Organized crime syndicates : The modern empires

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When one reflects upon what made an empire so successful centuries ago the common remarks would most likely relate to power, wealth, influence, and territory. And for the most part these characteristics are displayed by the major powerhouse nations throughout the developed world but an underlying collection of some of the most powerful empires in the modern world have been purposefully lying in a blanket of obscurity to further expand their influence and power. Through the selling of illegal narcotics and contraband, human trafficking, and brutality, the most powerful criminal syndicates across the globe have branched out internationally and have formed a collection of discrete modern empires that can level the power and wealth of nations.

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According to The United States of America Department of Justice an international criminal organization is defined as, “those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate internationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption or violence.” Similar to the Roman Empire there is a constant push for “more”; whether it is more power, more territory, more material wealth, or more influence. The biggest differences between the empires of yesterday and today are the public perceptions of criminal empires and the more discreet manner in which modern criminal syndicates proceed to expand their empires.

When the components of what makes a criminal empire are presented the similarity between these new illegal syndicates and the war-bound empires of the past is striking. The rate at which these organizations have expanded and diverged is phenomenal as observed in an article by Chris Matthews, with multi-billion dollar organizations in Japan, Russia, and the United States thriving from drugs, extortion, and sex (Fortune). While empires of the past have stormed other nations the mobs of today impose their men on every street corner with drugs and other illegal substances to turn profit and claim land. And while the Romans would adopt all captured territories into their nation, the criminal syndicates would pick up members for their organization to increase the force behind their name. It is through this meticulous process of claiming small portions of land while imposing their presence upon the people within their streets that criminal empires of today have expanded. The manner in which these various criminal organizations establish their dominance and continually pursue expansion is not too distinct from the methods of historic empires so despite the differences in the presentation of these empires the ultimate drive for power is identical.

United States of America Department of Justice, “International Organized Crime.” .

Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Organized Crime.” .

Matthews, Chris,”Fortune 5: The Biggest Organized Crime Groups in the World.” Fortune, 14 September 2016, .


Hope Amidst Ruins: The White Helmets of Syria


The outbreak of conflict in Syria has resulted in one of the world’s most bleak situations in the twenty-first century. As the war has progressed for over five years from what was initially a botched peaceful movement for political reform. While my previous blog has a much more detailed look into the historical context behind the ongoing Syrian Civil War this citation from Time properly illustrates the escalation from the Arab Springs to the international crisis the world sees today:

“But as the crowds scattered for cover and, before long, took up arms themselves, what steadily enveloped the conflict was not so much the fog of war as its miasma. Opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad shattered into more than 1,000 armed groups. The most successful gathered under the banner of jihadism, either al-Qaeda or eventually ISIS, its even more repugnant spin-off. There’s nothing to like there. Then the neighbors started in, sending guns or money or troops—Iran, Russia, Hizballah, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and finally the U.S.”

But despite the apparent devastation my research into the Syrian Civil Defense Force has brought a glimmer of light into an abyss of despair. The Syrian Defense Force have been active as of 2013 and have been named “The White Helmets” for the now iconic helmets the 3,000 volunteers don as they rush towards scenes of destruction and chaos in an attempt to save lives and bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. These rescuers are not trained professionals but rather tailors, store clerks, teachers, etc. and regardless of their status prior to the outbreak of conflict the organization formed under a single motto from the Quran: “Whoever saves one life, saves all of humanity.”

Typical analysis of situations such as the Syrian Civil War is taken at the international scale and is done from a fairly objective point of view, one that favors objective facts and politics over personal struggle, culture, and individuality. Most news reports regarding the battered nation simply report the destruction, the international interference of foreign nations, and the activities of terror cells birthed from the conflict and rarely take an insightful look into the lives of the innocent people who suffer from the consequences of the warring parties. My research into Syria’s historic and cultural background has provided a richer context for the cause of this war but it is my analysis of the NetFlix documentary, The White Helmets that has truly proved to be the a very interesting glimpse into the lives of those that simply wish to help others in such trying times rather than attempting to push forward some sort of political agenda.

The most surprising discovery I had regarding my research is the rather humanitarian aspect of the current effort to preserve the degrading nation of Syria. I had initially intended to solely focus on the deep historical roots of Syria and how this can contribute to the nation’s eventual restoration but what I discovered upon my viewing of The White Helmets is how the strong will and hope of those within a destroyed nation can also aid in restoring these current ruins. The volunteers that make the Syrian Defense Force and the religious values that have became a staple of the organization represent how national pride and rich culture are vital to the stability of a nation such as Syria.

Syria’s Culture: The Cure or the Curse?

Having a research project covering an ongoing event in the world such as the Syrian Civil War makes it dangerously easy to forego any deep historical research and dive straight into the immediate present. However, the primary focus of my research is the culture of Syria and its important role in the revival of the nation so simply reflecting upon the immediate series of events in Syria would be a disservice to the centuries of culture that have taken root in the nation and the history that has guided the country to its current disposition. It was during my historic research of Syria that I would run into a concerning matter regarding the nature of Syria’s rich culture and the possibility that a culture as rich and diverse as this nation’s may not in all actuality serve a beneficial role in the restoration of the ruined nation.

“Since before history was written, Syria has been fought over by foreign empires—Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonian Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Turks, British, and French. Only during the Umayyad Caliphate in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. was it the center of an empire. But that relatively short period left Syria with its Islamic heritage. For many centuries, the society has been overwhelmingly Muslim.”

Like this mosque pictured above, numerous other religious structures have been badly damaged or otherwise destroyed. Other structures and building in locations such as Damascus are some of the oldest structures in the Middle East and is why the city is referred to as “The Old City”.

The long history of Syria’s numerous shifts of occupying powers has acuminated in a agglomeration of distinct historic structures from varying empires and have largely impacted the distinct communities that reside in Syria. Syria’s long history with invasions from empires have contributed to its expansive diversity to which, “…is absolutely the most varied society in terms of the immaterial heritage, customs and traditions, arts and local spoken dialects, which still use non-Arabic vocabulary.”

While the majority of the population affiliate themselves with the Islamic faith there is quite a diverse community of different muslim sects that contribute to the diversity of religions. However, as the diversity of Islamic sects meant a more varied culture it also gave way to the eventual  Alawite minority sect ruling over the rest of the nation and instilling their religious ideologies in law once the nation would go on to secure its own independence. In terms of recent historical events, this was a foreboding sign for the nation of Syria as a single minority religious sect became the most powerful social group in the nation.


Syria has only been a self-autonomous nation since 1961 after removing French control and temporarily joining the United Arab Republic.  Since its achievement of independence the nation has developed a strong sense of nationalism but struggled with grasping the notion of self-government (hence the short period of time the nation was a member of the U.A.R.). In response to this instability and idea that the nation was weakening that a stricter form of government in the form of President Hafez al-Assad. From here the road of oppressive government was paved and would eventually lead to a bloody revolution.

While the emphasis of my research is about the beneficial aspect of culture serving as a source of revitalization for the currently war-torn nation I cannot ignore the reality that culture can just as easily initiate destruction as it can bring restoration. My biggest concern about this matter is that I will fail to properly address the negative aspects of culture and its relation to the restoration of empire (or in this case, Syria). However, if I properly address the harm culture can potentially cause for a society than my notion of its beneficial nature will become a much more intriguing argument that can spawn more potential discussion of the matter.



When Peace is Met with Violence: How the Breakout of Civil War in Syria Shows the Shortcomings of Peaceful Resistance


Peaceful resistance to empire has become a very complicated and seemingly unrealistic idea in the 21st century with various protest movements for equality, reform, or awareness devolving into violent riots, civil discord, and in some cases bloody civil war.  The ultimate question however, is why has this turn towards violent protesting become such a common trend in the modern world and have past successful attempts of peaceful resistance become obsolete?

The civil war in Syria is a worst case scenario that shows how an initially peaceful protest against the ruling government can devolve into a bloody civil conflict that has utterly shredded the country apart. Unlike the stereotypical notion that the people who started the protest also started the violent movement, the party to initiate the violent shift was in fact the government in power as dictator Bashar al-Assad ordered the firing upon peaceful protesters in the Arab Springs protest. This presents a rather difficult situation for those that protested the government as their attempt to peacefully express their desire for reform was met with ruthless violence. How can people be expected to uphold a peaceful and passive form of resistance when then are immediately met with deadly repression? While iconic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi promoted the idea that non-violence was the only absolute method to achieve change (which worked well in their own contemporary reform movements) to what extent are people supposed to uphold that noble notion? 

The attempt of the Arab Springs movement illustrated the common people’s desire to achieve change without resorting to violent measures. The willingness to refrain from violence represents how past peaceful protest movements like the movement for women’s suffrage, civil rights, and the independence of India influenced the manner in which the people of Syria and most of the Middle carried out their actions. This is why Assad’s quick, almost instinctual violent response to the protests is such an alarming but also grim reminder of the dangers behind empire. When those that lead empire are placed upon such a high pedestal above those that make up the empire, then the ruler will believe that their will is greater than that of their people and will act accordingly.While peaceful resistance has been proven to work and various historical events clearly document its ability to cause change there is an apparent threshold were those who wish for change will not be able to achieve their aspirations wholly using nonviolent methods.

The Debate of Violence or Nonviolence


Through the texts of Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and V.D. Savarkar’s The Indian War of Independence of 1857 the argument of whether peaceful or violent resistance towards empire would effectively result in the independence of those oppressed opens up an intriguing debate for readers about which method the believe to be the most effective.

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Mahatma Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and  demonstration of peaceful resistance in the plight for India’s independence influenced later numerous  other nonviolent resistance movements.

My own initial perspective on such a topic was that the path of nonviolence was the clear and unrivaled solution to successful rebellion against empire; but viewing the ideals of both Savarkar and Gandhi and the context toto India’s colonization under the British Empire made my initially firm belief waver in uncertainty. Being raised in a predominantly Catholic family, the notion of “turning the other cheek” and the refusal to resort to violence was a notion firmly cemented in my mind but after my exposure to how many resisted the oppressive rules of empirical forces, I began to question the complete effectiveness of nonviolence resistance. While in a historical context the path of nonviolent “passive resistance” as Gandhi defined it had proven itself to be an effective technique and has not only resulted in  India’s independence from the British Empire but also served as an influence for other historical peaceful resistance movements. It would be unwise of me to ignore the effectiveness of Gandhi’s methods of passive resistance however, Gandhi’s methods require great patience and deliberation to which Savarkar made it apparent that  the amount of time required to maintain a successful peaceful resistance and the possibility of being completely  destroyed or dominated in the process were risks that many people were not willing to take.

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V.D. Savarkar argued the justification and necessity behind the use of violence for the sake of national and religious freedom which he elaborated on in The Indian War of Independence of 1857. 

By analyzing Savarkar I was enlightened as to why many people have resorted to violence as their mean to refute the oppression of empire. While I may not fully agree with the course of violence and at times am abhorred by the results, I can no longer ignore the appeal and at times justification for why people have risen to arms against their oppressors. In both of their respective works, Gandhi and Savarkar found two separate events in their nation’s history  that they believed served as the catalyst for the movement of independence. While Gandhi described his “great awakening” as this being who has awaken from a deep slumber and is slowly waking Savarkar described his catalyst as a “volcano” with an eruption meant to instantaneous repel the oppressors and free the people. For those in deep poverty facing disease, famine, and other harsh conditions the idea of slowly waiting for the success of passive resistance to hold any weight was just too optimistic.


The Civil Rights Movement for racial equality in the United States and the iconic figure Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were another prominent example of the success of peaceful resistance.

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The American Revolutionary War is an example of how violence can at times be a necessary measure to achieving independence from an oppressive power. 








The ongoing debate between whether or not violence is justifiable is something that still lingers in my own mind. Despite the advantages and disadvantages of both paths of resistance I cannot fully support the notion that one method of protest is better than another. It is simply a debate that is meant to be discussed case by case rather than a broad generalization for all situations.

Thank You For Your Service: A Tribe Called Quest’s Voice For The People

Music has always allowed those that created it to express their own beliefs, opinions, and emotions while giving those that expressed similar feelings an outlet to find mutual understanding with others. With that regard, the popularity of Hip-Hop and Rap in modern day America has become the outlet for many minorities throughout the United States to express their contempt for the injustices and inequalities that have resulted from systematic racism and discrimination.

We The People by the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest illustrates the impact that systemic racism and the recent presidential elections has had upon not only the black community but also the hispanic, muslim, and LGBTQ+ communities as well. The song’s  hook illustrates just how many from these diverse communities feel with the words and actions of the current president of the United States of America:

All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go

The fears of those not a part of White America have been apparent ever since the election in 2016 with one of the most controversial figures in recent history elected as the leader of the free world. It is in respect to this unexpected outcome that A.T.C.Q. acknowledges the adversity at hand and delivered this song as an anthem against the hate within the nation.  Similar to most other versions of rebellious hip-hop and rap A.T.C.Q. does not call for violence against the system, rather it is meant to bring awareness to those impacted by ongoing events and invoke the public to think rather than fight. In an interview with rapper Q-Tip from A.T.C.Q., Q-Tip elaborates on the meaning behind We The People as a way of bringing attention to the systemic and capitalistic exploitation of minorities and how negative perceptions of different races have harmed the nation.


We The People invoking thoughts about discrimination and prejudice in modern day America

We The People further attacks topics such as gentrifying poor black neighborhoods, the negligence of people with lower incomes, and equal pay for women. The lines:

You bastards overlooking street art
Better yet, street smarts but you keep us off the charts
So motherfuck your numbers and your statisticians
Fuck y’all know about true competition?
That’s like a  AL pitcher on deck talking about he hittin’
The only one who’s hitting are the ones that’s currently spittin’
We got your missy smitten rubbing on her little kitten
Dreaming of a world that’s equal for women with no division

illustrates how the minorities and women of the United States feel neglected in a system that continually fails to acknowledge the communities that reside in the lower socioeconomic spectrum as well as the equality for both genders. While the group predominantly emphasizes the injustices and discriminations for blacks and other minority groups, the recent transpiring of political events events have lead them to further their focus to include women, muslims, and the LGBTQ+ community. Similar to most other rap/ hip-hop groups that derived from urban environments, race and ethnic identity have always been a crucial aspect and influence but A Tribe Called Quest goes beyond their own identity with We The People  to emphasize and fully demonstrate their belief that the key for the world to succeed is for everybody to unite under a single banner.

Despite the fact the group A Tribe Called Quest had broken up years ago, the group found it necessary to reunite and make one final album. We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service  is the medium in which the group is able to protest the adversity and negativity that many minorities and other social groups now face in modern America. And while We The People has primarily centered around the discrimination of inner city minorities and others who have been deeply impacted by our current president, the entirety of the album has been made to not only give the people a voice to rally with against the rising hate in America but also provide the people with a sentiment of hope for the future beyond these complicated times.

Maybe Hollywood is not the best history teacher

It is not surprising to assume that the creative minds of cinema were going to slightly alter the historical accuracies of films pertaining to various empires throughout history, but the sheer exaggeration and misunderstanding of certain cultural aspects and the blatant inaccuracies that some films are guilty of have easy engraved dangerous misconceptions amongst countless of viewers throughout time. The lack of attention to the historical back drops behind these movies have not only provided viewers with misinformation but have also distorted the true image of numerous historic civilizations and societies far from what they actually were.

The 2006 film Apocalypto follows tribe of Mesoamerican natives residing in pre-Columbian Central America who are attacked and taken to what appears to be a Mayan city leaving the story’s main protagonist to escape the Mayans and reunite with his family. While the film’s large Native American cast and the use of Yucatec Maya as the dialogue for the film had most of the audience praising the movie for its attention to detail, the portrayal of the Mayans were far from accurate. The departure from historical facts would not be as harmful to the general consensus of this ancient civilization if mere dates, characters, or locations were fabricated but what this film does is dramatically change the historical image of the Mayan empire into that of brutal bloodlusting savages.In reality, the Mayans were a ciliization that did indeed practice warfare as any expanding empire would but was also known for its incredible advancements in the fields of science, mathematics, and astrology; certainly not the brutality depicted in the film that had hundreds of people dying in the process of a single ceremony (the Aztecs were the closest of all to this haunting affair). What the film Apocalypto inevitably does for the audience is corrupt the image of one of ancient history’s most succesful empires in the Western Hemisphere into a barbaric shell of its true self that continues the unfortunate trend of providing the masses a misunderstanding of foriegn ancient empires.

Unlike true the actually Mayan empire, the film Apocalypto has a scene that involves the sacrificing of hundreds of humans. This is a far cry from how the Mayans actually performed sacrifices as the sacrifice of human life was incredibly rare and far less extreme.

Another notable film that also did a splendid job of completely distorting reality for the sake of entertainment was the 2006 film 300 which centered around the Greco-Persian wars with the Battle of Thermopylae between the Persians and the Spartans. While the manner in which the movie is directed paints the Spartans to be the heroic underdog (and to be fair, 300 versus an entire army are not favorable odds) the long history behind these two warring parties goes beyond the uneven battle that has been the stuff of legends. In a YouTube video from the channel Cracked, a quick look into both Spartan and Persian society demonstrates how the film’s portrayal of Spartans were incredibly misleading as the Spartans had established an incredibly strict caste system that enforced not only slavery but also an elite military class. The Persians, who were depicted in the movie as this cruel invading power, were actually a highly diplomatic empire that utilized a much less restrictive style of government and even refrained from the use of slaves unlike the Spartans.

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300 portrayal of the Persian army’s elite fighting force the immortals (shown above) is a great departure from how historical records have described them (shown to the left). Another instance of how film directors can greatly change the image of historical empires.

A depiction of the traditional clothing, weaponry, and armor of an Achaemenid soldier

What Apocalypto and 300 have done for the Mayan and Persian empire was not bring their rich and unique culture to the silver screen nor acknowledge their unquestionable contributions to mankind but rather depict these incredible empires as villainous figures. As a student who had viewed these films as an impressionable child I was convinced that these spawning empires were tyrannical forces that left death and destruction in their wake and it was not until I began to expand my knowledge of ancient empires did I realize just how wrong these films and many more truly are. My biggest concern however, is that for the millions who have seen films like these and have not learned the true history behind these defaced empires will harbor this negative misconception.

The New “Underground”

My initial perception of empire did not stray far from the stereotypical notions of some grand display of imperial strength or a vast empire spanning countless conquered territories but with my recent research I was shown that the title of “empire” pertains to a much wider variety of powerful entities. My blog being titled “The Underground Empires” illustrates how the criminal empires of today are identified as such but are represented in a different manner. Altering between various periods in history and studying some of the most powerful organizations in history I learned that the basis of empire comes down to one common trait: power. Whether it’s the Romans conquering lands in Europe or the Italian Mafia manipulating the East Coast from behind the scenes, any notable empire in history has had the capacity to influence the world around them and establish their dominance. This emphasis on power shifted how I viewed the fundamentals of empire from the previous notion of land-starving warmongers to that of opportunists with an avaricious lust for money and influence.

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What has made this blog particularly interesting is that it embodies the notion that empire is not pertained to one singular ideal but can be addressed as a variety of things that may not exactly be portrayed as the atypical empire many think of. Humanities Core has proved that empire can take up numerous forms. It is how the world has changed over time that has dictated the workings of whatever contemporary empire is prevalent. The intriguing notion regarding this apparent evolution of empires is how the priorities of these empires have changed over the course of time.


The “Underground Empires” I have spent the past weeks discussing have merely scratched the surface of how many of the most powerful empires of today have maintained their power  and influence in a more discreet manner. While I emphasized my first selection of blogs towards criminal empires my time in Humanities Core has allowed me to expand my scope of perception and will allow me to direct my blog in a new, more diverse discussion on the various empires that prefer to refrain from the public eye.

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The Fallout After Pablo Escobar:”El Zar de la Cocaína”


Pablo Escobar was a notorious criminal kingpin in the South American nation of Colombia who lead one of the most profitable drug rings in the world during the 1980s that provided 80% of all the cocaine that entered the United States. Escobar’s phenomenal success with his Medellin Cartel established himself as one of the most richest and powerful icons of criminal enterprise of all time. Despite the astronomical power the Colombian kingpin possessed, he would become a victim of his own avarice greed and hubris. The ensuing years after Escobar’s death at the hands of law enforcement was met with the disintegration of the Medellin cartel  and the sad remainder of what was once the most powerful cartel in the Americas has been reduced to ruins. The fall of Escobar and his cartel show not only how some of the most powerful and feared empires can be reduced to mere ruins but how the collapse of an empire can leave a waking impact.

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Escobar during his peak of power was considered to be one of the most dangerous men on Earth and was keen on silencing those who openly opposed him.

The Colombian cartel leader became one of the most recognized figures throughout his nation but the drastic contrast between his actions of charity and brutality proved to divide the nation for years on how this drug emperor should be viewed. On one hand, Escobar’s notoriously brutal attacks on his enemies and his later escapades of mass murders and terrorist attacks labeled him as a public menace while his charitable actions for the poverty-stricken communities painted the “narco” as a patron saint of the poor disenfranchised people of Colombia. To this day there is an apparent divide in how the people of Colombia should view this one man who had made such a historical impact on their country. Escobar himself tried to have himself viewed as the loved leader, the emperor that the people would support, but most people would eventually learn fear him and his ruthlessness. It was after his death that this stark contrast of support and despise that truly divided the people of Colombia well after the fall of this drug emperor.

A flag marks the entrance to Barrio Pablo Escobar in Medellin, Colombia

Escobar’s legacy varies from respect to hate. This neighborhood, Barrio Pablo Escobar, was named after the kingpin for his charitable deeds for the poor community.

After the death of Pablo Escobar his empire, The Medellin Cartel, fell into ruins leaving numerous cartels to assume control of the fragmented remains. Similar to previously fallen empires, the Medellin Cartel had ruled over Colombia without any major opposition prior to their collapse as Escobar managed complete control over all aspects of his empire with little toleration for inadequacies. It was not until the Medellin Cartel lost its imposing emperor that the organization became disorganized and incapable of governing itself because the cartel had never fully anticipated the death of their leader.  What eventually started as a uniform drug empire became a shatterbelt of lower levels drug federations, cartels, and gangs that constantly brought bloody gang conflicts to the streets of Colombia in a desperate attempt to grasp at whatever plunders of Escobar’s empire that were left amidst the ruins.

The repercussions behind the demise of one of Colombia’s most influential figureheads  has not only left the streets running with blood from gang warfare but has also left the average citizens to stand divided for decades.


Documentary on the life/death of Pablo Escobar:




Al Capone, the Emperor of Bootlegging

A quintessential aspect of empire is a key figurehead that represents the ambitions and ideology of the empire. While the Roman Empire had their Caesars and the British have their royal families, the criminal empire in Chicago Illinois known as the “Chicago Outfit” had their boss, most famous/ infamous being Alphonsus “Al” Capone . Born in Brooklyn 1899, the iconic bootlegger and mobster began his criminal life at an early age and progressed from joining his local street gang to leading one of the most profitable smuggling operations and crime syndicates in the twentieth century.

Al Capone's mug shot, 1931.

Fun Fact: After being assaulted in a bar and being severely cut on the face, Al Capone got the name “Scarface” from the eventual scars that resulted from the attack.

His successful actions as a mob boss and his popularity made Al Capone one of the most iconic historical figures to emerge from the Age of Prohibition.Al Capone’s progression into becoming the leader of a  “Bootlegging Empire” illustrates a similar ambition to that of an aspiring emperor leading an imperialistic empire to achieve greater power and fortune. Al Capone would not only amass an impressive fortune but also a strong political influence to further his lucrative business. Al Capone’s extremely profitable bootlegging buisness would also serve as the foundation for future territorial and market expansions. While Al Capone managed to amass the power and wealth of an empire through his successful smuggling, what had made this Chicago gangster such an influential figure was his ability to maintain a rather positive celebrity-like status with the american people similar to how Caesar Augustus managed to gain the respect and support of those he ruled over.

Al Capone’s vast Bootlegging Empire gave him not only riches but also a certain amount of political power that allowed the gangster to manipulate government officials and easily avoid capture for years.

For the leader of an empire to become successful he must maintain a popular standing among the people he rules in order to prevent possible rebellion. Al Capone not only remained in the public’s good grace but he also established himself as a “guardian of Chicago” with numerous charitable  deeds to the people of Chicago. From providing milk to schoolchildren to opening numerous soup kitchens for those struggling during the Great Depression. These charitable actions are not uncommon as the Roman Empire used similar methods such as building public bathhouses and roads to gain the full-hearted support of all citizens.

This was one of many soup kitchens that Al Capone had established to feed the hungry during the Great Depression.

With money, power, and status this one time two-bit gangster became one of the most powerful and popular figureheads in the United States. He ruled his criminal empire with an efficiency and ruthlessness that was unparalleled for his time and expanded an empire of illegal operations that would have a lasting impact for decades. This emperor of bootlegging would cement himself as a legend for such a dramatic time in American history.

“uomini d’onore” Men of Honor


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The Commission was made up of the Five Families in New York City, the Chicago Outfit, and the Italian Mob of Buffalo

One of the most iconic criminal empires in the twentieth century  was the Italian mafia which consisted of five major crime families that united to completely dominate all major criminal activities throughout the East Coast with historical success. While the five different families: Genovese, Gambino, Lucchese, Colombo, and Bonanno were initially competitors that would continually engage in bloody gang wars the eventual establishment of the Commission  in 1931 by Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky in Atlantic City of New Jersey  began the gradual transition from a small assortment of local gangs to a fully functional crime syndicate that would spread internationally and be known as one of the most infamous criminal empires in all of history.

Similar to the functions of empire this new commission had oversight over all the territories and monitored all outlets of income with an intensity that did not permit any wavering from the status quo. The commission utilized their power and influence to intimidate and manipulate many aspects of life in New York, from the waterfront trading ports to who got elected to be a mayor, judge, or even house representative. The commission’s function in the Italian mafia was similar to that of the Roman Empire’s senate in which each family from different areas of New York  would elect a representative or “Don” to discuss the current state of affairs with their family branch. By keeping an equal balance of power and the collaboration of these families the Italian mafia was able to amass millions in construction fees, gambling rings, and extortion.This structure of criminal government was soon adopted in Europe by other criminal syndicates and made the presence of this underground criminal empire ever more apparent. Despite this influx of money and power the Italian mafia made the critical mistake of any overtly successful empire and their growing ambition ultimately became their downfall.

Like every other power-hungry empire throughout history, the Italian mafia’s avaricious expansions for profit would become this grand empire’s downfall. Once the commission’s existence was exposed to the general public during a failed meeting known as the Apalachin meeting in 1957 the ensuing decades had the power and general presence of the commission slowly fade away. Unlike most empires in history the Italian mafia did not collapse in a single catastrophic event  but rather a slow degradation that slowly reduced the once great coalition into a shell of its former self, left to linger in the shadows of its ruins for decades to come.


Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,  J. Edgar Hoover began to direct a larger amount of government resources into dismantling the Italian mafia after the public’s discovery  of its existence.