Parthenopean Republic

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The Parthenopean Republic (Repubblica partenopea) or Neapolitan Republic (Repubblica napoletana) was an Italian subsidiary republic formed by French revolutionary exports from the Kingdom of Naples (excluding Sicily ) , which was proclaimed on January 22, 1799 during the Second Coalition War . It was dissolved after the reconquest of Naples by coalition troops in June 1799.

The Neapolitan Conditions and the French Revolution

The Kingdom of Naples became a center of the Enlightenment in the 18th century , and Naples itself was one of the most important cultural cities in Europe. This development was largely supported by the aristocratic and bourgeois elite of the capital, to whom the king stood in peculiar contrast. Ferdinand IV. , Who was denied any intellectual education, did not frequent intellectual salons, but cultivated a charismatic closeness to the people. His casual dealings with the lower classes, the so-called Lazzari, led to the nickname "Re Lazzarone" (roughly: "Beggar King" or "King of the Poor Devils"). The underprivileged masses, repeatedly given gifts by the king, developed a self-confident, non-bourgeois culture and stood by the monarchy as a reliable support.

The king from the Spanish line of the Bourbons was married to Maria Karolina of Austria , a sister of Marie Antoinette , so that the closest family and personal relationships existed between the Neapolitan and French royal courts. The politically very interested queen, like the capital's elite, was open to the French Revolution, and so-called “ patriot clubs ” developed in which republican reforms were discussed. The enmity of the royal court with France came about when Louis XVI. , the king's distant cousin, and then Marie Antoinette, the queen's sister, ended up on the guillotine in 1793. All further reform efforts were suppressed, the "patriots" or Jacobins were persecuted and driven out.

Establishment and fall of the Parthenopean Republic

The Kingdom of Naples fought against the French Republic in the First Coalition War and again in the Second. During the conquest of Naples by French troops, the Neapolitan patriots declared a republic on January 22, 1799. The king fled to Sicily on December 23, 1798 , which remained under his rule. A provisional government of 20, since February 11, 1799 of 25 members, began work, but remained under the control of France; H. of the French Commander in Chief and the Civilian Commissioner. On April 14th, he replaced the first government with a downsized second government (an executive council of 5 members). On April 25, the government abolished feudal rights. In the only five months in which the republic was in existence, it was no longer possible to adopt a constitution or more extensive civil social and legal order. The republic was in constant financial distress, and the government was divided over its position on France.

On February 7, 1799, Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo , who was appointed commander-in-chief of the troops loyal to the king, landed in Calabria , where, supported by a Russian expeditionary corps, he organized a militia made up of peasants and brigands like the notorious Fra Diavolo . The traditionalist-conservative attitude and piety of the rural people played an important role - this is how Ruffo called the peasant army "Esercito Cristiano della Santa Fede" (Christian Army of the Holy Faith), commonly known as Sanfedisti. (The rural resistance to the Jacobean-bourgeois reorganization is a well-known phenomenon of the revolutionary epoch; further examples can be found in the uprising of the Vendée against the French Republic or in the resistance of the original Swiss cantons at the beginning of the Helvetic Republic .) The successes of the coalition prompted the French troops on May 7th to withdraw to the north. In June the Parthenopean Republic existed only in the fortresses of Naples besieged by Sanfedisti and Lazzaroni. Finally, between June 19 and 23, the defenders of the fortresses surrendered to the assurance of an unhindered passage to France. Naples was a kingdom again.

The annihilation of the Neapolitan Republicans

However, the surrender was not accepted by the British naval commander Horatio Nelson , who ruled the Bay of Naples with his ships. On June 28, in the name of the Neapolitan king, he had the republicans who had already given up their arms captured and the Parthenopean Admiral Francesco Caracciolo hanged on the following day . Almost the entire intellectual elite of Naples, the majority of which had supported the republic, several hundred men and women (such as the philosopher and constitutional lawyer Francesco Mario Pagano , the doctor and botanist Domenico Cirillo or the newspaper editor Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel ), perished in the next few months or sentenced to life imprisonment; The king had the trial files destroyed in 1803. Several thousand people are said to have fallen victim to royalist persecution in rural areas.

The wave of executions of 1799 is the subject of ongoing discussions. On the one hand in Naples itself, where the development deficit of southern Italy is attributed not least to the extinction of the reform-willing part of the aristocracy and the emerging bourgeoisie at the transition to modern times; The strongly anchored Calabrian and Neapolitan gang system is also seen in close connection with the militarization of the Sanfedisti and Lazzaroni of 1799. On the other hand, in Naples, but also in Great Britain, the behavior of Nelson is being discussed, through whose intervention an already concluded surrender treaty was declared null and void and the imprisonment and execution of the Neapolitan republicans made possible. The accompanying circumstances are controversial. Nelson's defenders have pointed out the even more cruel warfare of other military leaders and an imperative to order. They also suspect Nelson's emotional instability as a result of his head injury in 1798 and because of feelings of guilt towards his wife for adultery with Emma Hamilton , the wife of the British ambassador in Naples, whom he had met here a year earlier. The objection is made that Nelson, who did not shrink from the horrors of war on other occasions, ultimately followed the whisperings of his lover for selfish reasons. For her part, Emma Hamilton, as a close friend of Queen Maria Carolina, is said to have passed on her desire for revenge on "the Jacobins" for her sister Marie Antoinette to Nelson, which she had cherished since 1793.

What is striking in the controversy is the role that Nelson and the King are assigned on the one hand and Emma Hamilton and the Queen on the other: the two men, although ultimately responsible for the events due to their position, appear to be without will (one temporarily, the other permanently) and controlled by two women who instigated and promoted the plot. This shows a striking parallel between the two Bourbon royal courts in Paris and Naples, where the kings were considered to be politically very weak figures, while the queens (two sisters from the House of Habsburg ) were the focus of criticism and both rumors of a dissolute sexual life played a role (Emma Hamilton and Maria Carolina were said to have a relationship). Ferdinand IV has remained a not inconsiderable popularity because of his popularity (for example, his youth was the subject of a post-war Italian comedy film), not to mention Nelson’s reputation in Great Britain.


Parthenopean Republic until February 3, 1799
Parthenopean Republic from February 3, 1799
  • The name of the republic was derived from Parthenope , the poetic name of Naples since Virgil ( Georgica 4,564). Parthenope was the name of one of the three lower Italian sirens , and Naples was their place of worship.
  • On January 19, 1799, the French blue-white-red tricolor was hoisted next to the gold-red city flag of Naples. The resulting color combination inspired the new state flag. First, the sequence of colors blue-red-gold was chosen, as can be seen from contemporary images. Presumably on February 3, 1799, this was changed to the sequence blue-gold-red, which was more in line with the French model. ( Il Monitore Napoletano , No. 30, February 3, 1799). Flags with horizontal stripes were also used.
  • There was also a National Guard (Guardia Nazionale) with its own standard: It showed the national colors arranged diagonally, a bundle of lictors , the Jacobin cap and two oak branches. Slogans were affixed to the front and back. The standard was introduced in February 1799.
  • In addition, the flag of a military unit called "Legione Calabra " is known. The troop consisted of volunteers who were supposed to take action against "royalist supporters". The flag was presented on March 20, 1799. It was all in black and contained three words arranged one above the other: "vincere-vendicarsi-morire", d. H. "Victory - practice revenge - die".
  • The term Lazzari is derived from San Lazzaro ( Lazarus ), the patron saint of lepers . In the 18th century, the designation had already lost its previously derogatory character. In Swiss German there is a parallel phenomenon in which the medieval word “Siech” for a leper today has the meaning of “guy” or “type”.

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