Origins of the Mafia
The origins of the Mafia is a highly disputed topic. Many people believe that the Mafia originated in the medieval period. According to them, the Mafia was a secret society sworn to protect the Sicilian people from oppression by the Catalan marauders in the fifteenth century. However, there is little historical evidence to suggest this. The "Robin hood" legends may have been associated with the Mafia of that time as well. It is also feasible that the Mafia existed as a means for righteous and honorable rebels to defend the Sicilian people from oppression, Roman and Northern Italian control, and outside invasion by barbarians. Most modern scholars however do not believe in this theory.
Others believe that the Mafia was formed near the end of Feudalism. The aristocratic feudal lords generally lived in their country mansions and left their lands under the charge of local managers called Gabelloti. These men intimidated the poor men to work the estates for poor wages. One of their methods were to employ local intermediaries who could now be considered as local Mafia Bosses. Most Gabelloti became minor barons but some of the most corrupt ones refused the post and became important Mafioso.
With the abolition of Feudalism, it became even more necessary for the Mafia to intimidate the peasants to pay the taxes to the Barons with a cut for the Mafia as well. However, the Mafia even represented the will of the local farmers, tradesmen and other common people. They were often paid-off by them to settle scores or for justice which was obtained by the killing or maiming of someone. Due to all this rose the conception of Mafia being "Robin Hood" and even "Knights".From being known as the "friends of the friends" they were soon also known as "men of honor". The clannish nature of most Sicilians and dislike for law enforcement by a oppressive hereditary aristocratic government, created a favorable climate for the Mafia to develop. The nobility may not have actually created the Mafia, but it unwittingly permitted the development of social conditions that facilitated its macabre growth.