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