Christopher Denis-Delacour

The Gaetani of Ripa Grande: to be sudditi pontifici on the sea in the 17th century

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Although the presence of Gaeta's seamen on the Roman Tyrrhenian coast was not exactly a new phenomenon in the 18th century, the creation of Ripa Grande permitted a major increase of their presence. In the context of the establishment and assertion of state identity, the appearance of the Gaetani by means of the normative apparatus regulating papal fishing gave concrete expression to the slow accumulation of informal skills and the development of a network of strategically placed go-betweens. Such skills were a professional and economic stepping stone, combining diversified activities and institutional strategies of interpretation. Exploiting their condition as stranieri with the ability to act as sudditi pontifici, these captains and seamen unavoidably acted as merchants in their pursuit of economic profit. Their «success» was an outcome of the favourable interpretation of legal, social and professional issues that characterized this intermediate area on the fringes of the territory.

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