1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Corsica
CORSICA (Fr. Corse), a large island of the Mediterranean, forming a department of France. It is situated immediately to the north of Sardinia (from which it is separated by the narrow strait of Bonifacio), between 41° 21′ and 43° N. and 8° 30′ and 9° 30′ E. Area, 3367 sq.m. Pop. (1906) 291,160. Corsica lies within 54 m. W. of the coast of Tuscany, 98 m. S. of Genoa and 106 m. S.E. of the French coast at Nice. The extreme length of the island is 114 m. and its breadth 52 m. The greater part of the surface of Corsica is occupied by forest-clad mountains, whose central ridge describes a curve from N.W. to S.W., presenting its convexity towards the E. Secondary chains diverge in all directions from this main range, enclosing small basins both geographically and socially isolated; on the west and south of the island they either terminate abruptly on the shore or run out to a great distance into the sea, forming picturesque bays and gulfs, some of which afford excellent harbours. The highest peaks are the Monts Cinto (8881 ft.), Rotondo (8612), Paglia Orba (8284), Padro (7851) and d’Oro (7845). On the eastern side of the island, between Bastia and Porto Vecchio, there intervenes between the mountains and the sea a considerable tract of low and unhealthy, but fertile country, and the coast is fringed in places by lagoons.
Geology.—Corsica may be divided into two parts, which are geologically distinct, by a line drawn from Belgodere through Corte to the east coast near Favone. West of this line the island is composed chiefly of granite, with a large mass of granophyres, quartz porphyries and similar rocks forming the high mountains around Mt. Cinto; but between the Gulfs of Porto and Galeria, schists, limestones and anthracite, containing fossils of Upper Carboniferous age, occur. The famous orbicular diorite of Corsica is found near Sta. Lucia-di-Tallano in the arrondissement of Sartène. In the eastern part of the island the predominant rocks are schists of unknown age, with intrusive masses of serpentine and euphotide. Folded amongst the schists are strips of Upper Carboniferous beds similar to those of the west coast. Overlying these more ancient rocks are limestones with Rhaetic and Liassic fossils, occurring in small patches at Oletta, Morosaglia, &c. Nummulitic limestone of Eocene age is found near St Florent, and occupies several large basins near the boundary between the granite and the schist. Miocene molasse with Clypeaster, &c., forms the plain of Aleria on the east coast, and occurs also at St Florent in the north and Bonifacio in the south. A small patch of Pliocene has been found near Aleria. The caves of Corsica, especially in the neighbourhood of Bastia, contain numerous mammalian remains, the commonest of which belong to Lagomys corsicanus, Cuv.
See Hollande, “Géologie de la Corse,” Ann. sci. géol., vol. ix. (1877); Nentien, “Études sur les gîtes minéraux de la Corse,” Ann. Mines Paris, ser. 9, vol. xii. pp. 231–296, pi. v. (1897).
Corsica is well watered by rivers and torrents, which, though short in their course, bring down large volumes of water from the mountains. The longest is the Golo, which rises in the pastoral region of Niolo, isolated among the mountains to the west of Corte and inhabited by a distinct population of obscure origin. It enters the sea on the east coast to the south of the salt-water lake of Biguglia; farther south, on the same side of the island, is the Tavignano, while on the west there are the Liamone, the Gravone and the Taravo. The other streams are all comparatively small. Owing to the rugged and indented outline of the western coast there are an unusual number of bays and harbours. Of the bays the most important are Porto, Sagone, Ajaccio and Valinco; of the ports, St Florent (San Fiorenzo), Ile Rousse (Isola Rossa), Calvi, Ajaccio and Propriano. On the eastern side, which is much less rugged and broken, the only harbours worth mentioning are those of Bastia and Porto Vecchio (the Portus Syracusanus of the ancients), and the only gulfs those of Porto Vecchio and Santa Manza. At the extreme south are the harbour and town of Bonifacio, giving name to the strait which separates Corsica from Sardinia.
The climate of the island ranges from warmth in the lowlands to extreme rigour in the mountains. The intermediate region is the most temperate and healthy. The mean annual temperature at Ajaccio is 63° F. The dominant winds are those from the south-west and south-east.
There are mines of anthracite, antimony and copper; the island produces granite, building stone, marble, and amianthus, and there are salt marshes. Among other places Guagno, Pardina Guitera, and Orezza have mineral springs.
The agriculture of Corsica suffers from scarcity of labour, due partly to the apathy of the inhabitants, and from scarcity of capital. The cultivation of cereals, despite the fertility of the soil, is neglected; wheat is grown to some extent, but in this respect, the population is dependent to a large degree on outside supplies. The culture of fruit, especially of the vine, cedrates, citrons and olives (for which the Balagne region, in the north-west, is noted), of vegetables and of tobacco, and sheep and goat rearing are the main rural industries, to which may be added the rearing of silk-worms. The exploitation of the fine forests, which contain the well-known Corsican pine, beeches, oaks and chestnuts, is also an important resource, but tends to proceed too rapidly. Chestnuts are exported, and, ground into flour, are used as food by the mountaineers. Most of the inhabitants are proprietors of land, but often the properties are so split up that many hours, or even a whole day, are spent in going from the vineyard or olive plantation to the arable land in the plain or the chestnut-wood in the mountain. A great part of the agricultural labour is performed by labourers from Tuscany and Lucca, who periodically visit the island for that purpose. Sheep of a peculiar breed, resembling chamois and known as mouflons, inhabit the more inaccessible parts of the mountains. The uncultivated districts are generally overgrown with a thick tangled underwood, consisting of arbutus, myrtle, thorn, laurel broom and other fragrant shrubs, and known as the maquis, the fragrance of which can be distinguished even from the sea.
Fishing and shooting are allowed almost everywhere to the possessor of a government licence; special permission, where it is necessary, is easily obtained. Wild boars, stags, in the eastern districts, and hares as well as the mouflon are found, while partridges, quail, woodcock, wild duck and water-fowl are abundant. Trout and eels are the chief fish. The flesh of the Corsican blackbird is considered a delicacy. The fisheries of tunny, pilchard and anchovy are extensively prosecuted for the supply of the Italian markets; but comparatively few of the natives are engaged in this industry.
The Corsican is simple and sober but unenterprising; dignified and proud, he is possessed of a native courtesy, manifested in his hospitality to strangers, the refusal of which is much resented. He is, however, implacable towards his own countrymen when his enmity is once aroused, and the practice of the blood-feud or vendetta has not died out. Each individual is attached to some powerful family, and the influence of this usage is specially marked in politics, the individual voting with his clan on pain of arousing the vindictiveness of his fellow-members. Another dominant factor in social life in Corsica is the almost universal ambition on the part of the natives towards an official career, a tendency from which commerce and agriculture inevitably suffer.
The manufactures of the island are of small importance. They include the extraction of gallic acid from chestnut-bark, the preparation of preserved citrons and other delicacies, and of macaroni and similar foods and the manufacture of fancy goods and cigars.
The chief ports are Bastia, Ajaccio and Ile Rousse. A railway runs from Bastia to Ajaccio with branches to Calvi and Ghisonaccia, but, in general, lack of means of communication as well as of capital are a barrier to commercial activity. In 1905 imports reached a value of £113,000. The chief were tobacco furniture and wooden goods, wine, cereals, coal, cheese and bran. Exports were valued at £336,000, and included chestnut-extract, charcoal, timber, citrons and other fruits, seeds, casks, skins, chestnuts and tanning bark.
Corsica is divided into five arrondissements (chief towns—Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi, Corte and Sartène), with 62 cantons and 364 communes. It forms part of the académie (educational circumscription) and archiepiscopal province of Aix (Bouches-du-Rhône) and of the region of the XV. army corps. The principal towns are Ajaccio, the capital and the seat of the bishop of the island and of the prefect; Bastia, the seat of the court of appeal and of the military commander; Calvi, Corte and Bonifacio. Other places of interest are St Florent, near which stand the ruins of the cathedral (12th century) of the vanished town of Nebbio; Murato, which has a church (12th or 13th century) of Pisan architecture, which is exemplified in other Corsican churches; and Cargese, where there is a Greek colony, dating from the 17th century. Near Lucciana are the ruins of a fine Romanesque church called La Canonica. Megalithic monuments are numerous, chief among them being the dolmen of Fontanaccia in the arrondissement of Sartène.
History.—The earliest inhabitants of Corsica were probably Ligurian. The Phocaeans of Ionia were the first civilized people to establish settlements there. About 560 B.C. they landed in the island and founded the town of Alalia. By the end of the 6th century, however, their power had dwindled before that of the Etruscans, who were in their turn driven out by the Carthaginians. The latter were followed by the Romans, who gained a footing in the island at the time of the First Punic War, but did not establish themselves there till the middle of the 2nd century B.C. Both Marius and Sulla founded colonies—the one at Mariana (near Lucciana) in 104, the second at Aleria in 88. In the early centuries of the Christian era Corsica formed one of the senatorial provinces of the Empire, but though it was in continuous commercial communication with Italy, it was better known as a place of banishment for political offenders. One of the most distinguished of those was the younger Seneca, who spent in exile there the eight years ending A.D. 49.
During the break-up of the Roman empire in the West the possession of Corsica was for a while disputed between the Vandals and the Gothic allies of the Roman emperors, until in 469 Genseric finally made himself master of the island. For 65 years the Vandals maintained their domination, the Corsican forests supplying the wood for the fleets with which they terrorized the Mediterranean. After the destruction of the Vandal power in Africa by Belisarius, his lieutenant Cyril conquered Corsica (534) which now, under the exarchate of Africa, became part of the East Roman empire. The succeeding period was one of great misery. Goths and Lombards in turn ravaged the island, which in spite of the prayers of Pope Gregory the Great the exarch of Africa did nothing to defend; the rule of the Byzantines was effective only in grinding excessive taxes out of the wretched population; and, to crown all, in 713 the Mussulmans from the northern coast of Africa made their first descent upon the island. Corsica remained nominally attached to the East Roman empire until Charlemagne, having overthrown the Lombard power in Italy (774), proceeded to the conquest of the island, which now passed into the hands of the Franks. In 806, however, occurred the first of a series of Moorish incursions from Spain. Several times defeated by the emperor’s lieutenants, the Moors continually returned, and in 810 gained temporary possession of the island. They were crushed and exterminated by an expedition under the emperor’s son Charles, but none the less returned again and again. In 828 the defence of Corsica was entrusted to Boniface II., count of the Tuscan march, who conducted a successful expedition against the African Mussulmans, and returning to Corsica built a fortress in the south of the island which formed the nucleus of the town (Bonifacio) that bears his name. Boniface’s war against the Saracens was continued by his son Adalbert, after he had been restored to his father’s dignities in 846; but, in spite of all efforts, the Mussulmans seem to have remained in possession of part of the island until about 930. Corsica, of which Berengar II., king of Italy, had made himself master, became in 962, after his dethronement by Otto the Great, a place of refuge for his son Adalbert, who succeeded in holding the island and in passing it on to his son, another Adalbert. This latter was, however, defeated by the forces of Otto II., and Corsica was once more attached to the marquisate of Tuscany, of which Adalbert was allowed to hold part of the island in fee.
The period of feudal anarchy now began, a general mellay of petty lords each eager to expand his domain. The counts of Cinarca, especially, said to be descended from Adalbert, aimed at establishing their supremacy over The Terra di Comune.the whole island. To counteract this and similar ambitions, in the 11th century, a sort of national diet was held, and Sambucuccio, lord of Alando, put himself at the head of a movement which resulted in confining the feudal lords to less than half of the island to the south, and in establishing in the rest, henceforth known as the Terra di Comune, a sort of republic composed of autonomous parishes. This system, which survived till the Revolution, is thus described by Jacobi (tom. i. p. 137), “Each parish or commune nominated a certain number of councillors who, under the name of ‘fathers of the commune,’ were charged with the administration of justice under the direction of a podestà, who was as it were their president. The podestas of each of the states or enfranchised districts chose a member of the supreme council charged with the making of laws and regulations for the Terra di Comune. This council or magistracy was called the Twelve, from the number of districts taking a share in its nomination. Finally, in each district the fathers of the commune elected a magistrate who, under the name of caporale, was entrusted with the defence of the interests of the poor and weak, with seeing that justice was done to them, and that they were not made the victims of the powerful and rich.”
Meanwhile the south remained under the sway of the counts of Cinarca, while in the north feudal barons maintained their independence in the promontory of Cape Corso. Internal feuds continued; William, marquis of Massa, of Papal sovereigntythe family known later as the Malaspina, was called in by the communes (1020), drove out the count of Cinarca, reduced the barons to order, and in harmony with the communes established a dominion which he was able to hand on to his son. Towards the end of the 11th century, however, the popes laid claim to the island in virtue of the donation of Charlemagne, though the Frankish conqueror had promised at most the reversion of the lands of the Church. The Corsican clergy supported the claim, and in 1077 the Corsicans declared themselves subjects of the Holy See in the presence of the apostolic legate Landolfo, bishop of Pisa. Pope Gregory VII. thereupon invested the bishop and his successors with the island, an investiture confirmed by Urban II. in 1190 and extended into a concession of the full sovereignty. The Pisans now took solemn possession of the island and their “grand judges” (judices) took the place of Rule of Pisa.the papal legates. Corsica, valued by the Pisans as by the Vandals as an inexhaustible storehouse of materials for their fleet, flourished exceedingly under the enlightened rule of the great commercial republic. Causes of dissension remained, however, abundant. The Corsican bishops repented their subjection to the Pisan archbishop; the Genoese intrigued at Rome to obtain a reversal of the papal gift to the rivals with whom they were disputing the supremacy of the seas. Successive popes followed conflicting policies in this respect; until in 1138 Innocent II., by way of compromise, divided the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the island between the archbishops of Pisa and Genoa. This gave the Genoese great influence in Corsica, and the contest between the Pisans and Genoese began to distract the island. It was not, however, till 1195 that the Genoese, by capturing Bonifacio—a nest of pirates preying on the commerce of both republics—actually gained a footing in the country. For twenty years the Pisans fought to recover the fortress for themselves, until in 1217 the pope settled the matter by taking it into his own hands.
Throughout the 13th century the struggle between Pisans and Genoese continued, reproducing in the island the feud of Ghibellines and Guelphs that was desolating Italy. In order to put a stop to the ruinous anarchy the chiefs of the Terra di Comune called in the marquis Isnard Malaspina; the Pisans set up the count of Cinarca once more; and the war between the marquis, the Pisans and Genoese dragged on with varying fortunes, neither succeeding in gaining the mastery. Then, in 1298, Pope Boniface VIII. added to the complication by investing King James of Aragon with the sovereignty of Corsica and of Sardinia. In 1325, after long delay, the Aragonese attacked and reduced Sardinia, with the result that the Pisans, their sea-power shattered, were unable to hold their own in Corsica. A fresh period of anarchy followed until, in 1347, a great assembly of caporali and barons decided to offer the sovereignty of the island to Genoa. A regular tribute was to be paid to the republic; the Corsicans were to preserve their laws and customs, under the council of Twelve in the north and a council of Six in the south; Corsican interests were to be represented at Genoa by an orator.
The Genoese domination, which began under evil auspices—for the Black Death killed off some two-thirds of the population—was not destined to bring peace to the island. The feudal barons of the south and the hereditary caporali Genoese domination.of the north alike resisted the authority of the Genoese governors; and King Peter of Aragon took advantage of their feuds to reassert his claims. In 1372 Arrigo, count of La Rocca, with the assistance of Aragonese troops, made himself master of the island; but his very success stirred up against him the barons of Cape Corso, who once more appealed to Genoa. The republic, busied with other affairs, hit upon the luckless expedient of investing with the governorship of the island a sort of chartered company, consisting of five persons, known as the Maona. They attempted to restore order by taking Arrigo della Rocca into partnership, with disastrous results. In 1380 four of the “governors of the Maona” resigned their rights to the Genoese republic, and Leonello Lomellino was left as sole governor. It was he who, in 1383, built Bastia on the north coast, which became the bulwark of the Genoese power in the island. It was not till 1401, after the death of Count Arrigo, that the Genoese domination was temporarily re-established.
Meanwhile Genoa itself had fallen into the hands of the French, and in 1407 Leonello Lomellino returned as governor with the title of count of Corsica bestowed on him by Charles VI. of France. But Vincentello d’ Istria, who had gained distinction in the service of the king of Aragon, had captured Cinarca, rallied round him all the communes of the Terra di Comune, proclaimed himself count of Corsica at Biguglia and even seized Bastia. Lomellino was unable to make headway against him, and by 1410 all Corsica, with the exception of Bonifacio and Calvi, was lost to Genoa, now once more independent of France. A feud of Vincentello with the bishop of Mariana, however, led to the loss of his authority in the Terra di Comune; he was compelled to go to Spain in search of assistance, and in his absence the Genoese reconquered the island. Not, however, for long. The Great Schism was too obvious an opportunity for quarrelling for the Corsicans to neglect; and the Corsican bishops and clergy were more ready with the carnal than with spiritual weapons. The suffragans of Genoa fought for Benedict XIII., those of Pisa for John XXIII.; and when Vincentello returned with an Aragonese force he was able to fish profitably in troubled waters. He easily captured Cinarca and Ajaccio, came to terms with the Pisan bishops, mastered the Terra di Comune and built a strong castle at Corte; by 1419 the Genoese possessions in Corsica were again reduced to Calvi and Bonifacio.
At this juncture Alphonso of Aragon arrived, with a large fleet, to take possession of the island. Calvi fell to him; but Bonifacio held out, and its resistance gave time for the Corsicans, aroused by the tyranny and exactions of the Aragonese intervention.Aragonese, to organize revolt. In the end the siege of Bonifacio was raised, and the town, confirmed in its privileges, became practically an independent republic under Genoese protection. As for Vincentello he managed to hold his own for a while; but ultimately the country rose against him, and in 1435 he was executed as a rebel by the Genoese, who had captured him by surprise in the port of Bastia.
The anarchy continued, while rival factions, nominal adherents of the Aragonese and Genoese, contended for the mastery. Profiting by the disturbed situation, the Genoese doge, Janus da Fregoso, succeeded in reducing the island, his artillery securing him an easy victory over the forces of Count Paolo della Rocca (1441). To secure his authority he built and fortified the new city of San Fiorenzo, near the ruins of Nebbio. But again the Aragonese intervened, and the anarchy reached its height. An appeal to Pope Eugenius IV. resulted in the despatch of a pontifical army of 14,000 men (1444), which was destroyed in detail by a league of some of the caporali and most of the barons under the bold leadership of Rinuccio da Leca. A second expedition was more fortunate, and Rinuccio was killed before Biguglia. In 1447 Eugenius was succeeded on the papal throne by Nicholas V., a Genoese, who promptly made over his rights in Corsica, with all the strong places held by his troops, to Genoa. The island was now, in effect, divided between the Genoese republic; the lords of Cinarca, who held their lands in the south under the nominal suzerainty of Aragon; and Galeazzo da Campo Fregoso, who was supreme in the Terra di Comune.
An assembly of the chiefs of the Terra di Comune now decided to offer the government of the island to the Company or Bank of San Giorgio, a powerful commercial corporation established at Genoa in the 14th century. The bank The Bank of San Giorgio.accepted; the Spaniards were driven from the country; and a government was organized. But the bank soon fell foul of the barons, and began a war of extermination against them. Their resistance was finally broken in 1460, when the survivors took refuge in Tuscany. But order had scarcely been established when the Genoese Tommasinoda Campo Fregoso, whose mother was a Corsican, revived the claims of his family and succeeded in mastering the interior of the island (1462). Two years later the duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, overthrew the power of the Fregoso family at Genoa, and promptly proceeded to lay claim to Corsica. His lieutenant had no difficulty in making the island accept the overlordship of the duke of Milan; but when, in 1466, Francesco Sforza died, a quarrel broke out, and Milanese suzerainty became purely Milanese intervention.nominal save in the coast towns. Finally, in 1484, Tommasino da Campo Fregoso persuaded the duke to grant him the government of the island. The strong places were handed over to him; he entered into marriage relations with Gian Paolo da Leca, the most powerful of the barons, and was soon supreme in the island.
Within three years the Corsicans were up in arms again. A descendant of the Malaspinas who had once ruled in Corsica, Jacopo IV. (d’Appiano), was now prince of Piombino, and to him the malcontents applied. His brother Gherardo, count of Montagnano, accepted the call, proclaimed himself count of Corsica, and, landing in the island, captured Biguglia and San Fiorenzo; whereupon Tommasino da Campo Fregoso discreetly sold his rights to the bank of San Giorgio. No sooner, however, had the bank—with the assistance of the count of Leca—beaten Count Gherardo than the Fregoso family tried to repudiate their bargain. Their claims were supported by the count of Leca, and it cost the agents of the bank some hard fighting before the turbulent baron was beaten and exiled to Sardinia. Twice he returned, and he was not finally expelled from the country till 1501; it was not till 1511 that the other barons were crushed and that the bank could consider itself in secure possession of the island.
If the character of the Corsicans has been distinguished in modern times for a certain wild intractableness and ferocity, the cause lies in their unhappy past, and not least in the character of the rule established by the bank of San Giorgio. The power which the bank had won by ruthless cruelty, it exercised in the spirit of the narrowest and most short-sighted selfishness. Only a shadow of the native institutions was suffered to survive, and no adequate system of administration was set up in the place of that which had been suppressed. In the absence of justice the blood-feud or vendetta grew and took root in Corsica just at the time when, elsewhere in Europe, the progress of civilization was making an end of private war. The agents of the bank, so far from discouraging these internecine quarrels, looked on them as the surest means for preventing a general rising. Concerned, moreover, only with squeezing taxes out of a recalcitrant population, they neglected the defence of the coast, along which the Barbary pirates harried and looted at will; and to all these woes were added, in the 16th century, pestilences and disastrous floods, which tended still further to impoverish and barbarize the country.
In these circumstances King Henry II. of France conceived the project of conquering the island. From Corsican mercenaries in French service, men embittered by wrongs suffered at the hands of the Genoese, he obtained all the necessary First French Intervention, 1553.information; by a treaty of alliance concluded at Constantinople (February 1, 1553) with Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent he secured the co-operation of the Turkish fleet. The combined forces attacked the island the same year; the citadel of Bastia fell almost without a blow, and siege was at once laid simultaneously to all the other fortresses. The capitulation of Bonifacio to the Turks, after an obstinate resistance, was followed by the treacherous massacre of the garrison; soon, of all the strong places, the Genoese held Calvi alone. At this juncture the emperor Charles V. intervened; a strong force of imperial troops and Genoese was poured into the island, and the tide of war turned. The details of the struggle that followed, in which the Corsican national hero Sampiero da Bastelica gained his first laurels, are of little general importance. Fortresses were captured and recaptured; and for three years French, Germans, Spaniards, Genoese and Corsicans indulged in a carnival of mutual slaughter and outrage. The outcome of all this was a futile reversion to the status quo. In 1556, indeed, the conclusion of a truce left Corsica—with the exception of Bastia—in the hands of the French, who proceeded to set up a tolerable government; but in 1559, by the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, the island was restored to the bank of San Giorgio, from which it was at once taken over by the Genoese republic.
Trouble at once began again. The Genoese attempted to levy a tax which the Corsicans refused to pay; in violation of the terms of the treaty, which had stipulated for a universal amnesty, they confiscated the property of Sampiero da Bastelica.Sampiero da Bastelica. Hereupon Sampiero again put himself at the head of the national movement. The suzerainty of the Turk seemed preferable to that of Genoa, and, armed with letters from the king of France, he went to Constantinople to ask the aid of a fleet for the purpose of reducing Corsica to the status of an Ottoman province. All his efforts to secure foreign help were, however, vain; he determined to act alone, and in June 1564 landed at Valinco with only fifty followers. His success was at first extraordinary, and he was soon at the head of 8000 men; but ultimate victory was rendered impossible by the indiscipline among the Corsicans and by the internecine feuds of which the Genoese well knew how to take advantage. For over two years a war was waged in which quarter was given on neither side; but after the assassination of Sampiero in 1567 the spirit of the insurgents was broken. In 1568 an honourable peace, including a general amnesty, was arranged with the Genoese commander Giorgio Doria by Sampiero’s son Alphonso d’Ornano, who with 300 of his friends emigrated to France, where he rose to be a marshal under Henry IV.
From this time until 1729 Corsica remained at peace under the government of Genoa. It was, however, a peace due to lassitude and despair rather than contentment. The settlement of 1568 had reserved a large measure of autonomy to the Corsicans; during the years that followed this was withdrawn piecemeal, until, disarmed and powerless, they were excluded from every office in the administration. Nor did the Genoese substitute any efficient system for that which they had destroyed. In the absence of an effective judiciary the vendetta increased; in the absence of effective protection the sea-board was exposed to the ravages of the Barbary pirates, so that the coast villages and towns were abandoned and the inhabitants withdrew into the interior, leaving the most fertile part of the country to fall into the condition of a malarious waste. To add to all this, in 1576 the population had been decimated by a pestilence. Emigration en masse continued, and an attempt to remedy this by introducing a colony of Greeks in 1688 only added one more element of discord to the luckless island. To the Genoese Corsica continued to be merely an area to be exploited for their profit; they monopolized its trade; they taxed it up to and beyond its capacity; they made the issue of licences to carry firearms a source of revenue, and studiously avoided interfering with the custom of the vendetta which made their fiscal expedient so profitable.
In 1729 the Corsicans, irritated by a new hearth-tax known as the due seini, rose in revolt, their leaders being Andrea Colonna Ceccaldi and Luigi Giafferi. As usual, the Genoese were soon confined to a few coast towns; but the Revolt of 1729.intervention of the emperor Charles VI. and the despatch of a large force of German mercenaries turned the tide of war, and in 1732 the authority of Genoa was re-established. Two years later, however, Giacinto Paoli once more raised the standard of revolt; and in 1735 an assembly at Corte proclaimed the independence of Corsica, set up a constitution, and entrusted the supreme leadership to Giafferi, Paoli and Ceccaldi. Though the Genoese were again driven into the fortresses, lack of arms and provisions made any decisive success of the insurgents impossible, and when, on the 12th of March 1736, the German adventurer Baron Theodor von Neuhof arrived with a shipload of King Theodore of Corsica.muskets and stores and the assurance of further help to come, leaders and people were glad to accept his aid on his own conditions, namely that he should be acknowledged as king of Corsica. On the 15th of April, at Alesani, an assembly of clergy and of representatives of the communes, solemnly proclaimed Corsica an independent kingdom under the sovereignty of Theodore “I.” and his heirs. The new king’s reign was not fated to last long. The opéra bouffe nature of his entry on the stage—he was clad in a scarlet caftan, Turkish trousers and a Spanish hat and feather, and girt with a scimitar—did not, indeed, offend the unsophisticated islanders; they were even ready to take seriously his lavish bestowal of titles and his knightly order “della Liberazione”; they appreciated his personal bravery; and the fact that the Genoese government denounced him as an impostor and set a price on his head could only confirm him in their affection. But it was otherwise when the European help that he had promised failed to arrive, and, still worse, the governments with which he had boasted his influence disclaimed him. In November he thought it expedient to proceed to the continent, ostensibly in search of aid, leaving Giafferi, Paoli and Luca d’Ornano as regents. In spite of several attempts, he never succeeded in returning to the island. The Corsicans, weary of the war, opened negotiations with the Genoese; but the refusal of the latter to regard the islanders as other than rebels made a mutual agreement impossible. Finally the republic decided to seek the aid of France, and in July 1737 a treaty was signed by which the French king bound himself to reduce the Corsicans to order. The object of the French in assisting the Genoese was not the acquisition of the island for themselves so much as to obviate the danger, of which they had long been aware, of its falling into the hands of another power, notably Great Intervention of France, 1738.Britain. The Corsicans, on the other hand, though ready enough to come to terms with the French king, refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Genoa even when backed by the power of France. A powerful French force, under the comte de Boissieux, arrived in the spring of 1738, and for some months negotiations proceeded. But the effect of the French guarantee of Corsican liberties was nullified by the demand that the islanders should surrender their arms, and the attempt of Boissieux to enforce the order for disarmament was followed, in the winter of 1738–39, by his defeat at the hands of the Corsicans and by the cutting up of several isolated French detachments. In February 1739 Boissieux died. His successor, the marquis de Maillebois, arrived in March with strong reinforcements, and by a combination of severity and conciliation soon reduced the island to order. Its maintenance, however, depended on the presence of the French troops, and in October 1740 the death of the emperor Charles VI. and the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession necessitated their withdrawal. Genoese and Corsicans were once more left face to face, and the perennial struggle began anew.
In 1743 “King Theodore,” supported by a British squadron, made a descent on the island, but finding that he no longer possessed a following, departed never to return. The Corsicans, assembled in diet at Casinca, now elected Sardinian and British Intervention, 1746.Giampietro Gaffori and Alerio Matra as generals and “protectors of the fatherland” (protettori della patria), and began a vigorous onslaught on the Genoese strongholds. They were helped now by the sympathy and active aid of European powers, and in 1746 Count Domenico Rivarola, a Corsican in Sardinian service, succeeded in capturing Bastia and San Fiorenzo with the aid of a British squadron and Sardinian troops. The factious spirit of the Corsicans themselves was, however, their worst enemy. The British commander judged it inexpedient to intervene in the affairs of a country of which the leaders were at loggerheads; Rivarola, left to himself, was unable to hold Bastia—a place of Genoese sympathies—and in spite of the collapse of Genoa itself, now in Austrian hands, the Genoese governor succeeded in maintaining himself in the island. By the time of the signature of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748, the situation of the island had again changed. Rivarola and Matra had departed, and Gaffori was left nominally supreme over a people torn by intestine feuds. Genoa, too, had expelled the Austrians with French aid, and, owing to a report that the king of Sardinia was meditating a fresh attempt to conquer the island, a strong French expedition under the marquis de Cursay had, at the request of the republic, occupied Calvi, Bonifacio, Ajaccio and Bastia. By the terms of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Renewed French Intervention.Corsica was once more assigned to Genoa, but the French garrison remained, pending a settlement between the republic and the islanders. In view of the intractable temper of the two parties no agreement could be reached; but Cursay’s personal popularity served to preserve the peace for a while. His withdrawal in 1752, however, was the signal for a general rising, and once more, at a diet held at Orezza, Gaffori was elected general and protector. In October of the following year, however, he fell victim to a vendetta and the nation was once more leaderless. His place was taken for a while by Clemente Paoli, son of Giacinto, who for a year or two succeeded, with the aid of other lieutenants of Gaffori, in holding the Genoese at bay. He was, however, by temperament unfitted to lead a turbulent and undisciplined people in time of stress, and in 1755, at his suggestion, his brother Pasquale was invited to come from Naples and assume the command.
The first task of Pasquale Paoli, elected general in April at an assembly at San Antonio della Casabianca, was to suppress the rival faction led by Emanuele Matra, son of Gaffori’s former colleague. By the spring of 1756 this was done, and the Corsicans were able to turn a united front against the Genoese. At this juncture the French, alarmed by a supposed understanding between Paoli and the British, once more intervened, and occupied Pasquale Paoli.Calvi, Ajaccio and San Fiorenzo until 1757, when their forces were once more called away by the wars on the continent. In 1758 Paoli renewed the attack on the Genoese, founding the new port of Isola Rossa as a centre whence the Corsican ships could attack the trading vessels of Genoa. The republic, indeed, was now too weak to attempt seriously to reassert its sway over the island, which, with the exception of the coast towns, Paoli ruled with absolute authority and with conspicuous wisdom. In the intervals of fighting he was occupied in reducing Corsican anarchy into some sort of civilized order. The vendetta was put down, partly by religious influence, partly with a stern hand; the surviving oppressive rights of the feudal signori were abolished; and the traditional institutions of the Terra di Comune were made the basis of a democratic constitution for the whole island.
As regarded the relations of Corsica all now depended on the
attitude of France to which both Paoli and the republic made
overtures. In 1764 a French expedition under the
comte de Marbeuf arrived, and, by agreement with
France.Genoa, garrisoned three of the Genoese fortresses. Though Genoese sovereignty had been expressly recognized in the agreement authorizing this, it was in effect non-existent. French and Corsicans remained on amicable terms, and the inhabitants of the nominally Genoese towns actually sent representatives to the national consulta or parliament. The climax came early in 1767 when the Corsicans captured the Genoese island of Capraja, and occupied Ajaccio and other places, evacuated by the French as a protest against the asylum given to the Jesuits exiled from France. Genoa now recognized that she had been worsted in the long contest, and on the 15th of May 1768 signed a treaty selling the sovereignty of the island to France.
The Corsicans, intent on independence, were now faced with a more formidable enemy than the decrepit republic of Genoa. A section of the people indeed, were in favour of submission; but Paoli himself declared for resistance; and among those who supported him at the consulta summoned to discuss the question was his secretary Carlo Buonaparte, father of Napoleon Bonaparte, the future emperor of the French. Into the details of the war that followed, it is impossible to enter here; in the absence of the hoped-for help from Great Britain its issue could not be doubtful; and, though the task of the French was a hard one, by the summer of 1769 they were masters of the island. On the French conquest.16th of June Pasquale and Clemente Paoli, with some 400 of their followers, embarked on a British ship for Leghorn. On the 15th of September 1770, a general assembly of the Corsicans was summoned and the deputies swore allegiance to King Louis XV.
For twenty years Corsica, while preserving many of its old
institutions, remained a dependency of the French crown.
Then came the Revolution, and the island, conformed
to the new model, was incorporated in France as a
of 1789.separate department (see Renucci, ii. p. 271 seq.). Paoli, recalled from exile by the National Assembly on the motion of Mirabeau, after a visit to Paris, where he was acclaimed as “the hero and martyr of liberty” by the National Assembly and the Jacobin Club, returned in 1790 to Corsica, where he was received with immense enthusiasm and acclaimed as “father of the country.” With the new order in the island, however, he was little in sympathy. In the towns branches of the Jacobin Club had been established, and these tended, as elsewhere, to usurp the functions of the regular organs of government and to introduce a new element of discord into a country which it had been Paoli’s life’s work to unify. Suspicions of his loyalty to revolutionary principles had already been spread at Paris by Bartolomeo Arena, a Corsican deputy and ardent Jacobin, so early as 1791; yet in 1792, after the fall of the monarchy, the French government, in its anxiety to secure Corsica, was rash enough to appoint him lieutenant-general of the forces and governor (capo comandante) of the island. Paoli accepted an office which he had refused two years before at the hands of Louis XVI. With the men and methods of the Terror, however, he was wholly out of sympathy. Suspected of throwing obstacles in the way of the expedition despatched in 1793 against Sardinia, he was summoned, with the procurator-general Pozzo di Borgo, to the bar of the Convention. Paoli now openly defied the Convention by summoning the representatives of the communes Revolt under Paoli. to meet in diet at Corte on the 27th of May. To the remonstrances of Saliceti, who attended the meeting, he replied that he was rebelling, not against France, but against the dominant faction of whose actions the majority of Frenchmen disapproved. Saliceti thereupon hurried to Paris, and on his motion Paoli and his sympathizers were declared by the Convention hors la loi (June 26).
Paoli had already made up his mind to raise the standard of revolt against France. But though the consulta at Corte elected him president, Corsican opinion was by no means united. Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Paoli had British occupation, 1794–1796. expected to win over to his views, indignantly rejected the idea of a breach with France, and the Bonapartes were henceforth ranked with his enemies. Paoli now appealed for assistance to the British government, which despatched a considerable force. By the summer of 1794, after hard fighting, the island was reduced, and in June the Corsican assembly formally offered the sovereignty to King George III. The British occupation lasted two years, the island being administered by Sir Gilbert Elliot. Paoli, whose presence was considered inexpedient, was invited to return to England, where he remained till his death. In 1796 Bonaparte, after his victorious Italian campaign, sent an expedition against Corsica. The British, weary of a somewhat thankless task, made no great resistance, and in October the island was once more in French hands. It was again occupied by Great Britain for a short time in 1814, but in the settlement of 1815 was restored to the French crown. Its history henceforth is part of that of France.
See F. Girolami-Cortona, Géographie générale de la Corse (Ajaccio, 1893); A. Andrei, À travers la Corse (Paris, 1893); Forcioli-Conti, Notre Corse (Ajaccio, 1897); R. Le Joindre, La Corse et les Corses (Paris, 1904); F. O. Renucci, Storia di Corsica (2 vols., Bastia, 1833), fervidly Corsican, but useful; Antonio Pietro Filippini, Istoria di Corsica (1st ed., 1594; 2nd ed., corrected and illustrated with unpublished documents by G. C. Gregori, 5 vols., Pisa, 1827–1832); J. M. Jacobi, Hist. gén. de la Corse, 2 vols., (Paris, 1833–1835), with many unpublished documents; L. H. Caird, History of Corsica (London, 1899). Further works and references to articles in reviews, &c., are given in Ulysse Chevalier’s Répertoire des sources, &c., Topo-bibliographie, t. ii. s.v.
- See “Conventions entre quelques seigneurs Corses et l’office de St Georges (1453),” in Bulletin soc. scientif. Corse (1881–1882), pp. 286, 305, 413, 501, 549 and (1883) 147; also the report of the deputies sent by the bank to Pope Nicholas V. in 1453, ib. p. 141.
- Hammer-Purgstall, Gesch. des Osmanischen Reichs (Pest, 1840), ii. 288.
- Father Cancellotti, who visited every part of the island, estimated the number of murders committed in 20 years at 28,000 (quoted in the article on Corsica in La Grande Encyclopédie).