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The rise and fall of Italy’s warriors-for-hire - Stephanie Honchell Smith


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During the 14th and 15th centuries, mercenaries known as condottieri dominated Italian warfare, profiting from— and encouraging— the region’s intense political rivalries. As rulers competed for power and prestige, their disputes often played out in military conflicts, fought almost entirely by the condottieri. So who were these elite and conniving warriors? Stephanie Honchell Smith investigates.

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The condottieri were mercenary soldiers who dominated Italian warfare during the 14th and 15th centuries. Their emergence and success reflected Italy’s political disunity at the time, as the region was ruled by various rival city-states. The rivalries between these states also gave rise to the cultural movement known as the Renaissance, which produced such figures as Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo. It is also the cunning world famously described by Machiavelli in his work, The Prince

Many early condottieri were not Italian, but were originally from England, France, or the Holy Roman Empire. Some of these men had gained military experience in the Hundred Years’ War, which they then put to use in Italy. One of the most famous condottieri was John Hawkwood, an Englishman who achieved great wealth and fame fighting for Italy’s various city-states during his decades-long career. Later condottieri were increasingly Italian, including Muzio Attendolo Sforza, whose son became the Duke of Milan and founded the influential Sforza dynasty

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Stephanie Honchell Smith
  • Director Yael Reisfeld
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Composer Carlos Magaña Bru, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Nirana Singh, cAMP Studio
  • Animator Yael Reisfeld
  • Additional Animation Daniella Bokor
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Produced by Abdallah Ewis, Anna Bechtol
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler

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