The last reading of Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus takes place from 1525 to 1527 and contains two sections entitled The Year of the Black Bands and The Year of the Lansquents. Leo is introduced to Giovanni de Medici in Bologna, where he learns of his past. Giovanni was the epitome of Italy, commanding an army of venal and generous, tyrannical and lovers of justice, indifferent to death, matching the characteristics of Giovanni himself. He had just entered the Pope’s service that year and he and his troops soon took the name of the Black Bands. Eventually, everyone referred to the man as Giovanni of the Black Bands. Leo travels with Giovanni and his men, the two becoming close along the journey. However, this is short lived. Giovanni is hit by a falconer’s ball and has his leg shattered during battle between the Black Bands and imperial armies from the north. Giovanni has his leg amputated but dies shortly after. Leo gives the man honor stating that he was one of the most courageous men he had ever met. Panic set in all over Rome, and with Giovanni dead it was as if the enemy was about to march through the front gates at any time.
I found the relationship between Giovanni and his son to be quite interesting. Leo was walking towards the Palazz Salviati when he heard the procession of Giovanni drawing close. He was accompanied by forty of his men, making his way down the street when he suddenly called out his son’s name, Cosimo and made his way to his window. The boy appeared, and Giovanni walked underneath the window, drawing his sword and telling his son to jump. Everyone but the two was shocked at what was happening. However, Cosimo jumped into the air and at the last minute, Giovanni puts his sword away and catches him in his arms, then holding him to the sky and asks how his prince had been, which is followed by laughter between Cosimo and his father. It is interesting to see this sort of father son relationship. I was close to my father but we never joked around like that and Giovanni did not spend a lot of time with his boy; today, a son would not be as accepting towards a father who was barely around but Cosimo seems to genuinely love his father.
First impressions sometimes prevent certain people from being given a chance. Giovanni gave the impression of being unpleasant to Leo, but this soon changed once the two spent some time together. My question is do you think being in a position like Giovanni’s would prevent someone from having a joyful, friend filled life or do you think these men accept positions knowing the sacrifice that must be made in order to be in command?