Yves Jusot Jusot 从 33010 Oseacco UD, 意大利
Early modern Venice may have been famous for its wealth, but it was also a crowded, fragile, and socially rigid city-state, and one might find it extraordinary that Venetians tolerated a culture of public street fighting during the same era. In this clearly-written and fascinating account, author Robert Davis argues that the Venetian pugni, which flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, provided a necessary outlet for “plebeian energy” (p. 10) and created a bridge between social classes. Street fights united social classes in part because they grew out of rivalries between multi-class neighborhoods, specifically those of the Nicolotti (from Venice's land-side district) and the Castellani (residents of the harbor parishes). The fighting gangs were led by the best fighters in each neighborhood, namely fishermen and naval arsenal workers, and their fights took place on the city's bridges, neutral territories that had the added advantage of visibility. In the late Middle Ages the fighters used sticks and shields, but by the sixteenth century they had come to rely exclusively on their fists. The factional captains, or padrini, organized the pugni in the fall, after tensions had been simmering all summer, and started them with a series of single duels (mostre) that finally gave way to a giant brawl, or frotta (pp. 47-78). Afterward, the padrini and older fighters (vecchi delle fattioni) might dine with the city's noblemen, who supported the pugni, took bets on the fights' outcomes, and helped free jailed fighters and padrini. Venetian street fighting served multiple social purposes. It “opened an alternative world of honor and respect” (87) for Venetian laborers and shopkeepers who lacked power or upward mobility, but who could attain renown as fight captains or veterans. It provided participants with a chance to demonstrate their manhood (an important part of Mediterranean culture) and develop a public persona. Neighborhoods also derived benefits from the pugni: non-combatants watched the fights, celebrated them in huge public festivals, and looked forward, if their fighters won, to receiving a collective victory crown and humiliating the losers. Such neighborhood solidarity gave marginal Venetians an institutional stake in the city, similar to that which local confraternities and guilds offered merchants, wealthier craftsmen, and patricians. The pugni helped distract Venetians from their city's mounting misfortunes, but the institution ended in 1705. The Castellani lost most of their best fighters in the Candian War against Turkey, and the fights became unbalanced and uninteresting. City elites began to turn in the eighteenth century toward more “refined” amusements, and the factions sought other ways to perform for the public: forming human pyramids on the bridges, holding boat races, and – as Davis explained in a paper that I had the good fortune to attend – releasing angry bulls into each other's neighborhoods. None of these spectacles, however, had quite the same blend of martial valor and sheer riotousness as the pugni, and one suspects Venice lost an important element of its internal solidarity when they ceased to be.