Friday, March 6, 2009

History of Piedmont and its language

The following is another entry from Insubria87, and is from his entry on the PAL Yahoo Group, entitled 'History of Piedmont and its language.'

History of Piedmont and its language


These short notes are certainly not exhaustive and probably not completely accurate. I hope, anyway, that possible errors are not so big. As already said, I try to do a good work, in spite of all my limits. My goal is to give something acceptable. Of cours, if someone wants to know exactly or know more on the subject, he would better to find books written by "true experts". Some valuable researchers have written very interestng books about. If these few notes are able to stmulate some interest on the subject, it would already be a good success.

The Palaeolithic period

We have some traces of inhabitants in Piedmont that go back to at least 100,000 years ago. About that period we do not know so much. Certainly there were very few people in the Paleolithic age. The piedmontese land was surely inhospitable, cold and wild. The lowland was marshy, hills and low mountais were covered by intricate forrests, higher on mountains the ice was the king.

From Neolithic to Romans
In the Neolithic period, the situation was better. We know about villages, hunters and farmers, and people were much more. Beyond things of the common life, they left us a number of engravings , rupestrian inscriptions, whose meaning is not yet completely clear. We know something more about the first inhabitants of Piedmont starting from about 2000 years B.C. In the area there were people that we now call "Ligurians". This population, probably, didn't have an indo-european root and language, and probably, they came from Iberian region. This population was distributed in South of the present France, and in North-West of the present Italy.

We know that, at the beginning of the Bronze Age, the alpine passes of Monsnever, Monsniss, Gran San Bernard, Cit San Bernard where already used. Piedmont exported copper and imported tin. In the Iron Age the Piedmont started to exchange goods eastward with the plane of the Po.

About 700 years B.C. another population reached the Piedmont, coming from the present France and Switzerland. This popularion was called "Celts". They were bellicose people, if we consider the large amount of arms that could be found, but, probably due to the fact that they came in little groups for a long period, they merged completely with Ligurians without fighting and gave origin at a new population, so called Celt-Ligurians, a new language, new traditions, as a result of this complete merging. We don't have a direct knowledge of their language, even if we can notice, without any doubt, in piedmontese, some words coming from their language, and some toponyms. For example the present word "dru" (meaning "fruitful") is coming from celtic, as well as the place-names ending by ...asch, ....asca (Beinasch, Cherasch, Airasca, val Germanasca, and so on).

Etruscans, starting from Tuscany, enlarged their territory northward up to the present Lombardy, but they did not enter in Piedmont. Anyway they had some commercial basis in Piedmont. Greeks had a colony on south of France (territory of the present Marseille), and they had some interaction with Piedmont. The relation with nearneighbours were anyway not so strong to influence heavily the life in Piedmont, that remained quite isolated. This also produced a delay in adopting new technologies.

The Romans
The first contacts with Romans happened about the year 200 b. C. The occasion was the end of the wars between Rome and Carthago. During these wars the piedmontese tribes supported Carthago (Hannbal crossed the Piedmont with his army) and the fact was a reason for Romans to start the occupation of Piedmont. At the beginning, and for many years, they just enter the eastern part of the region, and had a couple of strongholds immediately West the Ticino river. They only did some incursions westward. In that period Romans were not yet interested in Alpine passes toward Europe.

In the first century b. C. it became important, to Rome, having safe ways toward Europe, Gaul and Helvetia (present France and Switzerland). So they pushed more in deep their occupation, in order to have the control of the ways through the mountains. There were many local wars and revolts in controlled territories, up to the year 25 b. C. when Augustus won the battle against Salassi and got the militar control of the region. From one side, a part of piedmontese population tried to keep away Romans seeking for freedom in high walleys on mountais, on the other side Romans didn't like Piedmont, an inhospitable land, cold and populated by hostile inhabitants, far away from Roman culture.

Only after the death of the emperor Nero, and the following civil war (about 70 a. C.) a true latinization of the region started. Latin (even if just known by few people) and local celtic-ligurian language started to mix, giving rise at the basis for a neo-Latin language, in which the celtic root was very influent. As it was usual for Romans, a part of the conquered land was assigned to legionaries that left the military service. Often these legionaries came from different parts of the Empire, and this added ethnic and linguistic elements. In the fourth century Piedmont was involved in the war between Constantine and Maxentius. After this war Constantine, in order to strengthen the roads defence, moved in Piedmont quite a number of Sarmatians, while a colony of Dalmatians was already present in the Augusta Taurinorum (Turin) area. Also these facts introduced further ethnic and linguistic elements. But at this point in time the Roman Emperor was starting the last, final crisis.

Starting from the years around 300 a.C. the Roman Empire had to face at a problem. Populations near its border were pressing and trying to enter in the territory of the Empire. In turn, these populations were pushed towards the Empire by tribes coming from Asia. For a while Rome was able to manage the situation, by letting some tribes to enter inside borders, and by controllig these movings. But the Empire was too large, and Romans had lost the past force. They were no more a monolithic structure and they had also to face at a series of internal fights. Submitted populations became more and more hostile.

The Christianity in Piedmont
The Christianity arrived in Piedmont at the end of the third century and beginning of the fourth century. It was first, probably, introduced by merchants and travellers. In fact in the first years the new religion was mixed with previous creeds, giving raise to something not so orthodox. Then in Piedmont there were great bishops like Saint Gaudentius, Saint Eusebius, Saint Maximus that brought Christianity on the correct way. After the Edict of Milan that recognized officially the Christianity, bishops in Piedmont gained a large importance, and becomes reference points, also for culture e civilization. Even more when barbarians that had invaded Italy became Christians. This was particularly important in the dark period that was coming.

The Barbarians
Populations outside the Empire borders were called Barbarian, their civilization level was quite low, but they were very strong and determinated. So, at a given time, the situation went out of the Rome's control, and the infiltrations became true invasions. Barbarian large tribes began to occupy and devastate the Europe.

The Empire was no more in the position of reacting efficiently. It was subdivided into two parts, the western with Rome as a capital and the eastern with Constantinople as a capital. At the end of fourth century Italy was directly involved in barbarian invasions. In Piedmont, after some success, Romans were quickly no more in the position of controlling alpine passes, so bands of marauders arrived from Alps destrojing and robbing. All sort of populations crissed the Piedmont, and at the same time all the roman organization was ruining.

The wester Empire ruined and ended in the year 476, and Italy remains under the dominion of Odoacre, king of Erulians. The Piedmont, in a first time, was quite a fringe area with respect these events.

At the back of Alps in Gaul, the population of Burgundians occupied the territory, while a new barbarian population, the Ostrogoths With their king Theodoric, invaded Italy from north-east. So Burgundians, in war against Ostrogoths, invaded and wasted the Piedmont in order to stop Ostrogoths. Theodoric won the war and occupied Piedmont. He managed to surveil alpine passes, and for some years Piedmont had a bit of rest. A goth, Sisige, some years later, became a governor in part of Piedmont, and had a sort of dukedom. Around the year 550 the eastern Roman Empire managed for a while to reconquere Italy. Sisige became an allied of the Empire, and maintained his position.

Longobards and Franks
In the year 568 (or 569?) a new invasion took place. A complete population, the Longobards coming from the central Europe, occupied the Po Walley, and enlarged this occupation up to Piedmont. Beyond the Alps Burgundians and Franks were pressing, They occupied high walleys, on mountains, and the border line between Franks and Longobards was near the end of walleys, toward the Po Walley. The piedmontese territory was subdivided in dukedoms controlled anyway by the Longobard king. It is difficult to evaluate how many Longobards moved and stayed on piedmontese territory. We know anyway that in that period, not only Longobards lived in Piedmont, but also colonies of other European populations like Bulgarians and Saxons. Certainly the Piedmont received an ethnical and linguistic contribution from Longobards. Also Longobard language left in Piedmontese some words and some toponyms. For example the place-names ending by ...engh, ...enga are nouns of Longobard origin (Murisengh, Aramengh, and so on).

Equilibrium between Longobards and Franks was quite unstable. Longobards menaced the pope's territory, the pope asked for help at Franks, and the war started. Of course Piedmont was the first territory invaded. It was about the middle of VII century. Franks were the winners, and the Longobard kingdom disappeared.

The whole Europe became then the frankish Carolingian Empire. Piedmontese people and Franks had a common Celthic root, and in better times, commercial contacts were frequent between the two populations. Further linguistic and ethnic elements were absorbed by Piedmont.

Piedmont was again subdivided into marchlands. The fights among these marchlands characterized for long time the history of Piedmont. Also Carolingians, as already had done Longobards after their conversion to Cristianity, had to look for help of Bishops and Abbeys in order to moderate the civil power, which, being very decentralized, was also hardly controlled. Local Vassals, in their marchland, were actually sovereigns, and gave rise at a very complex plot of alliances, fights, marriages, in order to obtain rights and favours and increase their power. In this period, Curias and Abbeys were the depositaries and carekater of the culture. They also had some privileges, given by the Emperor.

The Saracens and Hungars
At the end of IX century (year 887) the Carolingian Empire flaked off and was subdivided into the tree kingdoms of Germany, France, Italy. But at the same time the problem for Europe was Saracens raids and invasions. Saracens managed to have a stable base on the mediterranean coast of France (Provence), and from this point they, in X century they did raids and occupations in Piedmont (that sometime lasted for years). Western Alps and North-West Apennines have quite a number of "Saracens towers", and toponyms that can be referred to Saracens. Alpine passes became impracticable, the abbey of Novalesa (an important abbey in Susa's walley) was destrojed. These facts slowed downd the development of the region, but certainly brought cultural and technical elements that would have been useful later, and added also some ethnic element in the region.

From East other raids came, that arrived quite close to Turin, made by Hungars. Local Vassals, always fighting among them, were not able to oppose efficently, at least up to the end of X century, when the problem was solved.

After these events, what about language?
From what we have seen so far, we note that Piedmont was a "border land", where many different people passed and stayed. The starting basis of the language was a mix of Ligurian and Celtic. On this basis the Latin was inserted, even if Piedmont was always marginal to the Rome's culture. Then German (Gothic and Longobard) and French cultural and linguistic elements were added, as well as, but at a lower level, mainly Saracens elements (Hungarians probably did not influence so much, in this sense).

The structure of the language was taken from Latin, that was "adapted" to the Celthic-Ligurian preceding language, and enriched with many other linguistical elements coming from North Europe, and the most important influence was from Franks, whose language had a common root with the language of the region. The preceeding history arrives to the year 1000 more or less. The official language is the Latin, but people does not speak anymore Latin. In the region probably different languages are spoken, but they have a common structure. Latin words are changing, and the way in which they change in Piedmont is dfifferent from the way these words change in Florence or in Rome. Certainly in Piedmont there is a strong French influence, but it is not possible to conclude that Piedmontese and French or Piedmontese and Provençal could be the same language, probably not even in the year 1000. Even more there is difference between Piedmontese and Italian, and this would have appeared when written documents had been compared. At that moment the only writings were in Latin.

Certainly, in this period, very few people was able to write and read, and probably these were the only people knowing Latin. Probably this is the reason for the first piedmontese writing we know. It is of some year around 1150, and is a collection of Sermons (see the section "literature"). Sermons translated in the tongue of people in order to be understood. For characteristics of this language see the section "An independent language".

The first Princes in Piedmont
The medieval history of Piedmont, in particular in its first part, was extremely complex. A short summary is difficult and hardly could be acceptably precise. In spite of this we try to do it. The context was a kingdom of Italy that was more theoretical than practical, due to the fights among who supposed his rignt of being the king. A german king that became also king of Italy and founded a new Empire. The Pope was often in contrast with the Emperor, trying to preserve his independence, while he was losing political influence. Curias and Abbeys were not any more the civil and cultural reference. The great powers (like the Emperor) needed the help of little local Lords, and in order to obtain loyalty the higher levels of the power gave rights and lands to the lower levels. The fight was potentially of all against all, and in this scenario alliances (not so stable) and marriages, questoin of inheritance, and so on, produced a deep tangle, in which declared enemies were less dangerous than relatives of family.

The evolution of carolingian feuds in Piedmont put in evidence Arduino (the Marquis of Ivrea), Olderico Manfredi (the Marquis of Turin) and his daughter Adelaide. Around thiese subjects the first part of the game was played. Arduino obtained to be recognized as King of Italy, but the role became useless when, immediately after, the king of Germany became Emperor also in Italy. The marchland of Ivrea disappeared and Olderico Manferdi obtained some rights on it. The daughter Adelaide inheritates the rights on Turin and Ivrea, and after a series of marriagesin which always remained widow, married Oddone, the son of Umberto Biancamano, duke of Savoy. Adelaide, widow again, became Lord over Savoy, Turin and Ivrea. When Adelaide deaded, the son Umberto II, had serious problems in assuming the control of the state, since others were pretending rights on Turin. Umberto II was compelled to leave Turin, that stayed under the control of Bonifacio del Vasto. In the meanwhile the Dauphin occupied part of the high walleys of the Turin marchland. For the moment the Savoy could not re-obtain the piedmontese territory.

Other two Marquisates assumed a great importance in the region: The Marquisate of Saluzzo (Salusse) and the Marquisate of Monferrato (Monfrà). For growing attempts or for surviving, these marquisates were involved in more or less continuous wars, at which also the Visconti of Milan participated with the scope of expanding the ducate of Milan towards Piedmont.
But a new democratic experience was raising, the Communes. These city-republics were changing the map of the power, and the opposition to this by preceding Lords and Emperor were preparing other wars.

The period of Communes
Birth and development of the Communes, in Piedmont was characterized by complex events and fights. Starting from about the century XII some Piedmontese cities, and other cities in northern and central Italy experienced a type of self goverment, more or less democratic (as far as we can speak of democracy in that period). An opposition to these communes, mainly came from the Marquis of Monfrà, even more than from the Emperor. This one, in fact, was not absolutely against the experience, but tried to maintain the control on communes. In this play, alternatively some communes were allied of the Emperor and some other against. In this context, the Savoy House continued to attempt of re-obtaining the lands of what it was the marchland of Adelaide. Still they didn't reach the goal, even if they could have some lands to the prejudice of the marquisates of Salusse and of Monfrà. In the piedmontese communes, for writing regulations and similar, often was used the Piedmontese, and some of these documents are still preserved in some archives.

Charles D'Angiò
In this context appeared on the political scenario of Piedmont, Charles D'Angiò, the brother of the France's king Louis IX. Charles D'Angiò married a daughter of the Count of Provence. He entered in Piedmont from Nice and the Roya walley. Beyond the Tende pass he arrived in Cuneo (Coni) territory, and went toward Turin. He didn't had a strong army, but he offered concrete advantages to Piedmontese cities, mainly for commerce, since it would be easier to bring goods to the sea. Besides, between Piedmontese and Provençal people there were a good feeling. Then, also the internal fights made it week the region. The only sir that could oppose was the Monreà's Marquis, but this latter was trying to conquere Alessandria and preferred to find a compromise with Charlles D'Angiò. Provençals then occutied lands o the prejudice of the marquisates of Salusse and of Monfrà and the state of Savoy.

Angevins has also occupied the southern Italy and defeated Swabians. This determined an easy expansion of Angewins also in Piedmont.

The Pontifical state was worried of these successes, and organized an alliance against Angewins. This alliance compelled Charles D'Angiò to leave the Piedmont. The Savoy, of course, attempted to utilize the situation for re-otain Turin and its land.

Influences on language
We saw before that an old form of Piedmontese was used in XII century for writing texts mainly of religious character. We have already seen that during the Communes period, Piedmontese was used for regulations and other similar documents. Certainly French and Provençal languages, in the Angewin period had way of influencing the tongue of Piedmont. In any case this influence was on lexicon, and was only marginal on structure. In fact we can notice something in syntax, but grammar remained quite original, with particularities that are not present in French and Provençal and, of course, not in Italian. A further French and Provençal influence tere was when Waldenses were compelled to leave France and found refuge in piedmontese alpine walleys. Still nowadays, in Piedmont, Waldensian walleys are of French mother tongue. Finally we don't have to ferget the French origins of Savoy House. Beyond Piedmontese, (and Provençal on mountains), in Piedmont French language was more used than Italian. French and Provençal culture heavily influenced the Piedmontese culture.

Savoy and Acaja
Whwn Charles D'Angiò left the Piedmont, the Savoy was in the condition of having back their old piedmontese territories and of re-entering in Turin. For inheritance problems, the Savoy House was subdivided into three branches. One of the three, whose holder was Philip of Savoy, had the piedmontese territories. Also the Marquis of Salusse was under the influence of Savoy, even if not part of the State. Philip of Savoy married Isabel of Villehardouin which was the holder of a lordship on Morea and Acaja. It was just a theoretical lordship, but nevertheless Philip of Savoy took the appellation of "Prince of Acaja". The piedmontese branch of Savoy House was called the "princely branch", the french one was called the "ducal branch", and the third was the "Vaud branch".

The century XIV
There were internal fights in a large and important Commune in Piedmont, the city of Asti (Ast). The marquis of Monfrà, always trying to re-conquere the city, was engaged in this question. Other actors on the piedmontese scene were Acaja, Savoy that continued to interfere, marquisates of Monrà and Salusse, other piedmontese communes, and the Visconti, lords of Milan, that wanted to expand their lands toward Piedmont. A complex situation in which the borders of the various states were continuously changing.

In this situation, Charles II D'Angiò, recognized the opportunity of re-entering in Piedmont. As in the first time for his parent, also in that moment he could easily occupy a very large land. Still that time the power of Angevins was not based on army, indeen quite poor, but on favour of population, that had advantages, and on the actual absence of a true oppositor.

Around the half of '300, a dangerous fact happened for Savoy and Acaja. The marquis of Salusse left the marquisate to the Dauphin, of whom he became a vassal. In this way the Dauphin became a serious problem for Savoy and Acaja, and in fact the Dauphin managed to occupy some lands on Savoyard mountains, and few years later the Dauphinate was annexed to the powerful France, that became the direct oppositor to Savoy.

Then Savoy took the direct control of some piedmontese land, the Acaja saw their importance reduced, the Visconti of Milan managed to obtain some territories in Piedmont. From Amadeus IV (so called Green Count) on, Savoy acquired more importance in Piedmont. In Europe the Hundred Years' War was in progress, and it would have been followed by the war between France and Spain. In this context Angewins were defeated again and left Piedmont.

The Piedmont toward a Savoyard State
In 1418 the Acaja dinasty extinguished, and Amadeus VIII took again the lordship of Piedmont. The first-born of Savoy Dukes assumed the title of "Prince of Piedmont".

At the beginning of '400, the cities of Vercelli (Versèj), Novara (Noara), Alessandria (Lissàndria) and Tortona (Torton-a) were under the control of Visconti (Milan). Also Asti (Ast) and Ceva were two cities under the Visconti's control. These two cities came back to Savoy for a usual, but in this case complex, mechanism of inheritance, marriages and peace treary of one of the continuous wars of the period (in 1531 the end of the process). The dinasty of the Marquis of Monfrà extinguished, but the Savoy couldn't obtain it. The Emperor assigned it to the Duke of Mantua. In the same time, the France occupied the Savoyard lands in Piedmont and used the Piedmont as a basis for the war against Spain in Italy. Also Spanish soldiers entered and fighted in Piedmont. For about 27 years the Piedmont was considered a French land. In 1548 also the dinasty of Marquis of Salusse estinguished and the marquisate was annexed to France. In the meanwhile Spanish conquered Ast (the well known city) and Santhià (another city on the way between Turin and Milan). From a linguistical point of view, this was still a period of french influence on piedmontese lexicon, and spanish as well. As far as literature is concerned, this period was too dreadful for leaving room at it.

At the end of the French-Spanish war (peace treary of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559) Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy had again the lordship on the Savoyard lands in Piedmont, and in 1574 had back from Spain the cities of Ast and Santhià. Around the end of '500 the Savoy ducate included the french Savoy and the Piedmont without the cities of Novara, Tortona, Alessandria, without the marquisate of Monfrà, and without the lands that had been the marquisate of Salusse. The Dauphinate (France) still included the high walleys of Susa and Chisone (westward Turin). Then the religion wars started and Charles Emanuel I of Savoy was able to occupy the lands Salusse, that became part of the Savoy state in the year 1601.

In that period alliances were changing quickly. At the beginning of XVII century Piedmont and France are allied against Spanish (which were in Milan). But then the Piedmont found a compromise with Spain for a subdivision of the marquisato of Monfrà. In this way the Piedmont was again in contrast with France. In the meanwhile still a question arose of regency in minor age of the Duke. The regency was of Royal Madam Cristine, very connected with France (she called herself "Cristine of France"), and again actually the Piedmont became a vassalage of the France's king. In these circumstances the Cardinal Richelieu attempted to annex Piedmont to France. But again things were changing.
This was the period in which the Piedmontese language reached its completion.

Completion of the piedmontese territory
The Savoy fighted two wars against the marquisate of Monfrà, in correspondence to problems of succession in the marquisate, and they managed to obtain a part of the same. But they had to leave Pinareul and Casal, two piedmontese cities, to the French. The Duke Victor Amadeus II, in the year 1696 participated at an alliance against France. The alliance had the scope of avoiding France from becoming too powerful in Europe. The Duke obtained again, as a result, the city of Pinareul.

Then he inserted the Piedmont in the Succession War to throne of Spain and obtained Casal, all the Monfrà, Alessandria, Valensa, the Lomellin-a, the Valsesia and the alpine piedmontese valleys that were of the Dauphinate. We were in the year 1713. In this war, against France, a famous siege of Turin (year 1706) is located. We will speak of it immediately after. Following the events of this war, Victor Amadeus II became also king of Sicily, but then England, France, Holland and Empire (Germany) decided to change Sicily with Sardinia, and then Victor Amadeus II became king of Sardinia (the title will then changed in king of Italy in 1861, but we will see this later).

The other Succession Wars in Europe were the pretext, for Piedmont to complete its territory. Piedmont participated to the Polish Succession War and obtained in 1738, Novara and Tortona, two cities eastward of Turin, up to the river Ticine. Then, with the participation to the Austrian Succession War 1748, all the region became part of the Savoy state. In this war there was the Battle of Assietta, whose anniversary is celebrated each year as the Piedmont Day, that brought quickly at the end of the war. We will speak of this battle immediately after After these events piedmontese people was aware of being a nation, little but strong, and they were proud of that. The literature and theatre in Piedmontese became important, and we had grammars and vocabularies.

Anyway the Piedmont is not rich. Many people moved from country to the cities, since life in country was very poor, but also the city couldn't offer better conditions for all. To become a good nation, the most of the work had still to be done.

Siege of Turin (1706)
In 1705 French army had some success against Piedmont, and in 1706 French came back to Piedmont quite easily and besieged Turin, decided to conquere it. The duke Victor Amadeus left the city under the command of the Count Daun and he went around in Piedmont to collect troups. He asked for help to his cousin the Prince Eugene, who in that moment was in Austria, and had to open his way toward the North of Italy. But there was not so much time, since Turin was more or less completely without any supply of provisions. The siege lasted 117 days, in which fell on the city about 150,000 shells of artillery. All the citizens were engaged in defense, and also women were actively operating, and even obtained the appreciation of French themselves: "voilà des femmes capables de faire la guerre aux diables". The fragments of the shells that fell on the city were collected, re-cast and used for doing other shells to send back to the French.

Piedmontese army had some experts in "mine war". Starting from the walls of the city, a net of galleries ran toward and sometime under the French positions. There were hidden passages to outside, and each gallery had one or more mines. The scope was to observe (by earing the noises or exiting in the night) and possibly to put explosive under places like batteries of guns, or other. This also compelled enemies to put artillery at higher distance. The mines had also the scope of blocking galleries that could be discovered by enemy. During the siege, one day some French soldiers discovered the external access to one of the galleries. Two Piedmontese soldiers were on sentry-duty close to the mine. One of them was a young recruit unexpert, and the other a very experienced miner. when they noticed the presence of French in the gallery, the old soldier saw that the short fuse required by the short time was too short.

Then he sent away his companion and then tried to use all his experience. He put fire and attempted to go. He was alone at the moment of blast and so it is difficult to know what happened. He dead in the blast and he was considered an hero. His name was Pietro Micca. Nowadays it is possible to visit those galleries, the places for mines and all the equipment for the mine war in the underground meseum "Pietro Micca". Victor Amadeus managed to collect a sufficient army and Eugene managed to arrive near Turin. They launched the attack against French starting from the hill of Superga. Before the attack Victor Amadeus solemny promised fo building a church on the hill in case of victory. Also Torineses, exiting the walls lauched their attack, and the French had to leave the siege, right on time, since ammunitions were finished, and no more than 200 pounds of powder remained in all the city.

The battle of Assietta - Noiàutri i bogioma nen
We are in the context of the Austrian Succession War. Piedmont is allied with Austria, against France and Spain. The year is 1747 we are in summer. 50,000 French and Spanish soldiers cross the Montgeneve pass heading to Turin, that is nearly 90 km eastward. This is not the main attack, but is certainly consistent and essential for the campaign. From Montgeneve to Turin there are two "normal" ways. The first down to the Susa valley, but in the valley, at Exilles, there is a powerful fortess, (still nowadays it is impressive - it is now a museum) and this fortess is further protected by Brunetta's redoubt, able to pound with its artillery any places in wich it is possible to put guns against the fortess. The second way is the Chison's valley, where at Fenestrelle, there is another sistem of fortess that occupies all the valley and develops for 600 meters in height from the bottom of the valley up toward the mountain.

The French army, under the command of General Belle-Isle, tries the only possible alternative for avoiding fortesses: to reach the Assietta pass, on the ridge between the two valleys and go on the ridge toward the plane for a while. The french army has 40 infantry battailons, 5 cavalry squadrons and 13 pieces of artillery.

The Assietta pass is at 2472 meters in height, there is a plane on the pass and on the side two spurs, little mountains called Testa dl'Assiëtta and Testa dël Gran Seren. Then on the ridge there is another pass that has to be surveilled: the Còl dle Fnestre. The area is protected by piedmontese soldiers together with some Austrian and Swiss soldieds. The total amount of soldiers is about 7500 units, including a battailon of Waldesian volunteers that defense the Còl dle Fnestre.

Probably the General Belle-Isle, in organizing the attack, underevaluates the defense capability of Piedmonteses (and their hard head). He knows that Piedmontese are few and with problems of ammunitions and nearly complete lack of artillery (indeed, Piedmontese have six pieces of artillery and four light mortars, the only easy to move on that ground).

19th July 1747, at dawn the French move toward the pass. They are subdivided into three columns. The first heads toward the plane of the pass, the second towards the Testa dl'Assiëtta, and the third towards the Testa dël Gran Seren. Only at 11 a.m. the first column arrives near the pass. The French are immediately aware that defenders are short of ammunitions since they do not open fire even if the French are in the range. They, then, wait for another column that reach the attack positions.

After a while the column that have to attack the Testa dl'Assiëtta arrives, and the attack starts. In front of the first column there are piedmontese, austrian and swiss soldiers. They allow the French to come very close and then open fire. One of defenders' battailon is on a side of French, which are compelled to stop and go back. The french column that attack the Testa dl'Assiëtta manages to gain some positions, but is soon stopped. Ammunitions are nearly finished for Piedmonteses and they use bayonets and rocks. It seems odd a defense with rocks, but who knows the mountain, also knows that rocks can be extremely dangerous in mountain. The last piedmontese reserve, the battailon Casal, is launced in the battle.

The general Belle-Isle goes by person among his soldiers, but is killed. In the meanwhile the third column is arrived and attackes the Gran Seren. Defenders are behaving well, but the piedmontese head commander, the General Count of Bricherasio is afraid that the French can pass on Gran Seren and attack on the side the plane of the pass, and so he sends to the General Alciati and general Count of San Sebastian the order of leaving the Testa dl'Assiëtta, and go toward the plane. This is a manoeuvre that supposes a retreat and a difficult attempt of defense in a more difficult position, but it can also avoid a great risk for soldiers.

Alciati only sends back some little reserve, while the Count of San Sebastian sends back the messenger with the answer "Noiautri i bogioma nen" (We don't move). The head commander repeats the order but the Count of San Sebastian answers that he can stay on the place but he cannot go back since it would be too dangerous. The head commander does not believe that this second answer could be true and sends again the order. This time the Count of San Sebastian does not answer at all, since his grenadiers are repelling with bayonets the last french attack. The French, in fact have to notice that it is not possible to pass, and decide to leave the battle. From the answer "Noiautri i bogioma nen" comes the applellation for Piedmonteses "Bogia nen" (don't move).

This victory was important for the end of the war. The French couldn't actuate the strategy they had supposed for the piedmontese campaign, and later were defeated. In the battle French lost 5300 men, Piedmonteses lost 192 men and austrian/swiss lost 27 men.
The day after valley-dwellings went on to collect wounded and dead soldiers. The scene they found was more dreadful than any immaginations.

Each year, the 19th of July, on the Assietta pass the Piemont Day is celebrated, with a historical memory of the battle.

In the meanwhile, what about Piedmontese language?
We already mentioned something about. We can consider that, for centuries, the piedmontese was the language generally spoken in Piedmont, and the most of the population didn't know well any other language, even if some Italian and some French were more or less in the baggage of all. Starting from the beginning of XVII century a stable and well shaped piedmontese language was used by people of culture for writing, as it was spoken, still without written rules (grammar) but anyway stable and used in the same way by all.

Piedmontese was the language of the army, since orders given in Italian or Franch would have had very few probability of being understood, and it was the language of commerce, since for example all the products coming from country where dealt in piedmontese (in countries largely the most of the people knew only piedmontese), but it was generally used also by nobles, even if there was a certain difference between the nobles' piedmontese and the people's piedmontese, as it is referred by some voyager of that time.

In XVIII century, after the Turin's siege and the related victory, piedmontese people can think at a piedmontese nation, and this is magnified by the victory in the war of 1747 - 1748. Now piedmontese people are proud of using piedmontese. In 1783 the first piedmontese grammar appeared, while there was a large production of piedmontese literature. Unluckily the political situation of Europe was changing again, and the French Revolution was exploding.

The Jacobin's revolts
As the whole Europe, also Piedmont was involved in French Revolution and related consequences. Revolutionary ideas found a fertile ground in some groups of piedmontese intellectuals. This was also reflected in piedmontese literature. The Piedmont participated at the first european alliance against France but without success. First of all the army was not the same of fifty years before, but also the alliance was not efficient and this time Austria didn't co-operated. The Piedmont had a first partial defeat and the French occupied part of Piedmont, and demonstrated to be quite rude and violent. In the subsequent peace treaty Piedmont didn't had so dreadful consequences, since the French attempted to convict Piedmont not to join another alliance against France. Piedmontese Jacobins tried to produce a popular insurrection, but just obtained a sort of guerrilla in the countries.

In the city of Alba, Jacobins managed to declare a Jacobin Repubblic, asking French for protection. As a revolutionary republic Alba was very strange, since in people the fidelity to monarchy, traditions and religion were deeply rooted. This experiment ended very soon. Jacobins was attempting to obtain the insurrection by appealing to the miserable life conditions in the countries, but without success, since the large majority of people were extraneous to the revolutionary ideas. Also an attempt of Jacobin invasion from the Lake Maggiore failed. The sign of Jacobin was, in that period, the orange cockarde. Nowadays the orange cockarde is part of the Piedmontese drapò (flag), in order to recall all the piedmontese hstory. In this period the king of Piedmont is Charles Emanuel IV, not a good king, which had to leave, in practice, the goverment to the French.

The French occupation and annexion to France
At the end of 1798 the king Carles Emanuel IV was compelled to find refuge in Sardinia. The French decided to invade the Piedmont before it could enter in the new alliance against France (Napoleon is in Egypt in tht year). In a first time there was in Piedmont a goverment imposed by France, and then the Piedmont was directly annexed to France, and piedmontese army was absorbed in the French army. Piedmont became first part of French Republic and then part of French Empire.

Again, n the countries there were revolts that were then organized in a true guerrilla, this time of the opposite party with respect the Jacobin gerrilla. Piedmont was Frencified but also considered something like a colony. From Sardinia Charles Emmanuel IV abdicated the throne in favour of the brother Victor Emmanuel I Duke of Aoste, in exile, anyway. New ideas brought a development, but mainly in favour of France, the French became the official language, even if it was necessary the use of Italian. The large majority of the people spok Piedmontese. From a linguistic point of view, this French parenthesis did not changed so much, since it lasted only 16 years.

From the Wien congress to the kingdom of Italy
When Napoleon was defeated, Victor Emmanuel I could re-enter in Turin. The congress of Wien assigned to Piedmont the old territoties and the Ligury. In 1815 the state of the Savoy House (kingdom of Sardinia) included the french Savoy, the Aoste valley, the Piedmont, the Nice territory with the Roya valley, the Ligury and the Sardinia. The Piedmont was the buffer state between France and Austria, that occupied the Lombardy and the North-West of Italy. The remaining of Italy was subdivided into many states, under Austrian influence, and the state of the Pope.

The king Victor Emmanuel I was a king completely aligned to the old order. He thaught that French Revolution could be just cancelled. He changed all the functionaries that operated under the French government, with old nobles, completely extraneous at any kind of modern ideas. The state was immediately "out fo date", and the culture was the first victim. The new management not only was unable to have new ideas, but even to have, simply, ideas. Anyway it alleared immediately that Austria and Piedmont had a lot of fighting reasons in the new European arrangement.

Liberal ideas began to circulate among intellectuals, high degrees of army, and rich middle-class families. Some years later in Spain and in the Neaples kingdom, a constitution was granted, and in Piedmont pressure was put on this point. Indeed it was clear that freedom and progress required a union or federation of italian states, under a democratic (as long as democracy had sense in that perion) goverment. Piedmont was the only state having the weight required to oppose to Austria, also in militar terms, but the first point was that Piedmont should become a constitutional state. Some revolt happened, but without success, since the most of people was extraneous to these ideas.

Certainly king Victor Emmanuel I was not the king suited for this passage, but at the same time was aware of being unable to manage the new situation of the state. So he abdicated the throne in favour of his brother Charles Felix, even more reactionary. The heir vas Charles Albert, that became king in 1831. Before being king he was quite in favour of liberal ideas and of a project on union of Italy, but it was extremely irresolute, and then he supposed that union of Italy could have priority on a Liberal state. He prepared a war against Austria, and attempted to have a support by the Pope. He granted anyway a constitution in 1848, and then, in the same year moved war to Austria entering in Lombardy on the pretext of an insurrection in Milan. The war campaign was carried on with errors and exitations, without a clear target. After an initial success, the conclusion was a disaster. This also was due to some misunderstandings with respect a possible support of the Papal States. After this defeat also Charles Albert abdicated in favour of Victor Emmanuel II, in 1849.

This new king, of different character, assumed with decision the way of unifying Italy. Certainly he was very clever in choosing his Ministers. In particular the ability of Camillo Benso Count of Cavour was extremely important to obtain the support of France and Geat Britain. On this purpose Piedmont participated to the war of Crimea.

In 1859 the Piedmont provoked an attack by Austria, and with the support of the French won the war that followed. In this way Lombardy and Venetia region were annexed to Piedmont. In the following year we had the expedition of Garibaldi in southern Italy that contributed at fall of the kingdom of two Sicilies that together the other italian states was annexed to Piedmont. In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II assumed the title of King of Italy. Rome and its region still was not part of the kingdom, and not all the territory southward the Alps was part of the kingdom. From this point in time on, the piedmontese history was melted with the italian history.

And about language?
For all the '800 the literary production was accompained by studies on Piedmontese, New grammars appeared and some new vocabularies. In 1930 also the piedmontese graphy was unified and aligned to the one of the first piedmontese grammar. In '800 we had a great season for piedmontese theatre. Piedmontese writers continue so far their literal production. So far more than 2,500,000 people speak Piedmontese as main language, and many piedmontese school have courses of Piedmontese tongue (regional law). In case someone doesn't know it, piedmontese is also the language of nomads Piedmontese Sinti, that are staying in Piedmont for 500 years, and teach piedmontese to their children.

The piedmontese language is extraneous to italian dialects (it belongs to a different class of neo-Latin languages) and is independent from French, Procençal, and Fench-Provençal. It has been recognized as a minority language by European Community and by experts all around the world (including UNESCO). Not by Italy (each democracy has some problems). It seems that in Italy the piedmontese language and culture still scare someone.


Dan said...

Good find! Thank you very much for posting this.

Hail Padania! :)

Camun said...


~for Kindred~