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(sfôr`tsä), Italian family that ruled the duchy of MilanMilan
, Ital. Milano, Lat. Mediolanum, city (1991 pop. 1,369,231), capital of Lombardy and of Milan prov., N Italy, at the heart of the Po basin. Because of its strategic position in the Lombard plain, at the intersection of several major transportation routes, it
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 from 1450 to 1535. Rising from peasant origins, the Sforzas became condottieri and used this military position to become rulers in Milan. The family governed by force, ruse, and power politics. Under their rule the city-state flourished and expanded. Similar to the Medici in their use of personal power, the Sforzas differed in that they were warriors, not bankers.

The first prominent member of the family was Muzio Attendolo Sforza, 1369–1424, a farmer from the Romagna who became a noted condottiere and took the surname Sforza [the forcer]. He fought in the service of several Italian states, then became involved in the struggles for the succession to the kingdom of Naples and died while serving Queen Joanna II in her efforts to retain the throne. His illegitimate son, Francesco I Sforza (see Sforza, Francesco ISforza, Francesco I
, 1401–66, duke of Milan (1450–66); illegitimate son of Muzio Attendolo Sforza. He succeeded his father as leader of his band of mercenaries, and by his valor and sagacity he became one of the most powerful condottieri of his time.
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), became duke of Milan in 1450 through his marriage to Bianca Maria Visconti, daughter of the last Visconti duke of Milan.

Francesco was succeeded by his eldest son, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, 1444–76, a highly educated but dissolute and cruel man; he was a patron of the arts and employed the architect BramanteBramante, Donato
, 1444–1514, Italian Renaissance architect and painter, b. near Urbino. His buildings in Rome are considered the most characteristic examples of High Renaissance style. In 1477 he painted frescoes in the municipal palace at Bergamo.
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. He was assassinated in the Church of San Stefano at Milan by republican conspirators, but the popular uprising anticipated by the assassins did not materialize. Another of Francesco's sons, Ascanio Maria Sforza, 1455–1505, was a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and also a patron of the arts. He secured the election of Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VIAlexander VI,
1431?–1503, pope (1492–1503), a Spaniard (b. Játiva) named Rodrigo de Borja or, in Italian, Rodrigo Borgia; successor of Innocent VIII. He took Borja as his surname from his mother's brother Alfonso, who was Pope Calixtus III.
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) as pope.

Galeazzo's daughter Bianca Maria married Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian IMaximilian I,
1459–1519, Holy Roman emperor and German king (1493–1519), son and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. As emperor, he aspired to restore forceful imperial leadership and inaugurate much-needed administrative reforms in the increasingly
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, and his illegitimate daughter Caterina Sforza, 1463?–1509, became the wife of Gerolamo Riario, lord of the cities of Imola and Forlì and a nephew of Pope Sixtus IVSixtus IV
, 1414–84, pope (1471–84), an Italian named Francesco della Rovere (b. near Savona); successor of Paul II. He was made general of his order, the Franciscans, in 1464 and became (1467) a cardinal.
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. After Gerolamo was murdered (1488), Caterina ruled both cities until she lost them to Cesare Borgia in 1499. With her second husband, Giovanni de' Medici, she bore a son who became the famous condottiere Giovanni delle Bande Nere (see Medici, Giovanni de'Medici, Giovanni de',
or Giovanni delle Bande Nere
[Ital.,=of the black bands], 1498–1526, Italian condottiere; great-grandson of Lorenzo de' Medici (d. 1440, brother of Cosimo de' Medici, 1389–1464).
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See E. Lev, The Tigress of Forli (2011).

Galeazzo's wife, Bona of Savoy, acted as regent for their son, Gian Galeazzo Sforza, 1469–94, who succeeded to the duchy as a minor on his father's assassination. However, in 1480, Galeazzo's brother Ludovico Sforza (see Sforza, LudovicoSforza, Ludovico or Lodovico
, b. 1451 or 1452, d. 1508, duke of Milan (1494–99); younger son of Francesco I Sforza. He was called Ludovico il Moro [the Moor] because of his swarthy complexion.
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) deprived his nephew of the duchy and assumed its control. Gian Galeazzo died a virtual prisoner. His daughter, Bona Sforza, married Sigismund ISigismund I,
1467–1548, king of Poland (1506–48), son of Casimir IV. Elected to succeed his brother, Alexander I, Sigismund faced the problem of consolidating his domestic power in order successfully to counter external threats to Poland.
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 of Poland. In the Italian WarsItalian Wars,
1494–1559, series of regional wars brought on by the efforts of the great European powers to control the small independent states of Italy. Renaissance Italy was split into numerous rival states, most of which sought foreign alliances to increase their
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 Milan was claimed by Louis XII of France, great-grandson of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Ludovico lost Milan to Louis in 1499, but in 1512 the Swiss, as members of the Holy League against France, stormed Milan and installed Ludovico's son, Massimiliano Sforza, 1493–1530, as its duke. The Swiss actually controlled Milan until their defeat at Marignano (1515), which obliged Massimiliano to surrender Milan to Francis I of France; Massimiliano retired to France.

Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian conferred the title of duke of Milan on Massimiliano's brother, Francesco II Sforza, 1495–1535. Francesco took possession of his duchy after the French defeat (1522) by the army of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VCharles V,
1500–1558, Holy Roman emperor (1519–58) and, as Charles I, king of Spain (1516–56); son of Philip I and Joanna of Castile, grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragón, Isabella of Castile, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Mary of Burgundy.
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 at Bicocca. Accused by the imperial general PescaraPescara, Ferdinando Francesco d'Avalos, marchese di
, 1490?–1525, Spanish-Neapolitan general in the Italian Wars. He served Charles V, Holy Roman emperor and king of Spain, and was chiefly responsible for the brilliant Spanish victory over Francis I of France at Pavia
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 of plotting against Charles, Francesco was deprived (1525) of most of his duchy. He joined (1526) the League of Cognac against the emperor, but was obliged to surrender to the imperial troops that besieged him in Milan. After the Treaty of Cambrai (1529), Francesco was restored as duke and ruled until his death. He had no heirs, and the succession to Milan once more was contested by France and Spain, with Spain emerging victorious in the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a dynasty of Milanese dukes in the 15th and 16th centuries. The founder, Muzio Attendolo Sforza (1369–1424), was a peasant from the province of Romagna. His strength earned him the surname of Sforza, from the Italian sforzare (“to overcome by force”).

Muzio’s son Francesco Sfroza (1401–66) was a condottiere in the service of Milan, Florence, and Venice. He became the son-in-law of the last duke of Milan of the Visconti line. In 1450, Francesco conquered Milan and became duke himself. He annexed the greater part of Lombardy, as well as Bari and Genoa, to the duchy of Milan. By attracting scholars, poets, and artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, to their court, the Sforzas helped transform Milan into an important cultural center.

The dukes Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444–76; ruled from 1466) and Ludovico Sforza, nicknamed il Moro (the Moor; 1452–1508; ruled from 1494; de facto ruler from 1479), waged numerous wars to expand their dominions. A popular rebellion forced Ludovico to leave Milan in 1499; he returned to rule only briefly in 1500. His sons, Massimiliano Sforza (1493–1530) and Francesco II Sforza (1495–1535), sought to restore the family to power in Milan, ruling the duchy in 1512–15 and 1521–25 respectively. With the death of Francesco II, the Sforza dynasty came to an end, and Milan came into Spain’s possession in 1535.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. Count Carlo . 1873--1952, Italian statesman; leader of the anti-Fascist opposition
2. Francesco . 1401--66, duke of Milan (1450-- 66)
3. his father Giacomuzzo or Muzio , original name Attendolo. 1369--1424, Italian condottiere and founder of the dynasty that ruled Milan (1450--1535)
4. Lodovico , called the Moor. 1451-- 1508, duke of Milan (1494--1500), but effective ruler from 1480; patron of Leonardo da Vinci
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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The mural, which is one of the original paintings from the 15th century, covers the vault and walls of the Sala delle Asse in the Sforza Castle in Milan and depicts a garden pergola made of 16 mulberry trees bound together by a knotted golden rope, Fox News reported.
The film, The Grocer's Son, tells the story of Antoine Sforza, a 30 year old young man, who returns to the village where he was born, in order to take over his father's business.
This period in his life ended abruptly in December 1499, following the fall of the city to the French and the expulsion of his patron Ludovico Sforza 'Il Moro', who had become Duke of Milan in 1494.
[ETH]centshe loan was taken by Spanish King Philip II (1527-98) from Poland's Italian-born Queen Bona Sforza (1494-1557) to finance the war between Spain and France for control of the Kingdom of Naples, writes the Telegraph.