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"This undistinguished but not unpleasant historical novel is a fictional biography of Bartol (Colleoni), Venetian soldier of fortune in the wars between Venice and Milan."
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Bartolomeo Colleoni was born to battle and the sword in the early 15th century during an incredible age of war and unrest in the Italian states. He was a man of overpowering virility, and he prowled the corridors of his times like the lion whose name he bore -- Colleoni.
At three, he watched as fire and death ravished the castle of his birth. At eight, he saw his father murdered by cousins. Of all his family, he alone escaped and lived with a beloved old schoolmaster for several years until he was seized as a hostage. He was saved by the whim of a minor prince who took a fancy to him and brought him up. When he was sixteen, his patron was murdered. Again he escaped by almost a miracle -- and by now was determined to become the most powerful man in Venice. In those days there was only one way possible for a boy who had no means, and no longer any family, but who possessed strength, skill, cunning and courage. He became a mercenary or condottiere. During the years of this career, he discovered and developed his military genius and became one of the richest and most powerful of this unique company of soldiers of fortune.
His prowess and wealth were so great that by the time he was thirty-five, he had achieved his ambition. By his side was Madonna Tisbe Martinengo, the daughter of the Count of Brescia, who needed some convincing, but eventually became his bride and shook her pompoms from the windows of the castle as her husband thundered back and forth on his battle horse changing sides with dizzying speed. Military service was driven not by loyalty but my promise of wealth and fame. Although often changed sides, no act of treachery was imputed to him, nor did he subject the territories he passed through to the violent seizure of property and exactions practiced by other soldiers of fortune. But don't be fooled into thinking he was a modest man. before his death in 1475, Colleoni added a stipulation to his will that money owed him be set aside for the creation of a monument to perpetuate his memory. This bronze statue of Colleoni by Andrea del Verrocchio is considered one of the finest equestrian statues of the Italian Renaissance.
Here is a hero in the great tradition. The record of his conquests -- his fantastic escapes, his marriage to Tisbe Martinengo, his rapacious infidelities, his extraordinary intelligence, his cunning subtlety, make breathtaking reading. Here indeed is a man, but even more, condottiere is a glittering picture of one of the most brilliant and violent ages in history.