, and on the contrary kicks with his heels [spurs?] and spreads his feet when he wishes to stop the horse. However, the Captain has more to do with being the head of an army than its hand, that is to say counseling and commanding rather than fighting, nevertheless making use of the soldiers’ tools as a soldier of arms. I do not believe one can call a captain perfect who does not have his own knowledge of this art, besides it can be necessary for any great Prince to have to fight in the countryside or in the lists. Philip V, father of Perseus, the last King of the Macedonians, showed great personal valour, as a King, fighting in hand to hand combat over a bridge. In our times we have seen a dueling challenge between the Emperor and the King of France, which we might have seen if it had not been for the political ramifications. If a duel were to occur between them or persons of similar rank I say that he who trusts only in his strength, his heart, and in good fortune to forgive him[si rimette][?] does not have the advantage of one who understands this practice and shows that his mind was given to him in vain by nature. When both combatants would join, if there should not be much difference in courage, strength, or skill, who could say it would not be better to be experienced in arms and assured and assuaged by their knowing of the techniques, retreats, and parts [?] with which ones goes about safe and resolute while he who does not know them has to wait to resolve themselves immediately[?], uncertain of what is not thought of or unexpected.
[03 recto] Those who criticize will say no more worse about my work than about my art, and in my opinion would do better to study than obstinately persevering in their criticism and showing that they do not know how to use that which they always hold in their hands. If it then came to pass that they were challenged to a duel, as can happen any day, more than should be the case, I would want to know for what reason they would place themselves in the hands of some fencing master with so much eagerness, expense, and effort, then becoming pupils aiming to conduct themselves as masters, and do in practice what they have so criticized with words. It would be much more reasonable if no one would venture to speak about the lists or duels who is not long practiced in arms; who does not know all one could about the art, with the power to turn all of one’s soul towards achieving victory; who has not learned to move one's arms and hands; and who has not learned the step of the pantofle. If in this I say the truth, I do not want any other judge than their conscience and the great fear that they have of committing some error in coming to blows when they find themselves having to be ready to do that which they do not know how to, and therefore with immense danger. For me truly, combat in the lists sets a bad example, save in certain cases, in which I praise the custom of Spain, France, Germany, Hungary, Sicily, and of all the rest of the world which I know, rather than that of Italy, where duels occur for the smallest reasons. The latter goes back a long time, to, for example, Corvino and Torquato, Sergio son of Otto Visconti, Carlo King of Sicily, as is demonstrated by duels caused by words and provocations.
[03 verso] Therefore, since it can occur, it is good in any case to know about it whatever is useful; and as I have said before, I value this practice so good and necessary for any soldier, like the knowledge of how to handle a horse for a man-at-arms. Others say, I think, that if one wants to teach this art, one should not use the duel; I only approve it in those cases in which it is truthfully necessary or connected with the public good, however, in this work I will principally speak of dueling or of similar things. And although I always say that two must fight with the same weapons, it does not follow that in practice the weapons will always match, but considering that Herakles too according to that ancient proverb could not face two opponents, or that he also could not handle weapons in pairs, but only at a time. In this way only, by teaching matching weapons, is it possible to teach without confusion. I have always introduced two facing one another with the same arms in hand, not because it is impossible to fight with different arms either by chance or by choice, but because he who has the good and true knowledge of simple and similar arms necessarily also understands compound, dissimilar, and contrary arms. Therefore he who knows all the techniques and the nature of the ispiede, as well as those of the partigianone, when he finds himself carrying one [ispiede/weapon] and his opponent, carries the other, then he knows both what the opponent can do and what he can do himself, [and] certainly he will chart a course that will be necessary or appropriate, in the same way as if he had practiced with these arms. And because in similar exercises sometimes malice prevails over virtue I have included in my work warnings of foul play not only because it is done but so as to avoid it, although even when we remove deceit and evil intent
- Battistini, Alessandro; Rubboli, Marco; e Venni, Iacopo. Monomachia - Trattato dell'arte di scherma (ca. 1530). Rome: Il Cerchio Iniziative Editoriali, 2007.