Naples Lazzaroni
The Naples Lazzaroni is used as a generic term to include various kinds of the lower class people in Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. Described as "street people under a chief", they were often depicted as "beggars"—which some actually were, while others subsisted partly by service as messengers, porters, etc.

No precise census of them was ever conducted, but contemporaries estimated their total number at around 50,000, and they had a significant role in the social and political life of the city (and of the kingdom of which Naples was the capital). They were prone to act collectively as crowds and mobs and follow the lead of demagogues, and proved formidable in periods of civil unrest and revolution.

At the time of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, the Naples Lazzaroni were staunchly monarchist in their political inclination—the diametrical opposite of the contemporary Parisian Sans-culottes
In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes were the radical militants of the lower classes, typically urban laborers. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars...

—with their (sometimes lethal) mob violence being directed against supposed republican and Jacobin
Jacobin (politics)
A Jacobin , in the context of the French Revolution, was a member of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary far-left political movement. The Jacobin Club was the most famous political club of the French Revolution. So called from the Dominican convent where they originally met, in the Rue St. Jacques ,...

 sympathisers. For that reason, republican
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

s at the time and later dismissed them as "tools of the absolutist government".

The Lazzaroni were fiercely loyal to the House of Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 and specifically to the person of King Ferdinand I
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
Ferdinand I reigned variously over Naples, Sicily, and the Two Sicilies from 1759 until his death. He was the third son of King Charles III of Spain by his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. On 10 August 1759, Charles succeeded his elder brother, Ferdinand VI, as King Charles III of Spain...

 who—unlike most monarchs of his and other times—did not keep an aristocratic distance but liked to mingle among the Lazzaroni and sport with them.

During the French military campaigns of the late 1790s, designed to export the Revolution to Italy (as to other parts of Europe), the regular Neapolitan troops did not particularly distinguish themselves against the French Army. The Lazzaroni, to the contrary, clamored to be armed and made a valiant effort to defend the city against the French—even though the royal family had already fled to Sicily. Some sources put as high as 2000 the number of Lazzaroni who were killed on a single bloody day.

Though unable to stand in face to face fighting with trained troops (a contemporary drawing shows Lazzaroni being mowed down by a volley from French guns), their resistance ensured that the Parthenopaean Republic
Parthenopaean Republic
The Parthenopean Republic was a French-supported republic in the territory of the Kingdom of Naples, formed during the French Revolutionary Wars after King Ferdinand IV fled before advancing French troops...

 which was established in Naples had no popular base of support and could only rely on the repressive power of the French Army. Thus, it collapsed when the French needed to shift much of their troops elsewhere in Italy—whereupon the Lazzaroni exacted acts of retribution upon that republic's adherents.

The Lazzaroni and Garibaldi

During the first decades of the Nineteenth Century, the Bourbons gradually lost the support of the Naples Lazzaroni - which was evident in 1860 when Garibaldi arrived in the city at the climax of his campaign for the Unification of Italy.

As mentioned in many eye-witness reports, when entering Naples after the Bourbon King fled, Garibaldi received a tumultuous welcome from the Lazzaroni, as from other sections of Naples' population. Journalist Charles Arrivabene wrote at the time:"Garibaldi was accompanied by a great procession along the seafront to Piedgrotta (...) He was cheered by fishermen and lazzaroni, and women shouted 'May the blessed Virgin be with you, Eccellenza!'". Another observer, Marc Monnier, noted that "Garibaldi is a saint for les lazzarones. It is God who had sent him to save the country. Several call him Jesus Christ, and his officers are the apostles. Alms are asked in Garibaldi's name".

Further Reading

  • Basile L. & Morea D. , "Lazzari e Scugnizzi", Newton & Compton editori, 1996
  • Croce B.
    Benedetto Croce
    Benedetto Croce was an Italian idealist philosopher, and occasionally also politician. He wrote on numerous topics, including philosophy, history, methodology of history writing and aesthetics, and was a prominent liberal, although he opposed laissez-faire free trade...

     , "Aneddoti e profili settecenteschi", Remo Sandron editore, 1914
  • Croce B. , "Curiosità storiche", Napoli, Ricciardi editore, 1919
  • Dumas A. , Il Corricolo, Colonnese editore, Napoli, 2004 ISBN 88-87501-58-0
  • Goethe J. W.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

    , "Viaggio in Italia", Mondadori editore, ISBN 8804523344.
  • Mastriani F. , "I Lazzari", Napoli, Attività bibliografica editoriale, 1976
  • Striano, Enzo: "Il resto di niente"
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