Quarto post sulle mie musiche dedicato a Claudio Capriolo e al Maestro di coro Roberto Montuori. Come già scritto nei commenti ai post musicali precedenti, questo pezzo fu finalmente da me “venduto”. Venduto è un parolone, poiché in realtà non mi fruttò mezza lira però fu già tanto, tantissimo direi, che venne accettato per accompagnare una serata di Piero Angela e Paco Lanciani “Sotto le stelle”, nella cornice splendida d’un parco nel sud del Lazio che, ricco d’alberi verzura e laghetti (forse, sono ricordi dei primi anni ‘90), aveva anche un grande recinto popolato da struzzi.
Per lo spettacolo era stato innalzato un palco di fronte a un grande prato dove tutti ce ne stavamo sdraiati a testa in su, e di sopra al palco c’era un enorme schermo dove venivano proiettate stelle e galassie in movimento. Angela (non il figlio) e Lanciani illustravano le meraviglie del cosmo e quattro amplificatori enormi sparavano la mia musica per la notte stellata.
Ora il caso, o la dea Fortuna, vollero che la mia musica (il cui stile è tipico di quegli anni), ogni tanto esplodesse, come sentirete. Avvenne allora che gli struzzi si impaurirono e fuggirono per la campagna, e di loro non si seppe più nulla. Probabilmente abbattuti, erano finiti sui barbecue dei vari casolari e ville. Fu una tragedia.
Lo so, sembra una panzana, ma non lo è. Tutto si verificò esattamente come l’ho descritto. Solo che allora non mi accorsi di nulla. Sdraiato com’ero accanto a mia moglie a godermi il mio piccolo successo sentii forse dei rumori, non so esattamente, ma non potevo certo collegarli agli struzzi anche perché non sapevo nemmeno che c’erano, quei bestioni (a volte un po’ cattivi), in quel parco.
Otto anni dopo, mentre mi trovavo in Tunisia per conto del Ministero degli Esteri, Cooperazione allo sviluppo, a progettare un collegamento informatico dei porti di quel bellissimo paese avvolto in quegli anni però nella cupa dittatura di Ben Alì, un altro cooperante, un architetto nipote del principe proprietario del parco, mi disse, ridendo sgangheratamente, che era colpa sua poiché, dopo aver portato da mangiare agli animali, s’era dimenticato di chiudere i cancelli.
Pare che il principe, dopo il disastro, esclamasse (forse con la erre moscia):
“Ma dove sono andati quegli animali, cavo, con quei bei coscioni …!!
Mah, colpa sua, colpa mia, ci bevo sopra un bicchiere, e buon weekend a tutti. Enjoy.
“Thousands of people, mainly from Tunisia, but also from Libya and Egypt, have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in recent weeks” (BBC).
“Since January Italy is facing an exceptional flux of immigrants, with over 22,000 landings mainly from Tunisia… from Eritrea and Somalia via Libya on the island of Lampedusa.” (Le Monde)
The situation in Libya is more critical. According to Le Monde anti-Gaddafi rebels have no military experience, despite arms and support arriving from Egypt and Nato intervention. The port city of Misrata in north-western Libya (130 mi to the east of Tripoli, see image below) seems now to be the hub of the crisis.
Gaddafi is ready to conquer it and there are rumours of tortures suffered by the unfortunate who in Misrata fell into the hands of pro-Gaddafi forces. BBC mentions use of “human shields in the war-torn town.”
According to one of Gaddafi’s 5 beautiful Ukrainan nurses, El Rais’s health is that of an iron-man 🙄
France who first led to the intervention now fears that “we are likely to get bogged down in Misrata” (as French foreign Minister Alain Juppé’s put it). France also fears too many immigrants are coming from Italy. Italy protests France is against the Schengen agreement and says Europe should help to contain the human flood.
More British war planes seem ready to begin ground attacks (instead of just no-fly-zone checks.)
Gaddafi has sent a message to Obama yesterday. Today H. Clinton dismissed it saying he must resign and go into exile. Anti-Gaddafi rebels complain that bureaucracy is causing “Nato to take too long to respond to calls for air strikes” (BBC ) [not to mention the fact that Nato has killed quite a few anti-Gaddafi protesters by mistake!]
Berlusconi and Sarkozi will meet in Rome on April 26th. By the way Italy has finally recognised Libya’s rebel National Council.
Berlusconi was hesitant given his personal ties with Gaddafi. Now that all is more or less in the hands of Nato he looks happier.
Moscow, Berlin and Turkish Ankara seek a role as mediators. Ankara has sent Ambassador Omur Soledin to Libya.
These the recent facts. Allow me some (Roman) rambling now.
Lost in their Opiate Dream
Aren’t the French and the British lost in an opiate dream that they can still play a world role ‘of their own’? I am for a EU tighter unification, it is clear, and any prima donna or Trojan horse trying to dismantle such process from within really rails me.
The Britons are famous in their efforts to obstruct any real unification of ‘the continent’ – from Napoleon’s (was it good?) and Hitler’s (it was good) until today.
And the French? Are they pro EU only when they can play a grandeur role in it?
[Gosh, when at times they pronounce this word (France) I cannot but think of De Gaulle (my father imitated le Général not without fidelity and humour) who used to say he had ‘une certaine idée de la Fraaaance‘.]
Of course I can understand their opiate dream, their greatness belonging to only 4-6 generations ago, a short span of time. But aren’t their imperial souvenirs damaging this region, Europe, the richest of the planet (not for long) but the weakest politically? With the huge challenges ahead of us (ie Bric) is it intelligent? Is it forward-thinking?
[See a presumptuous post of mine on EU Trojan Horses]
Italy, the eternal loose woman, is reclining herself on the middle of the Mediterranean.
“L’Italie, avec la Sicile et la Tunisie coupent la Mediterranée en deux … Est et Ouest. La liaison Sicile Afrique est fondamentale”.
This centrality favoured the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean.
Carthage (today’s Tunis) had the same central position in the Med though reversed (from South northwards). Rome though won (but … read here)
Among the European nations Italy is perhaps the most popular in North Africa and the whole Med area (some grudge left in Libya, of course.)
We eat the same food, they sing our songs (and us theirs but we’re not aware of it,) they watch since the 1950s our now horrible TV, they get consoled and excited by our III-World South which they can understand.
Tunisia in the last 100 years always looked at Sicily (and Italy) as a beloved guiding light and its greatest inspiring model (“les Italiens pour nous sont comme des dieux”, “Italians are like gods to us”, a Tunisian manager once told me. You may like this post.
This role of Italy – its Mediterranean centrality over the millennia and our today’s persisting cultural and economical influence – is responsible in my view for a certain succession of events:
Berlusconi –> Ben Ali –> Mubarak …. then the rest of the Arab Spring.
A theory of mine perhaps. So let’s now test it.
Arab 2011 Revolution.
Are all MED BIG MEN resonating?
1) Berlusconi began to wobble …
… and while the entire world was cheerfully chatting about it (lots of fun stuff) the Tunisians were watching closely...
[Some mysterious harmony vibrating in the Mediterranean …]
They couldn’t but notice this North MED(iterranean) BIG MAN about to fall, and they know he being not terribly different from many other modern-day MED BIG MEN all over coastal Mediterranean.
[A darn tradition of ours. Let us mention: a majority of tyrants in Greek city states, Alexander and the Hellenistic monarchs; the Roman well balanced republic later superseded by Julius Caesar, Augustus & other emperors; Louis XIV le Roi Soleil; Napoleon; Napoleon III; Mussolini il duce; Hitler son of romanized Austria-Germany; Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria; Francisco Franco, the Caudillo; Salazar his neighbour; De Gaulle le général; Italian Umberto Bossi il celodurista (I got it hard!) and Silvio Berlusconi il Cavaliere]
Of course our PM is not Bel Ali, Gaddafi or Mubarak. Italy is democratic.
But Italy (unique in the West) has this patriarchal-paternal figure (Papi his girls called him) whose de facto powers go beyond democracy. Berlusconi can influence voters being the richest tycoon and media owner in our country –as if President Clinton and Murdoch were the same person!
Now our PM has though less constitutional power than Clinton and our usually sage President of Republic counts too in our charter. Magistrates are independent and tough, and people are not stupid. Which all is saving our ass from media fascism I hope.
So Berlusconi is something Tunisians could understand. Ben Ali controlled almost all Tunisian media via his family (I worked for a Tunisian Internet company owned by Ben Ali’s daughter or wife, I forgot.)
2) … so Tunisia blew up. Also plagued by unemployment etc. Tunisia rebels against Ben Ali’s well-organized fascism. I am witness to black-clad secret police guys’ total ubiquity. Mediterranean resonating empathy I’ll repeat.
A small country Tunisia, one might say. Ok, but Tunisia’s rebellion infected Egypt.
Now THIS changed things entirely.
The Land of Pharaohs Wakes Up
2) Egypt gets infected. The Arab world and beyond is following.
Well, given its ancientness & importance when Egypt sneezes a whole piece of the planet may catch pneumonia. Egypt is the most respected Arab state of all, beyond a doubt.
Digression. According to the Indian-British Indologist A. L. Basham – A Cultural History of India, Oxford 1975 p. XXI- “there are four main cradles of civilizations [on this planet]: 1.China. 2. The Indian subcontinent [probably the most influential in the very long run imo, MoR]. 3. The ‘Fertile Crescent‘ [ie Egypt, Eastern Canaan-Syria-Phoenicia, Mesopotamia ie Iraq, MoR]. 4. The Mediterranean, especially Greece and Italy.”
[I’m starting – some scholars are starting – to suspect a North-Europe Hyperborean cradle too. Read here if you dare 🙂 …]
Egypt is at the head of num 3 region (even though Iraq invented writing.) The Greeks totally recognized Egyptian and other Eastern influences.
[But some scholars in-between 1800s-1900s – mainly German but not only – wanted ALL colonizing West’s knowledge to be derived from an abstract ‘pure’ Greece in order to justify the exploitation of the lower-races. Winckelmann (1717 – 1768) earlier and Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) bear a foundational responsibility among the rest for this gloomy error]
Pythagoras (Πυθαγόρας) who spread a scientific-religious cult all over South Italy – which will affect Plato, ALL West science & the core of Christianity – travelled long years in Egypt, in the Middle East and Mesopotamia perhaps too: he was permeated by African and Eastern wisdom! Herodotus (Ἡρόδοτος) surely spent years in Egypt. Just 2 examples, the former being the greatest of them as for the future of Western culture.
It is weeks I wanted to write something about the Arab spring revolutions. It all started in Tunisia, separated from Italy by only 44 miles (Pantelleria) and by 68 miles (Sicily.)
This being not totally fortuitous in my opinion – we will see in any case.
This is a thoughtful Roman blog, not a newspaper, so we’ll talk over such political (and military) crises in our own Roman way 🙂
Talk over literally, since I recently discovered how convenient a microphone can be.
Waves of Revolution.
“Who the Hell Cares”
Disturbance; want of values in new generations; so-close-to-Italy Muslim countries exploding like bombs; the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India & China) about to make our Western asses black & blue.
France, the UK, Germany, the US etc. not being on better grounds than we are; our ineffable PM Berlusconi glued to his chair not giving a damn about his country’s future and claiming ‘communist’ magistrates are the only ones to blame for his HUGE legal problems (read the Guardian, among the rest, any political colour saying the same worldwide) and btw only half-heartedly admitting his friend Muammar Gaddafi is a cruel dictator butchering dissenters with fighters missiles.
By the way, did the two Big Men have fun ensemble with chicks? No evidence that I posses but it’s a given that when Gaddafi arrived to Rome (June 2009?) hundreds of Italian babes flocked to his tent placed in a Roman public (and luscious) garden and, well, rumours say quite a few converted to Islam for 80 Euros (100 USD)!
When asked by journalists (see picture below) – who were staring at their stunning faces boobs (and legs) – why on earth had they converted, they replied:
“Well, ya know, it is so interesting, exploring different religions, really so interesting, isn’t it interesting? Ah ah ah ah ..”
[I am using my words but I heard those chicks’ words on TV; they were no different, at times even worse]
Let me tell you this whole thing is allarmante, alarming.
And it’s all the more when we realise we are so few to be alarmed – as a Milan’s blogger wittingly put it.
While strolling about Rome I actually notice that in cafés shops and bars no one really gives a damn, with Milan teaming up with us (the two major Italian cities – not to mention the provinces, that probably care even less.)
Instead, Libya and the Rest ‘Do Affect’ Us
Libya and the Arab spring upheavals do affect us instead. We all have Greco-Roman and Mediterranean roots, so South and East shores mattered (and matter) to us.
In 1911 the Italian PM Giovanni Giolitti launched the progressive conquest of Libya, later continued by Benito Mussolini until 1931.
Libya became ‘ours’ because our newly-founded Nation desired to invent her own empire at a time when the real thing, ie the British and the French empires, were soon to fall apart (as Lucio Caracciolo, director of Limes, yesterday observed in the Roman daily La Repubblica.)
Libya 1911-1931, we were saying. A bloody phase of battles and unrelenting anti-Italian guerilla at the end of which our technologically superior country (morally too?) made use of chemical weapons and poisoned the farmers’ wells to the extent it wiped out 1/10 of the Libyan population (100,000 casualties) – according to the Italian Wikipedia.
Κυρήνη or Cyrene.
(and Forgetful) Conqueror
One of the toughest & unyielding Libyan regions was Cyrenaica, Eastern Libya (see map above.)
It was so named since 2641 years earlier the Greek colony of Cyrene (Κυρήνη) was there founded and there later flourished. Cyrene soon became a glowing centre of Greek culture. Suffice it to mention:
Aristippus (Ἀρίστιππος), Socrates’ disciple, who there preached how to enjoy life pleasures “from all circumstances and how to control adversity and prosperity alike;”
Callimachus (Καλλίμαχος) who there had his birth and without whom the greatest Roman poets of the Latin golden age would never have existed (Catullus, Virgil, Tibullus and Propertius;)
Eratosthene (Έρατοσθένης), also from Cyrene, the first scientist ever capable of exactly measuring the size and circumference of our planet.
Libya’s National Hero:
Omar Mukhtar, a Pious Man
In 1862 CE Omar al-Mukhtar had his birth in Cyrenaica as well (see picture above.)
Omar al-Mukhtar is Libya’s great national hero, a religious and pious man.
For 20 years he led an unrelenting anti-Italian resistance and when captured in 1931 (see picture below) his deep personality “had an impact on his Italian jailers, who later remarked upon his steadfastness” (English Wiki.)
A sort of Nelson Mandela, one could say, with the difference that deep sage Omar didn’t make it.
It seems the Italians arrested Mukhtar’s court appointed defence lawyer, capitano Roberto Lontano, who took ‘too honestly’ his defence job, which suggests unfairness in Mukhtar’s trial.
“On September 16, 1931, Mukhtar, at the age of 73 years, was hanged before his followers” who were ALL prisoners in the concentration camp of Solluqon. The Italians hopes were that Libyan resistance would end with him.
PS. I don’t mean here that Italians were worse than any colonizer. I believe instead that every country follows the principles of Realpolitik which “focuses on considerations of power, not ideals, morals, or principles.”
Machiavelli laid the first rules of Realpolitik. It is high time I dedicate a post to this Renaissance Florentine btw, since too many people say: Realpolitik, ok, but Machiavelli, THAT is amoral stuff.
Which needs some clarifying I guess.
Benito Mussolini thought Mukhtar, the Desert Lion, was an obstacle to his colonial conquest. So he got rid of him.
I am not criticizing this [like I’m not criticizing Americans who stopped, no matter how, communism in Greece, Italy or Chile.]
I was working in Tunisia at the time the campaign for the second re-election of George W. Bush was about to start. I often wandered around Tunis with a taxi driver, this beautiful white-bearded old man I conversed with on many things, politics, culture etc. He greatly helped me to explore the city since he knew every alley, every aspect of it.
I almost always ate at La Goulette, the main port of Tunis (see an overview above) where many Italians emigrated between 1700-1800 before they even ever thought to leave for America.
An area of the port bears in fact the name of la Petite Sicile. There I enjoyed fresh fish that fishing boats carried almost to the waterfront restaurants.
Ah quel vie, quelle poésie, la francophonie sur la mer de Carthage, la cuisine locale, les vins, le délicieux poisson!
(My table-companions were Tunisian and Italian and we always spoke French. Unforgettable memories)
One day, while the old man was driving me as usual to the port’s restaurants, I said to him:
“What if Bush had already captured Osama Bin Laden and pulled him like a rabbit out of his hat at the last minute so that his victory in the forthcoming elections would be devastating?”
“They are too intelligent to fall into traps like that,” the old man replied with shiny eyes.
Such an answer, given like that, with dreamy eyes, from this dear and good old man whom everyone called le père for his wisdom and who strongly condemned terrorism, puzzled me. I dropped the subject (and perhaps I shouldn’t have.)
Well, I thought later, if this touches the heart of such a wise old man, it is not difficult to imagine what 9/11 may have meant for thousands of young people: a fire, a burst of renewed Muslim pride which swept them and drove them to follow the example (still partly does unfortunately) of the “heroes” of the Twin Towers who sacrificed themselves – for the sake of Allah, his prophet and the civilization they represent – in such an insane, ruthless but also immensely spectacular (to them) way.
Pride Refound and Terrorism
Until September 11 the Muslims had always been badly beaten – the war lost in only six days by their venerable Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, the West always trying to control their oil resources, Israel’s creation as guardian of the Middle-East and champion of the West etc.
At the time of the London bombings (7 July 2005) many had wondered how it was possible that almost adolescent, honest-faced youths had blown themselves up as suicide bombers thus killing dozens of helpless bystanders. Weren’t terrorists wicked, bloodthirsty killers?
Questions such as this show in my opinin a certain lack of understanding – of the human soul, of (fundamentalist) faith and of what the Islamic revolution meant to Muslims and especially to the Muslim youth, from the time of the Ayatollah Khomeini onward.
A strong but also humiliated culture, Islam, which resists globalization, but unfortunately when reacting with terrorism does the wrong thing totally, giving rise to distrust, hatred (and isolation) all around it.
Tunisians however (not only them) are good and moderate, friends of Italy and of the West. And a great number of them display self-critical attitudes:
Ouvrir les yeux sur soi et sur l’Occident suppose que le monde musulman cesse de se poser en perpétuelle victime. “C’est toujours la faute de l’autre, note Mohamed Charfi: le colonisateur, l’impérialisme, le système financier international, le FMI, la Banque mondiale. Quand amorcera-t-on l’autocritique qui permettra un diagnostic lucide de nos échecs ?”
Si diceva qui di come la globalizzazione abbia avuto effetti anche contrari, di riscoperta delle varie identità culturali. Lasciatemi esplorare un poco questo tema.
Le bon père dalla barba bianca
Sono stato in Tunisia per lavoro al tempo in cui stava preparandosi la campagna elettorale per la seconda rielezione di Gorge W. Bush. Giravo spesso con un tassista di Tunisi, un bel vecchio dalla barba bianca, con cui parlavo di tante cose, di politica, di cultura. Mi aiutava ad esplorare bene la città perché ne conosceva ogni vicolo, ogni aspetto.
Mi portava quasi sempre a La Goulette a mangiare, il porto principale di Tunisi (nella foto in alto una veduta d’insieme) dove molti italiani emigrarono nel 1700-1800 ancor prima di recarsi in America.
Una zona del porto si chiama infatti la Petite Sicile. Là mi godevo il pesce fresco che i pescherecci portavano fin quasi ai ristoranti sulla riva.
Ah quel vie, quelle poésie, la francophonie sur la mer de Carthage, la cuisine locale, les vins, le délicieux poisson!
(I miei commensali erano tunisini e italiani e si parlava sempre in francese. Ricordi indimenticabili)
Una volta mentre il vecchio mi stava al solito portando alla Goulette gli dissi:
“Stai a vedere che Bush ha già catturato Bin Laden e lo tirerà fuori all’ultimo momento come un coniglio dal cilindro così che la sua vittoria alle prossime elezioni sarà schiacciante”.
“Sono troppo intelligenti per cadere in trappole del genere” rispose il vecchio con occhi scintillanti.
La risposta, data così, con occhi sognanti, da questo vecchio buono e caro, che tutti chiamavano le père per la sua saggezza appunto e che condannava fermamente il terrorismo, mi lasciò perplesso. Lasciai cadere l’argomento (e forse feci male).
Se tocca il cuore anche di un vecchio così, pensai in seguito, è facile immaginare cosa può aver significato l’11 settembre per migliaia di giovani: un incendio, una vampata di ritrovato orgoglio pan musulmano, che li ha travolti e spinti (e purtroppo in parte ancora oggi li spinge) a dare la vita imitando gli “eroi” delle Torri gemelle che si erano immolati in modo così folle, spietato ma anche enormemente spettacolare nel nome di Allah, del suo profeta e della civiltà che essi rappresentano.
L’orgoglio ritrovato e il terrorismo
Fino all’11 settembre gli islamici le avevano sempre buscate da tutti, la guerra persa in soli 6 giorni dal venerato leader egiziano Nasser, l’Occidente che ha sempre cercato di controllare le loro risorse energetiche, la creazione di Israele sempre a fini di controllo dell’energia e come paladino dell’Occidente ecc.
Quando vi furono le bombe di Londra, il 7 luglio 2005, molti furono sorpresi. Come è possibile che dei ragazzi poco più che adolescenti e con la faccia pulita si siano fatti esplodere come kamikaze uccidendo decine di passanti indifesi? Non erano i terroristi degli assassini assetati di sangue?
Domande che mostrano una certa incomprensione dell’animo umano, della fede (fondamentalista) e di che cosa abbia potuto significare la rivoluzione islamica per i musulmani e soprattutto per i giovani musulmani, dall’epoca di Khomeini in poi.
Una cultura forte ma anche umiliata, quella islamica, che resiste alla globalizzazione, anche se purtroppo quando reagisce con il terrorismo lo fa in maniera completamente sbagliata creando solo odio, diffidenza (e isolamento) intorno a sé.
I tunisini però (e non solo) sono brava gente, moderati, amici dell’Italia e dell’Occidente. E molte tra essi le voci autocritiche:
Ouvrir les yeux sur soi et sur l’Occident suppose que le monde musulman cesse de se poser en perpétuelle victime. “C’est toujours la faute de l’autre, note Mohamed Charfi : le colonisateur, l’impérialisme, le système financier international, le FMI, la Banque mondiale. Quand amorcera-t-on l’autocritique qui permettra un diagnostic lucide de nos échecs ?”
In the preceding post we have noticed how contemporary Italian literature and cinema seldom offer wide-fresco works – they perceive the single tree more than the entire forest (read a conversation on this topic.)
Someone affirms that the secret of the forest is instead hidden in Palermo.
Tomasi di Lampedusa narrates how, soon after Italy’s unification, the honest Piedmont’s official Chevalley [Piedmont, at that time an advanced region, unified Italy in 1861] was sent to implore the Sicilian Prince of Lampedusa [the author’s great-grandfather and protagonist of the novel,] to represent Sicily in the new Italian Senate, “in order to remedy the state of material poverty, of blind and moral misery in which the Sicilian people find themselves, your own people!”
The Prince, smiling and inviting Chevalley to sit down with him on the sofa for a while, answered with the same words he had uttered with some English who, before Giuseppe Garibaldi conquered Palermo, were asking what all these Northern Italians, these Garibaldini, were doing in the South of Italy.
“They are coming to teach us good manners – replied the Prince in English – but they won’t succeed, because we are gods.”
Then in the end (with poor, decent Chevalley in total dismay because of the Prince’s denial) the aristocrat added that things in Sicily had not changed and will never change for that ‘sense of superiority that glitters in the eye of every Sicilian, that we ourselves call pride (fierezza,) but which is actually only blindness.’
An enlightening, though gloomy, reflection.
Note. This ‘pride which is actually blindness’ can be said of all great civilizations on earth that were (the ancient Romans, the Egyptians, Greece, Hellenic etc.Sicily …)
If we are worth for what we were, we are much much worthier for what we are.
Past greatness is a richness, and a consolation, but is not enough.
Question. On the other hand, are these cultures / civilizations really dead? I mean, didn’t they adapt themselves still retaining some greatness?
In the previous installment we have spoken of the Egyptian society described by Naguib Mahfouz and of the Tunisians. We have also mentioned Italian Naples and Sicily (see the splendid Monreale cloister above). We wanted to emphasize the mutual influences between the North and the South shores of the Mediterranean and at the same time show how many behaviours – defined as Islamic, such as the patriarchal control of women – belong in reality to the endless past of the civilizations.
The Muslims influenced not only Italy but Spain, Greece and other Mediterranean areas as well. In truth they influenced almost the entire world since between the VIII and the XII centuries AD Islam stretched from the Atlantic in the West (Spain) to large portions of Asia. For the very first time in history more than 3000 years of experiences were accumulated from civilizations the most various – Sumer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Syria, Persia, China and India.
Most importantly, all this was re-transmitted by them to the rest of the world: forgotten Greek texts and medicine, Indian numerals (called Arabic since that time), Chinese papermaking and thousands of other innovations. This whole wisdom and refinement was concentrated by the way (and for a long time) in the city of Baghdad, that same city whose historical treasures were looted and destroyed because of the present foolish Iraqi war.
It is hence fair (and a bit uncomfortable) to remember that Europe – which during the Middle Ages had forgotten a lot – was gradually given back by the Muslims not only large portions of its classical culture but also something that went well beyond the confines of the Greco-Roman civilization. The big leap Europe was about to make at the end of the Middle Ages was possible also because of this contribution.
More than We are Willing to Admit
North Africans and Islamic countries are linked to Europeans more than we are willing to admit. If the Turks want to enter the Euro zone it is also because they feel somewhat part of our world. Southern and Northern Italians (think of Venice), Spaniards, Greeks etc. received many elements from the Oriental cultures.
Hard-to-deny connections. This might though disturb some reader (of this devil’s advocate) 😉
Why? Because Muslims are not well seen today. A post by Nita, an Indian journalist and blogger (and an excellent source of knowledge on India), provides statistics from the Pew Research Global that show how “while more and more Muslims are turning away from the extremists, more and more people are turning away from Muslims.”
In the Wikipedia’s entry on Sicily I was reading yesterday that in a “recent and thorough study the genetic contribution of Greek chromosomes to the Sicilian gene pool was estimated to be about 37% whereas the contribution of North African populations was estimated to be around 6%.”
True or not, I read between the lines – I may be wrong – like a desire to prove that Sicily and Southern Italy have little to do with North Africans. Even if so, hasn’t genetics – as far as I know – little to do with cultural transmission? One can be mostly Greco-Roman genetically though subject to multi-layered cultural influences coming from no matter where.
We will end up this second (and last) part of our journey with two notes.
Veiled women. As far as the veil, to think of it as Islamic is incorrect because it was widely used by the Assyrians, Hittites, Greeks (see the picture on the left), Romans and Persians. In medieval Europe (and in Anglo-Saxon England) women were dressed more or less like Muslim women are dressed today.
In Judaism, Christianity and Islam “the concept of covering the head is or was associated with propriety. All traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, show her veiled.” (Wikipedia).
I remember my mother always wearing a veil in church. It was a common practice in Catholicism (but not only) until the 1960s.
Sexual jealousy. It seems to be present in Islamic societies and in all those patriarchal societies obsessively concerned for true paternity. In today’s Islamic forums there is a lot of discussion (and more or less condemnation) about jealousy.
It is said that Sicilians and Calabrians are usually more possessive than other Italians. Some cultural connection with Islam in this respect may be possible. It is to be noted that honour killings were easily forgiven by law in Italy, France and other Mediterranean countries until recently.