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.