Hilarious History: War over a Bucket


The Oaken Bucket War (Battle of Zappolino)

To some, taking something that doesn’t belong to you is a harmless prank. To others, it can result in a war, like it did in 1325 Italy.

The Battle of the Bucket was an incident that built up over time with a bit of a complicated backstory. Italy was a divided country with tensions high for decades. The division was caused by a difference in beliefs in politics and religion. The factions were called Ghibellines and Guelphs. The Ghibelline faction supported the Holy Roman Emperor and the Guelph faction supported the Pope. This division had gone on since Medieval times and even though the conflict between the pope and the emperor was over, their supporters continued to clash.
The conflict between the border of the Italian city of Bologna, a Guelph city, and it’s neighbor Modena, a Ghibelline city, intensified in the months leading up to the battle of the bucket. The final straw was when a group of Modena soldiers, maybe for laughs, maybe for malicious intent, who knows, decided to sneak into the town center of Bologna where sat a bucket filled with treasures from the city’s well. They brought it back to their bell tower, called “Torre della Ghirlandina.”
Bologna demanded Modena return the bucket, and when Modena refused, Bologna declared war.

Bologna assembled over 30,000 men and marched against Modena, and 7,000 Modena soldiers met them at the border. The battle ensued until Bologna fled, but when the smoke cleared, about 2,000 men on each side lay dead.

The Guelph v.s. Ghibelline wars continued for the next couple centuries before finally making peace with each other in 1529 when they had no choice but to unite when Charles of Spain seized control of Italy.

To this day, the bucket that sparked that war and caused the death of 4,000 men still sits in the Torre della Ghirlandina.


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