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Wife mother leader warrior Caterina Riario Sforza was one of the most prominent women in Renaissance Italy and one of the most vilified In this glittering biography Elizabeth Lev re examines her extraordinary life and accomplishments     Raised in the court of Milan and wed at age ten to the Pope's corrupt nephew Caterina was ensnared in Italy's political intrigues early in life After turbulent years in Rome's papal court she moved to the Romagnol province of Forli Following her husband's assassination she ruled Italy's crossroads with iron will martial strength political savvy and an icon's fashion sense In finally losing her lands to the Borgia family she put up a resistance that inspired all of Europe and set the stage for her progeny including Cosimo de Medici to follow her example to greatness     A rich evocation of Renaissance life The Tigress of Forli reveals Caterina Riario Sforza as a brilliant and fearless ruler and a tragic but unbowed figure


10 thoughts on “The Tigress of Forli

  1. says:

    This book was on my to read list longer than any other from April 2014 it did not disappoint Lev has a writing style that is like a novelist's some of the content must be speculative but everything is carefully footnoted about this beautiful intelligent complex womanLev's theory that Machiavelli's unflattering portrait of Caterina in The Prince springs from being worsted by Caterina in one of Machiavelli's early diplomatic missions Lev very ably rebuts some of Machiavelli's allegations but does not excuse some of Caterina's own excesses in the cruelty of the timeThis was very hard to put down I can't remember another biography that I have wanted to start rereading straight awayHighly recommended


  2. says:

    A fascinating biography of the woman who went toe to toe against Cesare Borgia and nearly won Caterina Sforza isn't as well known a figure of the Renaissance as Lucrezia Borgia or Isabella d'Este but she should be a blond beauty who mothered a brood of eight wore out three husbands killed countless enemies defended her battlements by sword and word and survived war and prison to fame and peace Savage intelligent and loving by turns her character can be summed up by the probably apocryphal story of her response when enemies threatened to kill her children if she didn't open her gates Caterina supposedly lifted her skirts and shouted down Behold the forge with which I can make children Game set and match Elizabeth Lev's biography of a complicated and fascinating woman is non fiction but makes a splendidly entertaining read


  3. says:

    Highly researched biography of Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici I wish I would have read this before I read Scarlet City by Haasse Because I would have understood the Italian city state wars lasting for literally centuries coupled with France or Holy Roman Empire alliances in a complete location and economic sense This book also taught me many practical reality facts upon clothing manners choir music art in fresco and much for this Renaissance cauldron as lived in Milan and Florence Primarily those two cities which were SO different from each other work education roles ideals all different And Rome a slovenly and backwater state with most living off of tourism for papal or shrine patronage uite third Most literature and especially the fiction works in depths for associations of this period have always taken the opposite eyes to any Sforza Either of de Medici or Borgia of several generations Cosimo Lorenzo or any other magnificent power family or Papal slant toward authority of conuest forever complaining of those Sforza'sKnowing most of her life's escapades and history before this I am rather amazed that the period of extreme cruelty committed by Caterina and seated in great numbers upon her own population Forliafter the murder of her second husband is never the central theme That the tigress lost the support of her own populations within her last 10 years is rarely mentioned But her defense against Cesare Borgia and the refusal to surrender even if they killed her hostage children is forever repeated Her training fit her life's work Elizabeth Lev has details and research that are both fully 5 star


  4. says:

    Caterina Sforza went down in European History as the women who defied The Borgias but this book spans her whole remarkable life Married at ten years old to Pope Sixtus IV's nephew her life was constant battle and she constantly had to defy other ruthless families to fight for her and her children's legacy Besides her war side Caterina saw some of Renaissance Italy's most famous pieces of art come together Botticelli Michelangelo Leonardo and was even added herself to some of the famous artist's works She even witnessed the art as it was commissioned at The Sistine Chapel This is a non fiction book and at times I was engrossed and other times my eyes were glazing over because of this I never loved the book The author wrote in a very text book style I don't see why non fiction needs to be written so dry Caterina's story finally came down the famous Ravaldino Fortress showdown between her and Cesare Borgia This was my favorite part of the book She was a fierce fighter who never gave up and for that reason alone she is respected to this day Ravaldino Fortess today


  5. says:

    She was brave strong and beautiful Her life is dizzying She did amazing things for a woman or even a man of her times Her biography shows the paradox of the Italian Renaissance The era's artistic achievements reflect its strong religious s while a culture of war and terror destroys unnamed and uncounted people This dual morality is not just among nobles like Caterina Riario Sforza de'Medici; it extends to the church and is fully embodied in her contemporary Pope Alexander VI BorgiaWhat are we of the modern world to make of Caterina or other Renaissance nobles and clergy? They wreak havoc on communities all the while extolling Jesus building churches monasteries and convents commissioning religious art acuiring libraries and worshiping purity and piety in womenAn example of this dichodemy is Caterina's grief revenge? over the assassination of her secret husband Giancomo Feo An entire neighborhood of Forli was sacked and destroyed as Caterina tried to eradicate all those hostile to Feo p164 34 people are put to death Others are tortured such as the priest who was stripped naked and tied to a horse and dragged through the streets Homes of suspects were demolished andor looted This is only one episode of Caterina's life where in her parallel life she appreciates literature and art and founds convents and praysThe atrocities of Pope Alexander VI Borgia outlined in this book are merely a small piece of the tragedies he created in the name of the church The Borgias and Their Enemies 1431 1519 Similarly Catherina's father the Duke of Milan Galeazzo Sforza has blood on his hands than she as well as an arrogant lust that was acceptable for men Caterina's two oldest children are a notable disappointments but given the culture and their family life how else might they have turned out?Elizabeth Lev does a good job of presenting Caterina She does not get into the ambiguities I present; she sticks with the story Due to the varied governance and power structures of Italy's many cities states the role of the church and the ties of the leading families Italy's history is filled with characters and complexity Elizabeth Lev's is able to show the rivalries the nuances and the strategies of Caterina and her rivals for the general reader who is not versed in the history of this period This is a first book for Ms Lev I hope to see another soon


  6. says:

    Lucid fascinating and full of well observed detail this is an excellent biography of an outstanding woman I mean that literally Caterina Sforza was than she needed to be than anyone expected her to be and yet in the end she put in so much effort to achieve so little I can't accept oh and her grandson became Duke of Tuscany as a happy ending hard as Lev tries to make it oneBut if you want a biography as an introduction to the Renaissance or if you know a lot about Florence and Rome but not so much about the rest of Italy or if you've run across Caterina in the margins of other people's stories and you want to see her in focus I recommend this highly It's well written and makes good use of its sources


  7. says:

    Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici was a fascinating woman beautiful and accomplished in the things people expected of a woman; a fertile and involved mother; a military tactician as capable of fighting as any of her men; an indomitable spirit who rightly captured the hearts and imaginations of many of her time She had formidable enemies and allies who let her down all too often she perhaps deserved the former but not the latterFeminism gone wild one of the reviewers uoted on the cover of my edition says I expected to bristle at this to be annoyed that a given the usual position of women in the time any agency given to women would be shocking compared to that we have now and b feminism gone wild manages to encapsulate condescension and that I'm not a feminist reasoning that seems to have overtaken many women But Caterina would make a surprisingly good role model for women long after her own age and she promoted the interests of women personally through arranging marriages for women whose families could or would not and publicly through preventing the sack of towns and therefore the rape of the inhabitantsThis biography is pretty even handed though obviously very much sympathetic to Caterina It includes criticisms of her behaviour as well as noting her heroism at other times My main criticism is that I was often unsure of the sources for Lev's information a balance does have to be struck between including dubious information and asking the reader to trust that the biographer's judgement is perfectI got interested in Caterina Sforza through playing the Assassin's Creed games and I recommend this to anyone who played the games It might be drier but it reveals a character even compelling than the glimpses we saw of Ezio's ally in the games


  8. says:

    I LOVED THISABSOLUTELY LOVED THISThis is probably the best non fiction book I have ever readI immediately went to look for other books that this author wrote and was so dissappointed to see nothing else Caterina Sforza was an amazing woman I was enthralled enamoured and entranced by her I was thinking about this book and her life for days after reading it The fact that she was so capable intelligent strong and vibrant not to mention so young when she did most of these things was just awe inspiring Everyone should know about her Read thisAnd Elizabeth Levwrite books Please


  9. says:

    While no masterpiece of the historian's art Elizabeth Lev's The Tigress of Forlì is stirring and well paced An accomplished mistress of Renaissance Italian concepts of leadership Caterina excelled as a politician strategist military chieftain propagandist and administrator Men were her weakness They served her poorly for most of her life When the loathsome Cesare Borgia stormed the city of Forlì and his French led artillery breached the curtain wall of her fortress of Ravaldino Caterina and her band of loyalists fought hand to hand in the breach for two hours the Countess of Forlì clad in her customized cuirass Finally she was seized by a French officer admitted to the castle by a traitor Her defense of the city earned her the undying admiration of the French king and his officers and the relentless enmity of the Borgias Her story deserves to live on Lev's book earned a strong Three Stars from me


  10. says:

    How is it possible that most of the world has forgotten such a dynamic complex amazing woman? A woman who at seventh months pregnant took control of the papal fort of Castel Sant'Angelo and held it with some skillfully smuggled in soldiers for eleven days in order to defend her family's rights A woman who went toe to toe figuratively speaking with one of the most brilliant wits of the Renaissance Niccolo Machiavelli and not only won but made Machiavelli look like an incompetent fool A woman who when the walls of her beloved castle Ravaldino were finally breached by the artillery of Cesare Borgia's army took up a sword and waded into that breach and for two hours was the eual of any man wielding her sword against the enemy as she fought side by side with her men And when one of those men betrayed her and sold her out to the enemy; when she's captured by Cesare held prisoner by him for months as he brutally rapes torments and terrorizes her; when she's taken back to Rome and thrown into a deep dank cell in the same Castel Sant'Angelo she'd so bravely commandeered sixteen years earlier her spirit could not be broken and she still managed to be defiant even down to planning a daring escape from the inescapable papal fort The story of Caterina Riario Sforza Medici larger than life full of colorful characters and daring exploits should be as well known to any schoolchild as that of Cleopatra ueen Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia and fully belongs in the pantheon of fabulous warrior womenElizabeth Lev does a wonderful job of taking some of the tarnish off Caterina's reputation who during her lifetime and beyond has been vilified judged as a witch a whore a virago which initially was a good thing meaning a woman of masculine spirit from the Latin vir man; eventually virago began to take on shadings of a negative nature until it's become the word we know now for an abusive and hostile woman a woman with no shame So much of the contemporary writings were lost so it's hard to know exactly what took place when but it's also easy to read between the lines of contemporary history takers all of them men and all of them at one time either infatuated with Caterina or repelled by her thus coloring every word they wrote about her and find a happy medium of truth to the most harsh of rumors and tales spread about concerning Caterina's actions Like many other powerful fierce and willful women in an era when women even those in positions of power especially those in positions of power were supposed to be meek mild and led by the nose by the nearest and most powerful male Caterina's actions inspired a sort of horrified fascination in the populace and when her actions finally exceeded the bounds of propriety they inspired condemnation and fear There's no way of clearing up every rumor concerning Caterina's actions especially the heinous ones ascribed to her although Lev does a great job of presenting fair arguments as to why or why not Caterina couldn'twouldn't have taken such an action but Elizabeth Lev manages to open the curtain and shed uite a bit of light onto this extraordinary lifeAs for the book itself this is no dry dissertation concerning only names and dates but neither is it history lite It strikes the right balance between information and information overload The narration moves along at a brisk clip and the situations are well drawn fully placing you the reader into the midst of the action on the page There is a map provided at the beginning of the book which helps you navigate the many Italian city states provinces and shifting allegiances which populate the book Seeing as my copy is an ARC I don't know what the publisher has in store for final publication but I'd guess or at least I'm hoping they'll place some photo inserts of some of the places mentioned in the book as well as perhaps a facsimile of some of the artwork the author describes Such an insert would be a welcome visual aid; however even without such an aid the reader still gets a sense of time and place from the descriptions provided by the author Photos would only be a bonusCaterina Sforza managed to straddle the uicksands which are Italian politics and not only survive but thrive navigating political morasses with a sharp wit and a savvy mind She endured a tedious first marriage to a corrupt and inept buffoon who only brought shame to the family name; entered into a secret second marriage for love which shocked the Renaissance world and once again chose her own husband for her third brief and sadly tragic marriage During her short but ultimately brilliant life Caterina showed herself to be a fearless ruler a woman with an iron will and a fierce devotion to her children an ingenious tactician and an inspiration to an entire continent She truly was the Tigress of Forli