Wiktenauer logo.png

Marc'Antonio Pagano

From Wiktenauer
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Marc'Antonio Pagano
Born Early XVI century
Died ca. 1560
  • Pietro Pagano (father)
  • Gioan Girolamo (nephew)
  • Mutio Pagano (nephew)
Occupation Fencing master
  • Juan Ramires de Montalvo
  • Luigi Carafa, prince of Stigliano
Movement Neapolitan Swordmanship
Genres Fencing manual
Language Italian
Notable work(s) Le tre giornate (1553)

Marc'Antonio Pagano (ca. 1500-1560) was a Neapolitan fencing master, who lived in the first half of the 16th century and wrote the first known treatise of southern Italy. He was born around the beginning of the 16th century, probably in the area between Salerno and Naples. He belonged to an old noble family, deeply involved in warfare and administration, and very close to the royal house of Aragon. With the advent of the viceroyalty, the family obtained relevant positions inside the military and a lot of its members followed the career under the Imperial sign. Many of them died during military actions, like one of the young protagonists of the dialog, Mutio, who was killed in Flanders.

Little is known about his life; the most significant information about Marc'Antonio is reported in a book written by one of his nephews, Cesare. Cesare states that from the age of 7, Marc'Antonio was dedicated to fighting on foot and on horse. At the age of 49, he dedicated himself to teaching. He died ten years later. In his work about equitation, Antonio Ferraro gives another clue about the career of Marc'Antonio as a teacher. It seems, in fact, that he was master of arms for a branch of the house of Carafa, one of the most important in the Naples. This branch was the same that held the title of princes of Stigliano and duke of Mondragone, the place where the dialog is set. He was also the master of other relevant personalities. The famous erudite and historian Summonte reported the interesting point that Marc'Antonio was a member of the Seat of Porto, one of the organizational structures of the nobility in the city of Naples. In 1547 he took part in the uprising against the introduction of the inquisition: citizens armed with capes and swords and other weapons assaulted the garrison of Castelnuovo, which was defended with pikes and muskets.

In 1553 he published his most remarkable work, Le tre giornate. Throughout his work we can find different references to the martial traditions of other parts of Italy and of other European countries, and this could be evidence of the mobility of the author (or, at least, of the exchange of knowledge between Naples and the rest of Europe).


Inside Le tre giornate we can find a lot of pieces concerning fencing theories and on the art of arms in general. They are scattered in several places in the text, although we have a concentration in the section dedicated to the single-hand sword. If we put all the information together, the scene is quite interesting, revealing an advanced theoretical system which clearly gives details that were not transmitted by other contemporary authors (specific kinds of plays, guards, etc.).

For the two-handed sword, we have two plays that go from Gioco Largo to Stretto, ending with grappling actions. Unfortunately, we had no explicit information about guards, but the text is rich in actions such as feints and strikes, combinations of strikes and arm locks with their counters. There are also other elements of interest: plays which are executed with light metallic armour, probably a fine chainmail under the clothes (“sotto coverta armati in bianco”). The players also had hats that appeared normal, but, with a touch, a metal visor could descend to cover the face.

The topic on which Pagano is most superficial is wrestling. Though he tells us that the discipline was widespread in Italy, he gives us just an overview, naming some actions used in various Italian regions and reporting some customs of other countries. In particular, he says that in Naples some people were professional masters of wrestling and all the foreign styles are known and performed.

Pagano offers a unique example of detailed fighting with the coltello inastato, with explicit information about guards. The name of the weapon immediately recalls the one used by the imperial guards of Carlo V and of his successors in the Holy Roman Empire, as recalled also by Altoni. This could partially explain the presence of a long duel with many techniques inside the work of Pagano, traditionally tied to Iberian and imperial influenced backgrounds. However, the weapon used by Pagano had some differences, such as a hook (“gancietto”) on one edge and eventually other little spikes. At the end of the staff there is a metal point, called “pedicone” or “calcio”. So, coltello inastato could be considered as a weapon similar (if not equal) to the Italian falcione inastato, and known all over Europe mainly under the category of glaive.

Finally, the influence of the battlefield is still strong and this is also evident in the last confrontation inside Le tre giornate, which is executed with the pike and then with dagger. As in the previous plays, they pass from Gioco Largo to Gioco Stretto and to the fighting with the short weapon. Some techniques are similar to what we can see in other authors, and also this time the fighters are equipped with foot armor (arme da piede), probably the typical defensive equipment of pikemen on the battlefield. Pagano specifies that the weapon is a picca tedesca, very flexible.

Currently, only a passage on the use of the two-handed sword has been transcribed and translated.

Additional resources

The following is a list of publications containing scans, transcriptions, and translations relevant to this article, as well as published peer-reviewed research.