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SPAIN and ITALY: The Muslim Heritage?



Picking up the expression "Africa begins at the Pyrenees," Ron Bracewell points to Italy, that other peninsula which almost touches North Africa:

"Africa begins half way between Florence and Rome. I learnt this in Arcetri (the hill overlooking Florence where Galileo was under detention in his house La Gioiella. It is part of the Observatory). At coffee time one day, one of the astronomers said loudly, "A wall should be built between Florence and Rome!" The general conversation lulled somewhat, and he then said, "With two holes in it!" Total quiet, and he said, "One for oranges and one for lemons!" It is well known that Garibaldi united Italy. They told me, "Yes, but he divided Africa."

My comment: This is serious. Many Spaniards, like Emilia Pardo Bazan from Galicia, view Spain's colorful Andalusia as a cause of Spain's decay. Naturally Andalusians reject this interpretation of history. I side with Pardo Bazan, but that is a long story.

In Italy the North has a similar attitude toward Il mezzogiorno. Most Italians would place the line south of Rome, with Naples and Sicily facing even worse charges than those against Andalusia. Their history is very different from that of Andalusia, but they have in common Muslim conquest and influence. Why did Arab civilization decline after its early glory years? Ojala? Allah wished it?

Ronald Hilton - 7/26/00


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