Looking for Napoleone of the Renaissance

Lafayette

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I don't know my military history, especially of the renaissance era. I'm writing a villain that lives on a far away planet in the equivalence of the European renaissance.

I need to display the military brilliance of my villain to show that he is threat to everyone on the planet.

Do any of you know of anyone from this era that fits this description? I also need examples of his/her brilliance.
 
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Militarily, I'm not sure, but the classic Renaissance schemer in popular culture would be Machiavelli. Leonardo da Vinci designed some weapons and siegeworks, some of them more viable than others. Military tactics were a popular subject at the time, so you could find out quite a bit on these from contemporary authors. Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, is a bit late for the Renaissance, but was known as a great general.

I used a book called War and Society in Renaissance Europe by J.R. Hale when writing fantasy, although it might be a bit heavy if it's just a passing reference that you're making.
 
Here's an article claiming the 25 greatest commanders of the Renaissance that might help.
 
What part of the renaissance? Early or late.?

At first I thought of Eugene of Savoy...but he's 17th/18th century...so very late!

From the 30 years war Wallenstein was pretty successful (until he got too big for his boots and was assassinated)

On the other side of that conflict Gustaphus Adolphus led Sweden and is widely feted to be one of the standout generals. He might be your man.
 
What part of the renaissance? Early or late.?

At first I thought of Eugene of Savoy...but he's 17th/18th century...so very late!

From the 30 years war Wallenstein was pretty successful (until he got too big for his boots and was assassinated)

On the other side of that conflict Gustaphus Adolphus led Sweden and is widely feted to be one of the standout generals. He might be your man.


There are a number of renaissance periods, and these varied from country to country. Most though were based around art, literature, music, religion and science than they were around warfare, although it's undoubted that many and varied conflicts arose during them.

You tend to find that during most of these periods kings (and occasionally) queens were given the accolades when it came to military brilliance, but realistically how much was their tactical genius, and how much was down to having competent subordinates is open to question; certainly few individual generals/commanders are remembered compared to later periods.

Military successes were often down to making the right political alliances than they were to tactics on the battlefield, so it may be worth looking at someone like Machiavelli, or William (and later his son Robert) Cecil's network of spies who were able to detect and prevent trouble before it became too much of a threat.

One area were royals would usually not be seen, and that would allow a freer hand and a chance for renown and glory was at sea. Sir Francis Drake in particular was a brilliant sailor and daring tactician who plundered the Spanish treasure fleet, 'singed the King of Spain's beard' and was instrumental in the destruction of the Spanish Armada (using 'fire ships' to scatter his opponents). He was most prevalent during England's renaissance, so it may be worth taking a look at him.
 
Militarily, I'm not sure, but the classic Renaissance schemer in popular culture would be Machiavelli. Leonardo da Vinci designed some weapons and siegeworks, some of them more viable than others. Military tactics were a popular subject at the time, so you could find out quite a bit on these from contemporary authors. Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, is a bit late for the Renaissance, but was known as a great general.

I used a book called War and Society in Renaissance Europe by J.R. Hale when writing fantasy, although it might be a bit heavy if it's just a passing reference that you're making.
Fun fact. In order to avoid aggressive infighting among the ruling families, during the renaissance the Commune of Florence (and other Italian City States) hired outside city managers, sometimes with the title dictator. One of the more famous of those dictators was Machiavelli. Machiavelli needed a military engineer and pulled off quite the feat of hiring Leonardo da Vinci away from Sforza in Milan.

To summarize, Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci worked together in Florence upgrading the defenses and planning the destruction of Pisa.

Machiavelli wrote "The Prince" while working in Florence as a form of resume to help get his next job.
 
I don't know my military history, especially of the renaissance era. I'm writing a villain that lives on a far away planet in the equivalence of the European renaissance.

I need to display the military brilliance of my villain to show that he is threat to everyone on the planet.

Do any of you know of anyone from this era that fits this description? I also need examples of his/her brilliance.
I will invite you to visit my favorite blog about pre-gunpowder military actions, and the way such things are depicted in fiction.

A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry

A look at history and popular culture

acoup.blog

You might want to read his critique of Amazon's Rings of Power in particular. His latest post goes into detail why the battle scenes fall flat. A major contributor is that the showrunners put heavy emphasis on being clever and not enough on actual realistic tactics.

I thought about Azimov's Foundation Trilogy when I read the Prince. There seems to be some influence there. Perhaps refer to Julius Caesar's Gallic Campaign and Sun Tsu's Art of War. Both offer successful battle plans and methods of thinking about battle. And of course, if you are looking for something more "modern" there is Clausewitz, On War.

If you specifically want a Renaissance general then look to Caesar Borgia.

The Mongol Golden Horde was a bit earlier, but certainly a threat and controlled a significant part of the planet.

Napoleon, somewhat later, had a pretty good run.

But to your question. There was nobody in renaissance period that was a threat to the whole planet.
One does not gain control of territory solely through military brilliance. One gains control of territory by having an enormous infrastructure behind you that allows you to take and hold territory.

Good luck with your project. I hope this was helpful.
 
Possibly a contender for a 16th century ruler that might fit your remit, would be the Ottoman, Suleiman the Magnificent - threat to all of Eastern and Central Europe, oversaw the expansion of the Ottoman empire, including sieging Vienna (although unsuccessful). Instigated a cultural golden age for his people and empire.

Frankly none of the European commanders stand out as being anything special in the 16th century, IMO.

However, I'd be wary making Suleiman the baddie, after all Hapsburg Spain, with its conquest of vast swathes of the globe: the Americas and the Philippines, and was the number one Empire on the way up at the time. Brutal - their actions killed millions, they plundered the globe for anything they could lay their hands on, and they had probably the finest professional military land force (look up the Tercio) - at least in Europe. However they didn't really have a 'Napoleon' leading them to victory. Obviously some good generals - Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, for example - but the Spanish were just a massive behomoth compared to virtually everyone else. If things had gone differently for Charles V (1500-1558) and he had somehow kept the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburg lines together, with all their territory, yeah could be conceived as a threat to everyone else near them....

....however, less successful at interbreeding their own royal family. Caused lots of problems later on.
 
What part of the renaissance? Early or late.?
Early and before guns entered the picture. Perhaps, I should be looking for someone in the late middle ages? I did look up some of the suggestions and discovered artillery. I don't picture my story being that technology advanced.

Your and the others suggestions will not be wasted for I can get some ideas from them. Thank you.

Were there any geniuses in the late middle ages?

At first I thought of Eugene of Savoy...but he's 17th/18th century...so very late!

From the 30 years war Wallenstein was pretty successful (until he got too big for his boots and was assassinated)

On the other side of that conflict Gustaphus Adolphus led Sweden and is widely feted to be one of the standout generals. He might be your man.
He is one I looked up.
 
There are a number of renaissance periods, and these varied from country to country. Most though were based around art, literature, music, religion and science than they were around warfare, although it's undoubted that many and varied conflicts arose during them.

You tend to find that during most of these periods kings (and occasionally) queens were given the accolades when it came to military brilliance, but realistically how much was their tactical genius, and how much was down to having competent subordinates is open to question; certainly few individual generals/commanders are remembered compared to later periods.

Military successes were often down to making the right political alliances than they were to tactics on the battlefield, so it may be worth looking at someone like Machiavelli, or William (and later his son Robert) Cecil's network of spies who were able to detect and prevent trouble before it became too much of a threat.

One area were royals would usually not be seen, and that would allow a freer hand and a chance for renown and glory was at sea. Sir Francis Drake in particular was a brilliant sailor and daring tactician who plundered the Spanish treasure fleet, 'singed the King of Spain's beard' and was instrumental in the destruction of the Spanish Armada (using 'fire ships' to scatter his opponents). He was most prevalent during England's renaissance, so it may be worth taking a look at him.
This is all very fascinating. I got the impression that Drake was more lucky than brilliant. Am I wrong?
 
Possibly a contender for a 16th century ruler that might fit your remit, would be the Ottoman, Suleiman the Magnificent - threat to all of Eastern and Central Europe, oversaw the expansion of the Ottoman empire, including sieging Vienna (although unsuccessful). Instigated a cultural golden age for his people and empire.

Frankly none of the European commanders stand out as being anything special in the 16th century, IMO.

However, I'd be wary making Suleiman the baddie, after all Hapsburg Spain, with its conquest of vast swathes of the globe: the Americas and the Philippines, and was the number one Empire on the way up at the time. Brutal - their actions killed millions, they plundered the globe for anything they could lay their hands on, and they had probably the finest professional military land force (look up the Tercio) - at least in Europe. However they didn't really have a 'Napoleon' leading them to victory. Obviously some good generals - Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, for example - but the Spanish were just a massive behomoth compared to virtually everyone else. If things had gone differently for Charles V (1500-1558) and he had somehow kept the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburg lines together, with all their territory, yeah could be conceived as a threat to everyone else near them....

....however, less successful at interbreeding their own royal family. Caused lots of problems later on.
Those are two good examples. for 16th century empires. They had distinctly different societal rules and governing styles. They each had a strong religious element, but Spanish Inquisition and Ottoman religious tolerance, literally bringing in the Jews expelled from Spain are an interesting contrast.

The societal rules will be more interesting in reference to the villain.
1. Is he the Spanish slaughtering everyone unwilling to convert to his religion, enslaving as much of a continent as he can touch?
2. Is he the Ottoman empire enslaving all enemies that do not surrender immediately, sending orphaned and enslaved children en masse to be trained to fill the ever expanding rolls of soldiers, scribes and bureaucrats.

Have fun with your project.
 
Perhaps you are approaching this in the wrong way if you want a military villain. It's unlikely that you will find a historic character that will fill all of your needs and so you might be better creating a composite character. Take the miltary genius of one figure and combine it with the brutality of another.

Here's an example.
Create a character that mirrors Oliver Cromwell's brutal subjugation of Ireland and combine with the tactical nous displayed by Adolphus at the Battle Of Brietenfeld.


 
This is all very fascinating. I got the impression that Drake was more lucky than brilliant. Am I wrong?

There's a fine line between brilliance and luck; you prepare a stratgem and hope/believe that your opponent behaves in a predictable manner. For me Drake took calculated risks which usually paid off. In the case of the Armada, it was a case of having to act regardless of the odds, as defeat meant the death of the Queen.

Napoleon - supposedly - asked for lucky, rather than good, generals. I think to some extent he was talking more about himself, as quite often in a battle he rolled the dice and took a chance. Ultimately he took too many risks and eventually lost, a major cause (in my mind) being that opposing generals adapted their styles to match those of Napoleon, who was usually at his best when facing predictable opponents.
 
The thing is though that if you want a villain who can show that he is threat to everyone on the planet, the perfect example would be Napoleon, who could only be beaten when rival nations formed a coalition against him despite their differences. For example England and Spain had been age-old enemies, yet combined to drive him out of their country.
 
For a lesser known person check out Istvan Dobo (1502-1572) István Dobó - Wikipedia

From the wikin on the Seige of Eger (1552) --"During the siege, Bornemissza devised primitive but lethal grenades and powderkeg-sized bombs to use against the attackers as well as a water-mill wheel packed with gunpowder which he rolled into the Ottoman ranks. His secret lay in the gunpowder not simply exploding but sparking even more fire. He loaded these weapons with oil, sulfur, and flint in order to shower the enemy with burning missiles"
 
The thing is though that if you want a villain who can show that he is threat to everyone on the planet, the perfect example would be Napoleon, who could only be beaten when rival nations formed a coalition against him despite their differences. For example England and Spain had been age-old enemies, yet combined to drive him out of their country.
Weren't the Prussians also part of this coalition?

I think, maybe I've been looking in the wrong places. If I'm not being mistaken Napoleon was not only brilliant, but also charismatic. He was also cruel I've read, but don't know how much.

Thanks for the suggestion.
 
For a lesser known person check out Istvan Dobo (1502-1572) István Dobó - Wikipedia

From the wikin on the Seige of Eger (1552) --"During the siege, Bornemissza devised primitive but lethal grenades and powderkeg-sized bombs to use against the attackers as well as a water-mill wheel packed with gunpowder which he rolled into the Ottoman ranks. His secret lay in the gunpowder not simply exploding but sparking even more fire. He loaded these weapons with oil, sulfur, and flint in order to shower the enemy with burning missiles"
That is most interesting. I may try that in my story. I will also check this Istvan Dobo.
 
There is not an European renaissance general of sufficient repute to bear comparison with Napoleon. Nor, for that matter, is there one of the late medieval period for my money. Henry V comes closest for my money.

If looking for a great renaissance general anyway, then I'd look at Gustavus Adolphus (who also has all of the benefits of being a king and being able to do ambitious stuff, rather than being restrained by orders like Conde or Turenne).

But looking outside Europe gets you Babur and Akbar the Great, the first and third Mughal Emperors in India, who achieved huge conquests. I can't remember which of the two was greater, but I'd probably look there.
 
I am going to suggest someone that might cover just be what you are looking for.

Vlad Dracul, Voivode of Wallachia.

He was notorious in his day. Utterly cruel yet urbane. Highly educated. Took on the might of the Ottoman Empire and held his own. Impaled his enemies by the thousand. I reckon he had a dark sense of humour. Betrayed a few times. I think he ticks all your boxes.
 
Also you have the complete opposite of Vlad in the figure of Skandeburg, a general who successfully fought against the Ottoman Empire for decades, ruled Albania, fought in the Italian Wars, forged alliances. However he does not fit the bill of a villain.

There is a story that after his death and the Ottomans eventually conquered Albania they discovered his grave Opening his grave the soldiers made amulets of protection out of his bones.
 

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