Machiavelli’s Advice

Advice From Machiavelli to the Presidential Candidates

Imagine a person so revered his tombstone has these words inscribed on it: “To so great a name, no epitaph can do justice. “

Do you think this phrase could be put above W’s grave?  How about Clinton’s? Obama’s?   How about Nixon’s?   Would you believe this is what is written on the gravestone of the infamous Niccolo Machiavelli?  I say infamous because an adjective is derived from his name – Machiavellian – it describes an unscrupulous person.   The English have an expression for the devil – ‘Old Nick,’ which is derived from their very black opinion of Machiavelli.  A person or politician who is Machiavellian is:  ‘cunning, dishonest, duplicitous, opportunistic, looks askance of morality in personal life.’  I guess today’s politicians have not evolved very much.  If we look at past political leaders you certainly could ascribe more than one of these attributes to them.

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born on May 5, 1469 in Florence, Italy.  Machiavelli earned the distinguished epitaph on his gravestone for his devotion to the service of Florence for which he was not duly compensated throughout his life.  He never became rich in spite of his dedication.  During his 58 years on earth, dying in 1527, Machiavelli  was a statesman, politician, a poet, a novelist, a translator of classical works as well as a playwright.  However, he is best known around the world for his work ‘The Prince,’ which is based on the behavior and actions he observed while serving  Duke Cesare Borgia.

He liked what he saw, so in 1513, Machiavelli wrote this treatise on political advice for present and future monarchs.  From then on Machiavelli and politics are inseparable.   His work is deemed a politician’s how-to manual and therefore he is considered the father of modern political science.  The truth hurts so his book did not garner him much love in his lifetime.  He made many enemies and at one point was tortured with the strappado.

The witches in Salem, Massachusettes were subjected to the strappado in an effort to get them to confess they were witches.  They had nothing to confess.  Neither did Machiavelli.  He was accused of being part of a conspiracy to murder Giuliano de Medici.

Torture using the strappado is very painful.  A person’s wrists are tied behind his back and then he is hoisted into the air.  This method usually dislocates the shoulders, tears muscles and you are left with two useless appendages.  Believe it or not, Machiavelli survived the strappado and there was nothing for him to confess.  He was thrown in prison and decided to write Giuliano a pair of sonnets in an effort to be exonerated.   Machiavelli called these poems the “Magnificant Giuliano.”  It worked.

Upon close observation of Cesare,  Niccolo Machiavelli believed all people are motivated by their desires and their fears, especially politicians.  It is how you deal with your desires and fears that create the type of politician one becomes. Since the 16th century politicians have used the recommendations in The Prince as their playbook whether they knew it or not.  With the invention of the printing press only a few decades before publication, ‘The Prince’ was widely distributed across Europe.  The Church and political leaders of the time had very harsh opinion of Machiavelli –thus the word Machiavellian – but if you are a student of history you will see his truths surfacing during every century since his words were written.

Let’s have some fun and see what Machiavelli would say to President Obama and to the field of candidates for the US presidential election.  To President Obama he might have said during his run for the Presidency:   “For a leader to be naïve or credulous can be dangerous, even fatal “ and remember, Barry, “when choosing your cabinet that the first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at  the men he has around him.”

To the dwindling field of candidates he would recommend many things.  To Bernie Sanders who proposes a very socialist agenda Niccolo would be prompted to make the following comment:  “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order.”

To Jeb: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

To Trump:  “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.  To understand the nature of the people, one must be a prince and to understand a prince one must be of the people.”

To Hillary:  “I know politics has no relation to morals but there is no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt.”

To Cruz who tried to sabotage Carson: “I know the end justifies the means” but do you not understand that “one change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.”

To Carson: “The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among the many who are not virtuous.”

So relevant, don’t you think so?  Perhaps the Republican Party and the Democratic Party can send each candidate a gift – the book ‘The Prince.’  It couldn’t possibly hurt.

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Celebrations of Italian Identity


Celebrations of Italian Identity

Celebrations of Identity

All over the United States celebrations of Italian identity are being held every single month of the year. The immigrants of the Mezzogiorno of Italy are dispersed around America and they brought their customs and devotions to their patron saints with them at the turn of the 20th century. A directory of these favorite saints and festivities has been compiled by the Order Sons of Italy in America; three hundred seventy Italian festivals are held in thirty-nine states.

We have all heard of the Festa di San Gennaro, founded by Neapolitans and held in New York’s Little Italy for the last one hundred years. Did you know that it is also celebrated in places such as Seattle, California, Ohio, New Jersey and Florida? Believe it not, he is not the oldest continuously honored patron saint. That privilege goes to Our Lady of Mount Carmel thanks to the immigrants of Nola, Italy and Campania who settled in Hammonton, New Jersey. Their feast has been held for 137 years! The Nolianos are truly devoted to Our Lady who is believed to give special protection to cloistered Carmelite nuns who originated in the Holy Land. This safety is also given to those who believe in her. 

giglioFeast of the Giglio

The other renowned celebration is Brooklyn’s Feast of the Giglio. A fifty-foot flower-ladened steeple of wood is carried through the streets, there are masses, novenas, and all the celebratory activities of a typical Italian festival.   The Nolianos of Williamsburg, Brooklyn started this feast over 100 years ago, which is also known as the Feast of St. Paolino, but the actual celebration dates back to the fifth century. The story goes that in 410 A.D. North African pirates invaded Nola. Many were killed and the young men and boys were taken away as slaves. The mothers and widows were desperate, praying constantly to Our Lady. Bishop Paolino of Nola offered himself up in exchange. When a certain Turkish sultan heard of Paolino’s altruism, he was very impressed and accepted his exchange. The captives were returned and eventually so was Bishop Paolino. Upon his return, the townsfolk greeted him with lilies and the tradition of the Gigli (lilies) began.

Festa di Tutti i Santi

St. Joseph is venerated in eight different cities, but the most popular Italian saint who is honored all over Italy and the U.S. is St. Anthony. Twenty four celebrations are held in June, mostly on the East Coast but also in California. We have festivals for Sicilian patrons, such as St. Calogero in Boston, and St. Rosalia in Alabama and Louisiana. We cannot forget St. Nicola di Bari, which the Pugliesi celebrate in Chicago. Then, of course, we have festivals having a generic name such as the Festa di Tutti Santi (Feast of all the Saints) in Chicago; that name makes sure no saint or region is left out. Celebrations in West Virginia, Minnesota and Illinois are generally called “The Italian Festival.” tablefeasts

La Madonna dei Martiri

There is one patron saint which is celebrated in Hoboken, New Jersey by the Italian-Americans from the city of Molfetta, Bari, Italy: La Madonna dei Martiri has been celebrated since 1928 there. This city has become gentrified in the last 40 years with many people from different states and of many ethnicities living there, therefore, recently, during festival time the heading of advertisements and banners reads The Italian Festival, but below are still the words La Madonna dei Martiri. Believe me, the Molfettesi know it’s their feast and they come in from the environs in September.

La Madonna dei Martiri is not just celebrated in Hoboken, New Jersey. Well, how about Australia and South America? My father always said that wherever in the world you go you will bump into another Molfettese!

martiriaustraliaMolfetta is a city on the Adriatic Sea with roots going back to the 9th century and was under the domain of the Sicilian monarchs. During the 12the century Norman King William II of Sicily ordered a Hospice to be built in Molfetta for the crusaders returning from the battles in the Holy Land. The soldiers were treated for their injuries there as best as 12th century medicine would allow. Some men survived but most died. On one trip to Molfetta, a ship carrying Crusaders saw something floating in the water. It was a Byzantine icon of the blessed Mother with Angels on either side. The men took this as an omen that they would survive and set up the icon in the Hospice for veneration. There it hung for a number of centuries until 1369.

In that year, the King of Napoli, Ladislao di Durazzo, in an effort to attract business to the area around Molfetta and Bari, authorized that a fair displaying the Madonna and the work of regional artisans be combined with the religious feast of La Madonna dei Martiri. The Molfettesi have celebrated this saint for the blessings bestowed on the townsfolk, who are mostly fishermen. This is the manner in which the Feast of La Madonna dei Martiri was born in Molfetta.

Each year between September 8th through the 15th people from all over Italy and Europe descend on Molfetta for the festivities. They bring their crafts and art with them as they did in the fourteenth century.

Hoboken ground zero

In Hoboken the feast began in 1928 and has been going strong for ever since. The Molfetessi of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut replicate the feast from the hometown of their ancestors. The illuminations of the streets of Molfetta are in the Byzantine style, but in Hoboken they use the Roman arch usually. The statue of the Madonna is carried through the streets of the town, novenas are said and they even have the “Blessing of the Fleet” (can’t forget the fishermen) and fireworks over Frank Sinatra Park.

The immigrants from Molfetta have been dispersed all over the United States, but prevalently live in the East, such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, the mid-west, in particular Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and the west, mainly in San Francisco, California; being fishermen, they were employed on the California coast in the fishing industry there, and even Alaska.

But the Molfetessi didn’t just scatter all over the United States. They also dispersed all over Australia. Unlike the United States, where Hoboken is the ground zero of the feast, Australia has five Madonna dei Martiri celebrations. On September 8, the faithful participate in religious and cultural activities in Sydney, Turncurry, Adelaide, Port Pirie and Freemantle. All these cities have fishing fleets and therefore under the protection of La Madonna, just like Molfetta. So devoted are the Australians that each city has its own statue; no sharing here.   La Madonna dei Martiri’s celebrations also exist in La Boca (Buenos Aires), Argentina and Caracas, Venezuela.

hoboken-feast-of-the-madonna-dei-martiri-2008It truly is a testament to the strong beliefs and customs of the Italian immigrants who came to the shores of America and beyond over a century ago. No matter wherever they came from or where they ended up, their patron saints came with them. Though most the festivals were initiated by southern Italians, we cannot forget those who came from central and northern Italy: they had their Saint Rocco, Saint Gandolfo, St. Clare and St. Francis…

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What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet.  She had just learned that her lover’s surname belonged to a family that was her parents’ enemy.  Basically most people don’t give their family name a second thought.  It’s one’s name, basta!  What people don’t realize is that one’s surname holds clues to their distant past.  Your last name may relate to your ancestor’s occupation, nationality,  physical description,  personality and their religion.  It may also tell where in town they lived or what province they came from.

In Roman times, only the princely classes had surnames but not the general population.  The aristocrats of Rome were named after their fathers or their origin, if they were not of the Latin tribe.  The Romans were Latins , having subjugated the Sabines, the Etruscans, the Samnites, the Umbrians, the Oscans and many others.

The father’s name was the son’s surname.

Gaius Sallustius Crispis         Gaius’s father’s name was Sallustius

Titus Sabinus         Titus’ father’s name was Sabinus and was probably a Sabine.

Titus Flavius Sabinus      Titus’ father’s name was Flavius and was also a Sabine

Claudius Etruscus             Caludius’ father’s name was Etruscus and an Etruscan

Sextus Caecilius Africanus      Sextus’ grandfather was Africanus  African

Italian surnames as we know them came into use in the 1400s when the population moved in large numbers from the country to cities.   When people were in small farming communities, everyone knew their neighbors intimately, their names, their origin, their comings and goings.  By contrast, there were so many people in cities with the same name; a system had to be devised to identify someone correctly for legal and church matters, etc.

Italians have more surnames than any other nationality.  Three hundred fifty thousand to be exact.  Just as the Romans used the father’s name as the identifier, centuries later Italians used the same method.    Some family names were based on the father.  For example, Di Bernardo means son of Bernardo, De Alberto (son of Alberto) , D’Onofrio (son of Onofrio,) Del Vescovo  (son of the bishop.)

Leonardo da Vinci is identified by the town he came from, Vinci. (Leonardo from Vinci.) My mother-in-law’s family name was Milano.  That means one of two things.  Her people either came from Milan or it could also mean her family was of Jewish ancestry.  When Jews were forced to convert to Catholicism, they were given surnames based on the city in which they made their conversion.  My husband’s family, as far as we know, came from Molise and were Catholic.   Were they always Catholic?  Did they move from Milan to Cerro al Volturno at some point?  I’ll have to do some digging to answer these questions.

People with family names such as Venezia, Firenze, Ferrara, Trani, Genova, etc., would do well to search the Jewish archives in those cities.  It’s highly probable that those names were given to them.

Bagnasco (asco), Galeazzi (azzi), Garibaldi (di), Colella (ella)  and Cefalu (u) all have a suffix at the end of the word.  These endings give the geographic origin of the persons above.  They are: Liguria, Emilia, Lombary, Campania, Sicilia.  Lombardy has 24 possible suffixes at the end of a name, the largest number of all the regions.  Sicily follows with eleven endings.  Some regions share the same suffixes.  They are: Liguria and Piemonte, Emilia and Lombardy, Abruzzi and Campania, Sicily and Calabria.

If the surname has a prefix – Li Calzi, Lo Certo, Lu Piccolo, La Rossa, Di Lorenzo, Della Torre, Del Pozzo, De Ceseare,  these again indicate  where the person was from, although not a precisely as the suffix. For instance, North Italy, South Italy, Central Italy, etc.

Where a person resided in a town was often used to name a person.  Andrea Torre, Andrea lived near a tower; Peppino Fontana, he lived near the fountain;  Sergio Camposanto, Sergio lived near the cemetery and Mauro Aquaviva means he lived near  the rapids of a river.

Zappa, Farina, Archiprete, Barone, Caruso refer to someone’s occupation and became his surname.  For example: Zappa (hoe) is a farmer; Archiprete (high priest) clergy; Barone, (baron) and Caruso means sulfur carrier.  Sulfur carriers generally had to keep their hair cropped very short.  If you last name is Caruso and your family came from Sicily, you may have worked in the sulfur mines.  Otherwise, it was just a physical description of how the person wore his hair.  Pelagati ‘skins cats,’ Pelarati, ‘skins rats.’

A name that is very amusing to me is Scozzafava which means fava bean shucker.   Fava beans have an inedible skin which needs to be removed before eating the bean.  Perhaps in the 1300s, the fava bean farmer was given this name.  To shuck means to remove the husk or to open the shell.   Before you cook fava beans, you must make a cut at the top of the bean.  After they are cooked the skin is removed.  Maybe the person who cooked the beans was assigned this surname.  It is certainly a curious name.

One thing can be said about Italy, people were always coming and going over the millennia.   As a consequence, invaders left their mark in the physical appearance of the inhabitants and in the family name which would reflect the foreign ancestry.  Names like Tedesco (German), Greco (Greek), Turco (Turkish), Francese (French), Spagnolo (Spanish) are just a sample of the many names that reflect the conquering armies.

If your ancestor was a founding, and therefore impossible to learn the identity of the parents, they were given names such as Trovato (found), Esposito (placed outside), Orfanelli (little orphans.)

The final manner Italians surnames came into being was the description of the person.   This category is one of the largest.  The name reflects either a physical or a personality trait.  The name  Culetto, the person had a little ‘ass,’  or if the family name was Chiacchierone, the fellow was a chatterer.   In Puglia if you were given the dialectal name Ciavattone, ( called my father and it’s ci sound, I’ll leave it to you whether you want to leave it in or not.) your ancestor was probably a chisler or thief.  Simpler names such as Basso, Alto, Anziano, Del Vecchio , Rossi, Negri, Cecato,  Gobo referred to what the person looked like.  The names mean: short, tall, old, from the old man, red-heads, blacks, blind, hunched-back.

Let me not forget names whose origins cannot be explained or else someone had a good sense of humor when they were designating a person with his moniker.   I have a relative with one such name, Sciancalepore.  Sciancalepore means to tear the hare apart.  This name must have had meaning in the 1300s, but is lost to today.  Similar funny names are Barbagelata (Icy beard),  Pappalardo (one who eats lard), and Cantalupi (Sings with wolves.)

As you can see there is a great variety of family names in Italy due to the many categories used in the naming process back in the fourteen century.  As each region has a very distinct character, a diverse history, so too do the hundreds of thousands of Italian surnames.  No other nationality can compile such a comprehensive list, but then Italians always do things in a big way. Don’t they?