Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Times of the Sicilian Robin Hood

The Two Robin Hoods

Salvatore Giuliano, the Sicilian Robin Hood, had much in common with the legend of Sherwood Forest.  Both were outlaws.  Both reportedly stole from the rich and gave to the poor.  Both practiced their craft in relatively small areas of some 200 square miles.  And both were clearly legends.

But there is a difference.  Robin Hood may or may not have existed.  There is no doubt that Salvatore Giuliano existed.  Rather than fanciful paintings, we have photographs of him.  We have first-hand accounts of those who met him and knew him well. 

Errol Flynn as 'Robin Hood'
Errol Flynn as 'Robin Hood'

Nonetheless, both Robin Hoods are legends in many senses of the word.  Salvatore Giuliano not only became a legend in his own time, but the half-century since his death has embellished it, even as some writers have revised their estimate of him as nothing more than a common criminal.  During his lifetime, women adored him, children prayed for him, fathers and mothers protected him, and young men joined him in the mountains above his home village of Montelepre.  (It is not without irony that the home village of the elusive bandit is translated "Mountain of the Hare.")

Montelepre, Sicily
Montelepre, Sicily

Who was this young man who became an outlaw at the age of twenty and was mysteriously killed at the age of 27?  What did he do that made him world-famous while alive, and long remembered in his native land 56 years after his death?  Was he indeed a hero, or was he nothing more than a bandit and a cold-blooded killer?  To this day, historians are conflicted.  He is either elaborated as a unique force in post-war Sicily, or dismissed as a mere outlaw, a common profession in the south of Italy.

Salvatore Giuliano
Salvatore Giuliano

To look upon a photograph of Salvatore Giuliano is to look upon a young man of great physical beauty, of nobility, and of dark, cold eyes.  His thumbs are hooked in his belt.  He has an elaborate gold belt buckle and is wearing a large diamond ring and a gold wristwatch.  His clothes are rough and serviceable, as if he were a hunter.  He looks at the camera without emotion.

Most of all, he is defiant.


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