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Italian Historical Characters in Movies and Video Games

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Trevi Fountain in Rome, created 1732 - 1762.

Trevi Fountain in Rome, created 1732 - 1762.

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.

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.

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

Prospero Colonna

Prospero Colonna

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.

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

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

Maps of Cities in the Life of Prospero Colonna

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.

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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

Pope Julius II, Enemy of the Borgias

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.

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.

Palazzo Colonna - The Colonna Palace In Rome

Palazzo Colonna - The Colonna Palace In Rome

Map of the Colonna Palaces

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.

Portrait of Cardinal Prospero Colonna di Sciarra (1708 - 1765) by Italian painter Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787).

Portrait of Cardinal Prospero Colonna di Sciarra (1708 - 1765) by Italian painter Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787).

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."
  • 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.
Comedian Jerry Colonna; 1951 in The Jerry Colonna Show on television.

Comedian Jerry Colonna; 1951 in The Jerry Colonna Show on television.

Italians Come to America

  • Italian Immigration to America - 1850s
    Immigration from Italy and the rest of Europe beginning in the 1950s for 50 years hence is known as THE SECOND WAVE of European Immigration. America was not even 100 years old yet in 1850!

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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 03, 2013:

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

ParadigmEnacted on June 03, 2013:

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

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 03, 2013:

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

ParadigmEnacted on June 03, 2013:

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 (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 02, 2013:

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 on June 02, 2013:

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 (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 02, 2013:

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.

mylindaelliott from Louisiana on June 02, 2013:

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

ParadigmEnacted on June 02, 2013:

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.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 02, 2013:

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 on June 02, 2013:

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?

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