Italian History Portrayed In Movies and Video Games

Trevi Fountain in Rome, created 1732 - 1762.
Trevi Fountain in Rome, created 1732 - 1762. | Source

Real Men, Real History

Prospero and his contemporary cousin Fabrizio Colonna are the models for exciting military mercenaries in the hottest video games today, but these men are actual historical figures.

Italian Historical Characters and RPG Video Games

The powerful Imperial Commander Prospero Colona of the late 15th Century was a real person of importance in Italy. He is famous enough to be included in the Assassin's Creed video game series that many people enjoy playing.

This game is one of the most played of all and is well known among online role playing games (RPG) that people enjoy.

Action Movie Released December 21, 2016

Michael Fassbender star as Callum Lynch in "Assassin's Creed", based on the history of Italy and the Colonna family. Directed by Justin Kurzel, it also stars Marion Cotillard, Michael K. Williams, Ariane Labed, Jeremy Irons, and Brendan Gleeson.

Assassin's Creed - Trailer World Premiere

Leader and Commander

Prospero Colonna (1452-1523) functioned successfully and was well known as a military commander involved in the Italian Wars. He spent a large portion of later part fighting against French enemies. By the end of his career, he had been promoted to commander of the Imperial Armies that contained soldiers of German, Spanish and Papal armies.

Prospero Colonna
Prospero Colonna | Source

History and an Exciting Video Game

Prospero and his contemporary cousin, Fabrizio Colonna, are the models for mercenaries in gaming scenarios, but they are actual historical figures as well. Not all the other characters are real people, but they are exciting and may be composite characters.

Several sources indicate that Propero and Cousin Fabrizo were battling the Borgia family, specially Cesare Borgia (see painting below), for power over certain territories and kingdoms within Italy.

In the Assassin's Creed Video Games, in 1500 the two Colonna men are captured by Cesare Borgia, but rescued by the fictional Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a contemporary and friend of Leonardo DaVinci.

Together, the three men became a sort of Italian Three Musketeers for a short time. The cousins separated from their rescuer with the promise that they would continue to fight the Borgias. In the game, Ezio becomes a mentor for the Italian Brotherhood of Assassins, which actually existed.

The Borgias

In the painting below and from the left, are Cesare Borgia, Lucretia Borgia, Pope Alexander, and a young man holding an empty glass and wondering if it was poisoned.

A Portrait Of The Infamous Borgias

A Glass of Wine with Caesar Borgia, painted in 1893.
A Glass of Wine with Caesar Borgia, painted in 1893. | Source

Notable Cities In the Life Of Prospero Colonna

show route and directions
A markerCivita Lavinia, Italy -
Lanuvio, Province of Rome, Italy
[get directions]

B markerMilan, Italy -
Milan, Italy
[get directions]

C markerPalazzo Colonna, Rome -
Colonna Palace, Largo Palazzo Colonna, 00047 Marino Province of Rome, Italy
[get directions]

D markerPaliano, Italy -
Paliano, Province of Frosinone, Italy
[get directions]

Fantastic Historical Accuracy

Assassin's Creed Triple Pack: Black Flag, Unity, Syndicate - PS4 [Digital Code]
Assassin's Creed Triple Pack: Black Flag, Unity, Syndicate - PS4 [Digital Code]

This is a lifelike game about pirates in "Black Flag: The Caribbean, 1715"; defeating tyranny with the French Revolution in "Unity: Paris, 1789"; and the Industrial Revolution in UK: "London, 1868." I like this better than then Disney Pirate Movies.

 
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Piazza Colonna in Rome, near the Palace Colonna traditional family residence.Palazzo Colonna today.
Piazza Colonna in Rome, near the Palace Colonna traditional family residence.
Piazza Colonna in Rome, near the Palace Colonna traditional family residence. | Source
Palazzo Colonna today.
Palazzo Colonna today. | Source

Visions of Historic Italy

Click thumbnail to view full-size
RomeThe Vatican, RomeTrevi Fountain, Rome; opened in 1762Cathedral close-up, MilanMilanMilan, Piazza Duomo
Rome
Rome | Source
The Vatican, Rome
The Vatican, Rome
Trevi Fountain, Rome; opened in 1762
Trevi Fountain, Rome; opened in 1762
Cathedral close-up, Milan
Cathedral close-up, Milan
Milan
Milan
Milan, Piazza Duomo
Milan, Piazza Duomo

Relevant Popes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Coat of Arms of the ColonnasPope Sixtus IV, Pope from 1471-1484.Pope Innocent VIII (Giovanni Battista Cybo); Pope from 1484 -1492.Pope Alexander IV; Pope from 1492 - 1503.Pope Pius III; Pope from 1503 - 1503.
Coat of Arms of the Colonnas
Coat of Arms of the Colonnas | Source
Pope Sixtus IV, Pope from 1471-1484.
Pope Sixtus IV, Pope from 1471-1484. | Source
Pope Innocent VIII (Giovanni Battista Cybo); Pope from 1484 -1492.
Pope Innocent VIII (Giovanni Battista Cybo); Pope from 1484 -1492. | Source
Pope Alexander IV; Pope from 1492 - 1503.
Pope Alexander IV; Pope from 1492 - 1503. | Source
Pope Pius III; Pope from 1503 - 1503.
Pope Pius III; Pope from 1503 - 1503. | Source

The Adventures of Prospero

The first Propsero Colonna was born in 1452 in Civita Lavinia, Italy and died in Milan in 1523, his life spanning parts of the 15th and 16th Centuries and the Renaissance. The family palace is still standing and named the Palace or Palazzo Colonna, housing a well appointed art gallery.

Having become a mercenary or professional military commander for the Pope, Prospero defended his own family's castle in Paliano in 1484 at the age of 32 (see map above).

Interestingly, the land and building became a prison in the 19th Century after it was sold to the Pope's territories, called the Papal States. Before that time, the properties were the subject of battles between different opposing families in bids to increase power.

After 1484, Prospero and his cousin, Fabrizio, served various Popes and kings of the kingdoms within Italy. He was excommunicated by one Pope, and imprisoned with his cousin on more than one occasion. After serving Italian and French leaders, the cousins sided with the Viceroy of Naples, General Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba.

Pope Julius II, Enemy of the Borgias

Source

I will not live in the same rooms as the Borgias lived. He [Alexander VI] desecrated the Holy Church as none before. He usurped the papal power by the devil's aid, and I forbid under the pain of excommunication anyone to speak or think of Borgia again. His name and memory must be forgotten. It must be crossed out of every document and memorial. His reign must be obliterated. All paintings made of the Borgias or for them must be covered over with black crepe. All the tombs of the Borgias must be

— Pope Julius II, the day he became Pope

Commander of the Pope's Armies

Propero amassed ownership and titles over six separate territories in Southern Italy and became a more distinguished nobleman. Married, he fathered a son he named Vespasiano, but he lost his wife to one of his own friends.

Prospero's profession became the focus of his life and in 1515, he was the leader of the army of Pope Leo X. However, Prospero, his aides, his staff, and his soldiers were all captured by the French. Later rallying, he defeated the French forces in Northern Italy in 1522 at the Battle of Bicocca.

Finally released from prison in France, Prospero led his soldiers successfully against the French in Northern Italy, but died of illness there in Milan in 1523.

So ended the convoluted career of a mercenary military commander for the Pope of Rome.

Pope Leo X; Pope from 1513 - 1521

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Pope Leo X and two cardinals.Cost of Arms of the Medici Popes: Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV, and Leo XI.
Pope Leo X and two cardinals.
Pope Leo X and two cardinals. | Source
Cost of Arms of the Medici Popes: Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV, and Leo XI.
Cost of Arms of the Medici Popes: Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV, and Leo XI. | Source

Palazzo Colonna - The Colonna Palace In Rome

Source

The family palace includes wings constructed over the eras of five different centuries. You will see different architectural styles, including interiors and exteriors, which mark each era. The rich family exercises great influence over armies and for a while, over several Popes of Rome.

Colonna Palaces

show route and directions
A markerPalazzo Colonna, Rome -
Colonna Palace, 00040 Lanuvio Rome, Italy
[get directions]

B markerOffice Location: Piazza SS. Apostoli,66 Rome -
Piazza Santi Apostoli, 66, 00187 Roma, Italy
[get directions]

C markerPalazzo Colonna, Rome -
Colonna Palace, Largo Palazzo Colonna, 00047 Marino RM, Italy
[get directions]

D markerEntrance: Via della Pilotto 17, Rome -
Via Camillo Pilotto, 17, 00139 Roma, Italy
[get directions]

The Colonna Family

The Colonna Family was an old and influential group of noblemen in the Medieval and Renaissance Periods in Rome.From their family, Italy received one Pope (Pope Martin V, Oddone Colonna) and various Cardinals and other church dignitaries.

The Colonnas are infamous in history for a continuing feud with the Orsini Family over power and control in Rome - specifically the number of Cardinals and Popes from each family - but the bickering was stopped by a 1511 Papal Bull. Sixty years later, the heads of both families married the nieces of Pope Sixtus V. The family had fought among themselves previously, even conducting an actual war over landholdings in the late 1200s and early 1300s.

The Colonnas were promised offices as Assistant Princes to the Pope in each generation in perpetuum; and the family descendants still live around Naples and Rome.

Cardinal Prospero Colonna di Sciarra (1708 - 1765)

Portrait of Cardinal Prospero Colonna di Sciarra by Italian painter Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787).
Portrait of Cardinal Prospero Colonna di Sciarra by Italian painter Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787). | Source

Colonna Genealogy And Competition

The Cardinal pictured above is a descendant of the first Prospero's generation and was named similarly in 1708. The many generations of the Colonna Family can be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia linked below.

The Catholic church archives provide detailed information about each generation, particularly since the Colonnas seem to be in a race with the Orsini Family to have relatives appointed as Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes.

The genealogy and history of the Colonnas is linked with that of the Borgias, because many men of both families were mercenary soldiers and actually commanders of mercenary troops in the Italian Wars as well as in wars within their own families.

Colonna Connections

Literary Connections of Connected Families -- Fabrizio Colonna is the dominant narrator in Machiavelli's book "The Art of War." Cesare Borgia, a rival military mercenary, is the model for "The Prince."

More Colonna Connections

  • Cousin Fabrizio Colonna (circa 1450 - 1522) enjoyed a number of interesting social connections.
  • Fabrizio served as a general during the War of the Holy League during 1508 to 1516, a segment of the Italian Wars (1494 - 1559). He was himself a count and a law enforcement person in the Kingdom of Naples.
  • His daughter Vittoria was a friend of Michelangelo.
  • Fabrizio Colonna is the dominant narrator in Machiavelli's book The Art of War. Cesare Borgia, a rival military mercenary, is the model for The Prince.
  • In 1517, Fabrizio's and Prospero's nephew Pompeo was made a Cardinal in the church by the Pope.

Comedians Named Colonna

Jerry Colonna; 1951 in The Jerry Colonna Show on television.
Jerry Colonna; 1951 in The Jerry Colonna Show on television. | Source

Colonnas In America Also Honored in Animation

The Colonna Family continues to be important in Rome and Naples, especially at the family palace, Palace Colonna. It is a popular tourist attraction and art lover's paradise, housing a large gallery of art works that is unexpected.

Did any of the Colonna Family immigrate to the United States?

This is likely to be the case and the Colonna genealogy can be traced through many Italian immigration collections online an in brick an mortar archives (see link to the right). I see some resemblance between Jerry Colonna and Carinal Prospero Colonna di Sciarra, whose portrait is displayed above - especially in the eyes and nose.

One famous Colonna of the USA is Jerry Colonna, who was a renowned comedian, actor, and singer during the 1940s - 1960s. He was so popular that he was parodied in a number of animated productions, including Warner Brothers' Looney Toons. In this way, he joins ranks of possible distant cousins Prospero and Frabrizio. One wonders - did either of them have a sense of humor as a mercenary soldier?

One wonders if Prospero or Frabrizio had a sense of humor to rival Jerry Colonna in America many years later.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Palazzo in Milan, Italy.Naples, Italy in 2013.Part  of the Vatican in Rome, Italy.
Palazzo in Milan, Italy.
Palazzo in Milan, Italy. | Source
Naples, Italy in 2013.
Naples, Italy in 2013. | Source
Part  of the Vatican in Rome, Italy.
Part of the Vatican in Rome, Italy. | Source

© 2013 Patty Inglish

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Comments 11 comments

ParadigmEnacted profile image

ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

Thank you. Excellent post. A lot of this is information I haven't come across before. I'm especially interested in his wife, son, and that friend of his that his wife ran off with. Is that what happened? One source referred to him as a gentlemen of low degree. Does that mean that he wasn't nobility or unintelligent?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Probably "low degree" means a commoner or a petty criminal or both. Apparently, Prospero's wife did run off with the man, during some time that Prospero was busy with the military or during one of his imprisonments. That much is not clear.

I wonder what the Colonna Cardinals would have thought of Jerry Colonna?


ParadigmEnacted profile image

ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

That's very interesting. I wish more was known about him as well as Prospero's wife, including pictures. Do you know anything about this bull of Perillus that Prospero "took for device" after his wife went slumming? What does it mean? Sources are very confusing about that.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 3 years ago from Louisiana

Very nice hub. Interesting information about the Colonnas. Like most families they have an interesting past.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

The books in the References sections can give you more information about Prospero's family, including wife and son. "Perillis" is an old legend, however, may be true. Are you writing a paper on this topic?

I also think their past is interesting! But I wonder what Colonnas in America today are doing? I could look up some phone directories.


ParadigmEnacted profile image

ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

Ha ha, no paper. I'm trying to correlate a past life regression if you could believe it. I looked just like Prospero Colonna before I knew who he was and the dates generally corresponded to that time period. However, I recall a date as being November 14 1521 and I'm 48 years old. That wouldn't have been Prospero.

Yet the appearance coupled with palace like surroundings and a strong awareness of the presence of the papacy gives me difficulty ruling it out. I sense that a have a certain status in this incarnation that isn't so for any of the others and that I'm in the midst of religious related turmoil, if I simply misplaced the detail of my age at the time then I may have been Prospero and recalled his final days.

However, another thing that stood out is that as I was having this regression I realized that this person was dumber than a second coat of paint. Very little self-awareness or understanding of the implications of his deeds other than a certain aggrandizement. Because of that the description of a "gentlemen of low degree" stood out, so I'm thinking that maybe I was that guy. From the the limited details about that situation it would follow a consistent pattern with me and what I know of metaphysical matters.

It would be much better to be able to say I was Prospero, but I could buy into it being almost being a changing of the guard situation. This guy would have been like a confidant to Prospero, or somebody who wanted to emulate him and follow in his footsteps, and there would seem to have been no real hard feelings about anything.

It isn't a vivid or complete memory so there's room for plenty of doubt and if more was known about this guy and the age or appearance didn't match up then I'd put the matter to rest, but what stands out is how I randomly came up with the correct time period without knowing much about it and the historical context was accurate.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

November 14, 1521 is near the beginning of the Italian War of late 1521 - 1526. We know that Prospero and Fabrizio died about the midpoint of that timeline, in their 60s.

In your local libraries, public and college, check for the book "Italian War of 1521-1526" by Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome, John McBrewster. Alphascript Publishing, 2009. That might help pinpoint other Colonnas.

I think a more detailed family tree might be available at the Palazzo Colonna and their art gallery and archives within the palace - or even in the Vatican. The gallery website has an English translation and you could contact the administration and ask.

Do you have a large Italian genealogical library near you? You could also look there or call if it is far away.


ParadigmEnacted profile image

ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

You've supplied a lot of good references and information which I'm definitely going to work with. This has been most helpful, thank you.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I hope you find the answers you seek. Please tells us what you find!


ParadigmEnacted profile image

ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

Well, I'll probably have to do a lot of reading first.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I hope you enjoy it. Maybe you'll play the video game as well?

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