condottiere (kōndōt-tyā´rā) [Ital.,=leader], leader of mercenary soldiers in Italy in the 14th and 15th cent., when wars were almost incessant there. The condottieri hired and paid the bands who fought under them. They dealt directly with the cities or states that requested their services and were responsible solely to them. They fought for the highest bidder, passing easily from one lord to another; this game proved dangerous and even fatal to more than one. Some condottieri had small states of their own, either inherited or acquired. The most famous were the Attendolos (founders of the Sforza family), Colleoni, Carmagnola, and Sir John de Hawkwood.
See studies by J. J. Deiss (1966) and G. Trease (1971).