A History of Milan under the Sforza

By Cecilia M. Ady; Edward Armstrong | Go to book overview
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IN the little Romagnol town of Cotignola, on 28th May, 1369, the founder of the House of Sforza first saw the light. At that time Milan had not yet become a Duchy, although under the joint rule of Bernabò and Galeazzo Visconti, it was fast being welded into a State. The Italian soldier of fortune, moreover, was not yet a factor in politics. Only in 1379 did the Company of S. George, consisting purely of Italians, fight and win its first battle against the French mercenaries, who were threatening Rome in the interest of the anti-Pope. Hence the birth of the fifth son of Giovanni Attendolo excited no interest beyond the bounds of Cotignola. None could tell that the boy himself would become the chief of Italian condottieri. Still less could it be imagined that his son would one day mount the throne of Milan. Nevertheless, in the course of the next century both these feats were accomplished, and in Francesco Sforza's recognition as Duke of Milan the Italian soldier of fortune won his crowning triumph. During the years that intervened the peculiar characteristics of the condottiere system were developed, chief of which was the desire of every mercenary captain to make himself an independent prince. Not only did he need a State to support himself and his troops in time of peace, but it was the natural instinct of the hired soldier to aspire to the position of his employer, in order to become, in the words of


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