Salvatore Giuliano

Salvatore Giuliano

Infobox revolution biography
name = Salvatore Giuliano flagicon|Sicily
lived = November 16, 1922 – July 5, 1950
dateofbirth = November 16, 1922
placeofbirth = Montelepre, Castelvetrano
dateofdeath = death date and age|1950|7|5|1922|11|16
placeofdeath = Castelvetrano, Sicily

caption = Salvatore Giuliano, while in his 20s.
alternate name = Turiddu, Turi
movement =
organizations = Sicilian Independentist Movement

Salvatore Giuliano (Montelepre, November 16, 1922 – Castelvetrano, July 5, 1950) was a Sicilian peasant. The millennial subjugated social status of his class led him to become a bandit and separatist who has been mythologised during his life and after his death. [ [,9171,888620,00.html Beautiful Lightning] , Time, September 12, 1949] He is commonly compared to the legend of Robin Hood in popular culture, due to stories pertaining to him helping the poor villagers in his area by taking from the rich. [cite book | last = Duncombe| first = Stephen| title =Cultural Resistance Reader| publisher = Verso| url =,M1 | isbn = 1859843794]

As a member of the Sicilian Independentist Movement, Giuliano actively pursued efforts into gaining independence for the island from the Italian government. His story gained attention in the media worldwide, in part due to his handsome looks, including features in Time magazine.cite news|url=,9171,934976,00.html|publisher=Time|title=Bandit's End|date=July 17, 1950]


Early life

Salvatore Giuliano was born in Montelepre within the Province of Palermo as the fourth child of Salvatore and Maria Giuliano. As a child he was nicknamed "Turiddu" or "Turi". He had a decent primary education, but limited by Sicilian class strictures, went to work on his father's land at the age of 13.

He transported olive oil and worked as a telephone repairman and on road construction. Giuliano was due to be called up to the Italian army, but the Allied invasion of Sicily prevented his actual enlistment. He became involved in the wartime black market and was armed in case of attacks from bandits.

Rise to infamy

On September 2, 1943, he killed a Sicilian carabiniere at a checkpoint near Quattro Molini while transporting illegally purchased grain. He left his identity papers at the scene and was wounded when a carabiniere shot him twice as he was running away, it was then that he returned fire and killed the carabiniere. His family sent him to Palermo to have the bullet removed. In late December, a number of residents of Montelepre, including Giuliano's father, were arrested during a police raid. Giuliano helped some of them escape from prison in Monreale, and a number of the freed men stayed with him.

In the Sagana mountains, Giuliano collected a gang of approximately fifty bandits, criminals, deserters, and homeless men under his leadership and gave them military-style marksmanship training. The gang took to robbery and burglary for the money they needed for food and weapons. When carabinieri came to look for them, they were met with accurate submachinegun fire. He also joined a Sicilian separatist group, Movement for the Independence of Sicily (MIS), which included members of very different political views, such as revolutionary socialist Antonio Canepa, centrist Giovanni Guarino Amella, right-wingers, most of them aristocrats, such as baron Lucio Tasca and duke Guglielmo Paternò, as well as some members with close ties to the Mafia, and outright Mafiosi such as Calogero Vizzini.

The union between Giuliano and separatist leaders came to fruition in the latter part of 1945. Giuliano entered the armed branch of the movement, EVIS (Esercito Volontario per l'Indipendenza della Sicilia, Volunteer Army for the Independence of Sicily), as a colonel and was promised that in the event of a separatist victory, he would be pardoned for his crimes and appointed to some position in the newly independent state. Defenders of the Giuliano-separatist alliance justified the agreement by claiming that Giuliano had been forced to become a bandit by the cruelty and injustice of the Italian state. Although an EVIS commander, Giuliano remained cautious about subordinating himself to the movements leadership.Finkelstein, "Separatism, the Allies and the Mafia", p. 178]

Giuliano led small-scale attacks on government and police targets in the name of this movement. He supported the MIS and the similar MASCA with funds for the 1946 elections, in which both groups did poorly. Reputedly, Giuliano himself would have liked to have seen Sicily become a state within the United States of America. He sent president Harry S. Truman a letter in which he urged him to annex Sicily.

Giuliano remained a long term problem for authorities. He continued to fight the Italian government in the name of the separatist movement. His attacks gained worldwide attention and made him a legend. In January 1946, at Montedoro, Giuliano and his band fought a brutal battle with authorities in which perhaps a thousand separatist took part. His actions kept alive the vision of Sicilian independence accomplished through the force of arms. Police and military forces were unable to destroy Giuliano’s EVIS formations. In fact, with the aid of the peasants – many of whom saw Giuliano as a sort of Robin Hood – and the landowners – who feared him – Giuliano continued to operate almost untouched.Finkelstein, "Separatism, the Allies and the Mafia", p. 181]

Giuliano also fostered a number of myths around himself. One tale tells how he discovered a postal worker was stealing letters that contained money Sicilian families had sent to their relatives in the USA; he killed the postal worker and assured the letters continued to their correct destinations. When he robbed the duchess of Pratameno, he left her with her wedding ring and borrowed a book she was reading; he returned it later with compliments. He fostered cooperation of poor tenant farmers by sending them money and food. Contrary to some claims, he was not a MafiosoFact|date=July 2008.

Portella della Ginestra massacre

As more separatist leaders were arrested, his funds became limited and he was forced to find new sources of supply. He eventually alienated himself from the peasants and became a tool of the landowners and conservatives. In this role he was manipulated to slaughter innocent peasants in the name of halting Communism in May 1947. In 1947, with his group steadily shrinking, he turned to kidnapping for ransom and turned regular profits. Also in that year there were more elections, following a limited victory for socialist-communist groups.

After receiving a mysterious letter from an unknown source, Giuliano led his remaining men on a raid to the mountain pass "Portella della Ginestra" on May 1, intending to capture Sicily's most prominent communist, Girolamo Li Causi. However, the event turned into a massacre. Fourteen civilians, including a woman and three children, were killed and more than 30 wounded. Giuliano himself (who fired no shots) stated he ordered his band to fire above the heads of the crowd hoping they would disperse. Some sources accuse the Mafia of infiltrating it and claim mafiosi instead shot at the crowd causing the massacre.cite book | last = Chandler| first = Billy Jaynes| title =King of the Mountain: The Life and Death of Giuliano the Bandit| publisher = Northern Illinois University Press| url = | isbn = 978-0875801407]

The incident created a national scandal, [ [,9171,855656,00.html Battle of the Inkpots] , Time, May 12, 1947] which ended in 1956 with the conviction of the remaining members of the band. [Eric Hobsbawm, "Primitive Rebels", chapter "Millenarianism III", Norton, 1965, p.105] It still remains a highly controversial topic, especially in regards to the contents of the letter Giuliano received before it, the finger of blame has been pointed at numerous sources, including the Italian government, who had long sought to destroy the famous bandit.cite book | last = Chandler| first = Billy Jaynes| title =King of the Mountain: The Life and Death of Giuliano the Bandit| publisher = Northern Illinois University Press| url = | isbn = 978-0875801407] Leftists, who were the victims of the attack have blamed the landed barons and the Mafia, significantly, the memorial plaque erected by them makes no mention of Giuliano or his band;cite book | last = Chandler| first = Billy Jaynes| title =King of the Mountain: The Life and Death of Giuliano the Bandit| publisher = Northern Illinois University Press| url = | isbn = 978-0875801407]

Decline and death

Giuliano continued to work against socialist groups whenever he had the opportunity but by 1948 his popular support was ebbing. Locals and even the Mafia were less willing to aid Giuliano and helped the police, despite Giuliano's tendency to kill suspected informers. Giuliano dared police by sending them boisterous letters about himself and dining in Palermo restaurants and leaving a note about his presence with a tip. The reward for his capture was doubled, and a special police force was instituted to suppress banditry. 300 carabinieri attacked his mountain stronghold, but most of Giuliano's gang escaped. On August 14 1949 Giuliano's men exploded mines under a convoy of police vehicles near the Bellolampo barracks outside Palermo, killing seven Carabinieri and wounding 11.Servadio, "Mafioso", p. 128-29] As a result the Italian government dispatched an additional 1000 troops to Western Sicily, with all troops under the command of Colonel Ugo Luca.

On July 5 1950, Giuliano was shot in Castelvetrano. According to police, carabinieri captain Antonio Perenze shot him as he was resisting arrest. However, the investigative reporter Tommaso Besozzi soon exposed the official version as fiction; the headline read: ‘The only thing certain is that he is dead’.Dickie, "Cosa Nostra", p. 265-66] it [ Di sicuro c'è solo che è morto] , by Tommaso Besozzi, L’Europeo, July 12, 1950] Gaspare Pisciotta, Giuliano's lieutenant, claimed later that police had promised him a pardon and reward if he would kill Giuliano. [ [,9171,814775,00.html Executioner] , Time, April 30, 1951] Giuliano's mother Maria reportedly believed this story. Pisciotta died four years later in prison from poisoning, after ingesting 20 centigrams of strychnine, hidden in a cup of tea. [ [,9171,860461,00.html The Big Mouth] , Time, February 22, 1954]

At the trial for the Portella della Ginestra massacre, Gaspare Pisciotta had said: "Those who have made promises to us are called Bernardo Mattarella, Prince Alliata, the monarchist MP Marchesano and also Signor Scelba, Minister for Home Affairs … it was Marchesano, Prince Alliata and Bernardo Mattarella who ordered the massacre of Portella di Ginestra. Before the massacre they met Giuliano…" However the MPs Mattarella, Alliata and Marchesano were declared innocent by the Court of Appeal of Palermo, at a trial which dealt with their alleged role in the event.Servadio, "Mafioso", p. 128-29]


A film of his life, "Salvatore Giuliano", was directed by Francesco Rosi in 1961. Novelist Mario Puzo published "The Sicilian", a dramatized version of Giuliano's life, in 1984. The book was made into a film in 1987, directed by Michael Cimino and starring Christopher Lambert as Giuliano. An opera, "Salvatore Giuliano", was composed in 1985 by Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero and premièred on 25 January 1986 at Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. The libretto outlines in short, graphic scenes the network of intrigue between Sicilian independence activists, Mafia and State that surrounds, and eventually destroys, the bandit hero. Probably the most significant work to date on Giuliano is Professor Billy Jaynes Chandler's "King of the Mountain", published in 1988 by Northern Illinois University Press. In 1956, Gavin Maxwell wrote "God Protect Me From my Friends" (published as "Bandit" in the USA), a biography of Giuliano.


*Dickie, John (2004). "Cosa Nostra. A history of the Sicilian Mafia", London: Coronet ISBN 0-340-82435-2
*Finkelstein, Monte S.(1998). " [ Separatism, the Allies and the Mafia: The Struggle for Sicilian Independence, 1943-1948] ", Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press ISBN 0934223513
*Servadio, Gaia (1976), "Mafioso. A history of the Mafia from its origins to the present day", London: Secker & Warburg ISBN 0-436-44700-2
* Norman Lewis (2003). "The Honoured Society: The Sicilian Mafia Observed" Eland Publishing Ltd ISBN-13: 978-0907871484

External links

*it [ Giuliano e lo Stato: materiali sul primo intrigo della Repubblica]
* [ The true story of Salvatore Giuliano] , based on the book by Giuseppe Sciortino Giuliano and Marianna Giuliano, the sister of Salvatore.
* [ Biography of Salvatore Giuliano]
* [,,417936,00.html Review of the film Salvatore Giuliano directed by Francesco Rosi] by Derek Malcolm in The Guardian
* [ Bandit and Murderer, or Hero and Patriot?] Biography of Salvatore Giuliano

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