The Neapolitan troops at first occupied Rome, but, being badly handled by their leader, the Austrian general, Mack, they were soon scattered in flight; and the Republican troops under General The Championnet, after crushing the stubborn resistance Parthenoof the lazzaroni, made their way into Naples and paean proclaimed the Parthenopaean Republic (January 23, Republic. 1799).
The king, after a somewhat farcical occupation of Rome, which had been evacuated by the French, hurried back to Naples as soon as the French attacked his troops, and although the lazzaroni (the lowest class of the people) were devoted to the dynasty and ready to defend it, he fled with the court to Palermo in a panic on board Nelson's ships.
The wildest confusion prevailed, and the lazzaroni massacred numbers of persons suspected of republican sympathies, while the nobility and the educated classes, finding themselves abandoned by their king in this cowardly manner, began to contemplate a republic under French auspices as their only means of salvation from anarchy.
In January 1799 the French under Championnet reached Naples, but the lazzaroni, ill-armed and ill-disciplined French in as they were, resisted the enemy with desperate courage, and it was not until the 20th that the invaders were masters of the city.
For weeks the Calabresi and lazzaroni continued to pillage and massacre, and Ruffo was unable, even if willing, to restrain them.