This Italian surname was from a personal name MARS (rendered in ancient documents in the Latin form MARTINUS) the Roman god of fertility and war. This name was borne by a famous 4th century saint, Martin of Tours, and consequently became extremely popular throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. The name has many variant spellings which include MARTELL, MARTEAU, MARTELIER, MARTELLI, MARTIELLO AND MARTELET. Despite evidence that hereditary surnames were in use in the Venetian Republic as early as the 10th Century, the origin of many Italian surnames is unclear. There is still a great potential for research into medieval Italian records while documented evidence indicates the adoption of the father's name as a surname is the most common form. The familiar endings of "i" and "o", meaning to be a member of a certain family, bears this out. A notable member of the name was Rocky MARCIANO (originally Rocco Francis MARCHEGIANO) (1923-69) the American heavyweight boxing champion, born in Brockton, Massachusetts. He first took up boxing as a serviceman in Britain during World War II, and turned professional in 1947. When he retired in 1956, he was undefeated as world champion with a professional record of 49 bouts and 49 victories. He resisted all attempts to make a come-back, and died in an air-crash the day before his birthday. 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.
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