Francesco Sforza

Il condottiero era il comandante militare che stipulava un contratto (condotto) con un principe o un governo comunale.

Si impegnava al reclutamento di cavalieri e fanti, guidandoli in guerra per un certo periodo prestabilito in cambio di uno stipendio.

Dall’inizio del Trecento la conduzione delle battaglie fu affidata ai condottieri. Il servizio militare gratuito prestato dai vassalli era quasi del tutto scomparso.Questo per la crescente complessità della società cittadina, sia per i costi sempre crescenti dell’armatura che rendevano ormai impraticabile il tradizionale esercito comunale formato dai cittadini in armi.

Molte volte, allo scadere del contratto, i condottieri non congedavano la loro compagnia.

Cercavano nuovi ingaggi offrendosi a chiunque fosse disposto a pagare i loro servigi. Sovente tra una battaglia e l’altra vivevano saccheggiando e rapinando.

Le compagnie dette di ventura, formate da uomini d’arme francesi e inglesi che avevano combattuto nella guerra dei Cent’anni, costituirono una grave minaccia per la tranquillità delle popolazioni.

Soprattutto in Italia, i condottieri si trasformarono in veri e propri strateghi. Imprenditori della guerra, a capo di organizzazioni militari complesse quasi permanenti, in grado di trattare da pari a pari con principi e repubbliche che davano loro impiego.

I condottieri di maggior successo incominciarono a coltivare grandi ambizioni politiche, come nel caso di Francesco Sforza, divenuto, nel 1450, duca di Milano.

Al termine del Quattrocento la grande stagione dei condottieri si chiuse con l’invasione francese e spagnola dell’Italia quando le compagnie cedettero il passo ai primi eserciti nazionali permanenti.

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