Malatesta, a family of Italy, many of whose members were rulers of Rimini and other cities of the Romagna, and which became affiliated with the house of Montefeltro and with the dukes of Urbino. The founder of the family was Count Carpegna la Penna de' Billi, who lived in the 11th century, and who on account of his violent disposition was called mala testa ("bad head"), whence the surname of his descendants. Among the latter was Mala-testa, count of Verrucchio, who distinguished himself against the Ghibellines, became ruler of Rimini in 1295, and died in 1312. He was succeeded by his son Malatestino, a zealous enemy of the Ghibellines, who in 1314 added Cesena to Rimini, and died in 1317. Three of Lis brothers were deformed. Giovanni, one of the most repulsive of them, had for wife Fran-cesca da Polenta, daughter of Guido the elder, lord of Ravenna. She became the mistress of her brother-in-law Paolo, though he was also married, and Giovanni killed his wife and brother with the same sword (1289). Dante, in his Inferno, gives a thrilling narrative of this tragic end of Francesca and Paolo da Rimini, and the story is a favorite theme of poets and artists.
Malatestino was succeeded by his brother Pandolfo I., instead of by his son Ferrantino, the former being confirmed by the pope on account of his vigorous opposition to the Ghi-bellines. He was munificent, but disgraced his reign by the murder of his nephew, the count of Ghiazzolo. On the death of Pandolfo in 1326, his nephew Ferrantino was installed as ruler. He served against the infidels in Palestine, but after a conflict with one of his relatives he was expelled from Rimini by the pope in 1335, and died in 1353. Two sons of Pandolfo, Malatesta II. (died in 1364) and Galeotto (died in 1385), became joint rulers after the expulsion of Ferrantino. They made peace with the pope, and added to their dominion Fano, Fossombrone, Pesaro, and portions of Fermo and Cervia. He was succeeded by his sons Carlo (died in 1429) and Pandolfo III. (died in 1427). The former was lord of Rimini and a part of Romagna, sided with Pope Gregory XII. during the schism, and represented him at the council of Constance, after having commanded the Venetians against the emperor Sigismund. Subsequently, while aiding the Florentines to expel the Milanese, he was for some time imprisoned at Milan (1427). He was the best soldier and the most renowned ruler of the whole family.
Pandolfo III., after having conquered Brescia and Bergamo, was driven in 1421 from the latter city by the duke of Milan. The most remarkable among their descendants was Sigismondo Pandolfo (died in 1468), who successively commanded the Florentine, Neapolitan, Aragonese, Venetian, and Sienese armies, and conquered for Venice a portion of the Morea. He was excommunicated by the pope in 1462 for having made war upon the Roman see. He was a munificent patron of letters and art, and had palaces built and libraries established in Rimini. His first wife was a daughter of the marquis of Este, and his second of Francesco Sforza. The last ruler of Rimini was Pandolfo IV., who in 1503 was robbed of his patrimony by Cesare Borgia. After Borgia's death he returned to Rimini, but was expelled in 1526 by Pope Clement VII., and died in want at Ferrara.