the formation of the League of Cambrai in
December 1508, events moved swiftly. Venice launched several desperate
diplomatic initiatives to placate and appeal to old animosities among
the various members of the League that had united against her, but her
efforts were met with disdain.
The first incursion
into Venetian territory came from the French in the area east of Milan.
Venetian hopes rested in her mercenary army led by two experienced
mercenary generals: Nicolo Count of Pitigliano and his younger cousin
May 14, 1509, Alviano's force encountered and was set upon by French
forces at Agnadello, southwest of Bergamo. Alviano's troops held a
strong position and successfully repulsed attacks first by cavalry
and then by pikemen. Alviano called upon Pitigliano, whose army was
only a few miles away, to bring his forces up in support, but Pitigliano
-- a more cautious commander -- apparently decided it was better to
preserve his troops and he made no response. Perhaps a different reaction
from Pitigliano would have changed the course of events.
In fact, however,
the French king arrived with his own reinforcements instead, throwing
Alviano's army into confusion, collapse and -- where possible -- flight.
Venetian soldiers who were not killed or captured disappeared into
the countryside. Nor had Pitigliano, by staying out of the battle,
preserved his army. Instead, he found large segments of his own mercenary
forces bolting en masse.
the collapse of the Venetian army the pathway to the shores of the
Venetian lagoon seemed to open wide to the forces of the League. Soon
Venice saw her mainland cities falling to the enemy almost without
resistance. Unless she could produce military
and diplomatic miracles, she could anticipate an immediate siege
of the lagoon city itself.