ECCELINO [or Ezzelino] DA ROMANO (1194-1259), Ghibelline leader, and supporter of the emperor Frederick II., was born on the 25th of April 1194. He belonged to a family descended from a German knight named Eccelin, who followed the emperor Conrad II. to Italy about 1036, and received the fief of Romano near Padua. Eccelin's grandson was Eccelino III., surnamed the Monk, who divided his lands between his two sons in 1223, and died in 1235. The elder of these two sons was Eccelino, who in early life began to take part in family and other feuds, and in 1226, at the head of a band of Ghibellines, seized Verona and became podestà of the city. He soon lost Verona, but regained it in 1230; and about this time came into relations with Frederick II., who in 1232 issued a charter confirming him in his possessions. In 1236 when besieged in Verona he was saved by the advance of the emperor, who in November of the same year took Vicenza and entrusted its government to Eccelino. In 1237 he obtained authority over Padua and Treviso; and on the 27th of November in that year he shared in the victory gained by the emperor over the Lombards at Cortenuova. In 1238 he married Frederick's natural daughter, Selvaggia; in 1239 was appointed imperial vicar of the march of Treviso; but in the same year was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX. He was constantly engaged in increasing his possessions; was present at the siege of Parma in 1247, and after Frederick's death in 1250 he supported his son, the German king Conrad IV. His cruelties had, however, aroused general disgust, and in 1254 he was again excommunicated. In 1256 Pope Alexander IV. proclaimed a crusade against him, and a powerful league was soon formed under the leadership of Philip, archbishop of Ravenna. Padua was taken from Eccelino, but on the 1st of September 1258 he defeated his enemies at Torricella. He then made an attempt on Milan, and the rival forces met at Cassano on the 27th of September 1259, when Eccelino was wounded and taken prisoner. Enraged at his capture, he tore the bandages from his wounds, refused to take nourishment, and died at Soncino on the 7th of October 1259. In the following year his brother Albert was put to death, and the Romano family became extinct. Eccelino, who is sometimes called the tyrant, acquired a terrible reputation on account of his cruelties, a reputation that won for him the immortality of inclusion in Dante's Inferno; but his unswerving loyalty to Frederick II. forms a marked contrast to the attitude of many of his contemporaries.
Eccelino is the subject of a novel by Cesare Cantu and of a drama by J. Eichendorff.
See J.M. Gittermann, Ezzelino da Romano (Freiburg, 1890); S. Mitis, Storia d' Ezzelino IV. da Romano (Maddaloni, 1896); and F. Stieve, Ezzelino von Romano (Leipzig, 1909).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)