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History of the Mafia The origins of the secret society known as the Mafia are believed to be as old as the 9th century During that period the island of Sicily was occupied by Arab forces The original inhabitants were oppressed and needed places of refuge to escape to The word Mafia means refuge in Arabic When the Normans invaded Sicily in the 11th century the native tribes were once again oppressed and forced into labor on the large estates their rulers created Once again the only way to escape this fate was to seek refuge in the hills of the island During every subsequent invasion of Sicily the refuges established in earlier centuries were sought out again This secret society was at that time mostly intended to unify the natives against their enemies Its intention was to create a sense of family based on ancestry and Sicilian heritage This idea of family was carried through in the structure of the organization which had a strongly hierarchical layout At the head of the organization stood the dons or chiefs who were in charge of the Mafia chapters in every village They in turn reported to the don of dons who resided in the capital Palermo Members of the organization were required to take an oath upon initiation This oath included the five basic principles on which the Mafia was and to this day is based -- Omerta A code of silence A vow never to reveal any Mafia secrets or members under the threat of torture or death -- Total obedience to the boss -- Assistance to any befriended Mafia faction no questions asked -- Avenge any attack on members of the Family because an attack on one is an attack on all -- Avoid any and all contact with the authorities By the 19th century the Mafia had grown vast and strong and where it initially had been a small partisan
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