“If you can quote the rules, you can obey them.” That’s a famous quote by the late James Gandolfini’s character on the popular HBO hit TV show The Sopranos. For his role as a New Jersey mob boss, Gandolfini walked away with multiple awards including three Emmys.

Shows like The Sopranos have aimed to put a more comedic touch to stories of the mob, while Peaky Blinders and Marlon Brando’s infamous Godfather Saga show the inner workings of these organizations. What was once thought of as a criminal underworld with no witnesses and no one to tell the tales has now become a glorified part of the media. 

The mafia is the dark underbelly of organized crime, a term synonymous with secrecy, violence, and power. The Mafia has captured the imagination of storytellers, law enforcement agencies, and curious minds alike including scholars. If you’re a student looking to craft an essay on the history of the mafia and organized crime, this article just turned into your trustee essay service

The Mafia Family Tree and Popular Jargon

The mafia has a certain lingo that uniquely identifies it, yet this may not be so obvious to one who isn’t a part of this dark, murky underworld, or at least those in the fan lore. 

La Cosa Nostra: Often translated as “our thing” or “this thing of ours,” originally referred to the general lifestyle of organized criminals in Sicily. In the United States, it came to refer specifically to American members of the Mafia.

Omerta: The Mafia’s code of silence, an unwavering commitment to never reveal its secrets or activities to outsiders.

The Boss (Don): John Gotti, Joe Masseria, and Vito Corleone in The Godfather are examples of prime bosses of bosses. They sit at the head of each family, holding ultimate authority, and are responsible for all major decisions and profits within the family. The boss’s authority resolves disputes and maintains order.

The Legendary Consigliere: Within the family, one position stands out—the consigliere. Supposedly impartial, this adviser is meant to make decisions based on fairness and logic, rather than personal feelings or vendettas. Ideally elected by family members, the consigliere plays a vital role in mediating disputes and providing counsel.

The Underboss: Serving as the second-in-command, the underboss may wield considerable power. Some underbosses handle disputes without involving the boss and are groomed to assume leadership if necessary.

Made Man: A man who has been officially inducted into a Mafia family, signifying a lifetime commitment to the criminal organization.

Capo: Originally the head of a family in Sicily, now a lieutenant who serves the family boss.

Family: Each gang within the Mafia is known as a family, with members not necessarily related by blood.

Soldiers: The soldiers constitute the lowest rank among made men, with limited power and income. The number of soldiers under any given capo can vary significantly.

Wiseguy: Someone involved with the Mafia, often participating in its criminal activities.

If you’ve watched films and shows such as Godfather, Gotti, or even more recently Stallone’s Tulsa King, some of these phrases might already be familiar to you. These are generally adopted terms within the Sicilian mafia and Italian crime families in the US, although other variations may exist. 

Origins of Different Mafia Divisions

The Mafia transcends international borders, with its roots tracing back to different regions of Italy. Five primary Mafia groups emerged, each hailing from distinct Italian regions. They include:

  • Sicilian Mafia: Originating on the island of Sicily, this group boasts a storied history.
  • Camorra (Neapolitan) Mafia: Began in Naples and has its own criminal legacy.
  • Calabrian Mafia (‘Ndrangheta): Originated in Italy’s Calabria region, gaining notoriety for its power and reach.
  • Sacra Corona Unita: A relatively recent group based in Italy’s Puglia region.

Finally, La Cosa Nostra is predominantly associated with the American Mafia but has deep ties to Sicilian families and other Italian groups.

Becoming a “Made Man”

Membership in the Mafia is not a casual decision. To join its ranks, one must meet stringent criteria. Typically, only men of Italian heritage are accepted, with some families requiring both Italian parents or, at the very least, an Italian father. 

Prospective mobsters must also exhibit a knack for making money or, at the very least, a willingness to commit acts of violence when ordered. Often, initiation involves participating in an act of murder, considered the ultimate test of loyalty.

The Commission

The Mafia’s internal wariness and secrecy led to the establishment of a regulatory body—the Commission by Boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano with the help of Jewish-American gangster Meyer Lansky. 

Initially composed of bosses from various families, the Commission would approve Mafia activities nationwide, ensuring that large-scale money-making ventures, assassinations, and other significant decisions were vetted by the organization. While the Commission aimed to reduce internal conflicts, it left the bosses vulnerable to prosecution, as they personally sanctioned murders.

Mafia Enterprises

Over the years, the Mafia has profited from a wide range of illegal activities. These include or have included:

  • Bootlegging alcohol during the Prohibition.
  • Illegal drug trafficking that is one of the most lucrative global industries. 
  • Involvement in prostitution and illegal gambling.
  • High-stakes thefts like truck hijackings.
  • Collaboration with compromised truck drivers and dock workers.
  • Extortion through “protection” payments.
  • Infiltration and dominance of labor unions, particularly in construction projects.

Eventually, in cities like New York and Chicago and even in places like Sicily, mobsters effectively control entire industries. For example, the Mafia’s grip on unions in the US was so significant in the 20th century that they could halt construction or shipping across the country at will if their demands weren’t met. 

Hope you enjoyed this article. The Mafia is quite a comprehensive topic and we couldn’t possibly cover every detail in this quick read. If you’re looking for a more detailed analysis on this topic, you can buy essay online but ensure that you only use a widely reviewed service.   

Illuminating the Criminal Underworld 

The Mafia, an enigmatic and complex criminal empire, extends far beyond its depiction in popular culture. Beneath the showmanship of Hollywood, lies a dark and enduring underworld, one that has left behind a legacy marked by violence and death, both in the past and the present.

As you delve into your research on this compelling topic, you will capture human dynamics such as power and loyalty through the eyes of the Mafia. Way to go as you get started!