Lesson #288: Da Vinci and Machiavelli Try to Steal a River.

This might be the most awesome bit of random historical trivia I’ve come across in years.

Once upon a time, some artist/inventor/all around dude we have to thank for pretty much everything that has happened since the Renaissance called Da Vinci and some evil mastermind who became an adjective and fathered political science called Machiavelli decided to get together and steal the Arno river from Pisa.

Like you do.

In 1503, Florence was at war with neighbouring republic Pisa. Because Pisa was able to block Florence’s access to the sea, Florence was having internal problems on account of the Borgias wanting power, and both Florence and Pisa wanted control of the river Arno, Machiavelli and Da Vinci decided to put their heads together to figure out a way to sort out the Arno situation. Their plan? Divert the Arno away from Pisa leaving Florence as a port city.

After Da Vinci spent the summer of 1504 drawing up incredibly detailed maps of the Arno, construction began on the project that autumn.

Unfortunately, it was a massive failure. The technology of the time didn’t allow for fast, efficient digging of ditches (though apparently Da Vinci drew up plans for a machine to do the work) and the channels that were dug were too shallow for the project, so the river never followed its new course. Efforts were made to rectify the situation, but a storm caused much of it to collapse. The Pisans took care of what the storm left, and no new attempts were made at diverting the Arno.

You can read more about this here and here.


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