Gypsies (Roma) in Termini Imerese: ‘la Gittatella’ is the defining term in Sicilian


Gypsies (Roma) in Bern during the 1400s.

Status of Gypsies during the Reigns of Ferdinand & Isabella and Charles V

“Gypsies are not to move about these kingdoms, and those that may be there, are to leave them, or take trades, or live with their overlords under penalty of a hundred lashes for the first time, and for the second time that their ears be cut off, and that they be chained for sixty days, and that for the third time that they remain captive forever to them who take them.”

“Decree of their Highnesses (Ferdinand and Isabella) given in the year 1499, and Law No. 104 in the Decrees; confirmed and ordered to be observed in the court which was celebrated in Toledo in the year 1525 (reign of Charles V), Law No. 58, in spite of any clause which may have been given to the contrary.”

Hugo de Celso. Las leyes de todos los reynos de Castilla.  Valladolid: Imprensa National, 1538.


“On November 16, 1545, Father Gaspano Criscione baptized the Gypsy belonging to Grigoli Spinola. She was named Elisabetta. Her godfathers are Arrigo the Gypsy and Martino Mannino. Her godmother is Sister Filippa L’Angelica.” Photo courtesy of Father Anthony Delisi.

Sicilian Terms for Roma (Gypsies):

The Roma were once though to have originated in Egypt, hence the term ‘Gypsy’ in English. The Sicilian word for Egypt is Eggittu; two of the four Sicilian terms for the Roma derive from Eggittu: Gittatello/Gittatella and Citello/Citella.

Male: lu Gizzo / lu Gittatello /  lu Citello / lu Zingaro

Female:  la Gizza / la Gittatella / la Citella / la Zingara

In reference to the term lu Citello / la Citella (which is used but once in the entire manuscript) note that it might have the additional meaning: chattel. Chattel slavery, the traditional form of slavery, is so named because people are treated as the personal property of an owner and are bought and sold as commodities.

Names of  Roma and their Owners (including the pertinent passage in Codex A in Sicilian-Latin). Note that among these baptisms there are twice as many enslaved male Gypsies as enslaved female Gypsies.

  • Antonino
    • owned by Monsignore  Roberto Maniscalco: antⁿº lo gizu dj m~ſ robertto maniſcalco
  • Arrigo
    • possibly belonging to Grigoli Spinola:  Arrigo lu gizzo :: arjgo lu giczo [Arrigo the Gypsy] stood as Godfather I to the Gypsy, Elisabetta :: betta la gicza di grigolj spinula, the latter of whom belonged to Grigoli Spinola. Perhaps Arrigo was her relative.
  • Elisabetta
    • owned by Grigoli Spinola: betta la gicza di grigolj spinula. Arrigo lu gizzo :: arjgo lu giczo [Arrigo the Gypsy] who was one of her godfathers, might have been her relative.
  • Filippa
    • una gittatella: her owner cannot be determined from the text.
  • Filippa
    • owned by Mastro Paulo D’Angelo: ph¯a la gicza dj maſtº paulu dj anchilo.
  • Francesco
    • owned by Monsignore Luciano LaGulla: fracº lo giczu dj m~ſ lucjano la gula
  • Gerardo
    • owned by Mastro Giacomo LuCaccavisci: girardo lu g~tanj mu jacupo lu caccavjxi
  • Manfredi
    • owned by Magnifico Signore Calistro LuRusso, Medico Spagnolo: Manfredi, is the son of the Gypsy, Perico Russo: manfre lo f dj piricu rusſu giczo dj m~ſ caljſtº rusſu
  • Margarita
    • recorded as una gittatella, that is, a Gypsy woman, Margarita probably belonged to Mastro Giuseppioni LoFillaro, her only Godparent.
  • Margarita.
    • listed in the Index for page 25, the latter of which is missing in Codex A. Margarita’s surname is presented as Gitatella (female Gypsy). The position of her name in the manuscript would be 25 recto f.
  • Matteo
    • listed as uno gitatelo, a male Gypsy; although his father is not recorded, Matteo’s owner might be one of his Godfathers, Domenico [unreadable] or Pietro Cinnami.
  • Perico
    • owned by Magnifico Signore Calistro LuRusso, Medico Spagnolo: piricu rusſu giczo dj m~ſ caljſtº rusſu
  • Simone
    • owned by Mastro Pirrello Agrigentano :: simonj f. di la citella di mº pirrellu agrigentanu. Simone, whose Gypsy mother is not expressly named,  was most-probably Mastro Pirrello’s son. The name Adriana :: diana which  is crossed out in the MS might be the Gypsy mother.
  • Raineri
    • owned by Monsignore Luca LuGiomissi: rajnerj lu giczo di m~ſ luca luJumijſi
  • Rosa
    • owned by the unnamed sister of Mastro Gilormo DiVara :: ruſſa la za dj lo ſoru dj mº gilormo dj vara.
  • Unnamed male
    • owned by Monsignore Batessaro Indulsi:  lu gizu di m~f bate[  ]ro Jndulſi
  • Unnamed male, son of the above unnamed male
    • owned by Monsignore Batessaro Indulsi: lu f. dj lu gizu di m~f bate[ ]ro Jndulſi
  • Unnamed female
    • owned by Mastro Pirrello Agrigentano: simonj lu f. di la citella di mº pirrellu agrigentanu. Her son is Simone.  Adriana :: diana, which  is crossed out in the MS, might be her name.
  • Free Roma
    • Mastro Anslonso Greco Zingaro :: maſtº anſlonſu greco czingarº. Anslonso’s surname indicates that he is a Greek [greco] Gypsy [zingaro]
    • Mastro Vincenzo LuZingaro :: mº viche¯ſo lu zingaro. Vincenzo’s surname means ‘The Gypsy’. He might be identical with Vincenzo LuGizzo.
    • Vincenzo LuGizzo :: viche¯ſo lu giczo. Vincenzo’s surname means ‘The Gypsy’.
    • Arrigo LuGizzo :: arjgo lu giczo. Arrigo’s surname means ‘The Gypsy’.
    • Adriana
      • daughter of an unnamed male Gypsy :: djana lo f. dj un zingaro
    • Unnamed male
      • father of Adriana :: djana lo f. dj un zingaro
Published on July 26, 2009 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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