A History of Milan under the Sforza

By Cecilia M. Ady; Edward Armstrong | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
FRANCESCO SFORZA -- LORD OF THE MARCH (1433-1447)

THE March of Ancona, which formed the chief scene of Sforza's activities during the next fourteen years, is a narrow strip of country bounded on the north and south by Romagna and the Kingdom of Naples, on the west by the Apennines, and on the east by the sea. It has been said that Romagna was the centre of the nervous system of Italy, and the description is equally applicable to the March. As Romagna, the March of Ancona formed part of the estates of the Church, but the weakness of the papal power during the exile and schism had enabled local despots to establish themselves in the chief towns of both districts. Unable to overthrow these usurpers, the Pope had in many cases saved his dignity by making them Papal Vicars of the towns which they had mastered. The arrangement found favour with the Italian powers, who asked nothing better than to see the March weak and divided. For the March, no less than Romagna, was essentially a border province -- a highway between north and south. Hence its destinies were closely watched by each of the five States, and the undue preponderance of any one Power in that quarter at once aroused the suspicions of the other four. When Francesco Sforza first entered the March, the whole territory was given over to misrule. The petty despots were too weak to be anything but the worst and most tyrannical of sovereigns. They held their own towns by violence, while they sought to obtain those of their neighbours by treachery. Perpetual feuds, bad government and oppression wrought havoc throughout their dominions. The towns which were

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