Between Salt Water and Holy Water: A History of Southern Italy
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
"Lucid, evocative and richly detailed."―Jay Parini, author of The Apprentice Lover
Both the Romans and the Greeks were attracted to the dramatically beautiful coasts and fertile plains of the region later known as "The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies." In fact, all myriad influences that shaped modern civilization in the Mediterranean come together in Southern Italy and Sicily. The world's first secular university was founded in Naples. Many of the elements of Italian culture as we now know it in the rest of the world―from comic opera to pizza―were born in the South. Art and music flourished there, as did progressive ideas about education, tolerance, and civic administration.
Native Neopolitan and distinguished scholar Tommaso Astarita gives us a history both erudite and full of personality―from the freethinking, cosmopolitan King Frederick who conferred with Jewish and Muslim philosophers (and dared to meet with the Sultan) to the fisherman Masaniello who inspired artists and revolutionaries across Europe. In the medieval South, Jews, Muslims, and Greek and Latin Christians could practice their religions, speak their languages, and live in mostly peaceful cohabitation. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Naples was on par with Paris, one of the largest and most cultured cities in Europe. During the Enlightenment, southern Italy captured the European imagination, and many people traveled far and wide to enjoy southern Italy's ancient ruins, beautiful landscapes, sweet music, and magnificent art, marveling at the lively temperament of the southern population. The drama and beauty of the region inspired visitors to claim that one had to "see Naples, and then die." Yet negative images of the Italian South's poverty, violence, superstition and nearness to Africa long fueled stereotypes of what was and was not acceptably "European." Goethe noted that he had gladly studied in Rome, but in Naples he wanted "only to live," for "Naples is a Paradise: everyone lives in a state of intoxicated self-forgetfulness, myself included.
From the Normans and Angevins through Spanish and Bourbon rule to the unification of Italy in 1860 and the subsequent emigration of vast numbers of Southern Italians, Between Salt Water and Holy Water captures the rich, dynamic past of a vibrant land.
song. In the entry on “genius” in his 1768 Dictionary of Music, Rousseau urged young musicians to “run, fly to Naples.” The visit to Naples by Charles Burney, one of the greatest musicologists of the time, is typical of what the city offered to tourists and music lovers. Burney spent a remarkably busy three weeks there in the fall of 1770. Like any proper tourist, he visited the Phlegrean region, Pompeii (which gave him “more pleasure than any antiquities [he] ever saw”), Herculaneum, and the
fair justice to the South; and earn the trust and love of their fellow citizens. Yet the Republic dramatically failed to accomplish its goals. Debates over the constitution dragged on, reform of the feudal system remained incomplete, political divisions proliferated. More dangerously, the Republic never developed loyal military forces independent of French support and never established control of most provinces. Counterrevolutionary insurrections and conspiracies flared up across the South.
and exporter; the limited industrial sectors of earlier centuries—mining, silk, cotton—nearly disappeared after the disruption of the Vespers. Sicilian society also became more stratified and rigid. The feudal aristocracy extracted privileges from its weak rulers that made Sicilian barons virtual kings in their estates. The right of feudal succession was expanded: by 1300 Sicilian barons had ensured nearly unlimited succession and gained the right to trade feudal assets with almost no royal
Córdoba—the “Great Captain”—won a resounding victory at Cerignola in Puglia, and Spain’s rule over Naples was settled. The battle at Cerignola also played a significant role in military history. It marked the first appearance of a mixed force consisting of light cavalry, foot soldiers carrying pikes, and infantrymen armed with individual firearms. Spain perfected this new type of fighting force. The Spanish army went on to dominate military events across Europe and remained undefeated until the
apparent in peasant funeral customs as in urban processions and feasts. Visitors noted that popular devotion in Naples was “all exterior, demonstrative, and inconsequential.” But even elite southerners partook eagerly in the beliefs and practices that many eighteenth-century visitors found distasteful, irrational, and superficial. The government’s attitude toward the wealth and privileges of the Church became more aggressive in the eighteenth century, and Enlightenment intellectuals saw the