Parthenopean Republic

The Parthenopean Republic (Italian: Repubblica Partenopea) was a French First Republic-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. The republic existed from 21 January 1799 to 13 June 1799, when Ferdinand's kingdom was re-established.[1]

Parthenopean Republic

Repubblica Partenopea
Flag of Parthenopean Republic
The flag of the Parthenopean Republic was the French tricolor with a yellow stripe in the place of the white one. It is similar to the flag of Romania which would be adopted in the 19th century.
The Kingdom of Naples briefly became a republic in 1799.
The Kingdom of Naples briefly became a republic in 1799.
StatusClient state of France
Common languagesCentral Italian, Southern Italian
GovernmentPresidential directorial Republic
• 1799
Carlo Lauberg
• 1799
Ignazio Ciaia
LegislatureLegislative Council
Historical eraFrench Revolutionary Wars
• French invasion
21 January 1799
• Sicilian invasion
13 June 1799
CurrencyNapoletan tornese, Napoletan carlino
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Naples

Origins of the Republic

On the outbreak of the French Revolution King Ferdinand IV of Naples and Queen Maria Carolina did not at first actively oppose reform; but after the fall of the French monarchy they became violently opposed to it, and in 1793 joined the first coalition against France, instituting severe persecutions against all who were remotely suspected of French sympathies. Republicanism, however, gained ground, especially among the aristocracy.

In 1796 peace with France was concluded, but in 1798, during Napoleon's absence in Egypt and after Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile, Maria Carolina induced Ferdinand to go to war with France once more. Nelson himself arrived at Naples in September 1798, where he was enthusiastically received. The Neapolitan army had 70,000 men hastily summoned under the command of the Austrian general Karl von Mack: on 29 November it entered Rome,[2] which had been evacuated by the French, to restore Papal authority. However, after a sudden French counter-attack, his troops were forced to retreat and eventually routed. A contemporary satirist said of the king's conquest of Rome: "He came, he saw, he fled".[3]

The king hurried back to Naples. Although the lazzaroni (the lowest class of the people) were devoted to the Bourbon dynasty and ready to defend it, he embarked on Nelson's Vanguard and fled with his court to Palermo in a panic. The prince Francesco Pignatelli Strongoli took over the city and the fleet was burned.

The wildest confusion prevailed, and the lazzaroni massacred numbers of persons suspected of republican sympathies, while the nobility and the educated classes, finding themselves abandoned by their king, began to contemplate a republic under French auspices to avoid anarchy. On 12 January 1799, Pignatelli signed in Sparanise the surrender to the French general Jean Étienne Championnet. Pignatelli also fled to Palermo on 16 January 1799.

When the news of the treaty with the French reached Naples and the provinces, the lazzaroni rebelled. Though ill-armed and ill-disciplined, they resisted the enemy with desperate courage. In the meantime the Jacobin and Republican parties of Naples surged, and civil war broke out. On 20 January 1799 the Republicans under General Championnet[4] conquered the fortress of Castel Sant'Elmo, and the French entered the city the next day. The casualties were 8,000 Neapolitans and 1,000 French.

The Republic

On 21 or 23[4] January 1799 the Parthenopean Republic was proclaimed. The name referred to an ancient Greek colony Parthenope on the site of the future city of Naples. The Republic had no real domestic constituency, and existed solely due to the power of the French Army. The Republic's leaders were men of culture, high character and birth, such as Gennaro Serra, Prince of Cassano Irpino but they were doctrinaire and impractical, and they knew very little of the lower classes of their own country. The new government soon found itself in financial difficulties, owing to Championnet's demands for money (he was later relieved for graft); it failed to organise an army (and was therefore dependent on French protection), and met with little success in its attempts to "democratise" the provinces.

Meanwhile, the court at Palermo sent Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo, a wealthy and influential prelate, to Calabria to organize a counter-revolution. He succeeded beyond expectation, and with his "Christian army of the Holy Faith" (Esercito Cristiano della Santa Fede). An English squadron approached Naples and occupied the island of Procida, but after a few engagements with the Republican fleet commanded by Francesco Caracciolo, an ex-officer in the Bourbon navy, it was recalled to Palermo, as the Franco–Spanish fleet was expected.

Ruffo, supported by the Russian and Turkish ships under command of Admiral Ushakov, now marched on the capital, whence the French, except for a small force under Méjean, withdrew. The scattered Republican detachments were defeated, only Naples and Pescara holding out.

On 13 June 1799 Ruffo and his troops reached Naples, and after a desperate battle at the Ponte della Maddalena, entered the city. For weeks the Calabresi and lazzaroni continued to pillage and massacre, and Ruffo was unable, even if willing, to restrain them. However, the Royalists were not masters of the city, for the French in Castel Sant'Elmo and the Republicans in Castel Nuovo and Castel dell'Ovo still held out and bombarded the streets, while the Franco–Spanish fleet might arrive at any moment. Consequently, Ruffo was desperately anxious to come to terms with the Republicans for the evacuation of the castles, in spite of the queen’s orders to make no terms with the rebels. After some negotiation the parties concluded an armistice and agreed on capitulation (onorevole capitolazione), whereby the castles were to be evacuated, the hostages liberated and the garrisons free to remain in Naples unmolested or to sail for Toulon. The capitulation was signed by Ruffo, and British, Russian and Turkish officers, as well as, for the republicans, the French commander.[5]

While the vessels were being prepared for the voyage to Toulon all the hostages in the castles were liberated save four; but on 24 June 1799 Nelson arrived with his fleet, and on hearing of the capitulation he refused to recognise it except insofar as it concerned the French.[5]

Ruffo indignantly declared that once the treaty was signed, not only by himself but by the Russian and Turkish commandants and by the British Captain Edward Foote, it must be respected, and on Nelson’s refusal he said that he would not help him to capture the castles. On 26 June 1799 Nelson changed his attitude and authorised Sir William Hamilton, the British minister, to inform the cardinal that he (Nelson) would do nothing to break the armistice; while Captains Bell and Troubridge wrote that they had Nelson’s authority to state that the latter would not oppose the embarcation of the Republicans. Although these expressions were equivocal, the Republicans were satisfied and embarked on the vessels prepared for them. However, on 28 June Nelson received despatches from the court (in reply to his own), in consequence of which he had the vessels brought under the guns of his ships, and many of the Republicans were arrested.[5] Caracciolo, who had been caught whilst attempting to escape from Naples, was tried by a court-martial of Royalist officers under Nelson’s auspices on board the admiral's flagship, condemned to death and hanged at the yard arm.


On 10 July 1799, King Ferdinand entered the bay of Naples on a Neapolitan frigate, the Sirena. At four o'clock that afternoon, he went aboard the British Foudroyant, which was to be his headquarters for the next four weeks.[2]

Of some 8,000 political prisoners, 99 were executed, including Prince Gennaro Serra, who was publicly beheaded, and others, such as the intellectual Mario Pagano who had written the republican constitution; the scientist Domenico Cirillo; Luisa Sanfelice; Gabriele Manthoné, the minister of war under the republic; Massa, the defender of Castel dell'Ovo; Ettore Carafa, the defender of Pescara, who had been captured by treachery; and Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, court-poet turned revolutionary and editor of il Monitore Napoletano, the newspaper of the republican government. More than 500 other people were imprisoned (222 for life), 288 were deported and 67 exiled.[2] The subsequent censorship and oppression of all political movement was far more debilitating for Naples.

After these events were reported in Britain, Charles James Fox denounced Nelson in the House of Commons for the admiral's part in "the atrocities at the Bay of Naples".[5]

See also


  1. ^ Davis, John (2006). Naples and Napoleon: Southern Italy and the European Revolutions, 1780-1860. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198207559.
  2. ^ a b c Acton, Harold (1957). The Bourbons of Naples (1731-1825) (2009 ed.). London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 9780571249015.
  3. ^ Between Salt Water And Holy Water: A History Of Southern Italy, By Tommaso Astarita, page 250
  4. ^ a b Wikisource Rose, John Holland (1911). "Italy" . In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 44.
  5. ^ a b c d North, Jonathan (2018). Nelson at Naples, Revolution and Retribution in 1799. Stroud: Amberley. p. 304. ISBN 144567937X.

Further reading

  • Acton, Harold. The Bourbons of Naples (1731-1825) (2009)
  • Davis, John. Naples and Napoleon: Southern Italy and the European Revolutions, 1780-1860 (Oxford University Press, 2006. ISBN 9780198207559)
  • Gregory, Desmond. Napoleon's Italy (2001)
  • North, Jonathan. Nelson at Naples: Revolution and Retribution in 1799) (2018)
Altamuran Revolution

The Altamuran Revolution (Italian: Rivoluzione di Altamura, also Rivoluzione altamurana) was a three month period of self-government of Italian town Altamura, right after the birth of the Parthenopean Republic (23 January 1799) which ousted the Bourbons and the Kingdom of Naples. The city of the Kingdom of Naples was then defeated and taken by the so-called Sanfedisti, led by cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo, after a battle on the city walls. After being defeated, most Altamurans managed to flee from porta Bari, one of Altamura's main gates.

In February 1799, the news that the king had fled to Palermo arrived in Altamura. Altamura population then reorganized and embraced the ideals propagated by the French Revolution. The Liberty Tree was also planted in what it was then called piazza del mercato (today it's called piazza Duomo). In the meantime, the Sanfedisti,led by the cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo, were getting closer and closer, determined to restore the Kingdom of Naples and the Bourbons dynasty. Sanfedisti left Matera and arrived at the gates of Altamura on 9 May 1799. Altamura had already fixed everything before the battle, by closing the secondary city gates, fusing the church bells in order to make new cannons and preparing ammunition. On 9 May, the battle took place, but soon Altamurans ran off of ammunition and they started to shoot coins. This let the enemy realize that the situation inside the city was critical and that they wouldn't last for long. On the night of 9 May 1799, most Altamurans managed to escape from porta Bari (perhaps accidentally or thanks to Ruffo unbeknown to his troops). On the morning of 10 May, Sanfedisti entered Altamura, sacking and slaughtering an unknown number of Altamurans who had remained there. The stay of Sanfedisti and Ruffo inside the city lasted 14 days, during which Altamurans gradually returned and some of them were killed or imprisoned. By the end of May 1799, the situation had already normalized and Altamura had returned under the full control of the Kingdom of Naples.

The number of deaths among Sanfedisti has been estimated at around 1,400 people, but it is not clear how many Altamurans were killed. Some historians estimated the losses among Altamurans from about forty to a hundred people, while other historians suggested that many Altamurans and Neapolitan Jacobin people from other cities may have been counted as Sanfedisti. In this case, the death toll among Altamurans and Parthenopean Republicans would be much higher.

Caterina de San Marco

Caterina de San Marco (1747-1824) was an Italian courtier, a confidant and adviser of the de facto ruler and queen of Naples, Maria Carolina of Austria. She was also a known natural scientist and participated in politics several times during the reign of the queen and during the Parthenopean Republic.

Chiara Spinelli

Chiara Spinelli later the princess of Belmonte (1744-1823) was an Italian noblewoman and pastellist.

Spinelli was born in Naples, the daughter of Troiano, the ninth duke of Laurino. In 1762 she married Antonio Francesco Pignatelli, the prince of Belmonte, becoming his second wife. She was also the mistress of Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. She took part in the revolution which led to the creation of the Parthenopean Republic in 1799; at its collapse she was exiled to France. A self-portrait by Spinelli is held in the collection of the Uffizi in Florence; it was originally displayed alongside those of Irene Parenti Duclos and Anna Borghigiani.

Constitutional court

A constitutional court is a high court that deals primarily with constitutional law. Its main authority is to rule on whether laws that are challenged are in fact unconstitutional, i.e. whether they conflict with constitutionally established rules, rights, and freedoms, among other things.

In 1919 the First Austrian Republic established the first dedicated constitutional court, the Constitutional Court of Austria, which however existed in name only until 10 October 1920, when the country's new constitution came into effect, upon which the court gained the power to review the laws of Austria's federal states. The Czechoslovakian Constitution of 1920, which came into effect on 2 February 1920, was the first to provide for a dedicated court for judicial review of parliamentary laws, but the court did not convene until November 1921.

The list in this article is of countries that have a separate constitutional court. Many countries do not have separate constitutional courts, but instead delegate constitutional judicial authority to their general court system, with the final decision-making power resting in the supreme court. Nonetheless, such courts are sometimes also called "constitutional courts". For example, the Supreme Court of the United States has been called the world's oldest constitutional court because it was one of the earliest courts in the world to invalidate a law as unconstitutional (Marbury v. Madison), even though it is not a separate constitutional court, hearing as it does cases not touching on the Constitution.

Prior to 1919, the United States, Canada and Australia had adopted the concept of judicial review by their courts following shared principles of their similar common law legal systems, which they, in turn, had inherited from British legal practice. (The United Kingdom itself does not have a codified constitution to be reviewed by such a court.)

The Parthenopean Republic constitution of 1799, written by Mario Pagano, envisaged such a body ("eforato"), but lasted only 6 months.

Edward Foote

Vice-Admiral Sir Edward James Foote, KCB (20 April 1767 – 23 May 1833) was a prominent Royal Navy officer during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He served on a number of ships and at several actions, but is best known for becoming caught up in the aftermath of the collapse of the Parthenopean Republic at Naples in 1799. Foote had already signed a convention with rebel leaders assuring their safety when he was overruled by Lord Nelson. As a result, most of the rebels, including women, were executed. Nelson was heavily criticised for his role in the executions, but Foote failed to protest the decision until many years later, once Nelson was dead. This overshadowed his career and he did not serve in a position of responsibility again. He commanded the royal yacht during most of the Napoleonic Wars, and although he was knighted and continued to rise through the ranks post-war he did not see active service. He died in 1833 in Southampton.

Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel

Eleonora Anna Maria Felice de Fonseca Pimentel (born Leonor da Fonseca Pimentel Chaves; 13 January 1752 – 20 August 1799) was an Italian poet and revolutionary connected with the Neapolitan revolution and subsequent short-lived Neapolitan Republic (also known as the Parthenopean Republic) of 1799, a sister republic of the French Republic and one of many set up in the 1790s in Europe.

Ettore Carafa

Ettore Carafa d'Andria, the Count of Ruvo (10 August 1767 in Andria – 4 September 1799 in Naples) was an Italian soldier and republican patriot, executed after the fall of the Parthenopean Republic. His courage, idealism, and resolute optimism created in Ettore an image of the Italian martyr for following generations involved in the struggle for more democratic structures and an Italian nation.

Francesco Maria Bovio

Francesco Maria Bovio (ca. 1750 - 1830) was an Italian lawyer, judge and professor. He's best known for being the grandfather of Italian philosopher Giovanni Bovio (1837-1903). He also fought for the Parthenopean Republic (1799) during the so-called Altamuran Revolution (1799).

Gennaro Serra, Duke of Cassano

Gennaro Serra, Prince of Cassano (September 30, 1772- August 20, 1799) was an Italian patriot soldier, who fought for the brief Parthenopean Republic in Naples.

Giulia Carafa

Giulia Carafa Cantelmo Stuart, duchess di Cassano (1755-1841) was an Italian courtier. She was a supporter of the Parthenopean Republic and alongside her sister, she was known as one of the Republic's two Madri della Patria ('Mothers of the Nation').

Luisa Sanfelice

Luisa or Luigia Sanfelice (1764–1800) was an Italian aristocrat who was executed by Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies because of her involvement with the French-backed Parthenopean Republic during the French Revolutionary Wars although Sanfelice was largely apolitical. As she was generally regarded as the innocent victim of circumstances, she became a legendary figure who was widely portrayed in popular culture. During the nineteenth century she was often depicted as a gentle and naïve beauty whose story closely resembled that of the fictional Fioria Tosca, heroine of the Puccini opera Tosca.Amongst those who depicted Sanfelice was the French writer Alexandre Dumas who wrote the novel La San Felice (1864). In 1874 the artist Giovacchino Toma painted Luisa Sanfelice in Carcere, showing her in captivity before her execution. In the twentieth century Sanfelice appeared in two films Luisa Sanfelice (1942) and Luisa Sanfelice (2004).

Margherita d'Andria

Margherita Pignatelli Aragona Cortés, duchess d'Andria (1740-1810) was an Italian courtier.

Maria Carolina of Austria

Maria Carolina of Austria (Maria Carolina Louise Josepha Johanna Antonia; 13 August 1752 – 8 September 1814) was Queen of Naples and Sicily as the wife of King Ferdinand IV & III. As de facto ruler of her husband's kingdoms, Maria Carolina oversaw the promulgation of many reforms, including the revocation of the ban on Freemasonry, the enlargement of the navy under her favourite, John Acton, 6th Baronet, and the expulsion of Spanish influence. She was a proponent of enlightened absolutism until the advent of the French Revolution, when, in order to prevent its ideas gaining currency, she made Naples a police state.

Born an Austrian archduchess, the thirteenth child of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I, she married Ferdinand as part of an Austrian alliance with Spain, where Ferdinand's father was king. Following the birth of a male heir in 1775, Maria Carolina was admitted to the Privy Council. Thereafter, she dominated it until 1812, when she was sent back to Vienna. Like her mother, Maria Carolina took pains to make politically advantageous marriages for her children. Maria Carolina promoted Naples as a centre of the arts, patronising painters Jacob Philipp Hackert and Angelica Kauffman and academics Gaetano Filangieri, Domenico Cirillo and Giuseppe Maria Galanti. Maria Carolina, abhorring how the French treated their queen, her sister Marie Antoinette, allied Naples with Britain and Austria during the Napoleonic and French Revolutionary Wars. As a result of a failed Neapolitan invasion of French-occupied Rome, she fled to Sicily with her husband in December 1798. One month later, the Parthenopean Republic was declared, which repudiated Bourbon rule in Naples for six months. Deposed as Queen of Naples for a second time by French forces, in 1806, Maria Carolina died in Vienna in 1814, a year before her husband's restoration to Naples.

Maria Teresa di San Clemente

Maria Teresa di San Clemente (1760-1822) was an Italian courtier, a confidant and adviser of the de facto ruler and queen of Naples, Maria Carolina of Austria. She was also a known natural scientist and participated in politics several times during the reign of the queen and during the Parthenopean Republic.

Michele Carrascosa

Michele Carrascosa (1774–1853) was a Neapolitan general and politician.

Born to a Spanish family in Naples that came to Italy with Charles III of Spain, Carrascosa was, along with his brother Rafaelle a career soldier. He participated against the French in the Battle of Lodi in 1796, in which he was wounded, and later joined the Bonapartist Parthenopean Republic. When the short-lived republic fell, Carrascosa was captured and exiled by Bourbon troops. He joined the French forces in the Peninsular War in Spain before returning to Naples, which was now a Kingdom controlled by Napoleon's brother-in-law, Joachim Murat. Murat appointed Carrascosa military governor of Naples and made him a Baron of the Kingdom.He was in command of the Neapolitan army during the Neapolitan War of 1815, where he signed the Treaty of Casalanza after Murat fled to Corsica. From 1815 he was a general in the army of the restored Kingdom of Two Sicilies.Following a series of scandals in 1823, Carrascosa was again exiled from Naples, this time in England, and did not return until 1848, where he was once more in good standing with the kingdom, and was appointed to the House of Peers.

Onorato Candiota

Onorato Candiota (... - after 1808) was an Italian professor of philosophy and math at the Real Convitto di Bari, in Bari, Italy. He lived between the XVIII and XIX centuries. The exact dates and places of birth and death are currently unknown, even though it is known that he was from Altamura, Italy. He's best known for his participation in the so-called Altamuran Revolution (1799). He died short after 1808.In 1796 he was appointed as member of Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence. Moreover, following the founding of Istituto nazionale della Repubblica Napoletana in 1799, he was also appointed as member of that academy in the class of physics, natura history and chemistry. He was also member of the Royal Society of Encouragement to Natural Sciences of Naples.A street in Altamura, Italy has been named after him (via Onorato Candiota).

Royal Palace of Ficuzza

The Royal Palace of Ficuzza, also named Reggia or Real Casina di Caccia (hunting lodge) of Ficuzza is located near the town of Corleone, located some 45 kilometers from Palermo, Sicily. It was commissioned by Ferdinand IV of Naples and III of Sicily during his exile in Sicily starting after the establishment of the Parthenopean Republic in 1798.

Vincenzo Russo

Vincenzo Russo (1770 - 1799) was an Italian patriot, who was a leading supporter of the short-lived Parthenopean Republic. Captured by the Sanfedista forces, he was soon executed along with many other rebels of the Bourbon rule of Ferdinand IV of Naples.

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