Fight over cards

Armed civilian conflict was a reality of early modern life, both arranged duels and spontaneous violence. Many masters speak lucidly of deadly combat, or claim direct experience of it, which should not surprise given their violent trade.

Nonetheless many young men learned to fence, and relatively few perished by the sword. Examining sixteenth and seventeenth-century Italy (contrasted with France)1 evidence suggests that despite a vibrant fencing culture, and a generally more violent society, death by the sword in civilian duels was not inordinately common. Most violence fell outside of duels, and stopped short of killing, while most fencers would never need to apply their skills to lethal effect.

Comparing the emphasis of the manuals, with the actual form and incidence of civilian violence, we must question the extent to which these arts were conventional, rather than purely pragmatic self-defence systems. This is not to disparage the traditions we study, or deny their value as a preparation for combat. But rather to acknowledge, celebrate, and understand the entirety of historical fencing practice: when it was used with lethal intent, and when not.

The French Exception

Carroll argues that few duels were recorded in France before the 1520s, the popularity of duelling spreading from Italy, and that:

Unlike the tourney, judicial combat was a rare event and widely despised. Olivier de la Marche … witnessed thirty major jousts and tournaments in his sixty years at the Burgundian court, but had never seen a judicial combat fought between nobles. He did, however, witness a fight to the death in Valenciennes, permitted by customary law … which horrified him and other members of the ducal court in its barbarity: the victim was beaten senseless with a staff, his eyes were gouged out and he was then drawn in a hurdle still alive to be hanged by the town executioner.2

Nonetheless by the end of the sixteenth century, a number of historians argue, the French duelled more than any other nation.3 Carroll estimates that approximately 350 died in duels each year during the reign of Henry IV of France, from 1589 to 1610, perhaps half from among France's population of 100,000 or so gentlemen.4 This is claimed as the high-water mark for lethal duelling in Europe.5

These numbers are significant (a homicide rate of 175 per 100,000 among French gentlemen, from duelling alone) but in perspective, they suggest only 1 in 570 French gentlemen were killed in duels in any given year.6 This equates to 1.8 deaths from duelling per 100,000 of the overall population.7


Quantifying murder

Examining European homicide rates (where historians have reasonably reliable data), by this estimation, even considering duel-crazed France, this represents a small proportion of all violent killings.8

Spierenburg cites estimated murder rates per 100,000 ranging from: 5 in late sixteenth-century Kent, 10 in Cologne from 1557-1620, between 20 and 36 in Stockholm from 1545-1625, to a high of 47.3 in Rome from 1560-1585.9


Although modern comparisons are largely meaningless, the country with the highest homicide rate in 2010 was Honduras with 82.1, while in the same year the United States had a rate of 5.010

What constitutes a duel is sometimes subjective, since a continuum exists from spontaneous challenges to more formal contests. But much lethal violence did not remotely resemble duelling.

Angelozzi argues that violence between nobles was not uncommon in Bologna, but right until the end of the seventeenth century:

[they] preferred to resort to murder by treachery, or all out vendetta, rather than gentlemanly combat …

And that noblemen:

had the habit of not leaving the house without being surrounded by numerous servants armed to the teeth … [therefore] the composed and elegant honourable duels theorised by the gentlemanly science... degenerated, even against the will of the protagonists, into full-blown chaotic and brutal battles.11

Cardinal GuiseFurthermore in Italy daggers rather than swords were the weapons to most concern the authorities, being associated in particular with premeditated murder.12

Both murder rates, and lethal duelling, appear to diminish through the course of the seventeenth century.

Spierenburg argues that homicide rates fell sharply from the end of the sixteenth century, and that:

Although Italians had invented polite combat, it was practically absent from the peninsula throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.13

Weinstein likewise claims that Italian duelling:

... reached its peak shortly after [the] mid [sixteenth] century, then steeply fell off … Towards the end of the century a duel in Rome was a rarity to be severely punished.14

Such assessments of the duel's demise appear to discount the continuing incidence of impromptu questioni and non-lethal duelling, which more easily eludes the historical record.

Cavina argues the clandestine duel remained “very frequent” in Italy, after legal duelling was definitively prohibited by the Council of Trent in 1563.15 However a decline in the lethality of the duel, and in murder rates, was evidenced in much of Europe through the seventeenth century.16 Spierenburg states that:

Amsterdam court records, while containing much evidence for lower-class knife fights, are almost completely silent about the official duel. In line with their indifference to this custom, the Dutch civilian elites seldom carried a rapier as a mark of status. An Amsterdam ordinance of 1668 even prohibited the carrying of any type of sword during the daytime … The document explicitly noted that Amsterdam was such a safe place that having such a weapon at hand was to no one's advantage.17

Peasants fight

Everyday violence

Murder rates, by definition, ignore non-lethal incidents. Continuing with the example of Rome, barber-surgeons and doctors were required to report all treatments for wounds caused by violence, even where very minor. These relazioni dei barbieri reveal that in the 1560s to early 1570s, 1.8% of Rome's population visited a doctor as a result of violence each year, compared to the 0.05% who were killed.18 In other words almost forty times as many people.

Some manuals discuss (for example) self-defence against daggers,19 or other responses to spontaneous violence. Palladini suggests pushing through the leather of the scabbard, to quickly employ the point when seated; and walking at night with the sword drawn, crossed over the left arm, ready for any threats.20


Nonetheless the treatises overwhelmingly emphasise single combat, with matched weapons, predominantly swords. In rapier manuals, plates typically demonstrate potentially lethal thrusts. But most killings did not involve swords (in Italy at least), and when swords were drawn it did not usually result in death.

An Italian Jesuit account of sixteenth-century Japan observes that:

The sword and dagger are mainly for ornamentation. Either they do not draw their swords, or they draw them with resolve, to kill or be killed.21

The implication is that Italians drew their swords more readily, without always expecting a fatal outcome.

This is borne out by anecdotal evidence. Cohen describes a confrontation (reconstructed from multiple eyewitness accounts) between two feuding brothers, Pompeo and Ascanio Giustini, at the house of Pompeo, in Rome in 1557:

Pompeo: You know well enough what I think of you. You mean nothing to me. Go on get a move on! Get out of here! You have no business being here. I think you are … I think you are a mortal enemy.

Ascanio: It's on other things than this that I should spend my time with you!

Ascanio bites his finger at Pompeo, a classic obscene gesture of scorn and defiance. Pompeo at once spins around and thrusts his bottom in Ascanio's direction, roaring.

Pompeo: [Ascanio], I want you to stick all the nose you've got up my ass!

Ascanio reaches for his dagger at his hip and lunges toward Pompeo.

Guests separate the two brothers, ejecting Ascanio, but the confrontation resumes outside.

as the two brothers duel ferociously with sword and dagger. Two servants with halberds join the fray on Pompeo's side.

BrawlEventually some passing soldiers, seeing Ascanio outnumbered, draw their swords, intervene and break up the fight. Aside from a minor wound to Pompeo's finger, no one is hurt.22 This could have been down to good fortune and skill, but it seems more probable there was no real intent to kill.

Paradoxically another Giustini brother, Fabritio, would later be involved in an incident which was probably not intended to be lethal. He threw an egg from horseback, while surrounded by armed footmen, in the public space of Piazza Navona, fatally slicing his victim's thigh in the ensuing scuffle.23

Traditional Europe could be a violent place, with armed confrontations not uncommon. However their form and intent typically differed from the lethal duelling scenarios the manuals present.

The realities of the duel

Lethal duelling, for a point of honour, is preposterous by modern standards of conduct. Since comparatively few actually duelled to the death, it is arguable only a bellicose minority ever subscribed to this creed wholeheartedly.

The duel of honour is heavily romanticised, but its reality is frequently ignominious. English duels were associated with “Tennis courts and bowling Allies [sic]”.24 But it seems likely prudent men could avoid bloodshed over racquet sports and skittles.

Participation demonstrated that honour (social standing) was valued over life itself. In the era of sanctioned duels, a public display of courage was furthermore required to assert valour. Undue caution could be seen as cowardice, undermining the principal aim of the duel, to preserve or reaffirm status.


This is apparent from Castiglione's discussion:

he ought to … always show readiness and daring. Nor must he act like some, who … thinking it enough not to be defeated, stand ever on the defensive and retreat, - showing therein their utter cowardice. And thus they make themselves a laughing-stock for boys, like those two men of Ancona who fought at Perugia not long since, and made everyone laugh who saw them."

"And who were they ? " asked my lord Caspar Pallavicino,

"Two cousins," replied messer Cesare.

Then the Count said:

"In their fighting they were as like as two brothers".25

Likewise Brantôme recounts that Francis I of France, presiding over a duel between two Spaniards, reportedly threw down his baton in exasperation (ending the encounter):

because they would neither of them fight seriously … but engaged in trifling with words and gestures and manoeuvres.26

Students fencing 1590

The unsanctioned duel appears more pragmatic, with public displays of bravura less important, and abuses more common.27 In general period accounts of duels do not resemble the cool battle of wits, between skilled adversaries, which the treatises might suggest. As one eighteenth-century source describes:

Every swordsman knows how rarely the parties are of equal skill, and if it should be so, what a number of wounds may be received on both sides, before the conflict is ended.28

Sanctioned duels in Italy, before being abolished in 1563, were not necessarily to the death, and their protocols proffered ample opportunity for reconciliation.29 This was likewise the case with later illicit duels. Gessi, published posthumously in 1672, states that:

If one is wounded in a duel, his honour is not damaged, having satisfied his obligation to the other parties … with their debts settled in the duel, gentlemen are very quick to reconcile, a sign of a composed and sincere spirit …30

Rapprochement was also possible in later French duels:

It sufficed in 1631 for Charles de Lévis to be wounded in the arm and his opponent, the sieur de Montespan, in the face, “and in an instant they both recognized that the subject of their dispute was so trivial that they remounted their horses and returned together”.31

But evidence suggests duelling was considerably more ruthless in France than in Italy.

Carroll quotes the Venetian ambassador, at the end of the sixteenth century, stating that in France:

They do not [fight] … as usually is the case in Italy to the first or second drawing of blood, with seconds who separate them when time is up ... [but to] the bitter end.32

Therefore Italian duels appear more merciful, with seconds serving a conciliatory and ameliorating function. However in France it was common for seconds to fight alongside the principal.

Shoemaker cites an English duel which followed this French custom:

In 1668, a duel involving the duke of Buckingham and two soldiers on one side and Lord Shrewsbury and two others on the other was fought in the "French style", in which the two groups of three lined up opposite one another, and at the signal "came together with clashing blades". All six participants were wounded, and two died.33

Armed BrawlLikewise both Falloppia in 1589 and Maffani in 1629, describe French duellists as rushing to attack from the outset.34

Reviewing period accounts, Carroll argues that French duels were “usually … a matter of seconds” quoting a first-hand narrative from 1597, by Guy de Bonneguise sieur de Peyrault:

with my second move I caught him with a thrust to the head. And having been hit he was dazed and withdrew. And I advanced one or two paces and asked him before striking whether he had had enough, to which he replied "yes, yes". And then I left him to run straight to the other two but on reaching them I found he had followed me, and being close to me he shouted "turn, turn Peyreaulx", which I did.

And he immediately fell down in front of me and then by vanity, since I had said the evening before that I wanted to, I cut his face; having broken my sword on his dagger ... I wanted his sword and I did everything I could to wrest it from him, but seeing his dagger ready to give me a blow and my sword broke, I stabbed him with my [dagger].35

Students fighting 1725However Maffani’s account of French salle play appears quite different, and more conventional. He states that cuts are excluded by agreement, while the sword is held by its pommel with two fingers “like a confected nut”, which for Maffani would be unsound with a sharp sword.36

Angelozzi confirms the more forgiving character of later Italian duels, claiming that:

The duel, in general, developed into a stylised dance which in no way recalled the bloody brutality of the judicial duel of honour …

But that:

Accidents, even if rarely mortal, were not infrequent, and indeed often arose from the inability, or lack of lucidity caused by the fear of one or both duellists. Nor could it be excluded a priori, that an opponent might enter the field animated by an authentic hate, and rather than limit himself to a few innocuous thrusts, respecting the tacit agreement, aim to cause serious harm.37

Angelozzi cites a number of bloodless examples, terminated to mutual satisfaction after a few perfunctory exchanges. In some cases diffidence to the ritual of the duel is quite apparent.

For example in 1672, in Bologna's cathedral of San Pietro, a footman roughly bumped into the mother of Emilio Malvezzi:

and replied arrogantly to the reproach of Emilio who, indignant, grabbed him by the hair and threw him to the ground.

The next morning Malvezzi encountered the senator Giuseppe Malvasia. To his misfortune the impertinent footman was one of the senator's servants. Malvasia was known as a violent man always ready to draw his sword, and he demanded satisfaction. Emilio tried to justify himself without losing face, but his excuses were brutally rebuffed and he was forced to fight.

However after just a few thrusts, pressed by his more experienced and lively opponent, Emilio turned his back and ran, taking refuge in the church of Santa Maria della Vita. Malvasia called him out several times, shouting and accusing him of cowardice, but seeing that Malvezzi would not come out he eventually left.

After almost a month of deliberation, Malvezzi was convinced to challenge Malvasia to restore his honour. Several witnesses attested that both fought bravely, and having each declared their honour satisfied:

they touched hands, kissed, and set off together to the church of San Biagio to hear mass.38


Fencing Culture

Altoni makes clear, writing in Florence in the mid sixteenth century, that most men did not practice fencing.39 Therefore skill at arms cannot have been indispensable to protect a gentleman's interests and avoid violent confrontation.

But many did practise swordplay as a pastime and recreation. Despite the greater reported frequency and brutality of French duels, Italian schools and fencing masters were continually frequented by French students, and praised by French commentators.40 In 1576 Pietro Bucci noted that:

Not everyone called a scholar who goes to Padua, does so to study letters. The great majority of French students go to learn how to ride, to dance, to practice the handling of all manner of weapons, and music, and finally to learn Italian customs and manners, of which they are enamoured.41

Buckler and daggerFencing doubtless served as a preparation for combat. Palladini recommends, when choosing a master, to visit each of them and to consider the outcomes of their students in duels.42

But it is not controversial to suggest fencing in the salle is different in character to lethal combat, or that it may be conventional to a greater or lesser extent. This is recognised orthodoxy in certain later systems,43 but was arguably also true of earlier centuries.44 Many authors question the practices of others, often to highlight the irreality of salle fencing. Senese is typical, proclaiming that:

The art of wielding the sword, in self-defence, is the true art; not that which is commonly practised in the schools, and taught by the masters who instruct ... [which] will not even suffice to defend you adequately.45

Sometimes these criticisms are obvious. Maffani notes that in the salle many stop after landing their blow, and delight in spectacular simultaneous attacks, which with sharp swords would signify injury to both fencers.46 Rapier masters often protest that cuts are restricted in the salle, despite being common and dangerous in duels.47

Other critiques are harder to validate. Masters often denigrate their rivals, or express mutually irreconcilable positions. To take one example, various rapier treatises teach to parry and counter cuts in one tempo. Gaiani challenges this, saying it might work in the salle, but not against more forceful cuts.48

For the modern practitioner, it is problematic to enter into the merits of these debates. But in making these fine judgements, we should remember the context in which swordplay was practised: widespread recreational fencing, endemic spontaneous violence (often without swords, and usually not fatal), with lethal duelling only sporadic, much of the real violence quite unpolished. For all their pragmatic advice, the manuals typically emphasise ideal depictions of a particular social ritual, the duel.


We all have different motivations to study historical fencing. Some may be interested only in combat, and not in the culture and practice of the fencing salle. But combat and fencing culture, application and art, were complimentary and never entirely distinct.

No nation had more practical experience of lethal duelling than France, but French gentlemen exalted and avidly learned from Italian schools and masters. Similarly the display of raw fencing skill, even where inadvisable in a serious duel, has long been esteemed in its own right.

As Nadi claimed, the fencing in duels is:

an almost unworthy expression of the vast science he [the fencer] knows …49

The masters trained men who fenced for their lives, and many boast of personal experience with sharp swords. But if we ignore the actual character of violence within their social milieu, the form and frequency of the duel, and the context of their fencing culture, we might easily misunderstand what the manuals represent. By examining the interplay between the duel, the salle, and everyday violence, our comprehension of historical fencing can only be richer, clearer, and ultimately more honest.

1 Indeed, the laws and conventions governing duelling and spontaneous violence could vary considerably by time period nation. The German context is considered in: Chandler, Jean. A brief examination of warfare by medieval urban militias in Central and Northern Europe. In Miskolcz, Mátyás (Ed). Acta Periodica Duellatorum Vol. 1. Budapest: Havana Consulting LP, 2013. pp.145-146. The situation in England is reviewed in: Horder, Jermey. The Duel and the English Law of Homicide. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies; Vol.12 , No.3 (Autumn 1992). pp.419-430. 

2 See Carroll, Stuart. Blood and Violence in Early Modern France, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. pp.149-150, p.155 & p.259.

3 Carroll meanwhile describes duelling as “peculiarly French disease”, and states that “No state was more susceptible to the duelling craze than France; nowhere did the duel become as widespread among all social groups”. See Carroll, Blood and Violence, pp.152-3. Also Billacois, François. The Duel: Its Rise and Fall in Early Modern France, London: Yale University Press, 1990. pp.19-20 and 42-3.

Likewise Muchembled describes the duel as “a French phenomenon”, and states there was relatively little duelling in Italy after the first half of the early sixteenth century. See Muchembled, Robert. A History of Violence: From the End of the Middle Ages to the Present, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012. p.167.

4 Carroll, Blood and Violence, p.258.

5 See for example Nye, Robert A. Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. pp.25-6.

6 Clearly these estimates are necessarily approximative. Anecdotally some duellists claimed extravagant numbers of kills, the Chevalier d'Andrieux being attributed with seventy two before being executed aged twenty six. See Billacois, The Duel, p.132.

7 Assuming a French population of 19 million in 1600. See Black, Christopher F. Early Modern Italy: A Social History, Abingdon: Routledge, 2001. p.218.

8 These figures consider all murders, not just deaths in duels, although distinguishing duels from other killings with swords is sometimes subjective.

9 See Spierenburg, Pieter. A History of Murder: Personal Violence in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2008. pp.70-1.

10 UNODC, 2011 Global Study on Homicide. Trends, context, data, Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011. p.93.

11 Angelozzi, Giancarlo. Il duello dopo il duello: il caso bolognese. In Isreal, Uwe and Ortalli, Gherardo (Eds). Il duello fra medioevo ed età moderna: Prospettive storico-culturali, Roma: Viella, 2009. pp.94-5.

12 See for example Blastenbrei, Peter. Violence, arms and criminal justice in papal Rome, 1560–1600. Renaissance Studies, 20 (2006). p.75-76.

13 Spierenburg, A History of Murder, p.66 & p.75. See also Bryson, Frederick R. The Sixteenth-Century Italian Duel. A Study in Renaissance Social History, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1938. p.207.

14 Weinstein, Donald. Fighting or flyting. Verbal duelling in mid-sixteenth-century Italy. In Dean, Trevor and Lowe, K. J. P. Crime, Society and the Law in Renaissance Italy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. p.213.

15 However Cavina demurs from any attempt at quantitative analysis. See Cavina, Marco. Il sangue dell’onore. Storia del duello, Rome-Bari: Laterza, 2001. pp.131-2.

16 For a decline in murder rates see Eisner, Manuel. Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime. Crime and Justice; A Review of Research, 30 (2003). pp.83-142.

In terms of duels, for example Shoemaker's detailed study of later English duelling argues that: “All the evidence indicates that between 1660 and 1800 the violence in duels became much more limited and ritualized and consequently the chances of fatalities decreased considerably”. Even in pistol duels, Shoemaker calculates that only 6.5% of participants were killed, while 71% escaped any injury. See Shoemaker, Robert B. The Taming of the Duel: Masculinity, Honour, and Ritual Violence in London, 1660-1800. Historical Journal, 45 (2002). p.528.

Likewise Füssel reports that at the University of Jena alone, at the end of the eighteenth century, there were three to four hundred duels between students a year, yet the number of students killed in duels between 1765 and 1815 was only 6. See Füssel, Marian. Il duello studentesco tra onore e disciplinamento. In Isreal, Uwe and Ortalli, Gherardo (Eds). Il duello fra medioevo ed età moderna: Prospettive storico-culturea, Roma: Viella, 2009. p.102 and p.127.

Jacopo Gelli reported a similar pattern at the end of the nineteenth century. He catalogued 3,918 Italian duels between 1879 and 1899, only 20 of which ended in death. Cited in: Hughes, Steven. Men of Steel: Duelling, Honour and Politics in Liberal Italy. In Spierenburg, Pieter (Ed). Men and Violence: Gender, Honor, and Rituals in Modern Europe and America, Colombus: Ohio State University Press, 1998. p.73

17 Spierenburg, A History of Murder, p.77.

18 Ibid., p.71.

19 For example Marozzo, Achille. Opera nova chiamata duello, o vero fiore dell'armi de singulari abattimenti offensivi et diffensivi … con le figure che dimostrano con l'armi in mano tutti gli effetti et guardie possano far etc., Modena, 1536. sig.126v-148r; and Fabris, Salvator. De lo schermo overo scienza d’arme di Salvator Fabris Capo dell’ordine dei sette cori, Copenhagen, 1606. p.250-255.

20 Palladini, Camillo. Discorso di Camillo Palladini Bolognese sopra l'arte della scherma. Come l'arte della scherma è necessaria à chi si diletta d'arme, private collection, undated manuscript, Sig.81r-82r.

21 Gínnaro, Bernardino. Saverio Orientale ò vero Istorie De' Cristiani Illustri Dell'Oriente: Li quali nelle parti Orientali sono stati chiari per virtù, e pietà cristiana, dall'Anno 1542. quando S. Francisco Sauerio Apostoli dell'Indie ... fino all'Anno 1600 etc., Naples, 1641. Book 1, Part 1, p.73.

22 Quoted from: Cohen, Thomas V. Love and Death in Renaissance Italy, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004. pp.101-3.

23 Ibid., pp.108-9.

24 Northampton, Henry Howard, Earl of. A publication of his majesties edict, and severe censure against private combats and combatants, London, 1613. pp.105-8. Cited in Peltonen, Markku. The Duel in Early Modern England: Civility, Politeness and Honour, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. p.135.

25 Castiglione, Baldesar. The Book of the Courtier. Translated by Bull, George. London: Penguin, 2003. pp.29-30.

26 Powell, George Herbert. Duelling Stories of the Sixteenth Century from the French of Brantôme, London: A.H. Bullen, 1904. p.50.

27 See for example Hughes, Steven, C. Soldiers and Gentlemen: The Rise of the Duel in Renaissance Italy. In Rogers, Clifford J. DeVries, Kelly and France, John. Journal of Medieval Military History V (2007). p.136. Nonetheless illicit duels were sometimes still conducted in public. While flagrant misconduct also featured in licit duels, such as when Galasso Lesinardi was shot to death by “spectators” with arquebuses, during a legal duel in 1556 in Northern Tuscany. See Cavina, Il sangue dell’onore, p.82.

28 Anonymous. Advice to seconds: general rules and instructions for all seconds in duels. By a late captain in the army, Whitehaven, 1793. p.22. Cited in Shoemaker, The Taming of the Duel, p.528.

29 For a detailed discussion see Bryson, The Sixteenth-Century Italian Duel.

30 Gessi, Berlingiero. La spada di honore: Libro primo delle osservazioni cavaleresche, Bologna, 1672. p.317.

31 Carroll, Blood and Violence, p.151.

32 Carroll, Stuart. Cultures of Violence: Interpersonal Violence in Historical Perspective, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. p.29.

33 Shoemaker, The Taming of the Duel, p.531.

34 See Falloppia, Alfonso. Nuovo et brieve modo di schermire, Bergamo, 1584. pp.11-2, and Maffani, Giovanni Battista. Compendio e discorso di tutto quello, in che consiste la virtu delle spada con tutt’i modi è termini, che deve havere, tener’ e possieder un professore di questa virtù, Vienna, 1629, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Cod. 10784. p.215.

35 Carroll, Blood and Violence, p.152.

36 Maffani, Compendio e discorso, p.199. This early reference to “posting” (clasping the pommel rather than the grip) itself suggests a somewhat lighter practice sword.

37 Angelozzi, Il duello dopo il duello, pp.82-3.

38 Ibid., pp.83-4.

39 See Altoni, Francesco di Sandro. Monomachia: trattato dell’arte di scherma. Edited by Alessandro Battistini, Massimo (sic) Rubboli, and Iacopo Venni. Rimini: Il Cerchio, 2007. p.61.

40 Brantôme consistently lauds Italian masters and their students, having himself studied under “the great Tappe” in Milan in 1566. See Brantôme. Oeuvres complètes de Pierre de Bourdeille Seigneur de Brantôme. Edited by Jean Sambix, Leiden, 1722. p.193.

While according to de Montaigne in 1580: “We go into Italy to learn fencing and then put it into practice at the expense of our lives before we have learnt how. Yet, by the rules of instruction, theory should come before practice: we betray that we are mere apprentices.” See Montaigne, Michel de. The Complete Essays. Translated and edited by M. A. Screech, London: Penguin Books, 1993. p.790.

41 See Del Negro, Piero. L'Accademia Delia e gli esercizi cavallereschi della nobilità padovana nel Seicento e Settecento. In Del Negro, Piero and Ortalli, Gherardo (Eds). Il gioco e la guerra nel secondo millennio, Treviso: Viella, 2008. p.45; quoting: Bucci, Pietro. Le coronationi di Polonia et di Francia del Christianissimo Re Henrico III, con le attioni et successi de' suoi viaggi, Padua, 1576. p.137.

42 Palladini, Discorso, Sig.39r.

43 For example Rondelle stated that: A classical fencer is supposed to be one who observes a fine position, whose attacks are fully developed, whose hits are marvelously accurate, his parries firm and his ripostes executed with precision. One must not forget that this regularity is not possible unless the adversary is a party to it. It is a conventional bout. Rondelle, Louis. Foil and Sabre: A Grammar of Fencing in Detailed Lessons for Professor and Pupil. Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1892. p.189.

44 However earlier writers tended to frame this equation negatively. For example, Monesi's work of 1640 is largely a condemnation of the (perceived) artificiality of contemporary fencing, in other treatises and the salle, which he argues is ineffective preparation for an earnest duel. See Monesi, Jacopo. Opposizioni et Avvertimenti sopra la Scherma. Florence, 1640.

45 Senese, Alessandro. Il vero maneggio di spada, Bologna, 1660. sig.B3v.

46 Maffani, Compendio e discorso, p.215 and pp.223-4.

47 See for example: Gaiani, Giovanni Battista. Arte di maneggiar la spada a piedi et a cavallo, Loano, 1619. p.34; Maffani, Compendio e discorso, pp.189-190, Monesi, Opposizioni et Avvertimenti, pp.25-7; and Senese, Il vero maneggio di spada, p.18.

48 Gaiani, Arte di maneggiar la spada, pp.33-4.

49 Nadi, Aldo. On Fencing. New York: J.B. Putnam's Sons, 1943. p.24.

Thanks to Jean Chandler and Fran Terminiello for reviewing an earlier draft of this article.

Piermarco Terminiello