Political Ecologies in the Renaissance

Military Science > Opera Nuova di Fortificare, Offendere, et Difendere

According to a sixteenth-century English translation of one of Girolamo Cataneo’s treatises on the art of war, “It is the common opinion of all worthy men, that among things that preserve a man still in life, warfare is that one, before the which none other is to have place.”  Girolamo Cataneo’s work on military strategies and warcraft is of interest because it relies not only on cutting edge early modern technologies of defense, such as canons, but also because it depicts soldiers exploiting the features of the natural world to protect and defend themselves. Opera Nuova di Fortificare, Offendere, et Difendere (1564), Cataneo’s sixteenth-century treatise on building and defending fortifications, features illustrations soldiers performing drills and building forts outside of the city. In order to defend themselves, the soldiers hide behind trees and use the land’s geological features as observation points and natural shields. Moreover, the book demonstrates how to manipulate natural resources to improve the quality of an army’s artillery. It shows how to harness the power of fire in battle by instructing its readers how to make arrows that will burn in water and how to construct small, fiery bombs that will rain down like shooting stars on one’s enemies.

Columbia University Libraries / Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5590 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu