Thanks to Dante Alighieri for the inspiration.
Every single Final Fantasy has a root culture similar to the cultures we see in our world. Final Fantasy X seems Japanese (along with other East Asian cultures). Final Fantasy VII has Germanic, Dutch and American references. Ivalice is largely British. And Final Fantasy XV is Latin.
Speaking of which, I see a lot of parallels between Final Fantasy VI and Italian culture. For example, many of the characters have Latin or Italian based names. Take a look:
Terra is Latin for Earth
Celes is the short form of “celestial”, taken from the medieval Latin caelestialis, from Latin caelestis, from caelum ‘heaven.’
Madonna (Terra’s mother) is medieval Italian ma donna, meaning “my lady”.
Gau is actually the Japanese onomatopoeia for “rawr”, but could allude to the latin word Gaul, of which the tribes were said to have consisted of wild men.
Edgar and Sabin’s middle names are Roni and Rene. It may be just a concidence, but the names sound similar to Romulus and Remus, the two brothers who founded Rome.
“Figaro” (Edgar and Sabin’s last names) might come from the play The Barber of Seville, which was initially conceived as a comic opera, and was rejected as such in 1772 by the Comédie-Italienne (French names which have been used to refer to Italian-language theatre and opera when performed in France).
Strago, according to the Final Fantasy Wikia, is Latin for ‘wizard’. As Adeus_Valcross said, “Seems to be Latin in origin “slaughter” “carnage” from Estragar which sort of fits with the lore of Thamasa doesn’t it?
“ The conversation on Strago’s name is based on this post. Magus, by the way, is latin from the Greek word magos for magic.
Leo (as in General Leo) is Latin for lion.
A palazzo (being Kefka’s last name) is a large, palatial urban building in Italy. The Italian term pagliaccio (pronounced: pal-yash-sho) for clown, bears a possibly intentional resemblance to Kefka’s surname and fit his distinctive clothing.
Let’s talk about the place. In Italy, there is an economic divide, in which the North is generally well off and the South is poor. This is mirrored in the cities of Jidoor to the north (which is wealthy) and Zozo to the south (which is poor).
The Dragon’s Neck Coliseum, may be based on the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre ever built in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games at this amphitheatre. Really.
Kefka’s Tower looks very similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, just not leaning. Knowing Kefka, he made his tower out of trash, to contrast the white marble stone of the latter. Also, the Cultists’ tower seems to be reminiscent of Giotto’s Bell Tower located around the Florence Cathedral (fitting, as for both are places of worship).
Italy is cited as the birthplace of the Renaissance. The movement included visual arts, music, and humanism.
Opera (Latin for “work”), an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text (libretto) and musical score, also started in Italy. Anyone who’s played through Final Fantasy VI far enough knows about the Impressario’s Opera Maria and Draco (Mary and Dragon – a biblical reference). According to the Final Fantasy Wikia, Maria can also be translated ‘from the sea” and the full play reads “From the sea, and dragon – a completely separate biblical reference (from the same book: Revelations).
Aria di Mezzo Carattere (the part in which Celes sings) is translated to mean…”Air Vehicle Character”. Huh. The Impressario changed the play as a tipoff to catch Setzer. The opera as a whole itself is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, written by William Shakespeare, based on an Italian tale possibly written by Matteo Bandello.
Paintings abound Owzer’s house. These paintings are nearly indistinguishable from objects. Relm (and the other artists) achieved the hyper realism Renaissance artists sought after.
The image you’ve just seen is concept art from Nomura, by the way.
In fact, the final battle is a direct reference to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, which is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature.
A common fan interpretation of the Statue of the Gods is that they symbolize the Divine Comedy, an epic poem in which the author Dante Alighieri travels through the stages of the afterlife, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. In the Divine Comedy, Hell is where Satan is a demon entrapped up to the waist, Purgatory is a place of suffering and spiritual growth, and Heaven is where Dante meets famous saints. This is reflected by Visage in the first tier, Tiger, Magic, Power and Machine in the second tier, and Rest and Lady in the third tier. After traversing through Heaven Dante meets God, who explains to him the meaning of life. This is reflected in Kefka, who has become the God of Magic and tells the Returners that life is meaningless.
As for the villains, Gestahl’s cunning (Machiavellian) nature could be a reference to Niccolo Machiavelli, who wrote The Prince, a book about securing power at any cost (often duplicitous). Machiavelli’s ideal representation for how a prince should act was Cesare Borgia (who looks a lot like a younger Gestahl). Borgia was also a very cruel man.
Also, think of Gestahl’s expedition into the New (Esper) World. This is an allusion to the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus – a known colonizer and slave owner (who spearheaded the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Also cruel was Nero, a flamboyant Roman Emperor who’s self-destructive (he committed suicide), extravagance and tyrannical acts defined his rule of terror. Emperor in the Roman Emperor, by the way, thought they were divine and chosen by the gods themselves to rule. A near perfect representation of Kefka (along with his mockery of God, an allusion to the figure on the Sistine Chapel).
And finally, the family is important in Italian culture. Gestahl decieved them with the illusion of it. Final Fantasy VI revolves around family: Sabin and Edgar, Relm and Strago, Terra’s love for kids, Cyan’s loss, Gau and his father, etc. In fact the family is what each of the characters have found most important in the World of Ruin.
If we were to actually appear on Final Fantasy VI’s planet their language would probably closely resemble Italian. I read all their accents in an Italian language, to get into a real role playing spirit.