At the same time it would be going much too far to say that the absence of an efficient police is the sole cause of brigandage in countries not subject to foreign invasion, or where the state is not very feeble. The Sicilian peasants of whom Gibbon wrote were not only encouraged by the hope of impunity, but were also maddened by an oppressive system of taxation and a cruel system of land tenure. So were the Gauls and Spaniards who throughout the 3rd and 4th centuries were a constant cause of trouble to the empire, under the name of Bagaudae, a word of uncertain origin. In the years preceding the French Revolution, the royal government commanded the services of a strong army, and a numerous maréchaussée or gendarmerie. Yet it was defied by the troops of smugglers and brigands known as faux saulniers, unauthorized salt-sellers, and gangs of poachers haunted the king's preserves round Paris. The salt monopoly and the excessive preservation of the game were so oppressive that the peasantry were provoked to violent resistance and to brigandage. They were constantly suppressed, but as the cause of the disorder survived, so its effects were continually renewed.
The offenders enjoyed a large measure of public sympathy, and were warned or concealed by the population, even when they were not actively supported. The traditional outlaw who spared the poor and levied tribute on the rich was, no doubt, always a creature of fiction. The ballad which tells us how "Rich, wealthy misers were abhorred, By brave, free-hearted Bliss" (a rascal hanged for highway robbery at Salisbury in 1695) must have been a mere echo of the Robin Hood songs. But there have been times and countries in which the law and its administration have been so far regarded as enemies by people who were not themselves criminals, that all who defied them have been sure of a measure of sympathy. Then and there it was that brigandage has flourished, and has been difficult to extirpate. Schinder-Hannes, Jack the Skinner, whose real name was Johann Buckler, and who was born at Muklen on the Rhine, flourished from 1797 to 1802 because there was no proper police to stop him; it is also true that as he chiefly plundered the Jews he had a good deal of Christian sympathy.
When caught and beheaded he had no successors.
The brigandage of Greece, southern Italy, Corsica and Spain had deeper roots, and has never been quite suppressed. All four countries are well provided with hiding-places in forest and mountain. In all the administration has been bad, the law and its officers have been regarded as dangers, if not as deliberate enemies, so that they have found little native help, and, what is not the least important cause of the persistence of brigandage, there have generally been local potentates who found it to their interest to protect the brigand. The case of Greece under Turkish rule need not be dealt with. Whoever was not a klepht was the victim of some official extortioner. It would be grossly unfair to apply the name brigand to the Mainotes and similar clans, who had to choose between being flayed by the Turks or living by the sword under their own law. When it became independent Greece was extremely ill administered under a nominal parliamentary government by politicians who made use of the brigands for their own purposes. The result was the state of things described with only pardonable exaggeration in Edmond About's amusing Roi de la montagne.
An authentic and most interesting picture of the Greek brigands will be found in the story of the captivity of S. Soteropoulos, an ex-minister who fell into their hands. It was translated into English under the title of The Brigands of the Morea, by the Rev. J.O. Bagdon (London, 1868). The misfortunes of Soteropoulos led to the adoption of strong measures which cleared the Morea, where the peasantry gave active support to the troops when they saw that the government was in earnest. But brigandage was not yet extinct in Greece. In 1870 an English party, consisting of Lord and Lady Muncaster, Mr Vyner, Mr Lloyd, Mr Herbert, and Count de Boyl, was captured at Oropos, near Marathon, and a ransom of £25,000 was demanded. Lord and Lady Muncaster were set at liberty to seek for the ransom, but the Greek government sent troops in pursuit of the brigands, and the other prisoners were then murdered. The scoundrels were hunted down, caught, and executed, and Greece has since then been tolerably free from this reproach.
In the Balkan peninsula, under Turkish rule, brigandage continued to exist in connexion with Christian revolt against the Turk, and the race conflicts of Albanians, Walachians, Pomuks, Bulgarians and Greeks. In Corsica the "maquis" has never been without its brigand hero, because industry has been stagnant, family feuds persist, and the government has never quite succeeded in persuading the people to support the law. The brigand is always a hero to at least one faction of Corsicans.
The conditions which favour brigandage have been more prevalent, and for longer, in Italy than elsewhere in western Europe, with the standing exception of Corsica, which is Italian in all but political allegiance. Until the middle of the 19th century Italy was divided into small states, so that the brigand who was closely pursued in one could flee to another. Thus it was that Marco Sciarra of the Abruzzi, when hard pressed by the Spanish viceroy of Naples - just before and after 1600 - could cross the border of the papal states and return on a favourable opportunity. When pope and viceroy combined against him he took service with Venice, from whence he could communicate with his friends at home, and pay them occasional visits. On one such visit he was led into a trap and slain. Marco Sciarra had terrorized the country far and wide at the head of 600 men. He was the follower and imitator of Benedetto Mangone, of whom it is recorded that, having stopped a party of travellers which included Torquato Tasso, he allowed them to pass unharmed out of his reverence for poets and poetry.