This surname of MANIACI is an Italian name of two-fold origin. It was a nickname which was applied to a foolish and crazy man. The name was also derived from MANICHAEISM, a religion that was founded by the prophet MANI (Latinized as MANICHAEUS, circa. 216-276), who proclaimed his creed in 241 at the Persian court. Returning from missions to China and India, he was put to death at the instigation of the Zoroastrian priesthood. Despite persecution MANICHAEISM spread and flourished until about the 10th century. Fundamently it believed that the material world is an invasion of the realm of light by powers of darkness; particles of goodness were to be rescued by messengers such as Jesus, and finally by MANI himself. The Church played a very important role in Central Italian heraldry and many Italian families who derived their titles from popes incorporated elements of the papal insignia, notably the papal tiara and the crossed keys, on their Coats of Arms. As in the rest of Europe, the turbulent history of Italy in the Middle Ages is reflected in its heraldry. Traces remain from the successive invasions of the Germans, French, Spanish and Austrians. Certain characteristics, such as the use of horse-shaped shields which were put on the foreheads of horses during tournaments, remain uniquely Italian. Social conditions in Southern Italy during the agricultural depression of the late 19th Century spurred the first wave of emigration as thousands of people escaped to the New World. Latin America was the original destination for these early settlers but as the economy strengthened in the United States, North America became more popular. By the end of the 19th Century there were more Italian migrants in the USA than from any other country. In the Post-War era more than a quarter of Italy's population left the country to find a new life in America and Australia. While many Italian names have survived intact, many families chose to anglicise their surnames to fit in with their new country. The names of many more were altered on arrival in America by Ellis Island immigration officials who inadvertently changed names through misunderstanding or mis-spelling as they documented details of the new settlers.
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