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AMONG romantic adventures of travellers those with the Italian banditti hold a distinguished place. These robbers appear to have infested Italy for many centuries. Marco Sciarra, a very famous one, flourished between three and four hundred years ago. He commanded a numerous band. Favored by his position in the mountains of the the Abruzzi, and on the confines of another government—the Papal States, which for many years have been the promised land of brigandism—this extraordinary robber attained the highest eminence in his pro
TRAVELLERS AND ITALIAN BANDITTI.
fession. His band, so formidable in itself, always acted in concert with other bands of banditti in the Roman States; they aided each other by arms and council; and in case of the Romans being pressed on their side, they could always retreat across the frontier line to their allies in the Abruzzi, while, in the same predicament, the Abruzzese could claim the hospitality of the worthy subjects of the Pope.
The same circumstances have strengthened the banditti in our own days, and rendered the country between Terracina and Fondi, or the frontiers of the Papal States, and the kingdom of Naples, the most notorious district of all Italy for robbers.
But Marco Sciarra was moreover favored by other circumstances, and he had the grasp of mind to comprehend their importance, to avail himself of them, and to raise himself to the grade of a political partizan-perhaps he aimed at that of a patriot. His native country was in the hands of foreigners, and most despotically governed by viceroys from Spain, who were generally detested by the people, and frequently plotted against by the
nobility, who, instead of assisting to put down the foreigners, would afford them countenance and protection, when required, in their vast and remote estates. A great part of the rest of Italy was almost as badly governed as the kingdom, and consequently full of malcontents, of men of desperate fortunes, who, in many instances, forwarded the operations of the robbers, and not unfrequently joined their bands. An accession like theirs added intelligence, military skill, and political knowledge, to the cause of the rude mountaineers of the Abruzzi.
In the course of a few months after the death of Benedetto Mangone, Marco Sciarra had committed such ravages, and made himself so formidable, that the whole care of the government was absorbed by him, and every means in its power employed for his destruction.
It was about this time that the robber-chief's life was ornamented with its brightest episode. Marco and his merry men had come suddenly on a company of travellers on the road between Rome and Naples. The robbers had begun to plunder, and cut the saddle-girths of the mules and horses of the travellers, who had speedily obeyed the robbers' order, and lay flat on the earth, all save one, a man of a striking and elegant appearance.
“ Faccia in terra !” cried several of the robbers in the same breath, but the bold man, heedless of their menaces, only stepped up to Marco, their chief, and said, “I am Torquato Tasso.” “The poet!” said the robber, and he dropped on his knee, and kissed his hand; and not only was Tasso saved from being plundered by the mere mention of his name, but all those who were travelling with him were permitted to mount their horses and continue their journey without sustaining the loss of a single scudo. A very curious proof this, that a captain of banditti could form a juster and more generous notion of what was due to the immortal, but then unfortunate poet, than could princes of the royal or imperial lineage.
After these transactions, and others of a similar cha