1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Meloria

MELORIA, a rocky islet, surrounded by a shoal, almost opposite Leghorn. It was the scene of two naval battles of the middle ages. The first, on the 3rd of May 1241, was fought between the fleet of the emperor Frederick II. Hohenstaufen, surnamed Stupor Mundi, in alliance with Pisa, against a Genoese squadron bringing a number of English, French and Spanish prelates to attend the council summoned to meet at the Lateran by Gregory IX. Three Genoese galleys were sunk and twenty-two taken. Several of the prelates perished, and many were carried prisoners to the camp of the emperor. The second, fought on Sunday the 6th of August 1284, was of higher historical importance. It was a typical medieval sea-fight, and accomplished the ruin of Pisa as a naval power. The long rivalry of that city and of Genoa had broken out for the last time in 1282, the immediate cause being the incompatible claims of the two cities to sovereignty over the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The earlier conflicts of the war in 1282, 1283 and the spring of 1284, had been unfavourable to Pisa. Though the city was united with the Catalans and with Venice in hostility to Genoa, and though it had chosen a Venetian, Alberto Morosini, as its Podesta, it received no help from either. The Genoese, who had the larger and more efficient fleet, sent their whole power against their enemy. When the Genoese appeared off Meloria the Pisans were lying in the river Arno at the mouth of which lay Porto Pisano the port of the city. The Pisan fleet represented the whole power of the city, and carried members of every family of mark and most of the great officers of state. The Genoese, desiring to draw their enemy out to battle, and to make the action decisive, arranged their fleet in two lines abreast. The first was composed according to Agostino Giustiniani of fifty-eight galleys, and eight panfili, a class of light galleys of eastern origin named after the province of Pamphylia. Uberto Doria, the Genoese admiral, was stationed in the centre and in advance of his line. To the right were the galleys of the Spinola family, and of four of the eight “ companies ” into which Genoa was divided—Castello, Piazzalunga, Macagnana and Son Lorenzo. To the left were the galleys of the Dorias, and of the other four companies, Porta, Soziglia, Porta Nuova and Il Borgo. The second line of twenty galleys, under the command of Benedetto Giacaria (or Zaccharie), was placed so far behind the first that the Pisans could not see whether it was made up of war-vessels or of small craft meant to act as tenders to the others. Yet it was near enough to strike in and decide the battle when the action had begun. The Pisans, commanded by the Podesta Morosini and his lieutenants Ugolino della Gherardescha and Andreotto Saraceno, came out in a single body. It is said that while the archbishop was blessing the fleet the silver cross of his arch-episcopal staff fell oif, but that the omen was disregarded by the irreverence of the Pisans, who declared that if they had the wind they could do without divine help. They advanced in line abreast to meet the first line of the Genoese, fighting according to the medieval custom to ram and board. The victory was decided for Genoa by the squadron of Giacaria which fell on the flank of the Pisans. Their fleet was nearly annihilated, the Podesta was taken, and Ugolino fled with a few vessels. As Pisa was also attacked by Florence and Lucca it could never recover the disaster. Two years later Genoa took Porto Pisano, and filled up the harbour. The count Ugolino was afterwards starved to death with several of his sons and grandsons in the manner made familiar by the 32nd canto of Dante's Inferno.

See Annali della repubblica di Genova, by Agostino Giustiniani (ed. Canepa, Genoa, 1854).  (D. H.)