08 January 2004

Arab Influence on the Italian Renaissance

I don't recall ever learning that the name [Betelgeuse] came from the Arabic bayt al jauza, meaning "in the house of the twins," referring to the Heavenly Twins, Castor and Pollux, hanging out right above Orion.
One nice thing about keeping in touch with farflung friends at least once a year is that you get to find out what they have to show for all the time they wasted over the past year. Un amico vecchio (e antico!) della famiglia who lives and teaches in Naples started a peripatetic web log Around Naples that is morphing step-by-step into an online encyclopedia of local history and color. The quote above is from an entry about the considerable Arab influence on the Italian Renaissance, thanks in no small measure the efforts of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, who ruled the domain later known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. (There can never be a second Naples!)

Among my favorite features are the etymological droppings one steps in now and then, such as how bologna came to mean 'baloney', and what that has to do with mortadella; as well as the judicious name droppings, as in the piece about a famous cowboy's visit to Naples in 1890. There's also an interesting post about how Southern Italians identify with the losers in the American Civil War. Will the Mezzogiorno rise again?

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