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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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The name of a famous Italian family. They were descended from a peasant condottiere, Giacomo or Muzio (sometimes abbreviated into Giacomuzzo) Attendolo, who was born at Cotignola in the Romagna on the 10th of June 1369, gained command of a band of adventurers by whom he had been kidnapped, took the name of Sforza in the field, became constable of Naples under Joanna II., fought bravely against the Spaniards, served Pope Martin V., by whom he was created a Roman count, and was drowned on the 4th of January 1424 in the Pescara near Aquila while engaged in a military expedition. His natural son Francesco (1401-1466) succeeded in command of the condottieri, and showed military genius and political acumen. He served the Visconti against the Venetians and then the Venetians against the Visconti; he attacked the pope, deprived him of the Romagna, and later defended him; he married in 1441 Bianca, the only daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan, and received Pontremoli and Cremona as dowry and the promise of succession to the duchy of Milan. The short-lived Ambrosian republic, which was established by the Milanese on the death of Visconti (1447), was overthrown by Francesco, who made his triumphal entry as duke of Milan on the 25th of March 1450. He suppressed a revolt at Piacenza, formed close alliances with Cosmo de' Medici and with Louis XI. of France, and exercised authority over Lombardy, several districts south of the Po and even Genoa. He rebuilt the fortress of Porta Giovio and constructed the Great Hospital and the canal of the Martesana, which connects Milan with the Adda; and his court, filled with Italian scholars and Greek exiles, speedily became one of the most splendid in Italy. His daughter Ippolita was renowned for her Latin discourses.

Francesco left several sons, among whom were Galeazzo Maria, Lodovico, surnamed the Moor, and Ascagnio, who became a cardinal.

GALEAllO Maria, who succeeded to the duchy, was born in 1 444, and was a lover of art, eloquent in speech, but dissolute and cruel. He was assassinated at the porch of the cathedral on the 26th of December 1476 by three young Milanese noblemen desirous of imitating Brutus and Cassius. His daughter Caterina is separately noticed. Gian GALEAllO (1469-1494), son of Galeazzo, succeeded to the duchy under the regency of his mother, Bona of Savoy, who was supplanted in her power (1481) by the boy's uncle, Lodovico the Moor. Gian Galeazzo married Isabella of Aragon, granddaughter of the king of Naples, and his sudden death was attributed by some to poison administered by the regent. His daughter, Bona Sforza (1493-1557), married King Sigismund of Poland in 1518. She displayed remarkable ability in government, built castles, schools and hospitals, but increased corruption and intrigue at the Polish court. She was accused of having killed her daughterin-law, the wife of Sigismund Augustus. On the death of her husband she returned to Italy and was poisoned (1557) by her paramour Pappacoda.

LoDOVICO THE Moor [Lodovico il Moro] (1451-1508), who is famed as patron of Leonardo da Vinci and other artists, had summoned Charles VIII. of France to his aid (1494) and received the ducal crown from the Milanese nobles on the 22nd of October in the same year, but finding his own position endangered by the French policy, he joined the league against Charles VIII., giving his niece Bianca in marriage to Maximilian I. and receiving in return imperial investiture of the duchy. Lodovico was driven from Milan by Louis XII. in 1499, and although reinstated for a short time by the Swiss he was eventually delivered over by them to the French (April 150o) and died a prisoner in the castle of Loches. Francesco, the son of Gian Galeazzo, was also taken to France by Louis XII., became abbot of Marmoutiers, and died in 1 51i.

The two Sons of Lodovico, Massimiliano and Francesco Maria, took refuge in Germany; the former was restored to the duchy of Milan by the Swiss in 1512, but after the overwhelming defeat of his allies at Marignano (1515) he abandoned his rights to Francis I. for a pension of 30,000 ducats, and died at Paris in 1J30; the latter was put in possession of Milan after the defeat of the French at La Bicocca in 1522, subsequently entered the Italian League against the emperor Charles V., was unpopular on account of oppressive taxation, and his death (24th of October 1535) marked the extinction of the direct male line of the Sforza. The duchy went to Charles V.

The dukes of Sforza-Cesarini and the counts of Santa Fiora are descended from collateral branches of the Sforza family.

See J. Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, trans. by S. G. C. Middlemore (London, 1898); J. A. Symonds, Age of the Despots (New York, 1888); W. P. Urquhart, Life and Times of Francesco Sforza (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1852); Mrs Julia Ady, Beatrice d'Este, duchess of Milan, 1475-1497 (London, 1905); F. Calvi, Bianca Maria Sforza-Visconti e gli ambasciatori di Lodovico il Moro (Milan, 1888); A. Segre, "Lodovico Sforza, duca di Milano," in R. Accad. d. Sci. Atti, vol. 3 6 (Turin, 1901). There is a critical bibliography by Otto von Schleinitz in Zeitschrift far Biicherfreunde, vol. v. (Bielefeld, 1901). (C. H. HA.) Sforza, Caterina (1463-1509), countess of Fora, was an illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza (see above). In 1473 she was betrothed to Girolamo Riario, a son of Pope Sixtus IV., who was thus able to regain possession of Imola, that city being made a fief of the Riario family. After a triumphal entry into Imola in 1477 Caterina Sforza went to Rome with her husband, who, with the help of the pope, wrested the lordship of Forli from the Ordelaffi. Riario, by means of many crimes, for which his wife seems to have blamed him, succeeded in accumulating great wealth, and on the death of Sixtus in August 1484, he sent Caterina to Rome to occupy the castle of St Angelo, which she defended gallantly until, on the 25th of October, she surrendered it by his order to the Sacred College. They then returned to their fiefs of Imola and Forli, where they tried to win the favour of the people by erecting magnificent public buildings and churches and by abolishing taxes; but want of money obliged them to levy the taxes once more, which caused dissatisfaction. Riario's enemies conspired against him with a view to making Franceschetto Cybo, nephew of Pope Innocent VIII., lord of Imola and Forli in his stead. Riario thereupon instituted a system of persecution, in which Caterina was implicated, against all whom he suspected of treachery. In 1488 he was murdered by three conspirators, his palace was sacked, and his wife and children were taken prisoners. The castle of Forli, however, held out in Caterina's interest, and every inducement and threat to make her order its surrender proved useless; having managed to escape from her captors she penetrated into the castle, whence she threatened to bombard the city, refusing to come to terms even when the besiegers threatened to murder her children. With the assistance of Lodovico it Moro she was able to defeat her enemies and to regain possession of all her dominions; she wreaked vengeance on those who had opposed her and re-established her power. Being now a widow she had several lovers, and by one of them, Giacomo Feo, whom she afterwards married, she had a son. Feo, who made himself hated for his cruelty and insolence, was murdered before the eyes of his wife in August 14 9 5; Caterina had all the conspirators and their families, including the women and children, massacred. She established friendly relations with the new pope, Alexander VI., and with the Florentines, whose ambassador, Giovanni de' Medici, she secretly married in 1496. Giovanni died in 1498, but Caterina managed with the aid of Lodovico it Moro and of the Florentines to save her dominions from the attacks of the Venetians. Alexander VI., however, angered at her refusal to agree to a union between his daughter Lucrezia Borgia and her son Ottaviano, and coveting her territories as well as the rest of Romagna for his son Cesare, issued a bull on the 9th of March 1 499, declaring that the house of Riario had forfeited the lordship of Imola and Forli and conferring those fiefs on Cesare Borgia. The latter began his campaign of conquest with Caterina Sforza's dominions and attacked her with his whole army, reinforced by 14,000 French troops and by Louis Caterina placed her children in safety and took strenuous measures for defence. The castle of Imola was held by her henchman Dionigi Naldi of Brisighella, until resistance being no longer possible he surrendered (December 1499) with the honours of war. Caterina absolved the citizens of Forli from their oath of fealty, and defended herself in the citadel. She repeatedly beat back the Borgia's onslaughts and refused all his offers of peace. Finally when the situation had become untenable and having in vain given orders for the magazine to be blown up, she surrendered, after a battle in which large numbers were killed on both sides, to Antoine Bissey, bailli of Dijon, entrusting herself to the honour of France (January 12, 1500). Thus her life was spared, but she was not saved from the outrages of the treacherous Cesare; she was afterwards taken to Rome and held a prisoner for a year in the castle of St Angelo, whence she was liberated by the same bailli of Dijon to whom she had surrendered at Forli. She took refuge in Florence to escape from persecution from the Borgias, and the power of that sinister family having collapsed on the death of Alexander VI. in 1503, she attempted to regain possession of her dominions. In this she failed owing to the hostility of her brothers-in-law, Pierfrancesco and Lorenzo de' Medici, and as they wished to get her son Giovanni de' Medici (afterwards Giovanni dalle Bande Nere) into their hands, she took refuge with him in the convent of Annalena, where she died on the 20th of May 1509.

See Buriel, Vita di Caterina Sforza-Riario (Bologna, 1785); F. Oliva, Vita di C. Sforza, signora di Forli (Forli, 1821); Pietro Desiderio Pesolini Dall' Onda, Caterina Sforza (Rome, 1893); English translation by P. Sylvester (1898). This is the best and most complete work on the subject; E. M. de Vogiie, Histoire et poesie (Paris, 1898); and Ernesto Masi, "C. Sforza," in the Nuova Antologia for May i and May 15, 1893.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sforza'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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