Peace of Lodi Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Peace of Lodi ended the war between Venice and Milan and established a renewable mutual defense pact that was later expanded to include Florence, Naples, and the Papacy, bringing peace and modern diplomatic practices to Italy.

Summary of Event

The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks on May 29, 1453, had a profound effect on Italy’s internal politics and provided a foundation for increased diplomatic cooperation between the peninsula’s five principal states. Constantinople, fall of (1453) The victory of Sultan Mehmed II exposed the Balkans and threatened the Venetian commercial empire in the eastern Mediterranean. Italians everywhere feared the imminent advance of Ottoman power toward the Adriatic and their homeland. Compounding the pressures against Venice, the state closest to Turkish expansion, was a dangerous alliance along its western frontier. France had recently joined Milan and Florence in a war against the Venetian Republic Venice, Republic of over Francesco Sforza’s succession to Milan’s dukedom. Lodi, Peace of (1454) Sforza, Francesco Foscari, Francesco Nicholas V Camerino, Simonetto da Mehmed II Medici, Cosimo de’ Alfonso V Mehmed II Sforza, Francesco Nicholas V Foscari, Francesco Camerino, Simonetto da Medici, Cosimo de’ Alfonso I (king of Naples)

Before the French entered the conflict, the combatants had been fairly equal in strength, and Venice actually entertained hopes of annexing Milan Milan . The French presence tipped the balance of power in favor of Milan. However, it also encouraged Venice and Milan to search for peace, as neither side welcomed a powerful foreign presence in Italy. Pope Nicholas V invited the combatants and the lesser Italian states to assemble in Rome to settle their disputes and prepare for the anticipated confrontation with Mehmed’s armies. Despite common fears of impending disaster, though, the pope offered little constructive leadership during the extended debates. As a result, the sessions were inconclusive and the congress disbanded in failure by March of 1454.





Both Sforza and Venetian doge Francesco Foscari understood the advantages of peace, however, and, with the assistance of a secret intermediary, the Augustinian friar Simonetto da Camerino, they settled their differences and signed the Peace of Lodi on April 9, 1454. Under the terms of this agreement, Francesco Sforza was acknowledged as the rightful ruler of Milan, Venice retained its territorial gains in northern Italy, and all began to prepare for war against the Turks. Simonetto reported to Francesco Sforza later in the same month that the Venetians were vigorously arming galleys and urged the Milanese to ready themselves as well.

Although the immediate cessation of hostilities was significant and French influence in Italy was successfully restrained for many years, other aspects of the treaty were probably more important. In particular, one clause called for the formation of a defensive military alliance between Venice and Milan. Through the extension and application of this clause, the Peace of Lodi achieved its lasting historical value. Cosimo de’ Medici brought Florence into the new alliance on August 30. Naples joined the following January, and Nicholas V sanctioned the treaty a month later. In an official announcement from Rome on March 2, 1455, the five principal Italian powers bound themselves in a defensive league for a quarter of a century. The smaller Italian states soon agreed to follow suit, until all but Genoa and Rimini were members.

Venice, Milan, Florence, the Papacy, and Naples established an Italian League Italian League through which they pledged to defend one another in the event of attack from powers outside Italy, especially the anticipated invaders from the East. Venice committed six thousand cavalry and two thousand infantry to assist against foreign aggression, and the others pledged like forces. All signatories accepted existing territorial boundaries, and each vowed to consult the other before altering individual military or diplomatic arrangements that might upset the common peace. Though uneasy at times and not always successful in preventing minor wars between individual Italian states, the overall peace endured for almost forty years until the French invasion of 1494.

Another critical dimension of the treaty was the establishment of a balance among the several powers of Italy. In the north, Venice, though the strongest individual state in the peninsula, found its might counterbalanced by a union between Milan and Florence. In a like manner, the Papacy checked Naples in the south. Though each state continued to place its own interests first and the balance was not always a comfortable one, it did serve to constrain the aspirations of individual states at the expense of their neighbors and to stabilize Italian affairs for nearly half a century.


The Peace of Lodi generally preserved the peace in Italy for nearly forty years. It maintained a balance of power and discouraged any state from appealing to outside force to augment its authority at the expense of a neighboring state. It encouraged military and diplomatic cooperation among the signatories.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the Peace of Lodi and its collateral agreements was in the area of diplomacy. By 1460, resident ambassadors became a permanent feature among the principal secular powers of Italy. The exchange of such ambassadors was bilateral from the outset, except for the Papacy, which received ambassadors but did not send them. Naples was the last secular state to set up resident ambassadors: King Alfonso I sent one to Venice in 1457 and another to Milan the next year. Smaller states and principalities were considerably slower and less consistent in establishing their own ambassadors.

The development of the resident ambassador system resulted from the need for the Italian League’s member states to consult about common threats on a regular basis. This system replaced the earlier custom of sending an ambassador or envoy to another state only for a specific purpose and a clearly defined period of time. The practice was quickly imitated across Europe and later became the cornerstone of the global system of diplomacy. Even the Italian word ambasciatore came to be universally adopted.

The Italian states entrusted their ambassadors with special authority to negotiate on their behalf and over time created the structures of permanent embassies. During the later half of the fifteenth century, the standard house and personal staff for an embassy came to include ten to twelve men with a complement of six to eight horses. The staff was paid for by the ambassador and responsible to him. In the same period, states began to provide their resident ambassadors with secretaries. The first to adopt this custom were the Venetians and Florentines. Diplomatic secretaries were separately appointed and separately paid. As time passed, they became a bridge between ambassadorial appointments, remaining at their posts when an ambassador resigned, retired, or was recalled, and thereby represented diplomatic continuity, as well as providing informed instruction for new appointees.

The new, resident embassies served, according to Renaissance historian Francesco Guicciardini, as the “eyes and ears” of their governments, gathering daily information, preparing detailed reports, and sending them to their home governments through diplomatic couriers on a steady basis. The Venetians, in particular, excelled in collecting thorough intelligence about all political figures, customs, practices, and physical characteristics of those countries where embassies were received and their relazioni became the standard against which all other reports were measured. Rome remained the center of the Italian diplomatic community, receiving ambassadors but not sending any. The city functioned throughout the Renaissance as a place to train future diplomats, because each state was careful to send only its most experienced there to serve. Thus, would-be ambassadors had an opportunity to learn from the very best diplomats of their time.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Crouzet-Pavan, Elisabeth. Venice Triumphant: The Horizons of a Myth. Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. A history of Venice from Roman times through the sixteenth century, focusing on the physical environment of the city and the effects of geography and space upon Venetian daily life, politics, and history. Includes photographic plates, illustrations, maps, chronology, glossary, bibliography, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hale, John. The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance. New York: Atheneum, 1994. A scholarly, readable though traditional survey of the period by a leading English scholar.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kirschner, Julius, ed. The Origins of the State in Italy, 1300-1600. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Collection of essays, all originally published in the Journal of Modern History, discussing the development, interrelations, culture, and politics of the early modern Italian states. Includes bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mallett, M. E., and J. R. Hale. The Military Organization of a Renaissance State: Venice, c. 1400 to 1617. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Examines the relationship between the Venetian government and its mercenary armies; illustrates the development of a standing army.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mattingly, Garrett. Renaissance Diplomacy. Reprint. New York: Dover, 1988. Originally published in 1955, this work is a classic study of diplomacy and the development of diplomatic institutions in Renaissance Italy and Europe.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Nicol, Donald M. Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Surveys relations between the two cultures culminating in the fall of Constantinople.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pyle, Cynthia M. Milan and Lombardy in the Renaissance: Essays in Cultural History. Rome: La Fenice, 1997. Collection of essays on the culture of Renaissance Milan. Includes illustrations, bibliographic references, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Setton, Kenneth M. The Papacy and the Levant, 1204-1571. 4 vols. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1976-1984. Describes military, political, and diplomatic history of Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire leading to the Battle of Lepanto. Rich in detail.

1454-1481: Rise of the Ottoman Empire

1463-1479: Ottoman-Venetian War

1481-1499: Ludovico Sforza Rules Milan

Sept., 1494-Oct., 1495: Charles VIII of France Invades Italy

Apr. 11, 1512: Battle of Ravenna

Sept. 13-14, 1515: Battle of Marignano

Oct. 7, 1571: Battle of Lepanto

Categories: History