THE MAFIA in 1592.
Marco Sciarra, a robber baron from the
was the Don Corleone of his time. Abruzzi
The historian Sir James Craufurd noted that
enjoying peace for some time, but “the bandits were worse than any enemy.”
Sciarra wanted to be “King”, or maybe even Pope. When he captured some monks,
he made them kneel on the ground and kiss his feet (an honour usually reserved
for the pope). He went as far as appointing judges, issuing passports, and
conducting wedding ceremonies in the areas he controlled. Italy
In some sources Sciarra is depicted as a Robin Hood figure. He collected taxes from the rich, but I’m not sure that he distributed them to the poor. When the town of
refused to pay up, Sciarra’s men “killed most of the inhabitants and sacked the
whole place, then pillaged several of the neighbouring villages, and had the
burgomaster hanged in one of them” (Fugger Newsletter, Piceno 25 April 1592). By that time Sciarra
commanded a well-armed troop of 600 bandits. Finally the Pope sent an army
against them and managed to drive them out of the papal territory. At this
point Sciarra decided to go legit. The Venetian state hired him and his troops
to fight the pirates who endangered their shipping routes.
As you can see, bandits have their good uses, but Sciarra’s second career was brief. He was assassinated by a fellow bandit in 1593. The traitor was given a pardon by the grateful pope.
The Duke of Ferrara also found the bandits handy, at least those he caught. He used them to discourage poaching on his estate. According to Craufurd, “he hung up the banditos in the fields, some with partridges, some with pheasants, some with hares about their legs, the duke’s officers giving out that they were put to death for killing those animals.” There was a sharp decline in poaching after that.