Saturday, November 21, 2015

Family history

My late father asserted our family name is derived from the plural and diminutive of “Anthony”, as in Marc Antony.

The story goes that, when Julius Caesar was assassinated, Antony asked members of his personal militia to pledge to defend him. A short while later, when Antony went on the offensive against his rivals, some of the soldiers said, in effect, ‘this isn’t what we signed up for” – they wouldn’t fight fellow Romans in a civil war.

They deserted, and to escape retaliation, they literally headed for the hills, in this case the Italian region of Abruzzo. To this day, the Antonellis are known as the Italian equivalent of a bunch of hillbillies. My father used to say other Italians said the people from Abruzzo “have big shoes and funny ideas*.”

“Antonelli” means “Little Antonys” and so comes from the Romans saying “”those are Antony's little boys who ran away."

I suspect some of those deserters were also illegitimate offspring of Antony, because if I squinted I swear my father looked a bit like Marc Antony.

There's also history on my mother's side of the family, the Savinis (I'm a second cousin of the horror special effects expert Tom Savini). The Savinis are supposed to be the descendants of the Sabines - and you know that story.

* Scarpe grosse cervello fino - literally, big shoes (but) fine minds.


  1. "if I squinted I swear my father looked a bit like Marc Antony."

    Wow, your father must have been really old to have been Marc Antony's son.


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