From Sicily to Italy: A Tale of Re-Unification, Expansion and Empire
Part I: Background Story, or, why I am writing this After-Action-Report
“Italians have a strong sense of family…and a healthy distrust of others.” (1)
I trace my roots to Sicily and Lucca, or more generally, to Italy itself. On my father’s side, the small city of Termini-Imerese on the north-east Sicilian coast was home to my great-grandparents, at least until 1910 when they left the corrupt, poor but beautiful city nestled within sight of the volcano Etna behind and headed for a new world. They would retain their ethnic history, always maintaining that they were Sicilian, not Italian, but would find happiness here, in the States, eventually settling in a little suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Here is what the city looks like today and let me assure you, it is little changed from the way it has looked for 500 years:
On my mother’s side, the fair city of Bagni di Lucca (or, the Baths of Lucca) was the source of my other great-grandparents. This little suburb of the main city of Lucca was known for its natural spring water baths that even the Romans, in their time, found wonderful. Having been there personally I can see why; any of the bottled water you can buy there has a taste that cannot be replicated in a lab, and the exhilarating feeling one receives upon jumping into the spring itself is out of this world.
And here is Bagni di Lucca as it is today:
While idyllic in some beautiful respects, the Italy of the early 20th century was a disjointed and newly formed nation, having been forged by Victor Emmanuel II with the help of Savoy only about 45 years prior. Forty-five years ago today the United States was just beginning the Vietnam War debacle, to give some perspective.
When my grandparents left in the very early 1900s they did so for important reasons: the former home of the Caesars was a mere shadow of its former glory. For a period of 1,385 years (in the West) the Italian peninsula had been the sorry recipient of multiple invasions, various ethnic changes (the people of northern Italy, as my grandfather would be fond of saying, “were not so much Italians as they were Europeans”), disjointed and self-serving city-states, a dominant religious power which held the Eternal City itself and strong foreign interests that, when added together, produced a country that was kept in an infant, powerless state for what likely seemed like an eternity.
Since I was a college student learning of this historical tragedy it has always fascinated me to imagine if this had been different; had Italy remained unified after the Goth invasions of the 5th century, what would the country be like? While it may have long lost its far-flung Roman Imperial holdings outside of the peninsula itself, could a unified Italy exist? Could it survive long against the dominant eastern Arab powers, or the powerful European nations who had a strong sense of national identity, something the Italians lacked in every degree possible? Could a renewed Italy become a dominant European power in the late Middle/Enlightenment time period? Is it possible to have a renewed Italian Empire that can re-build all the lost heritage and power the people of the Eternal City once held over Europe-proper?
My intention then for this AAR is to produce an alternate history of Italy wherein the nation becomes unified far earlier than what your general history book can tell you, and that it does so via Sicily. I picked this country because of my heritage and because it gives me a greater possibility of success than Lucca does. I also like the dichotomy of this little island, being invaded so many times throughout the centuries, it is at once both very Italian and very worldly. I do plan on allying myself with Lucca quickly, however, as I do not want to murder my ancestors in a siege. If you haven’t already guessed I can be verbose at times and writing is sort of a strong point for me, so expect a good deal of it. If this is not your kind of thing (i.e., if you hate to read) this AAR may not be for you; but, like all good AARs, there will be plenty of images and maps, so don’t fret.
I cannot begin any earlier than 1399, but as that is only about 900 years after the fall of the last emperor in the west, I am alright with it. I intend to conquer or subdue the city-states of the peninsula, even Rome itself, and remove the foreign presence in our nation. These meddling world-powers typically do not have my nation’s best interests in mind and would rather like to simply make a profit from their neighboring nation at the expense of its citizens. For example, the bridge leading to Venice was demanded by the then Austrian-Hungarian Empire, who also insisted that on the bridge itself the royal beast (some kind of lion) was carved in the rock.
Finally, I want to briefly outline my general strategy, which can be divided into three parts:
I. Unite the Italian peninsula into one nation, ruled by a monarch, the capital of that nation being Rome.
II. Remove all foreign interests/holdings from our sphere of influence and forge alliances with nations that can foster our standing among nations abroad.
III. Re-build, in some degree, the Roman Empire in the world, not just in land but also by way of culture/religion.
In the next post I will describe my methodology, my “rules” for the game, as well as give some screenshots of the nation, etc. For those of you (Moderators, I am guessing, and the LibrAARian) who like “just the facts, jack” descriptions of AARs, here you go:
Title: From Sicily to Italy: A Tale of Re-Unification, Expansion and Empire
Starting Nation: Sicily
Start Date: 1399
Modification(s), if any: Magna Mundi, version 1.5
Lucky Nations: Random (i.e., not historical)
Goal(s): Unify the Italian peninsula under one flag, re-build, in some semblance, the Roman Empire
(1): That is one of my favorite quotes about my dear ancestors, paraphrased only slightly from the book Pontius Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man. Yes, I may be the only AAR writer with footnotes. It’s the scholar in me.