October 30, 2013

Concert Dedicated to the Brigands of Southern Italy

Michela Musolino and John T. LaBarbera at Howard Beach Public Library
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

My friends and I made our way to the Howard Beach Public Library in Queens, New York on Thursday for Si diedero alla macchia ("They went into hiding"), a concert dedicated to the brigands of Southern Italy by Michela Musolino and John T. LaBarbera. Unlike most other events scheduled for Italian Heritage Month, this concert offered a refreshingly critical look at la Bel Paese. Rather than the usual fawning over Italy's national heroes (Garibaldi, Mazzini, Cavour, etc.), the artists sang the praises of the defenders of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies instead.

Like the troubadours of old, Michela and John told the tragic story of the southern Italian "brigands" and their valiant struggle against the Piedmontese invaders through song and spoken word. Their set included some of my favorite southern Italian standards, such as La Tarantella del Gargano, Fammi Arristari and Siamo Briganti. I especially enjoyed their rendition of Il Sorriso di Michela, Eugenio Bennato's touching ode to Michela De Cesare, the Neapolitan brigantessa who fought and died for her country. 

In between songs, the artists painted a vivid picture of the terrible hardships endured by our ancestors during the RisorgimentoFar from glorious, Italian Unification was a calamity for the south. Instead of "liberation" the southerners were oppressed and subjected to repeated injustices and atrocities, including mass deportations under nightmarish conditions to northern gulags like Fenestrelle; the wholesale massacres at Pontelandolfo and Casalduni; and barbaric experiments by unscrupulous criminologist Cesare Lombroso. We also cannot forget the murder of nine-year-old Angelina Romano in Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani, just one example of the so-called enlightenment brought by the invaders.

The duo also exploded the myths of southern backwardness and lawlessness. It was pointed out that the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was the third most industrially developed country in Europe after England and France. The Regno's wealth was plundered to pay off Piedmont's enormous debts. The South’s burgeoning industries were dismantled to the advantage of their northern counterparts. Additionally, it should be remembered that the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had the first locomotives, gaslights, iron suspension bridges, electric telegraph, and steamships in Italy. Our ancestors were not the indolent, violent cretins they would have us believe. These negative stereotypes and other fabrications were the result of a propaganda campaign waged by southern Italy’s new overlords, the House of Savoy and their supporters (e.g. Gladstone).
Citing famed author Alexandre Dumas as an example, they pointed out that the victors write history. Talented writers like Dumas were used by the nascent Kingdom of Italy to churn out propaganda to malign the South and justify the conquest. 

Michela Musolino & John T. LaBarbera
Aside from his ideological differences, Dumas had a personal grudge against the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Years earlier his father Thomas-Alexandre, a general in Napoleon's war machine, was captured and imprisoned. The fact that the Italian Campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars caused widespread death and destruction to the people of Southern Italy mattered little.

Perhaps the show's most poignant moment was when Michela told us how, when the briganti finally decided that continued resistance was futile, many immigrated to America, and became “us.” 

Thanks to events like this, this information is becoming more accessible to Italian Americans. I was pleased to have the opportunity to attend their concert, and grateful for their chosen topic. The music was spectacular and I look forward to seeing them both again.

October 29, 2013

A Look at the 112th Anniversary Mass Celebrating San Vincenzo Martire di Craco in New York City

Viva San Vincenzo!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Some pix from Sunday's (Oct. 27th) Feast in honor of San Vincenzo Martire, patron saint of Craco, at Saint Joseph's Church (5 Monroe Street) in New York City. The celebration was organized by The Craco Society.

Below are the lyrics to Inno A San Vincenzo Martire, a folk hymn written by Father Don Carlo Romano and sung during the ceremony.
Brought to Craco in 1769, the ornate reliquary with bone fragment of San Vincenzo is now at St. Joseph's Church
Un bel canto di gioia e d'amore,
Su concordi sciogliamo al Patrono.
Egli è duce ineffabile e buono,
Che ci guida al cammino del ciel.
The 1901 statue of San Vincenzo
Salve, salve Vincenzo beato,
Salve o nostro speciale Patrono.
Lassù intorno al tuo fulgido trono,
Vogliam tutti venire con te.
An antique society flag was on display
Or che in cielo risiedi avvocato,
Di tua Craco le fervide squadre,
Giubilanti ti invochiamo Padre,
Riverenti prostrate ai tuoi piè.
After a wonderful service by Rev. Msgr. Nicholas V. Grieco and
Rev. Fr. Nicholas Mormando we enjoyed each others company
and some cake and coffee in the church auditorium
We were treated to a magnificent assortment of deserts
For more photos visit us on Pinterest

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October 28, 2013

The Lioness of the South: Michelina De Cesare

Michelina De Cesare
Oct. 28, 1841 — Aug. 30, 1868
By Giovanni di Napoli
On March 17, 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was born. The events that led to its birth are many but most are hidden behind the myths of theRisorgimento, a romanticized, but false, version of Italian unity. Portraying themselves as liberators, the House of Savoy effectively annexed and colonized the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and Papal States. It didn't take long after unification that the lies and false promises of the Northern conquerors become apparent. The new rulers not only continued the unjust policies they promised to eliminate but in many cases they exacerbated them.

Betrayed and desperate, the people of the South rebelled against the Piedmontese and their collaborators. For well over a decade the Northern invaders waged a bloody war of repression against the Southern insurrection, deceitfully referred to as "the war against brigandage." The occupational forces committed many atrocities against the so-called "brigands," perhaps the most famous of which were the Pontelandolfo and Casalduni massacres. The Southerners retaliated by exacting retribution whenever possible. At its peak, over 100,000 soldiers were needed to suppress the revolt. Tribunals, roundups, deportations and summary executions were an integral part of Italian nation building. Continue reading

October 27, 2013

Feast of San Vincenzo Martire

Viva San Vincenzo!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
The fourth Sunday of October is the Feast Day of San Vincenzo Martire, patron Saint of Craco, Lucania. To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a Prayer to Saint Vincent. (*) The accompanying photo was taken during the 2012 Feast of San Vincenzo Martire at Saint Joseph's Church (5 Monroe Street) in Manhattan, the national shrine of San Vincenzo. For more on Saint Vincent's Feast Day please visit the Craco Society and the San Fele Society.

Prayer to St. Vincent
Patron of Craco, Lucania

O strong and glorious St. Vincent,
our distinguished patron, who
had the honor of giving your life
for loyal testimony to Jesus Christ,
turn your loving gaze on us
who by wise design of
providence, are, the unworthy,
fortunate guardians of your relics.

Teach us, oh, generous Martyr,
the tenacity to do good
in the way in which you serve as model,
having preserved good intentions
even when you were violently
torn from the quiet life of our family.

Communicate with our souls
a little of the great love
which you showed
evidence of in your lifetime.
Pray to the Lord Jesus
that because the generosity of
your love of the Cross, that our hearts will be
evermore enkindled.
Present to Jesus, sweet friend
of our souls and crown of Martyrs our
earnest desire to support
courageously, like you,
every suffering of our lives, Amen

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(*) A Prayer to St. Vincent courtesy of the San Felese Society

October 25, 2013

The Lessons of Abu Tabela

Paolo di Avitabile
Oct. 25, 1791—March 28, 1850
By Lucian

Paolo di Avitabile was born in Agerola, near Amalfi. He was a Neapolitan soldier who reached the rank of Lieutenant and was recommended for promotion and decoration by General Delaver after displaying great courage and being wounded twice during the siege of Gaeta. Unfortunately, in his case, the General was ignored and Avitabile was instead transferred to a light infantry division under the same rank. He resigned in disgust at his treatment, but went on to become a successful mercenary in the east, and eventually became the governor of Wazirabad and then Peshawar. He was also a scholar and engineer, and worked closely with Lehna Singh Majithia, the renowned Sikh engineer. After his adventurous career he returned with his fortune to his homeland in Naples, where he married a local girl but then died under suspicious circumstances.

Although Avitabile was interesting and successful, you may be wondering why he is special enough to be remembered as a significant figure in Southern Italian history, especially since he became a mercenary and political figure outside of his European homeland. The answer is because Paolo di Avitabile was also known as the legendary figure Abu Tabela. Continue reading

October 23, 2013

Feast of San Giovanni da Capestrano

Viva San Giovanni!
October 23rd is the Feast Day of San Giovanni da Capestrano, patron Saint of military chaplains and jurists. He is also the protector of Capestrano, a commune in the Province of L'Aquila (Abruzzo), where he was born in 1386. 

San Giovanni is revered as the "soldier saint" for his role in the valiant defense of Belgrade against the Ottoman Turks in 1456. With his fiery sermons, he helped raise a peasant army and assisted John Hunyadi, the heroic White Knight of Wallachia, in breaking the siege and routing the invaders. 

To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer in honor of St. John of Capistrano. The accompanying photo comes courtesy of Tea at Trianon.

Prayer to St. John of Capistrano

Lord, you raised up Saint John of Capistrano to give your people comfort in their trials. May your Church enjoy unending peace and be secure in your protection. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

The Emperor of Philadelphia

No man in the history of the City of Philadelphia was more loved, hated, admired, feared and despised than Mayor Francis L. Rizzo, Sr.

Monument to Mayor Frank Rizzo
By Niccolò Graffio
“The streets of Philadelphia are safe.  It’s only the people who make them unsafe.” – Frank. L. Rizzo
“The City of Brotherly Love” began as a settlement founded by William Penn in 1682.  The previous year, Penn had received a charter from King Charles II of England to establish what would eventually become the Pennsylvania Colony.  Penn, a Quaker, had experienced religious persecution in England and was desirous of founding a colony in the New World where there would be absolute freedom of worship.  His “Holy Experiment” included the building of a city this farsighted soul believed would one day form, as he put it, “…the seed of a nation.”

The City of Philadelphia was officially established by Penn with the Charter of 1701. Penn derived the name of the city from the Greek philos (“love” or “friendship”) and adelphos (“brother”). At this time the city’s inhabitants were mostly settlers from the British Isles, as well as some Germans, Finns, Dutch and slaves from Africa. True to Penn’s vision, many religious minorities settled the area. In addition to Quakers, Mennonites, Catholics, Pietists and even some Jews helped to build the early city. As it grew, Philadelphia began to emerge as an important regional commercial center, facilitating trade between the Caribbean and British colonies in the northeast. Continue reading

October 21, 2013

A Look at the 2013 Fiaccolata di San Rocco in Astoria, Queens

Viva San Rocco!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Some pix from Saturday's (Oct. 19th) Mass and procession in honor of San Rocco at Saint Joseph's Church (43-19 30th Ave.) in Astoria, Queens. The candlelight vigil was organized by the Societá Gioventú Quagliettana.

The drizzle didn't dampen any spirits
Below are the lyrics to Canto del Popolo, a traditional folk hymn sung during the ceremony.

Orsù, Quaglietta, al giubilo
Oggi tu apri il core,
Perchè spuntò l'albore
Del sospirato dì.
The procession makes its way through the neighborhood
Di vera gioia un cantico
D'amor fra noi risuoni
E al Protettor si doni
Con gran trasporto e fè.
The color guard lead the way
Con questa nuova stratua
Del nostro bel San Rocco
Da mali più non tocco
Il popolo pio sarà.
(Above and below) Devotees carry candles and sing hymns
Su noi, tuoi figli teneri,
Riversa i gran favori
Con vividi splendori
D'immensa carità.
E voi, divoti, fervidi
Venite d'ogni parte:
San Rocco vi comparte
L'immenso suo tessor.
We arrive at Saint Joseph's Church
Così, contenti ed ilari,
Lodiamo di gran core
Del Santo Protettore
Le molte grazie ognor.
We depart after a wonderful service by Father Vincent
I prieghi, i voti assidui
A piè del Santo Altare:
Il Ciel, le stelle, il mare
Ci arrideran quaggiù.
Outside Saint Joseph's Church
E dopo questo esilio
Godremo in Paradiso,
Felici nel sorriso
Del Padre nostro ancor.
After Mass, we made our way back to Saint Rocco's House for refreshments
San Rocco, a te, or supplici
Prostrati tutti vedi
Finchè ci resta un palpito
A te si sacrerà.
Father Vincent offers a benediction to close the procession
O Protettor San Rocco
Prega per noi Gesù.
Tin ex-voto inside the clubhouse
For more photos visit us on Pinterest

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October 18, 2013

Luca 'fà-Presto' Giordano

San Nicola in gloria by Luca Giordano
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
[The following article was originally posted on October 18, 2009. I've since added photos of San Nicola in gloria (Museo Civico) from my visit to Naples in 2010Saint Sebastian Cured by Saint Irene from the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2011King Tiridates Before Saint Gregory the Armenian from the Boston Museum of Art in 2012 and The Flight into Egypt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I inadvertently left out the first time around. Also included, for illustrative purposes, is a reprint of a photo of Giordano's St. Benedict and the Miraculous Sacks of Grain from the Abbey of Montecassino, destroyed in 1944. For more on the lost works from the Abbey see, "Montecassino" by Robert Enggass, p. 41-55, A Taste For Angels, Yale University Art Gallery, 1987.]
Today I treated myself with a trip to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The occasion was in celebration of one of my favorite Southern Italian artists, Luca Giordano. I thought I would pay homage to the Baroque master on his birthday by viewing some of his works in person. Continue reading

October 16, 2013

Feast of San Gerardo Maiella

Viva San Gerardo!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
October 16th is the Feast Day of Saint Gerard Maiella, patron of motherhood. To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a prayer for expectant mothers.(*) The accompanying photo of the Saint was taken during the 2012 Feast of Saint Gerard at St Lucy's Church, National Shrine of Saint Gerard in Newark, New Jersey.

Prayer For Motherhood

O good St. Gerard, powerful intercessor before God and Wonderworker of our day, I call upon thee and seek thy aid. Thou who on earth didst always fulfill God's designs, help me to do the holy Will of God. Beseech the Master of Life, from Whom all paternity proceedeth, to render me fruitful in offspring that I may raise up children to God in this life and heirs to the Kingdom of His Glory in the world to come. Amen.

(*) Prayer For Motherhood was reprinted from The Feast of St Gerard Maiella, C.Ss.R.: A Century of Devotion at St. Lucy's, Newark, New Jersey by Reverend Thomas D. Nicastro, The History Press, 2012, p. 148

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October 15, 2013

Remembering a Hero

Salvo D'Acquisto
By Lucian

Salvo D'Acquisto was born in Naples on October 15th, 1920. In 1939, during the Fascist epoch, he voluntarily enlisted in the Carabinieri, which was at the time the first corps of the Italian army in addition to military/federal police (Gendarmerie).

A year later, shortly before the start of the Second World War, he was dispatched to Libya with the 608th Police Section. During his tour he was wounded but remained with his division until contracting malaria. In 1942 he returned to Italy, was sent to officer school and graduated as a vice brigadier (deputy sergeant).

After this Salvo was assigned to Torrimpietra, near Rome. In September of 1943, shortly after the remnants of the Italian government officially rescinded their alliance with the Axis, a German SS division was stationed near a derelict military installation in an area under the jurisdiction of Salvo’s outpost. This occurred during a very difficult time in Italy, their government was effectively useless and the country was under the direct control of either the German or Allied invaders. On September 22 two of these German soldiers were caught in an explosion while inspecting boxes of abandoned munitions. One was wounded and the other killed. Continued reading

October 14, 2013

Southern Italian Halloween Costume Ideas

'O Munaciello
Halloween is once again upon us and, in accordance with its tradition, children (and adults) must decide what costumes to wear for the festivities. Since we all have our favorite characters from Southern Italian history or folklore, we thought it would be fun and interesting to consider some of them for this year's costumes.

Munaciello "The Little Monk" This mischievous pint-sized Neapolitan spirit is blamed for almost everything that goes wrong, except when he wears his red cap, then he is associated with good deeds. He is small, pale and wears a monk's robes. It is best to stay on his good side.


Il Cervo "Red Deer Man" In the town of Castelnuovo del Volturno (Molise), they celebrate the last Sunday of carnival with a tradition of obvious pre-Christian origins. It’s called the rito del cervo, or Red Deer Man ritual. Dressed in furs, antlers and face paint, the Deer Man and Deer Woman perform an elaborate ritual which includes witches (Janare), a fairy wizard from the mountains (The Martino) and the Hunters. Any of the characters would make a fine Halloween costume.


The Little Monk
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Bella 'Mbriana The most famous and beloved ghost of Naples, this princess' distraught spirit wanders the city. She has become a household guardian, and her name is invoked for protection and good fortune. The bella ‘Mbriana only appears for an instant, as a reflection in a window or through a curtain swaying in a breeze. She is associated with the gecko, a small lizard found all over Southern Italy.


Paolo di Avitabile "Abu Tabela" A Neapolitan Soldier turned mercenary lord who ruled various foreign lands with an iron fist. He is still spoken of in those places, and his name has become legendary. To some Abu Tabela was a proud figure of authority and stability, to others he was like the Bogey man. Either way, he was not someone to be trifled with.

October 10, 2013

Italics, Italics, Everywhere! (Part 2)

The Ancient Peoples of the Southern Italian Peninsula

Bronze statuette of standing male figure
Campanian or South Italian Greek
Late Archaic-Early Classical Period, ca. 500-450 B.C.
By Niccolò Graffio
“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” – Cicero: De oratore; I, c. 80 BC
The beginning of the Neolithic saw new arrivals on the island of Sicily.  Many others, however, chose to stay in the southern part of the Italian peninsula.  As in Sicily, these new arrivals were not a homogenous bunch nor did they arrive at the same time.  Each new wave of arrivals added their own ingredients, culturally and genetically, to the wonderful ‘soup’ that would one day become the Southern Italian people!

The earliest of the Neolithic arrivals were non-Indo-European speakers who left us no written records of their existence.  That plus their primitive level of existence has left us precious little to tell us how they lived.  All that changed, however, with the advent of the Apennine culture (1800-1200 BC) otherwise known to historians and archaeologists as the Italian Bronze Age.  

The originators of the Apennine culture were alpine cattle herders who followed their herds into southern Italy from the mountains of the central part of the peninsula.  Apennine pottery is characteristically black that is decorated with spirals, dots, bands of dots and meanders.   

Terracotta thymiaterion (incense burner)
South Italic, Daunian, Canosan, 3rd century B.C.
Being essentially pastoral peoples, during the time between summer pastures they lived in temporary camps or else in caves and rock shelters.  Otherwise, they lived in small hamlets constructed on easily defensible positions.  Apennine peoples made it as far south as Apulia where archaeologists have found early examples of purple dye and olive oil production.  In addition, there is evidence they had knowledge of and traded with both the Minoan and Mycenaean peoples of the Aegean.

Sometime during the late Bronze Age in Italy (11th-10th century BC) Illyrian-speaking tribes from the region of the Balkans bordering the Adriatic Sea began crowding into the “heel” of Italy (modern Apulia).  Three tribes of these peoples, called Danui, Messapii and Peucetii, settled into the area and founded what historians now collectively refer to as Iapygian civilization. These peoples spoke Messapian, an Indo-European language.

In spite of their common language, these tribes were never really united, politically.  In fact, the tribes themselves were divided up into a number of polities.  Historically speaking, the most important of the tribes were the Messapii.  Their first major town, Hyra (modern Oria) was probably founded sometime around 8th century BC.  Other important towns founded by the Messapii include Brention (modern Brindisi) and Hodrum (Otranto).  
Terracotta funnel vase
South Italic, Daunian, Canosan, ca. 550-500 B.C. 
In spite of never coalescing into a single nation, the Iapygians developed writing (borrowing the Greek alphabet of the Tarentines) and distinguished themselves in battle as both archers and cavalry.  In fact, Iapygian cavalrymen were able to inflict a serious defeat upon Tarentine Greeks in 473 BC.  Though they traded with the city-states of Magna Graecia (and were able to maintain their independence from them) eventually they succumbed to the advances of the armies of the Roman Republic.  By the end of the 2nd century BC Rome had conquered the last of the independent Iapygian tribes and their language disappeared soon afterwards as the peoples were absorbed into the Roman state.

Another important group of pre-Roman Italic peoples in Southern Italy were Osco-Umbrian-speaking peoples collectively referred to as Sabellians.  These peoples included (but were not limited to) the Marsii, Marrucini, Osci, Bruttii, Lucani and the redoubtable Samnites.  The areas inhabited by these peoples extended from the southern part of modern Lazio all the way down to the southernmost part of the peninsula.  Like Messapian, the Osco-Umbrian tongues were part of the Indo-European family of languages.
Terracotta askos (flask with a spout and handle over the top)
South Italic, Daunian, Canosan, ca. 330-300 B.C. 
The Marsii inhabited modern Marsica (named in honor of them) in what is now the Abruzzi region of Southern Italy.  They are first mentioned by Roman chroniclers as being members of a confederacy with the Vestini, Paelgini and Marrucini.  They joined the Samnites, the implacable enemies of Rome, in their war against the Roman state in 308 BC.  After their defeat they submitted to Roman suzerainty.  They figured prominently during the mass uprising of Italic tribes to Roman rule during the Social War (91-88 BC), so much so, in fact, Roman writers referred to it as the Marsic War.

The leader of the Marsii during this conflict was Quintus Poppaedius Silo. Though he scored a number of successes early in the conflict, eventually the Romans were able to turn the tide.  Silo himself was killed in battle in 88 BC and the Romans, under the command of the patrician general Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, exacted a brutal retribution upon their defeated foes.  Though they were defeated, the Marsii nonetheless were able to secure for themselves political enfranchisement within the Roman state.  Shortly after this they disappeared from the pages of history as a distinct people.
Terracotta askos (flask with a spout and handle over the top)
South Italic, Daunian, Canosan, 3rd century B.C. 
Of the tribes collectively referred to as “Osci” the most important were the Campani. They gave their name to the region they inhabited (Campania). They had settled into the area in ancient times, possibly before the beginning of the 1st millennium BC.  From the 7th century to the 4th century BC Greek colonists gradually expelled them from the area.  The Campani, however, eventually adopted the Greek (and Etruscan) practice of organizing themselves into city-states.  By the middle of the 5th century BC the Campani began to retake the lands they had earlier lost to the Greeks.  Among other victories they seized Greek-held Cumae and Capua from the Etruscans, whom they helped to chase out of Southern Italy altogether.

Less than a hundred years after this the Campani themselves came under siege by the warlike Samnites.  They appealed to Rome for aid.  With the aid of their Roman allies the Campani were able to thwart Samnite ambitions during the Second or Great Samnite War (326 to 304 BC) but only with the greatest of difficulties.  By the conclusion of this war the whole of the territories of the Campani came under the control of the Roman Republic and the Campani quickly became Romanized.  
Terracotta askos (flask with a spout and handle over the top)
South Italic, Daunian, Canosan, 4th century B.C. 
The Bruttii lived in the southernmost part of the Italian peninsula.  Their territory stretched roughly from the Straits of Sicily north to modern Basilicata.  Unlike other peoples of the Italic peninsula they do not appear to be a people of any antiquity.  Rather, they seem to have been a heterogeneous group composed of runaway slaves and fugitives from the Lucanians to the north and Greeks from the coast who settled in the interior and mixed with native Oenotrian tribes.  The Oenotrians themselves are a people of mysterious origins who many believe arrived in Italy from the Peloponnesus around the beginning of the Iron Age in Italy (11th century BC).  According to this hypothesis, the Oenotrians would have been a Pelasgian (pre-Hellenic) people.

They first figure prominently in history in the year 356 BC during the expeditionary war of the tyrant Dion of Syracuse against his predecessor, Dionysius the Younger.  Taking advantage of the chaos surrounding the conflict, they asserted their independence and even succeeded in seizing the Greek cities of Thurii, Hipponium and Terina.  In addition, they were able to force their powerful Lucanian neighbors to the north to acknowledge their independence and even forged an alliance with them.  In their wars with the tyrant Agathocles of Syracuse they reached the height of their power and prestige. Sadly for them, this was not to last.


Return of a mounted warrior, tomb painting
South Italic, Lucanian, mid-4th century B.C.
In the year 282 BC they threw their lot in with the Lucanians and Samnites during their war with Rome.  They also later sent troops to aid Pyrrhus, King of Epirus and the Molossians, during his campaign against Rome. When Pyrrhus, however, was forced to withdraw his forces from Italy and Sicily, the Bruttii were left to face the wrath of the victorious Romans on their own. After their surrender the Romans forced them to give up a considerable amount of their territory.

Though they remained neutral during the First Punic War with Carthage, they foolishly threw their lot in with the Carthaginian general Hannibal during his invasion of Italy in the Second Punic War (218-201 BC). Early victories alongside their Carthaginian allies soon gave way to a crushing and humiliating defeat at the hands of the Romans, who were now determined to punish the Bruttii for their treachery. They were deprived of most of their territory and to further “rub salt in the wound” the Romans pronounced them unfit for military service.  As a nation they were given only the most menial tasks to perform. They disappear from the pages of history under the most ignoble of circumstances.

The Lucanians first wandered into the territory that came to bear their name sometime in the 5th century BC.  They waged war with the Greeks of Tarentum and their ally, Alexander I, King of Epirus, who was treacherously slain at the instigation of a group of Lucanian exiles in 331 BC. 
Terracotta trozella (two-handled jar) South Italic, Apulian, Messapian
Top left: late 5th–early 4th century B.C.; Left: 4th century B.C.; Right: 5th century B.C.
They originally started out as allies of Rome but soon chose to throw their lot in with whoever would war with the Romans.  In war after war they wound up on the losing side.  By the end of the Social War they were finished as an independent people.  By the early part of the 1st century AD the Greek geographer and historian Strabo reported their lands were now overgrown forest and pasture filled with wild boar, wolves and bear.  The few towns that remained were considered of no importance.

Of all the peoples of Southern Italy (Greeks notwithstanding) the ones viewed with the greatest contempt, admiration, fear and respect by the ancient Romans were the Samnites.  For this reason their history shall be covered in a future article.

The Etruscans probably came closer than any other people in ancient Italy (other than the Romans) to making themselves the “top dogs”.  Their origins, like so many others, are shrouded in mystery.  Sadly, though these people are known to have at one time produced a great body of literature, virtually none of it has survived to the present day except some indecipherable fragments.  The Roman Emperor Claudius Caesar (10 BC-54 AD) wrote a sizeable work detailing the history of these fascinating people.  Sadly, this too is now lost.

Bronze statuette of a siren
South Italic or Etruscan, ca. 500 B.C.
Scholars are divided over their possible origins.  Some believe they evolved in Italy out of the Villanovan culture in central Italy during the early Iron Age.  Others point to the similarities between the Etruscan language and inscriptions found on the island of Lemnos in the Aegean.  This seems to confirm the Greek historian Herodotus’ assertion of an Anatolian origin for the Etruscan people.  The debate continues.

Early on in their history the Etruscans expanded out of their base in Etruria (modern Tuscany) north beyond the Apennine Mountains and south deep into what is now Campania. They established a number of mining and trading colonies in the latter with the intention of forming a mercantile empire in direct competition with the Hellenic inhabitants of Magna Graecia.

Phocean (Greek) expansion into Campania led the Etruscans to ally themselves with another burgeoning power in the western Mediterranean – Carthage.  The three sides clashed during the naval Battle of Alalia (sometime around 540-535 BC).  Though the Etruscans wound up in possession of the island of Corsica, the Phoceans gained considerable territory for themselves in Campania.

Bronze cinerary urn with lid
Etruscan, Campanian, ca. 500 B.C.
Said to be from Capua
Undaunted, the Etruscans made war yet again on the Greeks of Magna Graecia.  Putting together a large navy of ships from various Etruscan polities, they met the combined navies of Syracuse and Cumae in the Bay of Naples at the Battle of Cumae (474 BC).  The Greeks all but destroyed the Etruscan fleet.  The Etruscans lost not only many of their colonies in Southern Italy but also much of their political influence throughout the Italian peninsula.  Shortly after this their territories began to be invaded by Romans, Samnites and Gauls. The Etruscans made one last effort to re-establish themselves in Southern Italy by joining the failed Athenian expedition against Syracuse in 415 BC.  Their failure hastened their decline and eventual extinction as an independent people.  The last Etruscan stronghold fell to the Romans in the 3rd century BC.

Further reading:
• David Trump: Central and Southern Italy Before Rome; Frederick A. Praeger, 1965

* Photos by New York Scugnizzo. Artifacts from Metropolitan Museum of Art collection