Ezzelino III da Romano or Ecelino da Romano, was lord of the Marca Trevigiana. Belonging to the Ezzelini family, he was the eldest son of Ezzelino II the Monk and brother of Alberico da Romano and Cunizza da Romano.
He was a politician and Ghibelline leader, an ally of Frederick II of Swabia. Bold, cunning and valiant, his decision and will to dominate resulted in acts of ruthlessness and cruelty, mostly in the descending parable after the death of his ally in 1250. In the later chronicles they were given names as "fierce" and "terrible" ", although it must be remembered that many of the wickedness attributed to him are the result of legends.
The Ezzelini or Da Romano family arrived in Italy from Germany between the tenth and eleventh centuries. He settled first in Onara, the current village of Tombolo where he built a castle and, from 1199, in Romano, a village near Bassano del Grappa that from 20 November 1867, after the unification of Italy, not to be confused with the homonymous Lombard and Piedmontese, took the name of Romano d'Ezzelino. The Da Romano are commonly identified as "Ezzelini", as all the founders have brought this name, from Ezzelino I Balbo to Ezzelino II Monaco and Ezzelino III the Tyrant.
Reporting at a young age in the wars for the control of the Vicenza area, following the retreat of his father Ezzelino II the monk, in 1223 he obtained from a division of the paternal goods with his brother Alberico the territories of Bassano, Marostica and all the castles located on the Euganean hills.
He had already manifested his special inclinations for war, combined with a spirit of dissimulation and patience, extraordinary for his age. He was also very resistant to any effort, able to face fearlessly any danger, cold and insensitive to every show of piety, intolerant of every brake and any advice. He behaved with a cruelty perhaps greater than the levels (very high) of his time, even if not particularly credible seem the historical sources of part against him that did not fail to describe Ezzelino III as a grim tyrant who drew personal delight in ' devise refined and cruel tortures. He was certainly a partisan man and of the factions he mainly used to enlarge his fiefdoms and make himself more and more powerful. For all this it appears as the most active and ardent Ghibelline, so much that this party had in fact the command in northern Italy.
Thanks to his military political skills, Ezzelino III extended his dominion over Trento, Belluno, Vicenza, Verona, Bassano, Padua and Brescia, creating a sort of lordship. From 1225 to 1230 he was the mayor and captain of the people of Verona. At this time the unsuccessful visit of St. Anthony of Padua dates back to implore clemency for Rizzardo di Sambonifacio. Initially a sympathizer for the Lombard League, for the disappointments suffered Ezzelino sided however with the emperor Frederick II of Swabia who appointed him Imperial Vicar in Lombardy and marked with his office the end of all municipal freedom, submitting the municipalities to his will.
In 1233 Ezzelino da Romano destroyed the castle of Caldiero, in the province of Verona, existing on Monte Rocca. The emperor in 1236 granted him a garrison to keep him safe from the riots and popular threats that snaked in the domains subject to the Ezzelini. The same year Federico sacked Vicenza and gave the government to Ezzelino, who, in 1237, also had Padua, a city much stronger, richer and more powerful than the two already controlled. To tame this city, which was accustomed to all the freedoms of the popular regimes, he arrested all those who by culture, by family and by merits had acquired the esteem of citizenship. He ordered that the houses of prisoners and escapees be razed to the ground and that the young people who remained in the city were to enter conscripts, not to escape his control and the terrible discipline of the "arms trade".
After the victory of Cortenuova (BG), against the Lombard municipalities led by the Milanese Podestà Pietro Tiepolo, on November 27th 1237, Federico gave him in marriage a natural daughter, Selvaggia, who died very young. Ezzelino III later remarried twice more.
On 22 May 1238, the day of Pentecost, in the Basilica of San Zeno (Verona), Ezzelino III married Selvaggia, the natural daughter of Emperor Federico II. Thus it became, with the support of the emperor and his councilors (including the astrologer Guido Bonatti), imperial vicar for all the countries between the Trento Alps and the Oglio river. All this area, moreover, was already in fact under the jurisdiction of Ezzelino who had earned the obedience of his subjects thanks to his brutality and his most refined cruelties. He once walled up the prison gates, regurgitating many of his adversaries, and the cries of the hungry - which gave rise to terror throughout the city - seemed to provide the tyrant with a special pleasure, while in one day, in 1239, he assisted a show to the execution of eighteen padovani in Pra 'della Valle.
In 1242 Ezzelino III burnt and took possession of the city of Montagnana, at the time controlled by the Este. This event is commemorated every year in the Paduan municipality in early September with the burning of the Rocca degli Alberi.
The death in 1250 of Frederick II did not involve the end of Ezzelino III. Accused of brutality and heresy, in 1254 he was excommunicated by Pope Alexander IV, the century Rinaldo Segni, great adversary of the Ghibelline faction, who hoped to get rid of a formidable obstacle to his anti-imperial policy. In March 1256 Azzo VII d'Este, mayor of Ferrara, received from Filippo, archbishop of Ravenna, the task of conducting a "crusade" against Ezzelino, absolute master of Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Feltre and Belluno, while Treviso was under the dominion of his brother Alberico. Only Trento, conquered by Ezzelino III in 1241, had meanwhile managed to free itself in 1255, while the following year the revolt of the small town of Cologna Veneta near Verona, led by Jacopo Bonfado, was quickly stifled by Ezzelino in the blood [ 3]. At the "crusade" against Ezzelino III participated, starting from the Torre delle Bebbe, the Venetian garrison, the soldiers of Venice, Bologna, Mantua, the count of San Bonifacio and many other gentlemen. While Ezzelino was busy in the conquest of Brescia, the "crusaders" of Azzo VII seized on June 19, 1256 of Padua, also because Ezzelino, distrusting the 10,000 Padovani conscripted in his militia, had them close first in the amphitheater of Verona, then in small groups in the prisons of his various domains and in a few days he had unmade it, leaving only one alive. The "crusaders" for their part did not succeed in taking advantage of their advantage during the first phase of the war against Ezzelino III, because their forces were scattered and their lords divided. For two years, therefore, a war of ambushes and bloody scrums was dragged, during which Ezzelino III managed to seize Brescia in 1258.
The friendships and alliances on which Ezzelino III da Romano counted, gradually got less and if the brother (with whom he had entered into quarrel in 1239) came back to him, old allies and friends - as Oberto II Pallavicino - ended up reaching the ranks of the "crusaders", promising money and men to overthrow the tyrant. Ghibellines and Guelphs were so united and a peculiar alliance was therefore tightened between the two factions on June 11, 1259. That the reasons for the clash were essentially political shows that the fact that Ezzelino was invoked by the Ghibellines of Milan to oppose the Guelphs . The Oglio and the Adda therefore passed with a strong army, trying to get hold of Monza and Trezzo. The Milanese people in turn responded by arming themselves and going to meet them. Oberto II Pallavicino at the head of the Cremonese, the Marquis of Este at the head of the Ferrarese and Mantuan, took possession of Cassano d'Adda and cut off any possibility of retreat to Ezzelino. Ezzelino III was then defeated after a strenuous battle on 16 September 1259 in Cassano d'Adda by the Guelph league of Azzo VII d'Este and, following the serious injuries reported, was captured and taken to Soncino, in the present province of Cremona, where he died on 27 September, at 65 years of age, as he had lived: refusing sacraments and medicines. In fact, having torn the bandages, he died bleeding, without any mercy even for himself.
In Soncino even today every week he remembers his death with the tolling of a bell and is fabled about the fact that he was buried with his treasure. His brother Alberico, captured in his castle of San Zenone by the victors, was slain with his family.