Twelve species of marine shell were transported in significant quantities from the Red Sea to the trade centre of Harlaa in eastern Ethiopia between the eleventh and early fifteenth centuries AD. Initially, it was thought that species such as the cowries were imported from the Indian Ocean. Subsequent research has found that all were available from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, c. 120 km east of Harlaa. This suggests that a hitherto largely unrecognised source of marine shells was available, and the Red Sea might have supplied not only the Horn of Africa, but other markets, potentially including Egypt, and from there, elsewhere in North Africa and ultimately West Africa via trans-Saharan routes, as well as Nubia and further south on the Nile in the Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Arabian/Persian Gulf. This is explored with reference to the shell assemblage from Harlaa, and selected shell assemblages from elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, and trading centres on the Red Sea.
The paper focusses on the spread of Hindu-Arabic arithmetic among European practitioners. The analysis is based on an original database recording detailed information on over 1200 practical arithmetic manuals, both manuscript and printed. This database provides the most detailed reconstruction available of the European tradition of practical arithmetic from the late 13th to the end of the 16th century. The paper argues that studying this spread makes it possible to open a perspective on a progressive transmission of ‘useful knowledge’ from the ‘commercial revolution’ to the ‘little divergence’. Focussing on the transmission of practical arithmetic allows to stress the role of skills and human capital in pre-modern European economic development. Moreover, it allows to reconstruct a progressive transmission, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, of a ‘practical knowledge’ which eventually contributed to major developments in European ‘theoretical knowledge’.
Fourteenth-century Tuscany was among the most receptive regions for the expansion of the Carthusian order. Siena represented a unique case as it was the only city with three charterhouses within its territory, the only instance in the entire history of the order: Maggiano, Belriguardo, and Pontignano. This chapter sheds light on the impact that the Carthusians had on Siena’s literary and religious culture. In particular, it reconsiders a lesser known religious figure Pietro Petroni (1311–1361), a Sienese Carthusian monk from Maggiano. Petroni’s unorthodox visionary and prophetic activity leads to new insights on late-medieval Carthusian engagement in the world, on the one hand, and, on the other, to relevant aspects in the life and work of some of the most prominent religious and cultural figures of the time, including Boccaccio, Petrarch, Giovanni Colombini, and Catherine of Siena.
The movement of the Observance led by Bernardino of Siena found approval among the citizens of L’Aquila in 1438 with the arrival of this Franciscan saint. Alessandro De Riicis, a Franciscan friar, chronicles in his Cronica Aquilanorum the success of Bernardino in L’Aquila. Found in his chronicle is a poem which states that L’Aquila began to be known as a city with the Sienese’s arrival in it. This study analyzes the role that the saint played in making the city of L’Aquila known in what De Riciis calls “the world”. I will first argue the importance of the saint among the citizens of L’Aquila in 15th-century Italy; subsequently I will explore how Bernardino’s preaching, especially on the role of Mary in the Passion, influences the preaching of his followers in L’Aquila, which in turn shapes the political and religious evolution at a decisive moment in the city’s history. It also shows how widely Siena influenced other regions beyond her own borders.
Drawing on a combination of primary and secondary sources, this chapter will examine the nature and reach of reformed religious ideas in 16th-century Siena. Surveying the current state of the field in regard to the Reformation in Italy, it will then take a more focused look at the various media and communities in which these ideas were discussed and through which they spread. Specific points of interest will include the role of salons, confraternities, preaching, and learned societies such as the Accademia degli Intronati. Broadly, this chapter aims to shed light on the diversity and scope of religious beliefs that circulated in the ostensibly Catholic world of early-modern Siena.
Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Siena was the subject of a renewed interest on the part of nationalist intellectuals who were influenced by the Florentine journals circulating at the time. Beginning with Corradini, Siena began to mythologize their civic virtues as an example on which to forge their national equivalents, first by the nationalist movement and later, in expanded form, in the Fascist era. However, in the background remained the challenges posed by modernization and the proper response to them, including even its repudiation. As a “daughter of the road”, so termed by E. Sestan because of the city’s location on the Via Francigena, Siena was at the time one of the stops on the Grand Tour of Italy and styled herself a sort of time capsule, zealously enclosed in her glorious past. It was in this period, following the late 16th-century refeudalization indicated by the myth of R. Romeo’s Italia mille anni, that the city took on the task of rewriting the history of the “Gothic Queen” in order to convey her from the Renaissance to the Risorgimento in an unaltered form. To accomplish this, they even enlisted the House of Savoy who, donating their heraldic banners to those of the contrade of the Palio (the heritage of the medieval guilds), sought to connect a non-existent national past with a still unwritten present. Moreover, the attention being given to Sienese history was not unknown to Sismondi who was seeking an explanation of the system of tenant farming.
My contribution intends to analyze the “making” of a cultural operation that functioned as the glue for a political, economic, and social project lasting more than a century, in which the history of medieval Siena was pivotal not only for how it was defined but for how it was intended to justify the choices made in the present. In certain ways, this procedure is similar to what the Fascist regime would later do to glorify and justify itself, according to G. Volpe. Through an analysis of the history of Siena, my essay will seek to highlight the disparity between reality and myth. In addition, it will analyze the coming to fruition of various initiatives, such as: the birth of the Art Institute, the Defense of Monuments, the school of Falsi d’Autore, the myth of the contrade and the Palio, and the International Exhibition of Sienese Art held in London. All succeeded in giving stability to a rural Siena confronted with the challenges of modernity, while legitimizing the historical past, revisited and altered according to the requirements of the “here and now”.