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Old April 17th, 2018, 10:11 AM   #1

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Crossing the Alps in the Middle Ages


In ancient history, Hannibal's crossing of the Alps with his elephants is regarded as a great feat. Yet during the middle ages, armies regularly traversed the Alps, particularly from the German lands. The Brenner Pass seems like an obvious choke-point for keeping the German emperors out,but it doesn't seem to have been the site of much fighting. Were there any notably harrowing crossings of the Alps in the middle ages? Did the Italian city states in the high middle ages make efforts to use the geography to their advantage? How come it seems that the Germans were able to cross with impunity?
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Old April 17th, 2018, 10:26 AM   #2

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the germans practically crossed from one part of the HRE into another part of the HRE, the county of tyrol was quite prosperous due to the trans-alpine passage(s) plus trade/contact etc; in the high middle age(staufer times) the swiss zähringer(uri) and savoy(1032) were also part of the HRE -to put it simple it was all imperial controlled (north<>south); crossing the alps is nothing spectacular long before hannibal the iron age (latene) gauls crossed the alps acc to livius via st.bernhard(also) and as far back as the neolithic such routes existed; an example westAlps
https://www.researchgate.net/publica..._Alpine_Europe

the indi swiss than tried and partially succeeded to gain such passes from the milanese(HRE) arbedo 1422 and crevola 1487;
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Old April 17th, 2018, 10:47 AM   #3
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There are several passes through the Alps between German areas (Switzerland and Austria) and Italy. Some have been used since Roman times and even have the remains of Roman roads. Although the passes are relatively high in elevation, several are closely connected to the river courses of the Rhine and the Inn which help in making them useful transit routes.

Even in winter, although very challenging and difficult routes, these passes could be used by military forces to enter the northern regions of Italy. However, that was rare, and it did not correspond to the usual campaigning season, the passes being mostly snowed in. In summer they are not that difficult.

Charlemagne IIRC frequently used one or more of the passes when moving between the eastern parts of the kingdom and Milan. There is an ancient Roman town on the Rhine (don't remember the name - now in Switzerland) which was a kind of Carolingian base of operations, and also a stop along the way for the king
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Old April 17th, 2018, 02:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirialax View Post
In ancient history, Hannibal's crossing of the Alps with his elephants is regarded as a great feat. Yet during the middle ages, armies regularly traversed the Alps, particularly from the German lands. The Brenner Pass seems like an obvious choke-point for keeping the German emperors out,but it doesn't seem to have been the site of much fighting. Were there any notably harrowing crossings of the Alps in the middle ages? Did the Italian city states in the high middle ages make efforts to use the geography to their advantage? How come it seems that the Germans were able to cross with impunity?
King Otto the Great of Gemany invaded Italy in 951 and was crowned King of Italy or Lombardy. The co Kings Berenger II and Adalbert agreed to become Otto's vassals but were deposed in 961. Otto was crowned Emperor in 962. Thus ever since then the King of Germany and the King of Italy were the same person. So possibly the lack of Italian efforts to stop armies from Germany was due to a lack of desire to commit treason against the king of Italy, especially since he was also the Holy Roman Emperor and thus the rightful ruler of everywhere..

As for the Brenner Pass, from the 12th century it was controlled by the counts of Tyrol. The county of Tyrol was founded about 1140. So an Italian army trying to block the Brenner Pass would have to fight the count of Tryol or gain his alliance.
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