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Becoming Neapolitan

Citizen Culture in Baroque Naples

John A. Marino

Publication Year: 2011

Naples in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries managed to maintain a distinct social character while under Spanish rule. John A. Marino's study explores how the population of the city of Naples constructed their identity in the face of Spanish domination. As Western Europe’s largest city, early modern Naples was a world unto itself. Its politics were decentralized and its neighborhoods diverse. Clergy, nobles, and commoners struggled to assert political and cultural power. Looking at these three groups, Marino unravels their complex interplay to show how such civic rituals as parades and festival days fostered a unified Neapolitan identity through the assimilation of Aragonese customs, Burgundian models, and Spanish governance. He discusses why the relationship between mythical and religious representations in ritual practices allowed Naples's inhabitants to identify themselves as citizens of an illustrious and powerful sovereignty and explains how this semblance of stability and harmony hid the city's political, cultural, and social fissures. In the process, Marino finds that being and becoming Neapolitan meant manipulating the city's rituals until their original content and meaning were lost. The consequent widening of divisions between rich and poor led Naples's vying castes to turn on one another as the Spanish monarchy weakened. Rich in source material and tightly integrated, this nuanced, synthetic overview of the disciplining of ritual life in early modern Naples digs deep into the construction of Neapolitan identity. Scholars of early modern Italy and of Italian and European history in general will find much to ponder in Marino's keen insights and compelling arguments.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. v

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

This project began as an inquiry into the noble seggi (political wards or neighborhoods) of the early modern city of Naples. Because the seggi archives in the Archivio di Stato di Napoli were destroyed during World War II, primary sources had to be gleaned from wide reading in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century printed books published in Naples. Early printed books and manuscripts preserved ...

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Introduction. Urbs et Orbis

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pp. 1-26

At the culmination of the French invasion of Italy that began in 1494, the French king Charles VIII was in the city of Naples to accept the fealty of its citizens and take the oath of allegiance after his conquest of the Kingdom of Naples. The seggio del popolo (the city ward of the commons) had been dissolved by the Aragonese conqueror Alfonso the Magnanimous forty years earlier in 1456; and when, on ...


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1. Myth and History: From Italy to Naples

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pp. 31-63

Beginning his Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (1512–19) with a first chapter on “What have been universally the beginnings of any city whatever, and what was that of Rome” (bk. I, 1.1), Machiavelli initiates readers into the origins of republicanism in general with a steering assumption from his reflections on Rome’s beginnings—namely, that the foundation principles of the city in its laws and ordering shaped its consequent storied virtù and subsequent long history from republic to empire.1 ...

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2. Ritual Time and Ritual Space

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pp. 64-116

Rituals, both religious and civic, are slow to change. In Spanish Naples, as in early modern Europe in general, rituals were closely tied to the primary mode of production, agriculture, which grounded material life in the climatic cycles of winter rain and summer sun, the alternating labor of planting and harvest, and the consequent limits of feast and famine. This biannual oscillation, which ...


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3. Patronage: The Church and the Heavenly City

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pp. 119-168

When one tries to assess power and influence in the city, simple models assist in defining the problem. Binary models of vertical and horizontal networks help focus on the bonds of affiliation, whether hierarchical or among equals; but one begins to see how quickly networks multiply among kin, neighbors, and friends with both overlapping and conflicting associations at the same time among an ...

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4. The Rule of the Games: Playing Court

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pp. 169-197

Certeau argues for the possibility of using the rules of games to reveal the governing principles, the underlying contradictions, and the quotidian creativity of individuals in society. In the context of the rarified world of the early modern European court, in a very literal sense, games ruled court society; for the real business of the court was simply to play court. The purpose of this chapter, following Certeau, is to examine the rationale behind playing games...

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5. Allegrezza: The City Rules

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pp. 198-233

In the procession on the vigil of St. John the Baptist’s Day in Naples on 23 June 1629, the three bare-breasted, musical mermaid representations of the islands in the Bay of Naples (Capri playing a seven-string lute, Ischia playing a lirone da gamba, and Procida playing a cornetto) and the Siren founder of Naples (Partenope playing a lira da braccio) with a bramble-crowned male seated on the ...

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Conclusion. The Spectacle and the Citizen

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pp. 234-244

Early modern Neapolitan rituals provide a lens to view how the city represented itself. Constructing its self-image from its ancient founding myths of the alluring Siren Partenope’s song, the Cumaen connection from the Campi Flegrei to the west, the waters of the river Sebeto flowing through the city to the entrance of the underworld at Lake Avernus, ever-present Vesuvius’s brooding majesty and ...


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pp. 245-255


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pp. 257-302

Works Cited

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pp. 303-331


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pp. 333-342

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899393
E-ISBN-10: 0801899397
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801897870
Print-ISBN-10: 0801897874

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 17 halftones, 3 line drawings
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 794700344
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Becoming Neapolitan

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rites and ceremonies -- Italy -- Naples -- History.
  • Political culture -- Italy -- Naples -- History.
  • Popular culture -- Italy -- Naples -- History.
  • Naples (Kingdom) -- History -- Spanish rule, 1442-1707.
  • Group identity -- Italy -- Naples -- History.
  • Naples (Italy) -- History -- 1503-1734.
  • Naples (Italy) -- Social life and customs.
  • City and town life -- Italy -- Naples -- History.
  • Citizenship -- Social aspects -- Italy -- Naples -- History.
  • Naples (Italy) -- Ethnic relations.
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