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Les dialogues militaires des ingénieurs italiens au XVIème siècle : transmission des savoirs et aspirations littéraires

Abstract : The first of the three parts of my thesis consists in the definition of the historical and cultural context in which the military dialogues were written and published. I describe the position of inferiority which caracterized, since Antiquity, the ‘meccanici’ in opposition to the ‘literati’ or, more generally, the defenders of the liberal arts. Then, I focus on the courts, presented as a highly competitive place topped by the Prince and toward which the authors of the military dialogue had to turn hoping for professional and social mobility. The technicians had real opportunities for there careers essentially because of the interest showned by renaissance states for their discipline. In this context, the publication of books - considered as a valuable object to be exchanged at court, as a substitute for military action or as a mean for the author to expose his skill - could representant a very significant weapon. In the second part of the thesis, the focus shifts closer to the texts themselves. Their subject was in itself an advantage, especially in so troubled a period : military arts were in fact celebrated through rhetorics as one of the most important discipline for mankind. Didactics books which treated this kind of problems proved useful because they allowed the italian states to try and improve their military power : the modern art of war needed instructed captains or artillerymen. The way in which the various military experts tried to answer this need for military instruction depends on their conception of the discipline. Three distinct approaches emerge from the military literature of the period even if all of them generally recognized the absolute necessity of combining theory and practice. The first approach is the one supported by the soldiers, experts of the field who claim the superiority of practical knowledge and tend to criticise the ‘theorici’. The Humanists, on the contrary, have a general and aristocratical approach of the military arts and give an uttermost importance to the ‘auctoritates’ and to classical virtues. Finally, the technicians builded their approach of modern warfare upon mathematical and geometrical knowledge. As did some artists like Leon Battista Alberti since the 15th century, these mathematician practitioners claimed the revaluation of theory. The place given to mathematics helped the ennoblement of their discipline by the technicians. The last part consists in the analysis of the rhetorical, stylistic and more generally formal means used in the military dialogues. Such means, and particularly those linked with the dialogical form, served precise goals : the promotion of the military skills of the authors and the realization of an efficient transmission of technical knowledge. The military experts, however, could not count on the sole didactic function of their texts : the dialogues had to appeal to the public of renaissance courts. Thus, the ‘delectatio’ represented an absolutely essentiel aspect the engineers could not neglect given the competition they were confronted to.
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Michel Pretalli. Les dialogues militaires des ingénieurs italiens au XVIème siècle : transmission des savoirs et aspirations littéraires. Littératures. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa; Université de Franche-Comté, 2011. Français. ⟨tel-02017949⟩

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