|Charles kills Manfred. Of course Manfred wasn't killed like this, in a duel. He did die in the battle, but just how remained mysterious.|
No it wasn't a box of chocolate truffles, but something that operates with me just like, as Himself put it, "a box of chocolate corrupts someone who is on a diet."
I'm supposed to be working on popular culture, politics, etc. from the end of the War to Southern Rebellion to the erasure of slavery, revision of history, etc. and the Rise of the Glorious Lost Cause. I'm supposed to be reading reams of African American newspapers. And, btw, this stuff is supremely depressing, as depressing as our current national events horror movie, the roots of which are all in it.
So what does el Vaquero do?
"Hi, look what I found that I bet you're gonna like!!"
It's The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century by Steven Runciman,. This classic work of history of this period of Sicilian history was first published in 1957 by Cambridge University Press, and reprinted now for the 10th time (2012). I cannot keep my hands off it. I'm devouring all this detailed history of the conflicts among the Roman Popes, the eastern Empire, the Arabs, the Holy Roman Empire and its emperors, the French kings, the parade of Henrys, Conrads, Tancred, Manfreds, Fredericks, the Norman kings of Sicily, the marriages with Portuguese and English princesses, Spanish invasion of Italy, crusades and Mameluks. Even more complicated the wars of the Guelphs and Ghibellines are involved so all these personages are in Dante's circles of hell too. And, la the pièce de résistance -- the MONGOLS! Ooo la lah, things were a'poppin' in the 13th century. And Sicily was right in the center of it, as Sicily is the stepping stone between Europe and Africa, between west and east.
|Church of the Holy Spirit in Palermo, site of the Vespers Uprising.|
As for what are -- or rather what was the Sicilian Vespers, and why it matters -- it was the rebellion of Easter 1282, in which Sicily got rid of -- slaughtered - 3000 French. But ultimately all this was about the war between the Hohenstaufans and the Pope for control of Italy. This was called the War of the Sicilian Vespers.
So many incredible characters, so many amazing deeds, many of which were downright evil, and a few heroic. No wonder there are operas made of them; see, for instance Rossini's Tancredi.
My friend, who also is my hair person. has relatives in Sicily. She, who is not that much interested in history in general, knows of The Vespers. We dreamed together yesterday of going to Sicily together. I've never been there, and neither has she.
Reading this book, it's like going on vacation, but safely, into the very unsafe time and place of 13th century Mediterranean life.