Italy – Parthenopean Republic, 12 Carlini, AN 7
aka – Napolitana Republic, 1799
The French Revolutionary Wars, particularly in Southern Italy, were greatly disruptive, as they were throughout Europe. For numismatists, these newly created republics offer a rich variety of scarce, to very rare, coinage issues. Additionally, the coins born of these short-lived republics offer the time-worn icons and symbols adopted by the French revolutionaries and their client states. Images of Liberty, fasces, eagles, and the pileus (Liberty Cap) abound, as well as the symbols of secret societies (i.e. Jacobins & Masons) often involved in these uprisings. Many of these symbols have their roots in the ancient Roman Empire.
The shortest-lasting republic in the history of the world, and one that ended most brutally, is the Parthenopean Republic, also known as the ‘REPUBBLICA NAPOLITANA’. The Parthenopean Republic was a revolutionary state that ruled the Kingdom of Naples (officially known then as the Kingdom of Sicily) from January to June 1799. The name of the republic was derived from the ancient Greek name for the Greek colony in the Naples area – Parthenopeia.
In 1798 Ferdinand IV of Naples joined the Second Coalition against the French Revolution, so the French sent an army to southern Italy. With the arrival of the French, and the flight of King Ferdinand IV (later Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies), a bourgeois republic was proclaimed as the Parthenopean Republic on Jan. 22, 1799, by Neapolitan republicans who had overthrown the Bourbon monarchy with the aid of troops of the French Directory, who were occupying Naples. What is a bit unusual, as far as revolutions go, is the fact that the Parthenopean Republic was formed by an intellectual class of doctors, philosophers, scientists, and clergy, rather than an uprising of feudal peasants.
Five months after its formation, in January 1799, the Parthenopean Republic was teetering under the combined onslaught of Cardinal Ruffo’s popular, royalist army of Sanfedisti recruited from the bellicose peasants and bandits of Calabria, and the Lazzaroni, poor, unemployed, but devotedly royalist Neapolitans. Additionally, and most importantly, the French had left the area due to significant defeats in northern Italy. The Parthenopean Republic was eventually suppressed by the Kingdom of Naples, with the help of a British expeditionary force led by Admiral Horatio Nelson. The suppression of the republic was accompanied by many atrocities, including summary executions, mass arrests, and the use of torture to extract information from suspected revolutionaries. Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, was ready and willing to castigate the defeated Republicans on the orders of the Neapolitan monarchs. The aftermath was brutal and bloody and served to show what would have happened in France had the aristocracy ever regained power. The Kingdom of Naples was formed with the return of King Ferdinand IV, now as Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. The kingdom was formed by merging the Kingdom of Naples, which had been ruled by the Bourbon dynasty, with the Kingdom of Sicily, which had been ruled by the House of Habsburg.
Since the majority of Parthenopean Republic coinage I’ve seen looks rather well used, I think it’s a safe conclusion that the coinage was welcomed in the local economy of the Kingdom of Naples, despite the iconography of the Parthenopean Republic. No doubt this acceptance was due to the general lack of other coinage, a common problem during inflation and revolutions, and the fact that the Latin inscription of ‘REPUBBLICA NAPOLITANA’ appeared on the coinage. There were only four denominations issued. The four (4) Tornesi (KM# 226) and six (6) Tornesi (KM# 228) in copper, a 6 Carlini in silver (KM# 230), and this twelve (12) Carlini piece (KM# 232), which equaled one Piastre. The obverse shows an allegorical figure of Liberty holding a staff topped with a Liberty Cap on one side and a large fasces on the other with the binding band partially unferrald at her feet. The reverse of this coin has the legend of ANNO SEPTIMO DELLA LIBERTA which means Year Seven of Liberty (AN7). The denomination on the reverse center is presented as CAR / LINI / DODI / CI. A very rare variation of the 12 Carlini coin shows the French Revolutionary date of AN7 (1799, KM# 233). This coin is .833 silver, 27.53 grams, and 40 mm.