chapter  3
51 Pages

Society

Whenlookingattheirownsociety,seventeenth-centuryItalianpolitical writerssawitasbeingstructuredin'orders'or'estates'.Writingin1634,a Neapolitanauthoridentifiedthreesuchgroups:thenobility(orbarons),thepeople (popolo)- asortofmiddlingorderconsistingof'wealthyandvirtuousindividuals wholivecivilliveswithoutengaginginbaseandmechanicaltrades'- andthe plebswhichhecalled'thedregsofthecommonwealthand,assuch,inclinedto seditions,torevolutions,tosubvertinglawsandtraditions'.1LikewiseatmidcenturytheFlorentineDonatoGiannottidescribedVenetiansocietyas consistingof'threedistinctorders':thepopolowhich,headded,'wealsocall plebeians',thecitizens,andthegentlemen.2Muchthesametypologyheldtruein otherpartsofItaly:thelabelsappliedtoeachordermightdifferfromplaceto place,butthemaintripartitedivisionintoordersremainedtherulethroughout thepeninsula.Somewhatsurprisingly,theclergyisnevermentionedasa distinctorderalongsidetheotherthree.Theomissionmostcertainlydoesnot reflectthefeelingthatclericsdidnotrepresentaseparatesocialandclearly identifiablesocialgroup(whichofcoursetheydid,especiallyintheageof theCounter-Reformationwhenchurchauthoritiesinsistedmorethanever that,intermsoftraining,dresscode,andlegalstatus,theclergymustbeset apartfromthelaity3);rather,theomissionreflectsthefactthatoursources wereapparentlyconcernedwithhowlaysocietywasstructuredandtookit forgrantedthatthe'ecclesiasticalorder'stoodasagroupapart.