(Written by Giacomo Scotti, taken from the magazine “Quaderni Giuliani di storia”, Year XXIII, January-June 2002, printed in Trieste.)
In the now distant 1926, in a series of publications of the Yugoslav Academy of Arts and Sciences of Zagreb, a work by Gjuro Köbler was published titled "Talijansko pjesništvo u Dalmaciji 16. vijeka, napose u Kotoru i Dubrovniku", which means "Italian poetry in Dalmatia in the 16th century, especially in Cattaro and Ragusa". After this date no Croatian scholar has spoken anymore about Italian poetry or Italian literature in Dalmatia in the past centuries. Instead there began a process of transformation of that literature from Italian into Croatian, a process which until now has caused colossal falsifications.
In an article of 1969, the historian of Croatian literature Andre Jutrovic wrote: "The writers of Dalmatia who in the past wrote their works in the Italian language must be inserted into our literature and into our national history." In other words: they must be considered Croats. This same intellectual, when subsequently discussing each Italian Dalmatian writer of the centuries past, i.e. Dalmatians of Italian culture and language, described them as "Croatian writers of Italian language". And today this has become the rule: in the books on the history of Croatian literature, in the encyclopedic dictionaries and in the Croatian encyclopedias, all those Italian writers and poets are labeled as "Croats". The exceptions are very rare, and concern only Zara, and only in the event that they are so-called "irredentists" [Italians who desired unification with Italy] of the 19th and 20th centuries.
In October 1993, on the pages of the newspaper "Vjesnik" of Zagreb, the President of the Croatian Writers' Association in those years accused me of having "turned a whole series of Croatian writers of ancient Ragusa into Italians." And this because, in an essay in the review "La Batana" (n. 109), I had reported the original names of some Ragusan writers of the 16th and 17th centuries, displaying the original Italian and Latin titles of their works: Savino de Bobali (1530-1585), Serafino Cerva (1696-1759), Sebastiano Dolci, Stefano Gradi and others whom we shall speak of soon. I challenge all the literary scholars of Croatia to bring forth a single work by these writers and poets written in the Croatian language; I challenge them to bring forth a single document, beginning with the same books by these authors, in which their names are written in the way their falsifiers write them today.
Some years ago the journalist Ezio Mestrovich, in the newspaper "La Voce del Popolo", reported the words of an anonymous "illustrious Croat" in order to explain the aversion that some Croatian intellectuals feel towards Italy and the Italians: "We are so fascinated by Italian culture and we feel so close to it that we risk being included into it, to the point of abandoning our own. When one is pushed in this direction, then love can become hate." And, driven by hate, they try to appropriate what does not belong to them, to the point of declaring Marco Polo a Croat! And by declaring as "always Croatian" each strip of modern Croatia which in the distant or recent past was instead inhabited also by Italians and fertilized by Italian culture, and before it by Latin culture.
Today, unfortunately, the Croatization of Italian literature, art and culture which flourished in Istria and Dalmatia in the past centuries has become the rule in the textbooks for schools and, as mentioned above, also in Croatian encyclopedias. To this end, they resort to counterfeiting even names and surnames. The appropriations, i.e. their Croatization, in fact, begins with the names. Once the name and surname of a writer, a painter, a musician or any other personality is falsified and Croatized, and once it is verified that he was born or lived in the territory that today is part of Croatia, his work becomes automatically Croatian. Imagine what would happen if the whole world engaged in this practice of appropriating the past of a conquered or purchased territory. The new political owners would become, ipso facto, also the owners of the history, the spirit, the culture and the literary and artistic work created in the preceding centuries by the people or peoples of that territory. It is no coincidence that this principle was extended to Dalmatia, to Istria and to the islands of the Quarnero after World War II. Thus, for example, the Istrian poet and musicologist Andrea Antico, born around 1490 in Montona and lived in Venice, has become "Andrija Montuvljanin" and "Andrija Stane"; thanks to him the beginnings of "Croatian" music have been moved to the 16th century.
When it is not possible to falsify the surname, they falsify at least the first name. Thus the 19th century Fiuman painter Giovanni Simonetti becomes Ivan Simonetti; always in Fiume the illustrious doctor Giorgio Catti becomes Djuri Catti; Giovanni Luppis is transformed into Ivan Lupis or even Vukic, and we could go on and on. In almost every case, however, they follow the rule of total counterfeiting, of both name and surname, in order to erase every trace of Italianity. So it happens that the great Italian philosopher and Renaissance poet Francesco Patrizio from Cherso (1529-1597) is gradually changed by Croatian historiography into Frane Patricije-Petric in 1927 (M. Dvomicic) and to Franjo Petric in 1929 (F. Jelasic); he remains Francesco Patrizzi for I. Kamalic, in 1934, but is called Franje Patricijo by Nikola Zic in the same year; then he is called Franjo Petric-Franciscus Patricius by Ivan Esih in 1936; and Franjo Petris by S. Juric in 1956; and Fraciskus Patricijus by V. Premec in 1968; for others still the surname changes into Petris, Petricic and Petrisevic until finally the so-called "Father of Croatian philosophy" has permanently become Frane Petric, after he was called so by V. Filipovic and Zvane Crnja in 1980. The "Days of Frane Petric" are held in his honour in modern Cherso, the days of a man who never existed.
You can not honour a man by taking away his name and surname, and falsifying them. If Francesco Patrizio could resurrect from his grave, he would curse his falsifiers and all those who have filled the history of Croatian art and culture with people who have nothing or very little to do with Croatian culture. I am very sorry – and here I dwell once more upon Francesco Patrizio – that the inhabitants of Cherso have not yet rebelled against oppression, accepting for example that the name "Frane Petric" was imposed at the local elementary school. I want to repeat and emphasize – given that every man, of the present and the past, is what he is thanks to his language, his culture – that Francesco Patrizio did not write a single line in Croatian during his life.
"La Città Felice" ("The Happy City"), "Dialogo dell'honore" ("Dialogue on Honour"), "Discorso della diversità dei furori poetici" ("Speech on the diversity of poetic furies"), "Lettura sopra del Petrarca" ("Lecture on Petrarch"), "La gola e il sonno" ("Gluttony and Sleepiness"), "Le oziose piume" ("The Odious Feathers"), the small poem "Eridano", the treatises "Della historia dieci dialoghi" ("On the History of the Ten Dialogues"), "La militia romana di Polibio, di Tito Livio e Dionigi di Alicarnasso" ("The Roman Militia by Polibius, Titus Livy and Dionisius of Alikarnaxos"), "Il Trimerone", "Della Poetica" ("On Poetry"), "La Deca Disputata" ("The Disputed Decade"), "La Deca Istoriale" ("The Historic Decade") and other works by the great man of Cherso, who Croats today are forced to translate into their language to boast of the "greatness of Croatian philosophy", were all written in Italian by an Italian!
And on the front page of those works the author signed his name as Francesco Patrizio, sometimes as Patrizzi or Patrizi, as in the polemic essays titled "Difesa di Francesco Patrizio dalle cento accuse dategli dal signor Iacopo Mazzoni" ("Defense of Francesco Patrizio from the one hundred charges made by Mr. Iacopo Mazzoni"), "Risposta di Francesco Patrizi a due opposizioni fattegli dal Sig. Giacomo Mazzoni" ("Response of Francesco Patrizi to two oppositions made by Mr. Giacomo Mazzoni") and "Paralleli militari di Francesco Patrizi" ("Military Parallels by Francesco Patrizi"). Our philosopher and poet published a total of twenty-five works, almost all printed in Venice, and of them five were written in Latin, and all the others in Italian. As we have already seen, some of these works have the name and surname of the author in their own title, such as "Le rime di Messer Luca Contile, con discorsi et argomenti di Messer Francesco Patritio" ("The rhymes of Mr. Luca Contile, with speeches and arguments by Mr. Francesco Patritio").
In conclusion, Patrizio or Patritius as he signed in Latin, was never Frane Petric, much less Petris, Petrisevic or whatever other name these counterfeiters give him. It is not a matter of spelling, but of simply respecting the historical truth. Why then – somebody will ask – do Croatian historians obstinately try to transform our historical figures into Croats? On what foundations do they base their assertions? Here, they resort to a legend. The Croatian literary critic Franjo Zenko wrote in 1980 in his preface of the Croatian translation of the work by Patrizio "Della historia dieci dialoghi": "About the origins of the philosopher of Cherso we cannot say anything with certitude. The mention made by the philosopher himself in his autobiography, where he says that his ancestors came from Bosnia as descendants of a royal family, can not be accepted as worthy of belief; and until now we have not found documents that can attest from which locality or region they came to Cherso." And yet, the mention by Patrizio of a family legend, according to which his ancestors were descendants of a Bosnian royal family, was enough to induce almost all Croatian intellectuals, including the organizers of the "Days of Frane Petric", to affirm, repeat, write and engrave in marble the "Croatianness" of Francesco Patrizio. This demonstrates the moral and intellectual weakness of the counterfeiters.
And here, before continuing on with other examples of falsifications, I want to immediately give my thoughts concerning this. The falsification of history and the embezzlement on the part of Croats of the great works and great men of Italian culture in these lands – Istria, Dalmatia, the Quarnero – is an old and new form of nationalism and chauvinism. The frustrations arising from a sense of inferiority and cultural inadequacy are transformed into myths of victory, behind which they hide their envy and hatred. In this case, hatred for Italy and the Italians. It happens today just as it happened some years ago in certain regions ravaged by war. In order to complete an ethnic cleansing, those who were of a different ethnicity were killed or terrorized and forced to flee; but even after fleeing, their homes, churches or mosques remained and stood as a testimony of the centuries-old presence of that ethnicity in the territory; at this point they destroyed the houses and temples with fire and dynamite. In ancient times, when Christianity prevailed over paganism, the churches were all built on the ruins of pagan temples in order to erase the traces of the Greco-Roman gods and affirm the only true religion; but the opposite effect happened; the ancient pagan foundations remained, and are better preserved. We can forgive the ancient Avars and Slavs who destroyed Epidaurus or Ragusa-Vecchia, Salona, Nona and other Roman cities of Dalmatia: they were barbarians and illiterate. But how can we forgive the new barbarians of our age?
The offences made against the philosopher of Cherso, against the musician and poet of Montona, against the painter of Fiume and against many other representatives of Italian culture and art in the Istria-Quarnero region, or in the territories which in 1945 were declared "newly liberated" are the consequences of an effort made by newcomers to erase the history of those who had preceded them and to rewrite a new history more convenient for them; but since in these territories some Italians remain, even though few in number, the destruction of the memory could not be completed.
In Dalmatia, on the other hand, nobody can be saved.
Reading the Croatian history books and the histories of Croatian art and literature, one would get the impression that this region has been culturally Croatian since at least 3,000 years ago, starting with the Illyrians. According to these books, the Romans and the Venetians were only "temporary invaders", without language, without writings and without culture. According to such tales, the Croatian farmers and peasants of the lower classes created exceptional sculptural and pictorial works since the 8th century, and wrote books of poetry, treatises of philosophy, scientific works, etc., while the Romanic and Italian patricians and citizens of the cities along the coasts of Dalmatia and of the largest islands merely played the part of inept spectators, or otherwise offered unskilled labour, seeing as they were so uneducated and illiterate.
Have you ever read a Croatian book on the history of the art and masterpieces by Giorgio Orsini, sculptor and architect born in Zara at the beginning of the 15th century and died in Sebenico in 1473? No, because this man does not exist in those books, because he has been Croatized: Juraj Dalmatinac. The same fate has befallen one of the greatest painters of the sixteenth century, Andrea Meldola, who lived most of his life in Venice, where he died in 1563. He has been transformed into Andrija Medulic and inserted into Croatian encyclopedias as a Croatian painter. This is despite the fact that the surname Meldola derives from a small town in Romagna, near Forli, in Meldola to be precise, from which came Simone de Meldola, father of the future painter, who in turn was born in Zara where Simone, in the service of the Serenissima, held the position of constable. As a boy Andrea Meldola moved to Venice, where he was a friend of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and was admired by Vasari and Aretino. Why then have the Croats renamed him Medulic and claim he is a Croatian painter? Because our Andrea had the habit of signing his name in three ways: Andreas Sclavonus dictus Meldola in Latin, and Andrea Schiavone and Andrea Meldola in Italian. For the Croatian "historians" the name "Schiavone" was enough to claim him as a Croat.
In Sebenico and in Zara there are streets named after people of the surname Divnic, which sometimes appears as the variant form Difnik. Who were they? In alphabetical order, I will begin with the "Croat" Franjo Divnic-Difnik, whose real name, let us immediately say, was Francesco Difnico, or Difnicus in Latin. He was a historian of Dalmatia, born at Sebenico in 1607 and died there in 1672. He was a friend and relative of the historian of Traù, Giovanni Lucio, and studied and graduated in jurisprudence at Padua. In his birth city he held various positions in the service of the municipality and the Most Serene Republic of Venice, which he valiantly defended with arms and magnified with works, among which we remember "Memoria della Dalmazia" ("Memoir of Dalmatia") of 1652 and "Historia della guerra di Dalmazia tra i Veneziani e i Turchi" ("History of the war of Dalmatia between the Venetians and the Turks") from 1645 until the peace that will be published after his death. A son of Francesco Difnico, the canon and archdeacon Giovanbattista Difnico, was a poet and historian, and author of two works that have come down to us, titled: "Sententie, Detti et Avertimentì notabili da diversi autori scielti et in uno messi per Giovan Battista Difnico Sebenzano" from 1591 and "Relazione di Zuane Difnico del viaggio da lui fatto in Sanzacato di Hlivno" from 1574. But despite the language in which he wrote, and although he had entered his name in the titles of his works, Giovanni or Zuane Difnico has not escaped the falsification and the humiliation of being Croatized: Ivan Divnic-Difnik.
The same fate has befallen Giorgio Difnico, Croatized as Juraj Divnic-Difnik, also born in Sebenico (in 1450) and died in 1530 in Zara after being Bishop of Nona. He left a valuable description of a battle that took place near Zara against the Turks, contained in a letter to Pope Alexander VI, dated September 27, 1493.
The poet Pietro Difnico, born in Sebenico in 1525 and died there around 1600, has also been transformed into a Croat, with the name Petar Divnic-Difnik. For fifteen years he was the commander of the Christian areas in war against the Turks, he left an ode to the city of Sebenico, which was partially reported by Alberto Fortis in his famous trip to Dalmatia in 1774.
Another great family of Sebenico which has given illustrious men in the sixteenth century was that of Verantius-Veranzio. But needlessly under this heading you will find them in Croatian encyclopedic dictionaries; in these books they hide his surname and simply replace it with the invented name of Vrancic. The first in chronological order is the bishop and humanist Antonio Veranzio-Verantius (1504-1573), diplomat, historian, archaeologist, poet, writer of travels, personality of European stature. He wrote his many works in Latin: "De rebus gestis Hungarorum"; "De situ Transilvaniae", "Moldaviae ed Transapianae"; "Elegiae"; "Otia", etc. He also left more than 4,000 letters. He was a friend of kings and emperors, writers and philosophers, exchanged letters with Erasmus, Melanchthon, Paolo Giovio, Tranquillo Andreis many other famous men of his time.
The brother of Antonio and author of several historical works and literature was Michele Veranzio (Sebenico, 1507-1571), presented as Mihovil Vrancic by Croats. After completing his studies in Padua, Vienna and Krakow, he took part in various diplomatic missions, but later preferred "idleness" in his birth city. Much deeper traces were left by his son Fausto, who was born in Sebenico in 1551 and died in Venice in 1617; he was a polymath, lexicographer and inventor. After completing his studies in Padua, Venice and Rome, he was advisor to various monarchs and followed his uncle Antonio in diplomatic trips through Europe. After his wife's death he became a priest, and was appointed bishop, before finally retiring in various convents as a Barnabite friar. He contributed to the adjustment of the Tiber River and the construction of some public fountains in Venice, but became most famous for a monumental work, "Machinae novae" (Venice 1595), in which he described his inventions and drew various techniques related to various types of bridges, mills, flying machines, etc. Among his historical-literary works, the most outstanding are: "De Slovinis seu Sarmatis" (Rome 1606), "Dictionarium quinque nobilissimarum Europae linguarum, Latinae, Italicae, Germanicae, Dalmaticae et Ungaricae" (Venice 1595), the philosophical treatises "Logica nova" and "Ethica christiana" (Venezia 1616) and many other works. For the falsifiers he is known as Faust Vrancic and is called "the greatest Croatian inventor of all time" and the "first Croatian lexicographer".
It has gotten to the point of declaring as "Croatian" even one of the first creators of the Italian novel, Gian Francesco Biondi, born on the island of Lesina in Dalmatia in 1574 and died in 1644 at Aubonne near Bern in Switzerland. For those historians of Croatian literature who steal our writers for themselves, he is called a "Croatian writer of Italian language."
In the encyclopedia we find a man referred to by the hybrid name of Ivan Franjo Biondi-Biundovic (Italian name Gian Francesco Biondi). He, however, lived for many years in Venice maintaining correspondence with Galileo, Paolo Sarpi, with fellow Dalmatians Ghetaldi, Francesco Patrizio and Marcantonio Dominis, was a diplomat of the Venetian Republic at the French court, the Court of Savoy and the court of London, where he married an English noblewoman.
His principal literary works are the novels "L'Eromena" (Venice 1624), "La donzella desterrada" (Venice 1627), and "il Coralbo" (Venice 1632), which underwent ten reprints in a few years.
He also published "L'Istoria delle guerre civili d'Inghilterra tra due case di Lancastro e Jorc" (1724). The novels of Biondi had such a dissemination and became so popular to the point that in 1638 Rumaceni published in volume, at Viterbo, a collection of all sentences, saying and moral, philosophical and political discorses... that are contained in "Eromena"... and in other works of Mr. Gian Francesco Biondi, who played an important role in the development of the European novel. According to the scholars of literature of the seventeenth century, with "Eromena" Biondi gave to Italian literature the first heroic-gallant novel, a new type of novel devoid of the medieval mystical-magical elements. Here, a writer of this caliber, whose only "crime" was being born in a territory that is today part of the Croatian state, suffers for this reason the Croatization of his name.
Unfortunately, the victims of this falsification form a dense array. Limiting myself to the era of Humanism and the Renaissance, I will recall some of the historical figures of Ragusa.
The Ragusan author of the "Dialogo sopra la sfera del mondo" ("Dialogue on the Sphere of the World"), published in Venice in 1579, the poet, playwright, mathematician and astronomer Niccolò Nale (circa 1510-1578) is presented as Nikola Naljeskovic. A fellow countryman of Nale, Marinus Ghetaldus-Ghetaldi (1568-1626), author of many important scientific works, almost all of which were published in Rome and some in Venice, one of the greatest European mathematicians, friend and correspondent of Galileo, known as Ghetaldi and only as Ghetaldi throughout the whole world, has become a "Croat" with the name Marin Getaldic. His friend and contemporary Niccolò Gozze, also a Ragusan, a philosopher from the noble Gozzi family, author of the "Dialogo della bellezza" ("Dialogue on Beauty") and "Dialogo dell'amore" ("Dialogue on Love") is Croatized and presented as Nikola Vitov Gucetic. The poetess Flora Zuzori, to whom those two works were dedicated, who lived in the same era, and who moved from Ragusa to Florence after having married the Florentine Bartolomeo Piscioni, is invariably presented as a "Croatian poetess" with the name Cvijeta Zuzoric!
"The first Croatian writers of medicine come from Dubrovnik [Ragusa]", wrote Dubravko Horvatic, compiler of the most recent history of Croatia, citing among these "Croats" the Ragusan Giorgio Balivi (1668-1707), who was professor of medicine in Rome and one of the most illustrious of Europe. He later affirms that "the first historical non-fiction work in Croatia" was written and published by "Ivan Lucic" of Traù, whose real name is Joahnnes Lucius or Giovanni Lucio (1604-1671), as he himself signed in Latin and Italian.
Again Horvatic writes: "One of the first Croatian writers on scientific subjects was the Ragusan Benko Kotruljevic, who lived in the first half of the 15th century", adding immediately after that Kotruljevic wrote his works exclusively in Italian and Latin only so "they could circulate more easily among foreign scientific circles". In other Croatian texts we find two variants: Kotruljic and Kotruljevic. But he never existed; under these names and surnames, as usual, the falsifiers have hidden the Ragusan Italianity of Benedetto Cotrugli de Costruglis, as he himself signed his works in Italian, or Benedictus Cotrullus when he used Latin. The same Croatian sources tell us that the ancestors of this illustrious man, born to a family of merchants, had the same Italian surname, even though slightly modified: Citrulli, Citrullo and Cotrugli.
Please allow me to dwell a little longer upon this man. Leaving aside all those in the same Ragusa, in Italy, in Germany and elsewhere who wrote about Cotrugli from the sixteenth until the early twentieth century, let us take an author of this region, Antonio Bacotich: a monograph by him has the title "Benedetto Cotrugli da Ragusa, primo scrittore di aziende mercantili" ("Benedetto Cotrugli of Ragusa, first writer of merchant companies"). The work dates back to 1930 (published in "Archivio storico per la Dalmazia", issue 5). The first texts in which Cotrugli is called "Kotruljevic" dates back, on the other hand, to 1949. The false coin minted then still circulates with the imprimatur of legality.
According to the results of the latest research, Benedetto Cotrugli was born in Ragusa in a period between 1400 and 1416 and died in Naples in 1469. He descended from a family of middle-class merchants who moved to Ragusa from Cattaro in the 14th century; he followed in the footsteps of his father Giacomo and his uncle Giovanni who had extended in Italy a vast network of commerce; while in Ragusa he owned houses, land, weaving factories, dye-works and ships. After completing elementary school in Ragusa, Benedetto studied in Bologna. Upon the death of his father, in 1434, he took over the company together with his brother Michele and his uncles, expanding the business to Southern Italy, North Africa and Catalonia. Since 1458 he was consul to the Neapolitan court and ambassador of Ferdinand I to Ragusa, Bosnia and Hungary. In 1460 he became director of the Mint in Aquila, a position which, after his death, was entrusted to his son. Some of his works have been lost; however, we do possess: "Della mercatura e del mercante perfetto" ("On Merchant Business and the Perfect Merchant") in four books, printed in Venice in 1573. It was translated in French in 1582 and in Serbo-Croatian four centuries later, in 1963.
Essays about Benedetto Cotrugli were written by his fellow countryman Savino Maria Cerva (Benedictus Cotrulius, in "Biblioteca Ragusina", Tome 1); F. M. Appendini in "Notizie istorico-critiche sulle antichità, storia e letteratura de' Ragusei" ("Historico-critical Information about the Antiquity, the History and the Literature of the Ragusans"), vol. II, Ragusa, 1803; Simeone Gliubich in "Dizionario biografico degli uomini illustri della Dalmazia" ("Biographic Dictionary of the Illustrious Men of Dalmatia") (Vienna-Zara, 1856); A. Montanari in "Benedetto Cotrugli" (Italia Centrale, 25.XII.1890); Vittorio Alfieri in "La partita doppia per la prima volta esposta da Benedetto Cotrugli" ("The Double Entry Exposed for the First Time by Benedetto Cotrugli") and recently (Venice 1990) by Ugo Tucci, who oversaw the modern edition of his mercantile manual. All these, and others, have underlined that Cotrugli is the author of the first Italian treatise on merchant business, a work which has nothing to do with Croatian literature or culture. It is right, therefore, that – reacting to the most recent attempt to usurp his nationality – we also consider him for what he was and remains: an illustrious personality of Italian culture and literature, who – as many men of science in Italy during his time – had several scientific and cultural interests, as is demonstrated by his two other works, of which, unfortunately, only the titles survive: "De uxore ducenda" ("How the wife must be directed") and "Della natura de' fiori" ("On the Nature of Flowers").
One of the most illustrious Italian poets of Ragusa in the 16th century was Savino de Bobali, known as "il Sordo" ("the Deaf") (1530-1585), a member of the "Accademia dei Concordi" (Ragusan Academy of Writers) and author, among the other things, of a volume of "Rime amorose e pastorali et satire" ("Amorous and Pastoral Rhymes and Satyrs") printed in Venice by Aldo Manuzio in 1579. According to the historiographers of Croatian literature, however, he is "their" poet: Savko or Sabo Babaljevic-Glusac. Dwelling briefly on Ragusa, let us remember again the patrician and poet Stefano Gradi, a man who has entered the history of Croatian literature – or more accurately smuggled, as usual – under the Croatized version of his name and surname: Stjepan Gradic. Born in Ragusa in 1613 and died in Rome in 1683, coming from a patrician family, he was sent to Italy to study in various Jesuit colleges; he became a priest, writer and custodian of the Vatican Library, a member of the "Accademia dei Ritrovati" of Padua and founder of the "Accademia Reale" in Rome after having been the animator of literary circles in Fermo and Bologna.
He signed his numerous books, his letters and other documents always and only as Stephanus-Stefano Gradi. Confronted with such an obvious Italian name for a so-called "Croatian poet", what do they do? Nothing; they just add a "c" and call him a "Croat".
Unfortunately for the counterfeiters, in the 19th century there was another Dalmatian writer, Niccolò Gradi (born in Zara in 1823 and died in 1894), also an Italian poet, who did not allow manipulation of his surname during his life and entered the modern Croatian encyclopedias as Gradi, with the annotation: "last Dalmatian poet of patrician origin, descendant of the noble Ragusan Gradi family".
Another Ragusan writer, the gentleman Serafino Cerva (1696-1759), author of a famous "Biblioteca Ragusina" ("Ragusan Library") which was the first encyclopedia of Ragusan and Dalmatian literature, is presented as Serafim Crijevic by his falsifiers, who are forced, by the way, to translate the work of Cerva from Latin. The same encyclopedia by Cerva, comprising as many as 435 biographies of scholars from the ancient and illustrious "Athens of the Adriatic", demonstrates that, with very few exceptions, all the Ragusan writers who lived until the 18th century wrote in Latin and Italian. It could not be otherwise: both because the small seafaring republic "imported" rectors and school teachers from Italy, and was directly linked to Italian culture, and because all the sons of the Ragusan patricians, without distinction, studied in Italy and many intellectuals spent most of their life in Italy. Ragusan literature was thus a true and real appendix of Italian literature.
The same is true for the literary history of Zara and for most of the literary history of Spalato, Sebenico, Lesina and Traù, especially during the period of Humanism and the Renaissance.
At this point I should present a summary, albeit very quickly, of the so-called "Croatian" literature of Dalmatia, in order to show that it is largely a colossal falsification, being in reality mostly Italian literature. But finding ourselves in a boundless field, it is necessary at this time to limit ourselves to a few segments, postponing a more thorough discussion to another occasion. I will only add a few other examples of falsification, venturing even outside the political territory of modern Croatia. Let us go to the Bay of Cattaro, a coastal territory in modern Montenegro.
Giovanni Bona-Boliris, born in Cattaro around 1520 and died around 1572, was a humanist poet who wrote in Latin and Italian. He signed his name as Giovanni Bona, Johannes Bona and Ioannes Bonna. He studied at the University of Padua, where he studied law. With very few exceptions, Serbian and Croatian historians insert this poet into their national literature, changing his name into Ivan Bolica and Bunic, respectively. We find him, translated of course, first in the anthologies of the "Croatian Latinists" of 1969 and then in the Montenegrian Anthology of 1979. Fortunately for him, he had entered the first Italian anthology already in 1555, four centuries earlier. The principle work of Giovanni Bona de Boliris is "Descriptio sinus et urbis Ascriviensis", per D. Ionnem Bonam de Boliris, nobilem Catharensem ("Description of the Gulf and City of Cattaro" by Mr. Giovanni Bona de Boliris, noble of Cattaro), a composition of 331 Latin hexameters with which he glorified the Bay of Cattaro, Cattaro itself and the other localities of the fabulous Gulf. The work was published in Lucca, in Tuscany, in 1585 by the Ragusan Dominican friar Serafino Razzi, as an appendix to his "Storia di Raugia" ("History of Raugia"). Bona de Boliris maintained close relations with the literary circles in Italy, particularly with the poets gathered around the court of Naples. When G. Ruscelli, in 1551, collected poetic texts for an anthology in honour of Giovanna d'Aragona, the beautiful Napolitan wife of Ascanio Colonna, he also invited to write Bona de Boliris of Cattaro who, joining the initiative, was present in the volume published in Venice in 1554 with the title "Il tempio della divina signora donna Giovanna d'Aragona, fabbricato da tutti i più gentili spiriti e in tutte le lingue principali del mondo" ("The Temple of the Divine Lady Mrs. Giovanna d'Aragona, Made by the Most Gentle Spirits and in All the Principal Languages of the World"). Bona entered it not with poems in Croatian or Serbian, languages which clearly did not belong to his literary creativity, but with an Italian sonet and a Latin epigram, signing his name as Giovanni Bona da Cattaro. Certainly he did not imagine that, four and a half centuries later, Montenegrins and Croats would quarrel over whether he was a Serbian or Croatian poet. The Croatian essayist Slobodan Prosperov Novak, former president of the Croatian P.E.N. Club Centre, has written recently in a book that "Ivan Bolica" (our Giovanni Bona de Boliris) "remains eternally reckoned in Croatian literary history".
A friend, admirer and fellow countryman of Bona was Ludovico Pasquali (1500-1551), author of the collection of poems in the Italian language, "Rime volgari" ("Popular Rhymes") in 1549, and a volume in Latin called "Carmina" ("Poems"), printed in 1551.
The Serbian and Croatian historians of literature have taken possession also of this poet and, in order to claim him for their own nationalities, the Croats have changed his name to Ludvig Paskvalic or Paskalic, while for the Serbo-Montenegrins he is Ludovik Paskojevic or Paskovic. The preface of the anthology "Croatian Latinists" is revealing when it speaks of Pasquali: its editors indirectly admit the falsification, writing: "Having to determine the name of the poet [i.e. having to determine how to Croatize it], we have opted for the version Paskvalic because it is favoured by the Latin (Pascalis) and the Italian (Paschale, Pascale) forms of his surname, as the author himself alternately signed, a form that his descendants changed into Pasquali in the 18th century." I think that at this point no comment is necessary.
When the anthology of "Croatian Latinists" appeared, we were surprised by the inclusion of poets such as Bona, Pasquali and others who did not belong to Croatia, not even territorially, because they were born in Cattaro or on the Bay, therefore within modern Montenegro. But our surprise turned into astonishment and incredulity in front of another anthology which appeared in September 1993 with the title "Stara knjizevnost Boke" ("The Ancient Literature of the Bay of Cattaro") in which the editors – the essayists Slobodan Prosperov Novak, Ivo Banac and Don Branko Sbutega – expressly declared that the aim of their work was to "restore to Croatian literature the writers of the Bay of Cattaro", in other words from modern Montenegro, because those writers, being Catholics, can not be considered Serbo-Montenegrins, but Croats! Supposing for the sake of argument that every Catholic born in any territory on the eastern shore of the Adriatic must be regarded as a Croat, we must ask ourselves how is it possible to attribute to Croatian literature those poets and writers who did not write their works in the Croatian language? Here, those Croats who shout "Thief! Thief!" are themselves downright thieves caught red-handed. In fact, in this anthology of Croatian literature of the Bay of Cattaro, which covers the end of the 15th century to the end of the 18th century, we find 48 authors born in the Bay, of whom 12 are anonymous. Subtracting these 12, 36 remain. Of these 36, as many as 22 have not left a single line in the Croatian or Serbian language, so that they had to hire a team of 11 Italian specialists in order to translate their texts from Latin and Italian so they could insert them into their anthology. To be precise, in two cases the translations are from Latin and in all other cases the translations are from Italian. The question, an annoying one, is always the same: how can Italian texts in poetry and prose belong to Croatian literature? By what right, and with what nerve can such operations be performed?
In this anthology the following poets and writers are presented as "Croats": Ludovico Pasquali-Pascalis, Giovanni Bona-Boliris, and even Giovanni Polizza, Giorgio Bisanti, Girolamo Pima, Timoteo Cisilla, Giovanni Crussala, Giuseppe Bronza, Girolamo Panizzola, all undeniably Italian, along with others of Slavic and even Armenian origin (at least judging by their surnames), but they also are authors of Italian texts.
Let us begin immediately with Cristoforo Ivanovich, whose surname is clearly Slavic, let us even say Croatian. But how is it possible to define Cristoforo Ivanovich as a Croatian writer? He was born in Budua in 1618 and died in Venice in 1688. Among his works stand out two large volumes of poetry, both written and published in Venice: "Poesie" ("Poems") and "Minerva a tavolino" ("Minerva at the Desk"). In this latter work Ivanovich published also a compilation of his letters and about 80 pages of his "Memorie teatrali a Venezia" ("Theatrical Memoirs in Venice"). Besides being a poet, in fact, he was also a man of theatre and wrote many librettos whose music was set by Pier Francesco Cavalli (the dramatic opera "Coriolano"), by Domenico Partenio ("Costanza trionfante"), Giovanni Gagliardi ("Lisimaco"), Pietro Andrea Ziani ("L'amor guerriero") and by Domenico Freschi ("Circe"). All these musical dramas were played in the public and court theatres in Piacenza, Venice, Bologna, Vicenza and other Italian cities. In light of these bio-bibliographic elements, is it possible or not to consider Ivanovich a Montenegrian or a Croat? The answer is provided by the poet himself who, in one of his works – all written exclusively in Italian – wanted to underline his exclusive belonging to Italian literature, adding: "even though my native language is quite different from Tuscan".
The same could be said of the other writers and poets present in the anthology by Slobodan Prosperov Novak, whose "Croatian" texts have been translated from Italian: Vincenzo Buiovich, Marco Martinovich, Cristoforo Mazzarovich, Marco Ivanovich-Moro etc., all the way to Stefano Zannovich. Aside from the birth-place – from Cattaro to Perasto, from Permango to Budua – all these writers studied in Italy, in the universities of Padua and Rome; lived part of their lives in Italy, some lived their whole life there and died there; they considered themselves Italians and were protagonists of Italian literary currents.
From the same essays by Novak, Banac and Sbutega which precede, accompany and follow the texts of the anthology of "Croatian" literature of the Bay, emerges the names of other writers and poets whose texts have been lost, here defined as "humanists and Petrarchists"; their names were: Bernardo Pima, Nicola Chiurlo, Luca Bisanti, Alberto de Gliricis, Domenico and Vincenzo Bucchia, Vincenzo Ceci, Antonio Zimbella, Fracensco Moranti... All "Croats"!
To conclude: Since about 80 years ago – the phenomenon began timidly after the creation of the first Yugoslavia in 1920, then gradually became larger and larger – the Croatian, and in part also the Serbian, literary critics and essayists have carried out a systematic appropriation of the Italian writers of Dalmatia and of the Montenegrin coast; and there has been, consequently, the incorporation of all those writers and poets who wrote in Latin and in Italian into Croatian and Montenegrin literature (some names are repeated in both), if they were born or lived in the territory of today's Croatia and of today's Montenegro. This robbery is almost always accompanied by Slavicization and falsification of Italian names and surnames, as we have extensively demonstrated.
At this point, let us consider a "curious" circumstance: Croatian literature from the earliest times until the 16th century is almost exclusively a succession of Dalmatian writers, from Marko Marulic-Marulo to Hektorovic-Ettoreo and others. It is therefore natural to wonder: why did Croatian art and literature not begin in the inner regions of Slavonia, Baranja, Posavina, Zagorje and others, while they flourished before the 16th century in the whole of Dalmatia where the literature in particular was expressed in Latin and Italian, and only extremely rarely in Croatian? Jutrovic, Horvatic and many other essayists who feel it necessary to enrich Croatian literature with works written in Latin and Italian by Dalmatian authors who were integrally incorporated into Italian culture commit a robbery in broad daylight, it is true, but it should be pitied. They are driven by extreme necessity. The appropriation of the culture of somebody else, in this case the Italian literature of Dalmatia, is the only possible way for the bride to present a decent "dowry" to the groom. What else can they boast of, at least until the 16th to 17th centuries? Only beginning in those centuries, in fact, it is possible to find the beginnings of the history of Croatian literature, as well as sculpture, painting, music and other arts; everything in Dalmatia was brought by us, and, in general, the regions that for so many centuries were part of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and the Republic of Ragusa, which was also a state of Italian culture and language.
In other words, the Italian culture of Dalmatia was the seed and the fertilizer; without the presence of the Italian Dalmatian artists and writers – not to mention those who came from the western coast to settle in Dalmatia – the beginning of Croatian literature and most arts would be moved to much more recent centuries. It is no coincidence that the first Croatian syllabify in Glagolitic characters was printed in 1527 in... Venice, while the first grammar of Croatian language was written by the Italian Jesuit missionary Bartolomeo Cassio of Pago (1575-1650), who is presented today as Bartol Kasic.
The first lay city schools appeared not in Zagreb, Osijek, Koprivnica, Varazdin etc., but in Zara in 1282 and in Ragusa in 1333. The first network of high schools was not created in Slavonia, in Zagorje or in other Croatian regions, but in Dalmatia, starting with the Jesuit college of Ragusa (which was part of the Roman province of the Society of Jesus) culminating with the Dominican seminary of Zara. All the intellectuals of Dalmatia since the 13th century until the 18th century, and almost all also in the 19th century, exclusively attended the Italian universities of Padua, Bologna, and Rome. With these observations we certainly do not intend to bring forth territorial claims or ask for modifications of the current borders; but nobody can deny our moral claims, nobody can appropriate our culture, our heritage and civilization written in the books and engraved in the stones.