APT Basilicata

APT Basilicata

Basilicata turistica

Pagano Mario Francesco

a cura di Giovanni Caserta

Francesco Mario Pagano, known as an intellectual of great moral and civic integrity, died on the scaffold, in Piazza Mercato, Naples, on October 29, 1799. He was born in Brienza on December 8, 1748, the year of the Aachen Peace Deal, a date which is usually considered the beginning of Enlightenment. Neapolitan Enlightenment was different from the Milanese, it was more fascinating, more perceptive to the needs of history as well as to those of the soul, supported as it was by the legacy of Giambattista Vico, a philosopher who was neglected during his life, but was to have a crowd of followers after his death. Francesco Mario Pagano was a follower of Vico, too. He knew how to marry the consideration for history and the need for innovation. He shared with Vico vision of nature and history in development. He was neither a materialist nor a spiritualist in the strict sense of the word, but rather an immanentist. He thought nature as vivified by an inner breath whose aim was law and order, harmony, freedom and justice. In this respect, he was not different from many famous Lucanian intellectuals such as Nicola Fiorentino (1755-1799) from Pomarico, Emanuele Duni (1714-1781) from Matera, Francesco Lomonaco (1772-1810) from Montalbano Ionico, Onofrio Tataranni (1727-1803) from Matera.

The progress of history, according to Pagano, goes from the undifferentiated to the differentiated, that is to say from the indefinite to the definite. In the beginning it was only the human race, without peoples, nations and states. Survival instinct, the need for peace and progress had led mankind to mutual help and to the creation of civilized communities, sustained by rules which were to grant rights and regulate duties. Rules and law were born in this way, they shared the same spiritual origin with poetry, ethics, philosophy and religion. Without law, as well as without poetry, ethics and religion (regardless of the historical shapes it can take), mankind would self-destruct. On the contrary, law makes it possible for men to create relationships based on mutual understanding and agreement which, by overcoming “national prejudices,” can lead to the unity of mankind. Mario Pagano wished a time to come when, “in the same way the various nations and communities of Europe are united by common customs and interests, America, Asia, and Africa all together could be closely tied to Europe.” If law and rules, as any other form of the spirit, are to perform this function, they have to be respectful of freedom and democracy, and ensure justice.

Of course Mario Pagano, who had grown up following Vico’s philosophy, in addition to the teachings of Gaetano Filangeri and Giuseppe Glinni Ottomani (an orientalist born in Acerenza), was interested in the innovative programmes patronized by Charles III of Bourboun and his minister Tanucci. After the disappointment caused by Ferdinand IV, he found himself in sympathy with the ideals of the French Revolution and the Declaration of Human Rights. In 1794 he sided against the tyranny of Ferdinand IV, by pleading the case of Galiani, Vitalini, and De Deo, three alleged conspirators. The three were sentenced to death, first martyrs of the new ideas, while Pagano was deprived of his professorship, arrested, imprisoned and expelled from the kingdom.

He was to come back only after the outbreak of the Neapolitan Revolution in 1799 and the proclamation of the republic. He was delegated to write the text of the constitution, which he did trying to reconcile the requirements of the French nation with the needs of the Neapolitan nation. The result was a moderate and well-balanced text which however, once the reaction took place, cost him his life. Pagano faced his death with great strength of spirit and composure. Some compared him to Socrates. “His name,” wrote Vincenzo Cuoco, “is worth a praise. His work Processo Criminale has been translated in all languages, and it is still one of the best works about that subject. Those who want to reach the flights of Vico must follow the prints of Pagano.”

On March 14, 1863, in the Court of Assizes of Potenza, a marble bust was dedicated to him, in witness of the strong bond which united him to his land, which he derived inspiration and strength from, either by meditating over Giuseppe Glinni Ottomanni’s works, either going back over Ocello Lucano and Pythagoras’s philosophy, either by contemplating the impressiveness of the landscape when, in 1878, he spent many months alone in his Brienza to recover from the overtoil caused by his studies.

Pagano devoted himself to literature, law, and philosophy, which he sometimes viewed as a whole. He wrote six tragedies (Gerbino, Agamennone, Corradino, Gli esuli tebani, Prometeo e Teodosio) and one comedy (Emilia). He also translated from greek and latin. Other works, which may be considered half-way between philosophy and law, are Progetto di Costituzione della Repubblica napoletana, Sul processo criminale, Esame politico dell’intera legislazione romana, Discorso sull’origine e natura della poesia and the most important Saggi politici, in two editions.

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