Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Redeemed Lands

(Taken from the journal “Italy Today: A Fortnightly Bulletin”, Volume 1, Issue 7, 1918)


In the year 1027 the Emperor Conrad II bestowed all temporal power in the region of Trent on the Bishop, and for eight centuries after that the Trentino was an independent and autonomous state, recognizing no foreign sovereignty. The Bishop of Trent retained his temporal powers till 1803, when they passed to Austria. Two years after, in 1805, the principality of Trent was by the treaty of Pressburg ceded by Austria to Bavaria; five years later by the treaty of Paris of February 28, 1810, the Trentino became a part of the Kingdom of Italy founded by Napoleon, and assumed the official name of “Department of the High Adige.”

At the fall of Napoleon the Trentino returned under the dominion of Austria, to which it was to remain subject until the year 1918.

Such, briefly, is the history of this region. But throughput the centuries of independent life and the decades of subjection to the Empire of the Hapsburgs, the Trentino has kept unchanged its Italian character. Every town and village of the valley of the Adige bears an Italian name and is peopled by Italians. Ala, Mori, Rovereto and Calliano are types of these Italian communities. Throughout mediaeval times and to the end of the eighteenth century, when an ineffectual germanization of the official life of the region began, historical records make mention of the Italian character of its industrial and commercial life.

The splendor of the Italian Renaissance stamped its mark over the whole region of the Trentino. Castles and churches show the influence of Italian architectural style. Statues and bas-reliefs in the towns of this region also bear witness to the Italian taste of its inhabitants.


From the thirteenth to the end of the eighteenth century Istria was a dependency of the Republic of Venice. It remained under this rule till the peace of Campo-formio in 1797, when Austria acquired it, together with Venice itself and all other lands of the ancient republic of the Doges. By the peace of Pressburg, Austria was, in 1805, compelled to cede Istria to Napoleon who incorporated the region in the newly formed Kingdom of Italy but in 1814 Austria again seized it and has retained it until the end of the Great War.

Istria was as thoroughly Roman a province as Venetia; she fought the barbarians of past ages as bravely; she clung to the Roman government of Ravenna until her own free communes arose, as on the mainland opposite; and in the thirteenth century she came under the protection of Venice, whose soft dialect is still the speech of all her seaport towns and inland cities. Not till Napoleon's ambition led him to use Venice as a pawn with Austria was Istria severed from Italy; and even then, she was reunited with Italy from 1806 to 1814. Austria, then, has had just a century in which to win Istrian allegiance; and she has made use of every device known to the Teuton. By wholesale importation she has tried to make the countryside Slav; but Italians still are paying five-sixths of the rent tax, three-quarters of the industrial tax, four-fifths of the income tax.

Historically, Istria is a segment of Italy. Geographically, she is as truly Italian. Italy is bounded by the Alps and the three seas; and the Julian Alps swing across the base of Istria, divide it off from the Slav hinterland, and give it, by their protection, a Mediterranean climate, with the olive groves and the vineyards so characteristic of Italy.

Venice built her palaces of Istrian stone and her galleys of Istrian timber; Carpaccio and Schiavone were painters as Italian as their contemporaries of the peninsula. It is a noble series of Italian names from Istria that is crowned by that of Nazario Sauro of Capodistria, the devoted mariner who gave to Italy his knowledge of Istrian coasts and harbors when the war broke out, and on whom Austria has wreaked vengeance, as she has on Cesare Battisti, the former Deputy from Trent. From Alboin the Lombard down, the Teuton has never failed to add some tragic compelling touch to his maladroit efforts at controlling Latin peoples; the scaffolds of Battisti and of Sauro serve as a reminder to Italy and to the world of what would have been in store if Austria had remained on Italian soil.


Peopled by Illyrians, with some Greek colonies on the sea coast, Dalmatia was Roman from the second century B.C. until the fall of the Western Empire. Four Roman Emperors were Dalmatians, amongst whom was Diocletian, founder of Spalato. On the fall of Rome it was in Dalmatia that the Western Empire still survived for some decades. The Dalmatian cities, prosperous Latin communities, governed themselves freely even after the fall of Rome, obeying their own laws and statutes which were purely Italo-Roman in character, untainted by German barbaric feudalism. At first they were under the protection of the Roman Empire of the East, and subsequently they became independent republics, following the example of the free Italian communes. In 1409 they passed definitely under Venetian rule, which retained suzerainty over them until 1797, though they always retained their municipal autonomy. Toward the year 1000 small Slav principalities arose in the inland part of Dalmatia; their rule, however, never extended to the coast towns, which always remained free and Italian. Indeed these insignificant Slavonic lordships soon became Italian, so that Venice was able to assume undisputed rule over the whole of Dalmatia.

In 1815 Dalmatia came again under Austrian rule after having formed part of the Kingdom of Italy of Napoleon I.

Austria respected the Italian character of Dalmatia until 1866; but after the loss of Lombardy and Venetia a policy was adopted which aimed at fostering the Croatian element in this region. Little by little, by means of violence and fraud, the municipalities of the Dalmatian cities, which had been Italian for centuries, passed into the hands of the Slavs; in 1870 Sebenico, in 1883 Spalato (the last “podestà” of Spalato, Dr. Antonio Baiamonti, was a distinguished writer and patriot), in 1897 Cattaro (podestà Pezzi), in 1899 Ragusa (podesta Baron Gondola), and so forth. Courageous Zara alone managed to hold out, and preserved intact its Italian patrimony and Italian municipality until Austria, taking advantage of the present war, dissolved the town council. But ever since the Croatian invasion of Dalmatia was begun, as the several centres of resistance gradually passed into the hands of the Austrophilous Slavs, the government at Vienna, and with its consent, and sometimes without it, the Slavs themselves, illegally closed the Italian schools so as to deprive the Italian population even of this essential spiritual nutriment. Zara alone, proudly withstanding all assaults, was able to keep her schools. In all the rest of Dalmatia no Italian schools remained except those privately supported by citizens at their own expense by means of the National Leagues.

The eminent geographer Leon Dominian in his book on “The Frontiers of Language and Nationality” published by the American Geographical Society, renders justice to the Italian character of Dalmatian civilization and culture. The following are quotations from the chapter on “Borderlands of the Italian Language.”
“The history of this coastal land (of Dalmatia) is Italian in spite of the showing of census returns as to the numerical inferiority of Italians within its limits. Rome had reached Dalmatia and the Near East by way of the Adriatic. A whole chain of imposing ruins extended to the wild Albania shores bears the unmistakable impression of Roman splendor. In the partition of the Roman Empire in 225 A. D., Dalmatia was assigned to the western and not to the Eastern half. The period of its subjection to Venetian rule is one of the most brilliant in its history. All the civilization it received came from the west.

The fact is that the Italian element has always been predominant. Dalmatia has always greeted Italian thought as the heritage of Rome and Venice. Its history, its most notable monuments and its whole culture are products of either Roman or Venetian influence. The maritime cities in particular still remain strongholds of Italian thought. Almost every one boasts of a native son who has distinguished himself in the cause of Italy.

The Italians in Dalmatia constitute the progressive and educated element of the population. The mass of the Slavic element is uneducated.”


Geography. — Fiume, situated at the eastern base of the Istrian peninsula, belongs geographically to Istria to which it belonged politically until 1776.

The eastern frontier of Istria, which some place at the Arsa, the original frontier to the tenth Augustean Region, is really formed by the watershed of the Julian Alps which descend to the sea at the “Canale della Montagna,” opposite the head-land of St. Mark, near the island of Veglia.

Fiume, which was from its foundation a free municipality, was for some time under the dominion of the Franks, after which it became successively a fief of the archbishop of Pedana, of the bishop of Pola, of the lords of Duino, of the Hapsburgs, of the Lords of Walsee, and then again of the Hapsburgs.

All known documents relating to the city of Fiume bear witness to its uninterruptedly Italian character, which victoriously survived the Slav invasion in the seventh century that, for a time, seemed to have submerged everything.

In 1776 Maria Theresa made over Fiume to Hungary and — as a result of the protest of the inhabitants — a royal decree of April 23, 1779, proclaimed it to be a “separate body annexed to the crown of the kingdom of Hungary.”

In 1848 it was taken from Hungary by the Croatians of the Bano Jelacic, who held on to it for nineteen years without succeeding, spite of tenacious endeavors in undermining its Italian character, and in 1867, on the dualistic settlement between Austria and Hungary, it was restored to this latter.

In 1863 the so-called “deputations of the kingdom of Hungary, Croatia and Fiume” met at Budapest and decided that “the free city of Fiume and its territory” should remain, in accordance with the charter of 1779, a separate body provisionally annexed to Hungary “corpus separatum adnexum sacrae Regni coronae.”

In the first years after 1868 the autonomy and the Italian character of Fiume were respected. But for nearly twenty years the Italians of Fiume, harassed on all sides, struggling against the Croatians and the Magyars who have done everything in their power to denationalize them, have been engaged in a desperate but so far victorious fight in defence of their threatened Italian nationality.

The Italian character of Fiume is irrefutably proved even by the government census returns.

These figures show that in 1910 there were 24,000 Italians in Fiume (exclusive of some 6,000 Italian citizens most of them natives of Fiume), 12,000 Slavs (Croats, Serbs, and some Slovacs) and 6,400 Magyars.

The fact is that before the war at least 35,000 of the 54,000 inhabitants of Fiume were Italians, that is to say 65 per cent as compared to 28 per cent of Slavs and 6 per cent of Magyars.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Completion of Italian Unity

(Taken from the journal “Italy Today: A Fortnightly Bulletin”, Volume 1, Issue 7, 1918)

The conditions stipulated by the Allies for the armistice on the Austro-Hungarian front contain a clause which, representing in some fashion an anticipation of the rightful Italian aspirations in the Alps and on the Adriatic, forms an element of fundamental importance for the reconstruction of Europe, for the day of peace. This clause (the third in the text of the armistice) establishes:
“Evacuation of all territories invaded by Austria-Hungary since the beginning of the war. Withdrawal within such periods as shall be determined by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces on each front of the Austro-Hungarian armies behind a line fixed as follows: From Pic Umbrail to the north of the Stelvio it will follow the crest of the Rhetian Alps up to the sources of the Adige and the Eisack, passing thence by Mounts Reschen and Brenner and the heights of Oetz and Zoaller. The line thence turns south, crossing Mount Toblach and meeting the present frontier along the Carnic Alps. It follows this frontier up to Mount Tarvis, and after Mount Tarvis the watershed of the Julian Alps by the Col of Predil, Mount Mangart, the Tricorno (Triglav) and the watershed of the Cols di Podherdo, Podlaniscam and Idria. From this point the line turns southeast toward the Schneeberg, excludes the whole basin of the Save and its tributaries. From Schneeberg it goes down toward the coast in such a way as to include Castua, Mattuglia and Volosca in the evacuated territories. It will also follow the administrative limits of the present province of Dalmatia, including the north of Liscara and Trivania, and to the south territory limited by a line from the (Semigrand) Cape Planca to the summits of the watersheds eastward so as to include in the evacuated area all the valleys and water courses flowing toward Sebenico, such as the Cicola, Kerka, Butisnica and their tributaries. It will also include all the islands in the north and west of Dalmatia from Premuda, Selve, Ulbo, Scherda, Maon, Paga and Puntadura, in the north up to Melada, in the south embracing Santandrea, Busi, Lissa, Lesina, Torcola, Curzola, Cazza and Lagosta, as well as the neighboring rocks and islets and passages only excepting the islands of Great and Small Zirona, Bua, Solta and Brazza.”

Italian Guarantees

As is seen, and as has been noted by the press of the whole world, this line of occupation corresponds in all its details to the line defined in the Treaty of London between Italy, France, England and Russia, April 26, 1915, on the eve of Italian intervention. In drawing up this treaty Italy stipulated the fundamental conditions of her national reconstruction and of her liberty, she asked the redemption of her populations within the Austrian Empire and asked her natural boundaries, the line of divide of her rivers, the line of defense of her mountains. She asked, in fact, to be free and safe in her own territory, reconquering to herself the gates of invasion of this territory, which Austria has been able to hold since 1866 and which, with their formidable menace, had represented for fifty years a true and actual oppression of Austrian policy upon Italian policy.

This is the spirit and the function of the Treaty of London. The Allies and the United States, subscribing to the conditions of armistice, which have determined a line of occupation by the Italian troops corresponding exactly to the boundary line determined in the Treaty of London, have implicitly and concretely recognized not only the perfect vitality of the treaty itself but also the absolute and immediate necessities which it meets. The Allies and the United States have given specific proof that they consider the integral fulfilment of these necessities as the basis of the Italian policy and of the relations between the Allies and Italy.

In this sense the third article of the treaty of armistice with Austria has an exceptional political importance. As against an insinuating campaign aimed at the falsification of the true ends and the true spirit of the Italian war, it reaffirms the perfect harmony of these ends and of this spirit with the general ends and with the spirit of the war of the Allies and of the United States, and it marks the first concrete and precise lines of the future disposition of Europe.

Austrian Military Preparation

As we said, Austria obtained in 1866 a military boundary which assured her an absolute preponderance over Italy. She had in her hands all the dominant positions, all the outlets to the sea, all the ports, all the roads; in the Trentino she held directly the military control of Lombardy and of Venetia, with Pola she held the dominion of the Upper Adriatic, with Dalmatia the dominion of the Middle Adriatic, with the mouths of Cattaro the dominion of the Lower Adriatic. From the Stelvio to the mouths of Cattaro she built a line of true suffocation of the Italian nation.

From the Trentino all the valleys lead toward the east as well as toward the west into the heart of the richest and most industrious zones of Italy. Austria kept these valleys, which means practically the possibility of transporting from the Trentino toward the east and toward the west into Lombardy and into Venetia her armies and her war, that aggressive war which she was preparing equally against Italy and against Serbia; in fact, more against Italy, which represented a greater and more immediate danger to the conservation of her monstrous regime of oppression because of the movements of the Italian Irredentist against the empire. These two problems were naturally connected before the Government of Vienna. As she held in the Alps and in the Adriatic an absurd boundary, which violated every right, of the populations, so on this side of the boundary, in the Italian lands remaining within the empire, the Government of Vienna oppressed these populations and their liberty; on the boundary the colossal preparations for the invasion of Italy, in the interior the fiercest persecution to denationalize Italia Irredenta, to destroy its character, to annihilate its civilization.

Conrad and Beck

The year 1866 marks the beginning of this double military and national policy. Before 1866 the Austrians. having the government of Venetia besides that of the Trentino, exercised a direct pressure upon Italian life, and the Italians of the empire represented a political force of notable importance; the Italian danger was not great, and the Imperial Government followed a policy of rigid control but not of destruction. When, however, Venetia was lost, and the ethnic internal force of the Italians therefore weakened, Austria initiated her policy of extermination. The entire action of the Austrian Government in these fifty years has been founded upon these two principles: Armaments on the Italian front, destruction of the Italian character in the regions of the Trentino and of the Adriatic. Marshal Conrad was the tenacious supporter of the punitive war against Italy, a war which should have restored to Austria the direct control of the peninsula; and it was Baron Beck, Prime Minister during the period of the Bosnian crisis, who, presenting to Parliament his bills for the reform of the electoral system in the municipality of Triest, declared that it was necessary to re-enforce the idea of an Austrian State as against the Italians. These were the two instruments of one and the same program and of one and the same action.

The general directives of the Austrian policy led the empire to exert a pressure toward the southern seas; a pressure direct upon the Adriatic, indirect and remote upon the Aegean. At the time of the Bosnian crisis the pressure of the Adriatic had a decided prevalence. Austria, in all the time from the retirement of the Austrian troops from the Sanjak of Novibazar (1908) to the second Balkan War, brought her greatest effort to bear upon Istria and Dalmatia, and toward Albania; that is, upon the Italian lands of the empire and on the borders of Italy.

It is well known that in January, 1909, when Italy bowed under the tragic weight of the earthquake of December 28, which had destroyed entire cities of Calabria and of Sicily, and overturned flourishing agricultural and maritime regions, the Austrian military circles tried to profit by the Italian disaster and start the long-prepared war; it is well known that the same attempt was repeated in 1912, when Italy was engaged in the Tripolitanian War, the first blow to the military power of the Turkish empire and the first assistance to the Balkan nations, to Serbia, to Bulgaria and to Greece, which awaited their war of liberty. The European war begun by Austria as an anti-Serbian war had always been conceived and prepared for as an anti-Italian war.


In the empire the Italians found themselves in absolute minority before every nationality. Their strength was all in the fact that on the other side of the boundaries there existed an Italian state. But precisely because it was such, because it was not an internal force of the monarchy, but an external and therefore negative to the interests of the empire, was it a fundamental necessity for the empire to eliminate it. In order well to understand all the history of the relations between Austria and Italy, in order to understand well the condition of the Italians in Austria, the Italian needs and therefore the Treaty of London and the third clause of the armistice of Nov. 4, we must start from this point: Austria wished to destroy the Italian Irredentist population, to transform the Trentino, Istria and Dalmatia from Italian lands into Germanic or Slavic or Magyar lands; to maintain in these lands thus denationalized a fierce anti-Italian sentiment, in such a way as to constitute between Italy and the empire a national barrier, to serve as a re-enforcement to the military barrier which she had been able to obtain in 1866. The history of this struggle at Trento, at Trieste, at Zara is one of the most heroic pages of the struggle of a small minority against the fierce oppression of a great political organism.

The Italians still held in 1866 the intellectual and social dominion of almost all the lands of the Adriatic, they had their municipalities and their schools, the life of their civilization. Little by little, with a forced penetration, the Austrian Government turned great Germanic, Magyar and Slavic masses into the Italian cities; it put these cities under a regime of direct Government control; it gave to the Germans, to the Magyars and to the Slavs help to conquer ethnically the Italian cities; it deprived in great part the Italians of the right to vote, and divided them into artificial electoral and administrative districts to break their unity and thus weaken their action; it closed their schools and opened German, Magyar and Slavic schools; it forced them to renounce their own language and occasionally had them massacred.

All this was possible, above all, because Austria possessed the roads of invasion to Italy, and with this overwhelming military superiority she could face, nay, provoke, the Italian nation. All this was possible, above all, because the Trentino, wedged as a formidable mass in the plain of the Po, assured to Austria the possibility of replying to an Italian political action in defense of the Italian Irredentists with the march of her armies into the valleys which descend upon Brescia, upon Verona and upon Milan, and with an attack upon the defenseless Italian coast from Pola and Cattaro.

The condition of Italy was tragic; her Irredentist population, suffocated by the empire, was forced to yield under the pressure of the Germanic, Magyar and Slavic emigrations; her boundaries and her sea were under the strategical dominion of Austria; her policy held in this vise.

It may be asked whether one can speak of a complete Italian independence in this condition; it may be asked whether one can call truly free a state which must stand by inactive at the destruction of its children.

In substance, Italy was in such a state; and the day in which she entered the war, facing a military situation absolutely unfavorable, she entered having a true war for liberty to conduct; her independence and her future in mind. It would have been an atrocious joke had the Italian people intervened in the war for world liberty, without obtaining the promise from its Allies that, in the midst of the liberty of all, it should have had its own liberty. This has been its sacred egoism. It is not the egoism which tramples for its own sake and for its own interests upon every right, but the just and sacred desire to obtain for itself what it should obtain for others, but the just and sacred right of drawing from victory what victory should give to every people.

The Treaty of London

Italy entered into war upon the basis of the Treaty of London, not having bargained her intervention, but having put before the Allies this problem of justice — that if the word “liberty,” in the name of which the war was being fought, should have a concrete meaning for every people, it should have a concrete meaning also for the Italian people; that if Europe was to be relieved by a colossal effort of will and of blood from the menace of Germanic dominion, Italy, which gave to this colossal effort all her resources, was to be relieved, more than from the menace, from the actual reality of this dominion, exercised by Germany through Austria. The Treaty of London means this, and this only: The liberty of the Italian nation. In the Treaty of London there is not one city nor one man beyond the boundaries of the strict defense of this liberty; there are Germanic and Slavic national nuclei which will remain within these boundaries, but they are the equivalent of the Italian cities and populations, which Italy has sacrificed to the friendship and to the future of the Slavic peoples. There is also an immediate demonstration of this fact. The Allied and American Generals and Ministers determining at Versailles the conditions of the armistice with Austria, have selected as we have shown, the boundaries defined by the Treaty of London, as the boundaries of military occupation. This, besides implicit recognition of the rights of Italy, means that the Allies have recognized that these are the minimum indispensable boundaries for the military safety of the Italian front! Here we are no longer dealing with purely diplomatic acts; here we are dealing with concrete conditions in the face of the enemy who surrenders his arms. A technical examination of the Treaty of London shows at once that the boundary line determined by it represents the cardinal point upon which coincides the divide and the line of expansion of Italian nationality. The Austrian Empire was on this side of the line. It held in its possession except for a very small tract in the northeast about sixty miles of boundary — the two slopes of the divide; it occupied the Plateau of the Carso, it held entirely the Dinaric Alps, that is, the geographical enclosure of the Alpine system or the ethnical enclosure of the Italian nationality in the Adriatic. The Treaty of London purely and simply carries the boundary of the Kingdom of Italy upon this line, where lies the boundary of the Italian nation, where are the primitive, essential, fundamental conditions for the defense of Italy.

When one discusses the Treaty of London he must discuss not its formal diplomatic value but its national value, its value as the historical completion of Italian unity. If it is desired that Italy be truly a free country and that she have the liberty of her development to her must first of all be given the conditions of safety. At every stage of Italian history there has been the tragic phenomenon that a foreign state, by possessing the roads of invasion of Italy, has had the possibility of dominating the peninsula. For centuries Italy has been divided, torn, trampled upon in the contest of the great European states which were formed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. What Belgium and Serbia have suffered in the war from the German Armies, Piedmont and Lombardy have suffered thirty times from the Imperial Spanish and French Armies. The Italian Republics have been stifled by the enemy which pushed itself from the Alpine valleys into their plains.

In 1851 Lord Palmerston, on the basis of these historical experiences, in a note of protest against the Germanic confederation which had annexed to its territory the Trentino, stated the principle of the Italian geographical boundary as the necessary boundary for the Italian nation.

To-day the Treaty of London and the third clause of the armistice simply repeat the formula of Lord Palmerston as to the line of expansion and at the same time of defense of the Italian nation. This is absolutely indisputable for the Trentino and for the Upper Adige, where the geographical unity is precisely defined and the Italian nationality is absolutely prevalent (according to the Austrian statistics, 420,000 Italians and 180,000 Germans); indisputable for Triest, for Pola, for Fiume, for Zara, ancient Italian cities in which the forced Germanic and Slavic immigration if it has left its mark in the painful traces of struggle and of martyrdom, has not succeeded in modifying the ethnic character; indisputable in a way for the Adriatic, where the original Italian population has been driven toward the sea, shut up in the cities and slowly suffocated by the advance of this immigration. It is on the Adriatic that the greatest political problems of the Italian peace are assembled and it is in substance the problem of the Adriatic which still represents in public opinion one of the fundamental problems of the future disposition of Europe.

The Adriatic Problem

Geographically and historically the Adriatic is an Italian sea. The line of mountains which incloses the Trentino incloses also Dalmatia, the line of expansion of the Italian nation which follows the Brennero follows equally the Dinaric Alps. Dalmatia is Italy, as is Italy any part of the peninsula; only it is an Italy which has suffered extremely from foreign invasions, and from a policy of forced emigrations and of mixture of the races, which have deformed its character; it is an Italy in which there are to-day Slavic national nuclei so strong as to be able to face and sustain a struggle of a national character against the Italians.

The historical result of this struggle and of the directives of the currents of Slavic expansion to-day is this: that on the Adriatic Sea the Italian people and the Jugo-Slavic people together gravitate; that on the Adriatic Sea to-day there exist two great interests of two peoples.

Until to-day, until the day in which victory has given to the Italian army the Irredentist cities of the eastern shore, the condition of Italy on the Adriatic has been, as on the entire land boundary, one of absolute inferiority.

Italy possessed all the western coast, Austria all the eastern coast. The western coast has only two military ports—Venice and Brindisi—-with a distance between them of 450 miles. With Venice and Brindisi Italy could not, however, defend herself; she had no naval bases and no geographical possibility of building any. Coming to the other shore of the Adriatic, the Austrians were able to attack and bombard the Italian coasts, as they had done many times, and return to their bases before the Italian fleet, moving from Venice or from Brindisi, could come to their defense. The Italians were forced into a colossal work of watchfulness in the Adriatic, day and night, to maintain strong squadrons and to consume time and forces.

Austria, as we have said, completely dominated the Adriatic; the Upper Adriatic with Pola, the Middle Adriatic with Sebenico and with Spalato, the Lower Adriatic with Cattaro. The Italian Navy, in order to go into action against the Austrian fleets, was forced to throw itself into desperately dangerous expeditions; such as those of Com. Pellegrini and of Com. Rizzo, expeditions which, while they covered with glory the Italian sailors, were and have been at the same time a demonstration of the position of absolute geographical and military inferiority in which Italy found herself confronted with the state which possessed the Istrian and Dalmatian shore.

The Treaty of London is founded upon the necessity of destroying this state of injustice for Italy upon the necessity of giving to Italy the freedom of her sea. Not dominion, because the Treaty of London assures to Italy a preponderance only in the Northern Adriatic between Venice and Zara, that is, in the zone where the population is more compactly Italian, while it assigns to Jugo-Slavia the coast from Spalato to Cattaro, that is, the control of the Lower Adriatic, and it leaves the Middle Adriatic in a balance of power and of defense.

As a solution of the military problem, the Treaty of London represents simply the safety of Italy on the Adriatic, the primitive condition of her free life. As a solution of the historical and national problem, it is perhaps more a sacrifice of Italy than a sacrifice of Jugo-Slavia.

All the cities of Dalmatia are Italian, all the life and the civilization of Dalmatia are Italian life and civilization; in Dalmatia there are Italian populations which for a century have defended themselves furiously from Germanic and Slavic pressure, the last soldiers of a great battle unequally fought against the fierce policy of the Imperial Austrian Government which wishes to destroy the Italian name in the Adriatic.

After a century of this struggle the Italians have been left in the minority in the Adriatic, but theirs is the minority of the victims of an oppression who should now be protected and defended. Italy cannot naturally accept that 400,000 of her sons, as many Italians as are to-day living on the Adriatic, be repaid for their marvelous resistance, by abandonment to the Slavs, to those same Slavs who have represented the ethnical instrument with which the Austrian Government has tried to suppress them.

Italy cannot renounce cities entirely Italian, such as Zara; she cannot betray the faith and the martyrdom of those Irredentists; she cannot, especially, tolerate that, coming out from a war for freedom fought with colossal sacrifices she would be still a slave on her own sea.

Italians and Jugo-Slavs

The problem of the Adriatic must be examined with the greatest spirit of justice. On the one side there are indisputable necessities of an emigrated Slavic population; on the other, the indisputable necessities for the defense of the Italian Nation and the rights of an indigenous Italian population which finds itself on its own territory in the face of the Slavs.

The Treaty of London recognizes perfectly this double state of necessity. As it lays down the essential conditions for the defense and the safety of Italy, so it gives the conditions of life, of safety and of defense for the Jugo-Slavic people.

The Treaty of London is the only document supported by the Allies in which there are precise promises in favor of the Jugo-Slavic peoples, and these promises were asked for by Italy before the Allies. Italy, which might have egotistically treated only with regard to her own rights, has wished, in entering the war, to assure also to the Jugo-Slavs their rights for a just balance of power in the Adriatic.

Note 2 attached to Article 5 of the treaty establishes:
“The following districts upon the Adriatic shall be by virtue of the Powers of the Entente included in the territory of Croatia, Servia and Montenegro: to the north of the Adriatic the entire coast, starting from the Gulf of Volosca, by the Italian boundary, as far as the northern frontier of Dalmatia, including the entire coast which to-day belongs to Hungary; the entire coast of Croatia, the port of Fiume and the little ports of Nevi and of Carlopago, and thus the islands of Veglia, Pervicio, Gregorio, Kali and Arbe; to the south of the Adriatic, where Servia and Montenegro are interested, the entire coast from Punta Planka to the river Drin, with the important ports of Spalato, Ragusa, Cattaro, Antivari, Dulcigno and San Giovanni di Medua, as also the islands of Grande and Piccola Zirona, Buja, Solta, Brazza, Ciklian and Calamotta.”
This stipulation, as it gives proof of the generous loyalty of the Italian people, so it gives the first measure of what should be and is a just accord of all rights; of the rights of a people, such as the Serbo-Croatians, which has the right to its future, and of the rights of a people, such as the Italians, which cannot renounce itself.

Italy's Reclaimed Adriatic Provinces

(Written by Dr. G. Furlani, taken from the journal Italy Today: A Fortnightly Bulletin, Volume 1, Issue 8, 1918)

Italy's claim to permanent retention of her lost and recently regained Adriatic provinces of Istria and Dalmatia, are recognized by the Allied Powers and incorporated both in the Treaty of London and the terms of the armistice with Austria. They deal, however, with certain complications that to the man in the street may render their justice less clear than our somewhat more obvious right to the restoration of Trentino and Southern Tyrol. Chief among these complications is the recent demand on the part of certain Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, formerly held by Austria, that Italy evacuate the so-called Jugo-Slav territory now occupied by her under the terms of the armistice, and allow it to be united with Serbia in a single Jugo-Slav state.

I desire, therefore, to clear up various misapprehensions that may exist in the minds of the generality of the American public. We Italians of the now redeemed provinces value highly the warm spirit of brotherhood between our mother country and America that has developed new bonds of strength during the world war. We feel that the continuation of spirit of this friendship in the future depends on a thorough understanding by private American citizens as well as statesmen of the practical aims and ideals of the reunited democracy of Italy.

I speak as an Irredento. I believe I voice the sentiment of the overwhelming majority of my fellow Irredentists in Istria and Dalmatia, whether of Slavic or Latin origin, when I say that we recognize Italy as our mother country and desire a permanent return to the shelter of the beloved flag under which our kindred have for three bloody years fought for our liberty.

The grounds on which we base our arguments for the justice of this desire are four — historical, ethnological and traditional, military and political.

Historically, Istria and Dalmatia are part and parcel of the original Italy of the ancient Roman Republic. The first expansion of the early Roman people north and south from their city on its seven hills followed a natural geographical course. On the peninsula proper it was limited by the sea. To the north and to the east along the shore of the Adriatic it found its natural boundary in the great Alpine water-shed between the Adriatic and the Black Seas. It is the portion of this water-shed known as the Julian Alps to the north and the Dinaric Alps at the south bounding on the east respectively Istria and Dalmatia which in those early Roman days formed the natural geographical northeastern boundary of Italy.

The lands of Istria and Dalmatia were settled by Romans and completely Romanized. Out of this territory bordering the Adriatic Rome formed two Latin provinces which were politically integral parts of Italy and not colonies in any sense of the word. All of these inhabitants spoke the language and were as truly Roman citizens as the inhabitants of the Eternal City itself. The municipalities of these provinces were organized on the Roman plan. Their monuments of sculpture and architecture stand today, mute testimonials to the ancient spirit of Rome that originally civilized those lands and has never been entirely killed by the foreign oppressors.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire Istria and Dalmatia fell under the sway of the Byzantine Empire. As a natural result of being thus arbitrarily torn from their mother country, political and commercial decline followed. From that time until well into the Middle Ages these provinces played a small role among the nations.

With the rise of the Italian republics out of the ruins of the Roman Empire Venice reconquered these Adriatic lands. With this reunion of the Istrians and Dalmatians with their own people on the main peninsula during the second half of the Middle Ages a new and brilliant period in their history began. Under Venetian rule their ports, their industries and their commerce were developed. They became rich and prosperous. They adopted the dialect of Venetia and shared in the rich culture of that republic. All the greater art monuments of Istria and Dalmatia date from that period.

Then came Napoleon and split up the lands of the Venetian Republic, giving to Austria the Adriatic provinces. There followed another decline from which under the tyrannical Austrian rule these provinces have never recovered. It was the policy of Austria from the first to stamp out Italian sentiment and the Italian language. She sought first to Germanize these provinces. She imported colonies of Austrian-Germans. She endeavored to Germanize laws, institutions, and customs but in this she failed miserably. The sturdy Italian spirit survived in spite of her every effort. The people clung to their mother tongue and fought at every step of other changes that Austria sought to impose.

Next Austria tried to use a Slavic element in uprooting Italianism. She imported great masses of Magyar and Slavic peoples into the Italian cities. She put these cities under a regime of direct government control. She gave every encouragement to the Germans, the Magyars and the Slavs and sought in every way to oppress and discourage the Italians, depriving them of the right to vote and so dividing them into artificial administrative districts as to break up their unity. She closed their schools and established in their stead German, Magyar and Slavic schools. She used every expedient to force them to renounce their own language, occasionally resorting even to massacres. In Dalmatia, for example, she helped the Slavic element to gain control of sea-coast towns by sending war ships to terrorize the voters. Yet despite this long century of oppression Dalmatia and Istria remain ethnologically truly Italian today. There are 400,000 Italians speaking the Italian tongue still inhabiting those provinces. It is true that in some sections, owing to Austria's method of colonization and oppression, the majority of the population are Slavic but these Slavs are for the most part illiterate peasants of whom the greater portion in fact speak Italian and are only too glad to do business with Italians. In the larger centers commerce and industry are carried on almost entirely by Italians. The professions are in Italian hands. The administration is for the most part Italian. Trieste, for instance, is administrated entirely by Italians, the Slavic population there being very small. The same is true of the larger cities of Istria. Italy, in short, gives the real character to the country.

When it comes to the question of mutual self-defense as affecting Italy as a whole as well as the Italians of the Irredent lands the same argument applies in the Adriatic provinces as applied in the northern provinces of Trentino and Southern Tyrol. The strategic boundary from the standpoint of military defense is the water-shed between the Adriatic and the Black Sea just as it is at the north. This principle was recognized in the Treaty of London under the terms of which Italy entered the war. It was recognized again as a military expedient when the armistice was signed with Austria. It is probable that the populations of the disintegrated empire of old Austro-Hungary will in the years to come unite under commercial agreements. The next step logically is a political agreement. The third step, the possibility of which Italy and Europe as a whole must provide for, is a return of the old dynastic spirit of conquest. Against such temptation to disturb again the peace of Europe and once more enslave a part of the Italian people Italy must stand behind the bulwark of her ancient natural boundary.

Another danger against which we Irredenti seek protection is that of the spread of Bolshevism now threatening to overrun the Slavic and German populations to the north of us. Bolshevism must not set foot across the divide. Against such anarchy we seek the protection of the Italian flag.

Politically, as I have already shown, the representative part of the Istrian and Dalmatian population has never been in sympathy with Austro-Hungarian rule. Austrian traditions are autocratic. The democratic spirit of Istria and Dalmatia has never died since the days of the early Roman Republic. We wish to live in peace with the new Jugo-Slavic government that is arising without our borders. We are glad the Jugo-Slavs have won freedom out of the great war as we have won it. We are in full sympathy with them and ask them in turn to grant that sympathy to us. We wish to recognize fully the rights and racial traditions of those Jugo-Slavs who remain within our borders. We wish them to understand that as citizens of Istria and Dalmatia they will enjoy every right and privilege accorded to those of Italian ancestry and language.

And I believe that the more substantial element among the Jugo-Slavs of the Adriatic provinces agree with this sentiment and will welcome the permanent rule of Italy. I venture to believe that those so-called representatives of the Jugo-Slavs of these provinces who at present are attracting so much attention by their demands for Italian evacuation are not truly representing the Jugo-Slavic population as a whole. I believe that when the dust of controversy clears away Italy will find in her reclaimed provinces across the Adriatic a united and loyal people.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Italian Boats of the Adriatic Sea

The ‘Diomira’: one of the last brazzera vessels of Rovigno, 1944

The Brazzera

The brazzera (called bracera in Croatian) is a traditional Italian cargo sailing vessel which originated in Dalmatia, and was first mentioned in the 16th century. It derives from the Italian expression forza di braccia, meaning “power of hands” (which the Venetians called brazzi) because the vessel was moved by oars. These vessels were often designed with a lateen rig (also known as a Latin rig) – a triangular sail invented by the Romans. The brazzera was widely used all over the Italian coastal region of Dalmatia, as well as in Istria and the Gulf of Trieste by Italian sailors and fishermen. They were often used to transport wine, olive oil, salt, sand, wood and other supplies. In Istria the brazzera was especially utilized in the Italian cities of Rovigno, Pirano, and Capodistria. In Dalmatia they were widespread all over the entire coast, but most notably in Ragusa and the Venetian island of Brazza.

In the last few decades a conscious effort has been made by Croatian writers and organizations to misappropriate the brazzera and proclaim it a “Croatian” vessel and pretend that it belongs to “Croatian” culture and tradition, once again usurping the heritage of Istria and Dalmatia and forging a new Croatianized revision of history. Croatian nationalist editors have used Wikipedia to create articles depicting the brazzera as a “Croatian” vessel. In 2006 the Dolphin Dream Society, a Croatian environmentalist organization founded in 2001 in Zagreb, even launched a national campaign known as “The White Project” aimed at conserving traditional “Croatian” shipbuilding and “Croatian” maritime heritage. As part of this project, in 2011 the Dolphin Dream Society constructed a replica or imitation of a traditional 18th century brazzera with a Latin sail, which they named Gospa od mora (“Our Lady of the Sea”). Today the Dolphin Dream Society operates an education program designed to teach Croats how to continue “their” tradition of crafting brazzera vessels. The Dolphin Dream Society also operates an art program in collusion with the Croatian tourist industry, using stolen heritage, occupied land, and a falsified history to generate tourism and stimulate the Croatian economy.

The ‘Quattro fratelli’
(renamed ‘Bighellone’):
a trabaccolo built in
1925. Cesenatico, Italy.
The Trabaccolo

The trabaccolo is a Venetian sailing coaster, built of oak and larch, that dates back to the 15th century, and which became widespread all over the Adriatic. The name derives from the Italian word trabacca, meaning “tent” – a reference to the vessel's sails. The trabaccolo was used as a cargo vessel, and generally had a crew of about 10 to 20 sailors. In the 18th and 19th centuries many of these vessels carried cannons in order to defend themselves from Muslim and Slavic pirates, and from French and British privateers cruising around the coast of Italy, who frequently attacked and pillaged these ships. The Maritime Museum of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna, Italy has a newly-restored, original and fully functional trabaccolo.

The Pielego

The pielego was a smaller version of the trabaccolo and was commonly used in the middle and upper Adriatic. It became even more popular than the trabaccolo.

The Topo

The topo (meaning “mouse”), also known as a mototopo, is a traditional Venetian cargo boat. It is still commonly used today in the Venetian Lagoon. An Istrian version of the boat, known as the topo istriano, was very popular among fishermen in Istria. These boats were traditionally made in Venetian shipyards (called squeri or squeri veneziani) in the Istrian cities of Pirano and Isola d'Istria.

The Battana

The battana is a traditional wooden boat used in the regions of Veneto, Romagna and Istria. The battana originated among the ancient Italian navigators of the Po Valley and Venetian Lagoon. From here it spread to the areas surrounding the cities of Bellaria-Igea Marina, San Mauro Mare and Goro in Romagna, Fano and Senigallia in Marche, and Rovigno in Istria. The battana was very popular along the Adriatic coast because it was cheaper and easier to build.

A bragozzo in Venice, 19th century.
Taken by photographer Carlo Naya (1816-1882).
The Bragozzo

The bragozzo was a wooden sail boat that originated in Chiogge, Italy, and was commonly used by fishermen in Istria and the Quarnaro, typically made of oak and pine, and crewed by just 2 or 3 men.

The Caicio

The caicio is a small Venetian row boat, used for hunting and fishing, that holds between 4 to 5 people. Today it is used primarily in the Venetian Lagoon, but historically was also common in the Quarnaro Gulf.

The Gozzo

The gozzo is an Italian fishing boat found primarily in Liguria and Campania, but also in Sicily and the Tuscan coast. They were originally constructed entirely of wood, but now often are built using fiberglass. In the second half of the 19th century they were used along the eastern coast of Istria, particularly in the cities of Abbazia and Laurana.

The Gaeta

The Gaeta is a traditional fishing boat with a Latin rig that was once very common in the Adriatic Sea, especially in Dalmatia. The boat originated in the Gulf of Gaeta, centered around the Italian Maritime Republic of Gaeta, which is where the vessel gets its name, and which is where the vessel was first built and used during the Middle Ages. These same boats began to be constructed in Istria and Dalmatia in the 16th century. The Gaeta was built all along the Adriatic coast from Venice to Cattaro. Many cities had their own variations. The Gaeta and its local variants were built in the culturally and historically Italian areas of Istria, Dalmatia and the Quarnaro, such as in Capodistria, Pola, Rovigno, Portorose, Cherso, Lussino, Lesina, Lissa (Comisa), Pelagosa, Curzola, Mortero, Brazza, Bascavoda, Bossoglina, Dugopoglie, Macarsca, Zara, Spalato, Ragusa and Fiume.

The most famous variant was the Gaeta falcata, built in the city of Comisa, on the island of Lissa in Dalmatia. The Gaeta falcata was constructed with wood exclusively from the nearby Italian island of Sant'Andrea. These boats were accompanied by Venetian galleys to protect them from pirates. The population of Comisa used to hold an annual boat race known as a regata using these vessels. The first race took place in 1593, making it the oldest known regata in European history. The last race was held in 1936 when Comisa was still part of the Kingdom of Italy. None of the original Gaeta falcata vessels have survived because the population of Comisa practiced the ancient tradition of burning their old boats every December 6, on St. Nicholas' Day, the patron saint of Comisa

In the 20th century, following World War II and the annexation of Istria and Dalmatia to Communist Yugoslavia, the Italian name of the Gaeta was Croatized to gajeta and gajeta falkuša. As with the above-mentioned brazzera, Croatia has devoted much effort to rewriting history and claiming that the Gaeta is a “Croatian” vessel and part of “Croatian” sailing tradition. Croatian websites depict the Gaeta (especially the Gaeta falcata) as belonging to “Croatian” culture, calling it an “autochthonous Croatian boat” and boasting of Croatia having “the oldest known boat race in Europe”. The distorted historical revisionism does not end there. On August 17, 1995 a group of Croats reached the island of Sant'Andrea (near Comisa) to cut trees for the construction of a new replica of the Gaeta falcata. In 1997 the replica was completed, was named Komiza-Lisbon, and in 1998 was exhibited at the World's Fair in Lisbon, Portugal as a representation of “Croatian” maritime heritage. Croatian television later even broadcasted documentaries about the boat. In 1999 a reduced-scale replica of the Gaeta falcata was built, and in 2005 a full-scale replica was built. Due to Croatian lobbying, the Gaeta falcata was officially put on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998, thereby legitimizing this new, falsified and Croatized version of history, which is part of the larger and ongoing cultural genocide perpetrated by the Slavs against the indigenous Latins of Istria and Dalmatia by destroying, erasing and above all stealing the Italian heritage of those historic regions.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Istria and Dalmatia in the Battle of Lepanto (1571)

‘The Battle of Lepanto’ (‘La battaglia di Lepanto’) by Giorgio Vasari, 1572

The Battle of Lepanto was one of the great naval battles of European history, in which the Christian forces of the Holy League gained an important victory over the Islamic forces of the Ottoman Empire, which was rapidly expanding westward and set on conquering Western Europe.

The Holy League was a Catholic alliance composed of the Italian states of Venice, Genoa, Tuscany, Urbino, Savoy, the Papal States, the Knights of Malta and the Spanish Empire with Naples and Sicily. Ferrara, Mantua, Lucca and Parma also joined the Holy League, but did not partake in the Battle. Istria and Dalmatia, which belonged to the Republic of Venice, participated in the Battle under the Venetian banner. The League was organized by Pope Pius V – born Antonio Ghislieri on January 17, 1504 in Bosco Marengo, Piedmont, Italy (then part of the Duchy of Milan) – who dedicated all his energy to creating an alliance of Catholic states in an effort to raise a Catholic army in order to defend Christendom from the aggression of the Ottoman Empire.

The Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7, 1571 and ended in a glorious victory for Christendom, and a crushing defeat for the Ottoman Empire. The Christian casualties were 7,656 dead, 7,784 wounded; the Turkish casualties were 30,000 dead or wounded, 8,000 captured. Approximately 15,000 Christian slaves aboard the Ottoman ships were liberated. The victory at Lepanto banished the Ottoman fleet from the Western Mediterranean, caused the decline of Ottoman maritime power, put a halt to Ottoman expansion, and saved Western Europe. It was also the last naval battle in the Mediterranean fought entirely by man-powered galleys. The feast of “Our Lady of Victory” (later changed to “Our Lady of the Rosary”) was instituted by Pope Pius V to commemorate the Battle, and continues to be celebrated by the Catholic Church each year on October 7. The victory at Lepanto is a source of pride and joy for all Christians, but the Battle is particularly dear to the hearts of the Italians, including those of Istria and Dalmatia, who lost many men in the engagement.

The Order of Battle

The forces of the Holy League deployed a combined 204 galleys and 6 galleasses, under the general command of Don Juan of Austria and deputy command of Marcantonio Colonna, the Duke of Paliano and Captain-General of the Papal fleet. The Fleet of the Holy League was divided into four main divisions. According to ‘Victory of the West: The Story of the Battle of Lepanto’ by Niccolò Capponi (translated and published in Italian as ‘Lepanto 1571. La Lega santa contro l'impero ottomano’), the figures were as follows:

The Left Wing (total 57 galleys, 2 galleasses) under Captain-General Agostino Barbarigo:

     • Venetian (43 galleys, 2 galleasses)
     • Neapolitan (10 galleys)
     • Genoese (3 galleys)
     • Tuscan-Papal (1 galley)

The Center (total 64 galleys, 2 galleasses) under Don Juan of Austria and General Marcantonio Colonna:

     • Venetian (26 galleys, 2 galleasses)
     • Genoese (11 galleys)
     • Tuscan-Papal (7 galleys)
     • Spanish (6 certain galleys, 3 possible galleys)
     • Neapolitan (3 galleys)
     • Maltese (3 galleys)
     • Sicilian (4 galley)
     • Savoyard (1 galley)

The Right Wing (total 53 galleys, 2 galleasses) under Admiral Giovanni Andrea Doria:

     • Venetian (27 galleys, 2 galleasses)
     • Genoese (14 galleys)
     • Neapolitan (7 galleys)
     • Tuscan-Papal (2 galleys)
     • Savoyard (2 galleys)
     • Sicilian (1 galley)

Rearguard/Reserves (total 30 galleys) under Don Álvaro de Bazán:

     • Venetian (12 galleys)
     • Neapolitan (11 galleys)
     • Tuscan-Papal (2 galleys)
     • Spanish (3 galleys)
     • Sicilian (2 galleys)

Total: 204 galleys, 6 galleasses

Proprietorial breakdown of the Holy Fleet: Venetian (108 galleys, 6 galleasses); Neapolitan (31 galleys); Genoese (28 galleys); Tuscan-Papal (12 galleys); Spanish (9 certain galleys, 3 possible galleys); Sicilian (7 galleys); Maltese (3 galleys); Savoyard (3 galleys).

Istrian and Dalmatian Galleys

Among the 108 Venetian galleys, 1 galley was sent from Istria and 8 galleys were sent from Dalmatia, although only 7 of the Dalmatian galleys participated in the Battle. The captains and names of the Istrian and Dalmatian galleys were as follows:

Istria (1 galley):

     • Leone of Capodistria under Captain Domenico del Tacco and Vice-Captain Giulio Cesare Muzio.

Dalmatia (8 galleys):

     • Cristo Resuscitato of Veglia under Captain Lodovico Cicuta.
     • San Nicolò of Cherso under Captain Colane Drascio.
     • San Girolamo of Lesina under Captain Giovanni Balzi.
     • San Giovanni of Arbe under Captain Giovanni de Dominis.
     • La Donna of Traù under Captain Alvise Cippico (Luigi Cipoco).
     • San Trifone of Cattaro under Captain Girolamo Bisanti.
     • San Giorgio of Sebenico under Captain Cristoforo Lucich.

The eighth and final Dalmatian galley, sent from Zara and led by Captain Pietro Bertolazzi, was captured by the Ottomans on July 15, 1571 off the coast of Corfù and never arrived at Lepanto.

The Istrian galley Leone and the Dalmatian galleys Cristo Resuscitato, San Nicolò and San Girolamo were part of the Left Wing among the Venetian galleys; the galleys San Giovanni, La Donna and San Trifone were part of the Right Wing among the Venetian galleys; and the galley San Giorgio was part of the Rearguard/Reserves among the Venetian galleys. Most of the crew members on Cristo Resuscitato, San Nicolò and San Giovanni were killed and never returned home. La Donna, San Trifone and San Giorgio were all sunk by the Ottomans. Only San Girolamo and Leone survived the battle and were able to return home to their respective ports in Lesina and Capodistria.

Recent Slavic Revisionism

As with all things pertaining to Istria and Dalmatia (its history, its heritage, its culture, art, literature, personages, etc.), revisionists from Croatia have recently latched on to the Battle of Lepanto as if it was their own, and have tried to rewrite history, claiming that the Dalmatian galleys at Lepanto represented “Croatian contribution” and that the men aboard those ships who fought and died were “Croats”. This is part of the ongoing cultural genocide of Istria and Dalmatia, in which the Slavs are attempting to erase all memory of the Italian and Romance people of those ancient Latin regions that were annexed to Communist Yugoslavia after World War II. Merely because Istria and Dalmatia are today inhabited primarily by Croats, modern revisionists pretend that Croats were the primary inhabitants of these regions in the past as well, and that therefore Croats were significant contributors to the Battle of Lepanto – both of these contentions are false.

The eight Dalmatian galleys of Lepanto gathered recruits from the cities of Zara, Sebenico, Traù, Cattaro, Veglia, Cherso, Arbe and Lesina. Zara was an Italian city and remained an important Italian stronghold in Dalmatia well into the 20th century, maintaining an Italian majority until the end of World War II. Sebenico was an Italian city for many centuries and maintained an Italian majority until the 19th century; at the end of the 19th century the Italian population of Sebenico shrunk to 20%. Traù likewise remained a predominantly Italian city until the middle of the 19th century. Cattaro was a Latin-speaking (and later Italian-speaking) city for 2,000 years, ever since it was founded by Roman colonists as Acruvium in the 2nd century BC. However, as with many other Dalmatian cities, by the 19th century the Italian population had become a minority in their own land, and Cattaro was divided between Italians and Slavs. In the previous centuries, however, the city had a predominantly Romance and Italian-speaking population.

The island and city of Veglia had a well-established Italian and Romance-speaking population, so much so that the last speaker of the local Dalmatian language, Tuone Udaina (who died on June 10, 1898), was a native of Veglia. The urban center of Veglia maintained an overwhelming Italian-speaking majority into the 20th century, and during World War I unanimously voted in favour of being united to the Italian Fatherland. The urban center on the island of Cherso also maintained an Italian majority until the 20th century. Although today Italians have been reduced to just 5.6% of the population, between the two world wars the majority of the population of Cherso declared themselves Italian. The urban center on the island of Arbe was exclusively Italian-speaking until the early 20th century. In 1921, after World War I, Italy ceded the island to Yugoslavia. Much anti-Italian violence ensued, causing most of the Italian population to flee to Italy, and by 1927 only 100 Italians were left on the island. Like Veglia, the population of Arbe voted unanimously in favour of being united to Italy during World War I. Although Croatian today, the ethnic character of the island of Arbe was very different prior to 1921, and was even more so in the 16th century, when the Battle of Lepanto took place. Lesina, previously an Italian-speaking island and home to many Italian Renaissance figures, shrunk to a minority Italian position by the 19th century.

These cities and islands, although Croatian today (due in part to immigration, and in part to forced slavicization, ethnic cleansing, genocide and expulsion), were not Croatian historically; historically each of these places contained a very large Italian population, even into recent times, and Italians formed a majority of the population in these areas until just a century and a half ago. During the time when the Battle of Lepanto took place, in 1571, the areas of Dalmatia from which the citizens were recruited were areas inhabited primarily by Italians, and the leaders were indisputably Italian.

However, since the 20th century the Italian names of the Dalmatian galleys have been Croatized: San Girolamo is now called Sv. Jerolim; San Giovanni is now called Sv. Ivan; La Donna is now called Žena, etc. Even the names of the Venetian commanders have been Croatized: Lodovico Cicuta has been changed to Ljudevita Čikute; Giovanni Balzi changed to Ivan Baki or Balzija; Giovanni de Dominis changed to Ivan de Dominis, Alvise Cippico to Alojzije Cipćić, etc.

The croatization of Giovanni de Dominis is particularly bold and outrageous, considering the prominence of his family. Giovanni de Dominis was the grandfather of the Italian heretic Marco Antonio de Dominis, who was bishop of Segna and archbishop of Spalato. Both of these men belonged to the De Dominis family, a Venetian noble family of ancient Roman origin from Arbe in Dalmatia. To this same family also belonged the Italian-American statesman John Owen Dominis, Prince Consort of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He was born in New York to the famous Italian sea captain Giovanni Dominis from Trieste (who later changed his name to John upon settling in the United States), and to an American mother Mary Jones. All contemporary sources describe John Owen Dominis and his ancestors as Italian. But now that Arbe is today part of Croatia (annexed to Yugoslavia in 1947; then to Croatia in 1991), suddenly these men are called “Croats” by those who seek to rewrite history.

The croatization of Alvise Cippico is equally false and outrageous. The Cippico's were an ancient Italian family which moved to Dalmatia in 1232 and became part of the nobility of Traù. The last prominent member of this old noble family, Antonio Cippico (born in Zara, 1877), was an Italian politician and senator of the Kingdom of Italy. He was also the founder and editor – together with his brother-in-law Arnolfo Bacotich (born in Spalato, 1875) – of the Dalmatian Italian publication ‘Archivio storico della Dalmazia’. Their collection is known as the Cippico-Bacotich Collection, which is one of the most important manuscript collections pertaining to Dalmatian Italians between the 17th and 20th centuries. The Cippico family was Italian for centuries, and in the latter stages of its existence it was led by an irredentist who advocated the unification of Dalmatia and Italy. But since the second half of the 20th century, suddenly the Cippico family is called “Croatian” by Croatian nationalists in a desperate attempt to link themselves to a famous historical event such as the Battle of Lepanto.

After the end of the Battle of Lepanto, numerous works were published containing the names of the participants; almost all of the names are Italian, with a minority of Spanish and Greek names, but no Slavic names were recorded. None of the modern croatized versions of the names can be found in any book prior to the 20th century either, while all the Italian names are recorded in the original texts and documents of the 16th century. Some of the important historiographical sources from the period, among many others, are:
  • Memoria della felicissima vittoria’ (1571) by Don Juan of Austria;
  • Il vero ordine delle due potente Armate Christiana et Turcha nel modo si apresentorno alla loro Battaglia’ (1571) by Giovan Francesco Camocio;
  • Historia delle cose successe dal principio della guerra mossa da Selim Ottomano a Venetiani’ (1572) by Gianpietro Contarini;
  • Historia nova, nella quale si contengono tutti i successi della guerra turchesca’ (1572) by Emilio Maria Manolesso;
  • In foedus et victoriam contra Turcas’ (1572) by Pietro Gherardi;
  • ‘Historia universale dell'origine et imperio dé Turchi’ (1582) by Francesco Sansovino;
  • Vita Del Gloriosissimo Papa Pio Qvinto’ (1586) by Girolamo Catena.

There are no contemporary Croatian sources on the Battle of Lepanto. Again, contemporary Croatian sources on the Battle of Lepanto do not exist. Italian sources exist; Spanish sources exist; but Croatian sources do not.

Since the end of the Battle in 1571 many books were published in Italian containing poems, songs, historical accounts and celebrations in memory of the victory at Lepanto; but nothing of the sort exists in Croatian. There exists Italian songs and songs in Italian dialects dating back to 1571, as for example the many songs contained in ‘Canzone nella felicissima vittoria Christiana contra infideli’ (‘Songs of the Most Happy Christian Victory Against the Infidels’), published in Venice in 1571. Music was also composed by Italian composers such as Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Croce and Ippolito Baccusi. However, nothing was published in Croatian nor composed by Croats.

In the years after the Battle, several paintings, frescoes and artworks were made by Italian artists to commemorate the victory, including by such artists as Paolo Veronese, Tintoretto, Giorgio Vasari, Luca Cambiaso, Jacopo Ligozzi and Carpoforo Tencalla. However, once again, there were no Croatian paintings or artworks in celebration of the “Croatian” victory at Lepanto.

Every year from 1572 until the dissolution of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the Doge of Venice would hold an annual procession at the Church of Santa Giustina to mark the victory at Lepanto. No such pomp and circumstance or celebratory traditions in remembrance of Lepanto ever existed among the Croats.

The reason for all this is that the Battle of Lepanto is not part of Croatian history, and never was part of Croatian history or memory (that is, not until the birth of modern Yugoslav and Croatian revisionism). The historical truth is that the Battle of Lepanto is part of Italian and Dalmatian history – not Croatian history – and only belongs to Dalmatian history by virtue of Dalmatia being a part of Venetian and Italian history. Until the 20th century Dalmatia and Croatia were two distinct entities; the history and heritage of Dalmatia does not belong to Croatia.

In 1984 the Croatian folk singer Ljubo Stipišić, taking part in this revisionist phenomenon, recorded the song ‘Kod Lepanta, sunce moje’ (‘At Lepanto, my sun’), which includes the following lyric:
Osan galij 'z naših misti suprostiva turskin brodin” (“Eight galleys from our homeland against the Turkish fleet”).
The song is a weeping panegyric to Lepanto, with implications that the Venetian galleys of Dalmatia were “Croatian galleys”, and that the sailors aboard the galleys were “Croatian sailors”. It is also often claimed by Croats that this is an “ancient Croatian folk song dedicated to the Battle of Lepanto”, when in reality the Croatian lyrics were written for the first time only in 1984. The song reveals the blatant dishonesty and revisionist attitude of many Croats today who try to reinterpret the history of Dalmatia in light of its present ethnic composition and political status, ignoring its historical ethnic composition, historical Italian culture and Italian history.

To give one final example: A miniature replica model of the galley San Girolamo from Lesina is on display at the Croatian Maritime Museum in Spalato, which opened in 1997; highly imaginative artistic license has allowed the Croatian artist to depict the galley as having a Croatian checkerboard pattern sail, which of course did not exist on the original ship, which was Venetian.

Italians, including the Italian population of Dalmatia, always celebrated and memorialized the Battle of Lepanto as both a religious and personal event, since it involved both the Catholic religion and the valour and death of many Italians, including Dalmatian Italians. The Croats, on the other hand, had no such popular memory of Lepanto until recently. Literature, songs and memorials in commemoration of the Battle of Lepanto never existed in the Croatian language until the 19th century, when local Italian-Dalmatian folk songs and Venetian texts were translated into Croatian by those eager to steal the Italian culture, heritage and memory of Dalmatia and proclaim it “Slavic”.

These are just some of the examples of recent Croatian revisionism on this one particular topic. The ultra-nationalist historical revisionism of the Croats extends to all subjects, all events, and all things that pertain to Istria and Dalmatia: historical events, historical names, personages, artworks, architecture, literature, even food and music – all that belongs to Italian-Latin-Venetian heritage in Istria and Dalmatia is either ignored by Croats or adopted, slavicized and re-branded as “Croatian”. Such historical revisionism is akin to speaking of “English” American Indian chiefs, “Spanish” Aztecs, or referring to the ancient Trojans as “Turks”. To slavicize Italian names, translate Italian songs, adopt local Italian folk culture and then call it “Croatian”, is nothing short of cultural genocide and a gross distortion of history.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Rape and Murder of Norma Cossetto

Norma Cossetto
(May 17, 1920 - October 4/5, 1943)

Norma Cossetto was an Italian student, born on May 17, 1920 in the Istrian village of Santa Domenica di Visinada, near Visignano in Istria, which was then part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Her father, Giuseppe Cossetto, was the Mayor of Visinada. Norma graduated from secondary school in Gorizia in 1939, then enrolled at the University of Padua. After 1941 she began attending schools in Pisino and Parenzo in her native Istria. During the summer of 1943 she traveled around on a bicycle doing research for a school thesis on Istria.

After the Italian Armistice on September 8, 1943, in the midst of World War II, bands of Yugoslav partisan terrorists took control of Istria. The Cossetto family soon began to receive death threats. On September 25 the Cossetto household was raided by the Yugoslavs. On the following day Norma was summoned to the old Italian police station in Visignano, which was occupied by Yugoslav partisans. The Yugoslavs interrogated Norma and asked her to join the Yugoslav partisan movement, but she refused. The next day Norma was arrested by the Yugoslavs and imprisoned in the old barracks of the Guardia di Finanza in Parenzo, along with her relatives, acquaintances and friends, including Eugenio Cossetto, Antonio Posar, Antonio Ferrarin, Ada Rios, Maria Valenti, Umberto Zotter and several other Istrians.

A couple days later the prisoners were transferred to a school in Antignana, which the Yugoslavs converted into a prison. Norma was kept separate from the other prisoners. She was bound to a table and subjected to torture, beatings and was gang raped by the Yugoslavs for several days. In total she was beaten, brutalized and violated by 17 Yugoslav partisans, all belonging to the terrorist bands of Josip Broz Tito, the future Communist dictator of Yugoslavia.

On October 4/5 all the prisoners, a total of 27 including Norma, were tied with barbed wire and forced to walk to Villa Surani, a small village near Antignana. All the prisoners were then thrown alive into a sinkhole, i.e. a large pit in the ground known as a foiba. Three of the female prisoners were subjected to rape before being thrown into the pits by the Yugoslavs. Norma, the last to be thrown in, was once again raped and was nude when she was thrown into the pit alive. She was 24 years old. This brutal and horrific massacre is known as the Foiba di Villa Surani.

Norma's father Giuseppe found out she had been arrested and, not knowing that she had already been murdered, he went to Visinada with another relative, Mario Bellini, to find out information about the whereabouts of his daughter. On October 7 the two men were ambushed in Castellier-Santa Domenica by the Yugoslavs and were stabbed to death. A few days later the two men had their dead bodies dragged around and thrown into a sinkhole.

Between October 2 and October 9, 1943 the German army occupied Istria in Operation Wolkenbruch (Operazione Nubifragio). Norma's sister, Licia Cossetto, informed the Germans of the crimes committed by the Yugoslavs. An investigation was launched by a local Istrian and chief of the Pola fire brigade, Marshal Arnaldo Harzarich. On December 10, 1943 Norma's beaten and lifeless body, together with her fellow prisoners, was discovered in a sinkhole 136 meters (446 feet) deep. In addition to the bodies of Norma and the other 26 prisoners, the bodies of a dozen other Italians later thrown into the pit were also discovered.

When Norma's body was recovered and examined it was discovered that both her breasts had been amputated and that she had been raped with a large wooden object, which was found still lodged in her body, between her legs.

Licia Cossetto later testified:
“Even now I have nightmares at night, remembering the way we found her: hands tied behind her back... her face alone seemed quite serene. I tried to look for bullet wounds, but there were none; I am convinced they threw her in alive. A woman later approached me and said: ‘Miss, I wish to remain anonymous, but my house is close to the school, and that afternoon I looked through the half-closed shutters, and I saw your sister tied to a table and the beasts were abusing her; that same evening I heard her screams: she was calling for her mother and asking for water, but I could not do anything because I was afraid.’”
The German authorities managed to find and arrest 6 of the 17 Yugoslavs involved in these heinous crimes. They were ordered to attend Norma Cossetto's funeral in the mortuary chapel of the local cemetery in Santa Domenica di Visinada, forced to stay awake all night in a candlelight vigil, standing and looking at the young woman they had beaten, tortured, raped and murdered a couple months earlier. The 6 criminals were summarily executed the following morning. The other Slavic torturers involved in these crimes were never found.

The rape and murder of Norma Cossetto, and the massacre of her 26 companions, was just one incident among many. It was part of the much larger Foibe Massacres, a systematic genocide and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Yugoslavs (Croats, Slovenes and Serbs) against the native Italians of Istria during World War II. The purpose of these barbaric massacres was to exterminate the Italian population of Istria and slavicize the region before annexing it to Greater Yugoslavia.

These massacres – which inflicted terror upon the indigenous Italian population of Istria, Dalmatia and Julian Venetia, and claimed the lives of approximately 20,000-30,000 Italians – was followed by a mass exodus and forced expulsion of 350,000 Italians, an event known as the Istrian-Dalmatian or Julian-Dalmatian Exodus. The Italian territories were then occupied, forcibly slavicized and annexed to Communist Yugoslavia. These regions today are occupied by the ex-Yugoslav successor states: Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro. The victims and their families remain uncompensated by the Slavic governments; hundreds of thousands of Italians remain in exile from their homeland.

Grave of Norma Cossetto and Giuseppe Cossetto
Cemetery of Santa Domenica di Visinada, Istria

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Was Emperor Constantine an “Illyrian”?

‘The Vision of Constantine’ by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Scala Regia in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Emperor Constantine (c. 274 - 337 AD) is one of the most famous Roman emperors and one of the most important political and religious figures in history. As such, he is the source of much controversy, dispute, polemics and historical revisionism.


Constantine was born Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus in the city of Naissus, in the Roman province of Moesia Superior, in c. 274 AD. He was the son of Emperor Constantius Chlorus and Empress Helena. He became Roman Emperor in 306, during a period known as the Tetrarchy: the Roman Empire was divided into four administrative divisions ruled by two senior emperors and two junior emperors. During the Civil Wars of the Tetrarchy (306-324 AD), in which Constantine and the co-emperors Maxentius, Licinius and Severus II fought for control over the Empire, Constantine witnessed a vision from God: On October 27, 312, just before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine was marching with his army when he saw a cross in the sky with the words ‘in hoc signo vinces’ (“In this sign you shall conquer”), sparking the process of his conversion to Christianity. He won the battle, defeated Maxentius, and gave thanks to God. One year later, in 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, a landmark proclamation that permanently established religious toleration and legalization of Christianity within the Roman Empire. In 324 the Civil Wars ended in a Constantinian victory, with Constantine as the sole Roman Emperor. He died in 337.

An “Illyrian”?

Constantine is often classified as one of the so-called “Illyrian emperors” — a term used by some authors to describe those emperors born in what is today called the Balkan Peninsula. However, the word “Illyrian”, especially since the 19th century, has also taken on ethnic connotations, which has caused a lot of confusion. There are many people in the Balkans today wishing to connect themselves to Illyrians, and therefore to all historical people who are commonly regarded as Illyrians. This is especially true in modern Albania, but also to a lesser extent in Serbia, and historically also among the Croats. Thus it is not uncommon nowadays to hear claims that “Constantine was Albanian”, “Constantine was Serbian”, and other similar claims. Because such people believe that Constantine was Illyrian, and also believe that their particular nation is descended from Illyrians, they argue that Constantine was in fact part of their nation. But was Emperor Constantine actually an “Illyrian”? In order to answer this question it is necessary to first define what exactly an Illyrian is.

What is an “Illyrian”?

Originally ‘Illyrian’ was a term used by the Greeks and the Romans to describe the various heterogeneous barbarian tribes who inhabited the region between the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Drava River to the north, the Morava River to the east and the Aoos River to the south, in what is now the western Balkans, corresponding to modern Albania and part of the former Yugoslavia. This region was referred to as Illyria and later Illyricum. The ancient inhabitants of Illyria were not homogeneous; it is believed that the various tribes had diverse ethnic origins and spoke different languages (now extinct) which linguists today group together as the “Illyrian group of languages”. The ancient Illyrians were divided into many different tribes and did not have any collective identity or self-awareness; they never called themselves Illyrians, nor regarded themselves as belonging to any common group, culture or nation. Only the Greeks and the Romans recognized the existence of a collective Illyrian identity or group, and they used the broad term ‘Illyrian’ to distinguish themselves (Hellenes and Italics) from those tribes who inhabited the western Balkans. Therefore it is uncertain whether any Illyrian nation or ethnicity ever truly existed or not.

What is certain, however, is that after the Roman conquest of Illyria (229 - 167 BC) the term ‘Illyrian’ became a purely geographical description, not an ethnic designation. The Roman province of Illyricum was established in 167 BC as part of the Roman Republic. After the Roman conquest, the various Illyrian tribes disappeared from history; the region and the people were thoroughly latinized and assimilated to Roman-Latin culture, the region was heavily colonized by Roman settlers from Italy, and the Illyrian languages eventually went extinct as well. Therefore any ethnic Illyrian identity or Illyrian ethnic group which may have existed in ancient times, or at least had the potential to exist, effectively ceased to exist after the Roman conquest. From this point forward Illyria was now inhabited by the romanized descendants of the Illyrian tribes (who had become Latins in all respects and subsequently embraced a Roman identity) and by the Italian settlers who colonized Illyria, founding and/or settling in cities such as Salona, Narona, Scardona, Epidaurum, Aequum, Arba, Varvaria, Curicum (Veglia), Senia (Segna), Aenona (Nona), Iader (Zara), Tragurium (Traù), Acruvium (Cattaro), Scodra (Scutari), Dyrrachium (Durazzo), Buthrotum (Butrinto), Byllis, etc.

Geographical History

Constantine was born in the city of Naissus. This city originated as a Roman military camp, established by the Roman army between 75-73 BC. The camp later developed into a city and was settled by many Roman families from Italy. Before being conquered by the Romans, the area in the nearby vicinity of Naissus was historically inhabited by the Triballi, a Thracian tribe, and the Scordisci, a Celtic tribe — not Illyrians. The city itself, however, was of Roman origin, being first inhabited by Roman legionaries from Italy, before eventually transforming into a proper city by the second century AD.

When Constantine was born, the city of Naissus was located in the Roman province of Moesia Superior, not in Illyricum (which had been renamed Dalmatia since 10 AD). Under Emperor Diocletian, who became emperor ten years after the birth of Constantine, the southern half of Moesia Superior was detached from Moesia and renamed Dardania, with Naissus as its capital. This new province (which corresponded to modern Kosovo, southern Serbia, and northern FYR Macedonia) was named after the Dardani, a Thracian tribe that historically occupied the area. The area of Dardania was never part of the historical region of Illyria, nor was it part of the historical Roman province of Illyricum when Constantine was born; Dardania was not created until ten years after Constantine's birth; he was born in what was then known as Moesia.

Moesia was never historically linked to ancient Illyria, nor to the Roman province of Illyricum, nor did it ever form any part of an area known as Illyricum until the year 347, when the Roman Empire was divided into four administrative divisions known as praetorian prefectures; several of the Roman provinces, including Moesia Superior and Moesia Inferior, were grouped together into the Praetorian Prefecture of Illyricum — named after the old Roman province of Illyricum. This took place in 347, a decade after the death of Constantine. Prior to this, the area of Moesia never belonged to Illyricum — neither to the province, nor the the historical region, nor to any cultural, political, administrative, or geographical region known by that name.

Furthermore, the city of Naissus — where Constantine was born — was located east of the Morava River, which was the historical easternmost boundary of the ancient region of Illyria: the city had no historical connection to Illyria nor to the Roman province of Illyricum, and it was not until a decade after the death of Constantine that the city and surrounding province became incorporated into an administrative-geographical area called Illyricum.

Map of the Roman Empire
Illyricum and Moesa—two distinct regions


Constantine belonged to Latin culture and Roman civilization. His native language was Latin. He did not speak Greek, as is often incorrectly assumed. In fact, he required the use of a translator in order to translate his Latin speeches into Greek. There is no evidence that he spoke Illyrian either, which was gradually becoming extinct due to the wide use of the Latin language. Nor would there be any reason for Constantine to know Illyrian, since the city and immediate surrounding area in which he lived was not inhabited by Illyrians, as was mentioned in the above section.

Roman cities and urban areas were centres of Latin culture, in which Roman civilization flourished and from which Roman civilization was able to rapidly spread. There were no “Illyrian” cities, as such, in the Roman Empire. By the time of Constantine, the Latin language was the spoken language in all the western cities of the Empire, as well as in the western Balkans. By this time the Illyrian languages were near extinction even in the rural areas and, needless to say, these languages were never prominently spoken in the cities or urban areas of the Empire to begin with, especially not in those cities which were founded and/or heavily settled and colonized by the Romans.

Constantine did not belong to “Illyrian civilization”. In truth, there was no “Illyrian civilization” for Constantine to belong to; there was no Illyrian literature, no Illyrian education, no Illyrian institutions, no collective Illyrian identity; anything that could have been called “Illyrian civilization” or “Illyrian culture” (such as distinct forms of art, sculpture, law, religion, etc.) had ceased to exist centuries prior as a result of the Roman conquest. The culture and civilization to which Constantine belonged to was Latin and Roman: the language, law, literature, education, customs, life and identity of Constantine was Latin and Roman, not Illyrian.


It has already been demonstrated that Constantine was not an Illyrian by culture, and not an Illyrian by geography either. But what about by ancestry? To determine Constantine's ancestry, it is necessary to trace the ancestry of his parents: Emperor Constantius Chlorus and Empress Helena.

Helena was born in the city of Drepana (later renamed Helenopolis), in the Roman province of Bithynia — which was not located anywhere near Illyria. Bithynia was an ancient region located in northwestern Anatolia (then called Asia Minor), today part of modern Turkey. The region was named after the Bithyni, a Thracian tribe that inhabited the region. Previously the general area in which she was born belonged to the Hittites, Phrygians and Greeks. Helena's ethnic origins are unclear, but she certainly was not an Illyrian. Her complete name, Flavia Iulia Helena, indicates descent from the gens Flavia and the gens Julia, two ancient Italian families, although it is not certain whether she truly belonged to these gentes or later adopted the names.

Constantine's father, Constantius Chlorus (who is also one of the so-called “Illyrian” emperors), was born in the Roman province of Moesia Superior to Flavius ​​Eutropius and Claudia Crispina. Flavius ​​Eutropius (the paternal grandfather of Constantine) descended from the Flavii Sabini, a branch of the gens Flavia, whose origins were in Sabina, Italy, and from Junius Licinius Balbus, grandnephew of the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus, who belonged to the gens Ceionia, whose origins were in Etruria, Italy, and to the gens Licinia, whose origins were in Latium or Etruria, Italy. Claudia Crispina (the paternal grandmother of Constantine) belonged to the Crispini family of the gens Bruttia, whose origins were in Bruttium, Italy. She was also distantly related to the gens Atia, a plebeian family from Rome, through her mother Aurelia (the paternal great-grandmother of Constantine) and, through the family of Claudius, to the gens Flavia. Thus Constantius Chlorus belonged to the gentes Flavia, CeioniaLicinia and Bruttia, and more distantly to the gens Atia — all well-known ancient Italian families.

Constantine's official genealogy traces his father's descent through Claudius II. That Constantine and his father Chlorus were of Claudian descent is attested by several ancient sources. The most respected of these, the Origo Constantini Imperatoris (“The Lineage of the Emperor Constantine”), written in the 4th century, tells us that Constantine's father, Constantius Chlorus, was a grandson of the brother of Emperor Claudius II:
“Constantius, grandson of the brother of that best of emperors Claudius, was first one of the emperor's bodyguard, then a tribune, and later, governor of Dalmatia.”
The Panegyric VI of Eumenius, written in 310, likewise speaks of a Claudian descent:
“Therefore to begin with I shall treat of the divinity from whom you descend... You have flowing in your veins the blood of your ancestor, the divine Claudius...”
Book IX of Eutropius' Abridgment of Roman History, written in the same century, reaffirms it:
“...Constantius is said to have been the grand-nephew of Claudius by a daughter...”
The 4th century Historia Augusta goes into greater detail, but differs from the rest by making Chlorus a grand-nephew of Claudius II through his niece Claudia. Despite differences in some of the details, all of the ancient sources are unanimous in tracing Constantine's paternal ancestry to Emperor Claudius II. Moreover, Constantine's family tree (see below) shows that Constantine, Chlorus and Claudius II can each trace their lineage to Emperor Augustus, while a more thorough examination of the tree shows that Constantine and Chlorus both belonged to the gentes Flavia, Ceionia, LiciniaBruttia and Atia — all families whose origins can be traced back to Italy.

Therefore, although the origins of Constatine's mother Helena are uncertain, we know that Constantine was certainly of Italian origin through his father Constantius Chlorus. There are no “Illyrians” to be found in his ancestry.

Constantine's Family Tree
Paternal Lineage

(Click to enlarge)


There is absolutely no reason to declare Constantine an “Illyrian”; he was not Illyrian in any sense of the term; neither culturally, nor ethnically, nor even geographically. He was born in the Roman province of Moesia Superior—not Illyria. The city in which he was born (Naissus) was settled by Romans—not Illyrians. The area immediately surrounding this city was historically inhabited by Thracians and Celts—not Illyrians. His father descended from Italians—not Illyrians. His mother was not Illyrian. His language and culture was Latin—not Illyrian. His civilization and identity was Roman—not Illyrian. Thus it is clear that Constantine was not an Illyrian in any sense of the term.

See also:
The So-Called “Illyrian” Emperors