Category Archives: Indo-Hittite

An Excerpt From the “Memoirs of Hadrian” by Marguerite Yourcenar

Repost from the old site.

For this post I am going to post a bit from a delightful book I just came across called The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar, a French novelist. It was translated from French to English in the 1950’s and 60’s by her lesbian live-in partner, Grace Frick. The English translation was published in 1963. Frick’s translation was widely praised.

This is a psychological and historical novel, not an actual memoir, and perhaps that is why it sounds so contemporary. This choice novel, a best seller in France 50 years ago, is just as contemporary as if it had been written yesterday. A film adaptation by John Boorman is due to start shooting in Italy in Spring 2006.

No matter how long ago they lived, the Romans were so much more like us than we ever want to believe. The fictional voice of Hadrian, the third of the five so-called “good Roman emperors”, so eloquent, learned and wise, could be that of a high-ranking military or political official in 2006.

I will intersperse this bit of treasure with my comments, which will be in bold. My comments will often try to relate this ancient events to contemporary events, to show how history lives within all of us, as we are all products of the past and molders of the future, and how thereby the past, present and future tend to merge via human agency, culture, genetics and tradition.

We are where we are and we do what we do in part because of history, whether we like it or not. And what we are and do now creates the future, whether we like that or not.

Hence, as Kurt Vonnegut notes in one of his books, referring to a obscure science fiction short story (I think, The Music of the Spheres by Stuart J. Byrne, but I may be wrong), the past, present and future are all simultaneously occurring right at this very moment.

But I digress…

This section refers to the Simon Bar Kokhba Rebellion (otherwise known as either the Second or Third Roman-Jewish War) amongst the Jews which took place in the Roman colonial province of Judaea (now Israel or Palestine) from 132-135 AD. There is also a passing reference to Jewish heroine Esther and the Jewish holiday of Purim, the celebration of which just passed us by.

Since this blog frequently discusses Israel, Jews, Palestine and the conflict in that region, and a recent post discussed Purim, I figure this excerpt has contemporary relevance, if only to replay the skipping record called “History repeats itself”.

Perhaps the word Judaean is more appropriate than the word Jewish in this context, since the Jewish religion at that time was quite different, in my opinion, despite what Zionist propaganda tells us, from modern rabbinical Judaism. Hence, I will use Judaean instead of Jew when describing this war. This is also a dig at Jewish primordialist volkisch Zionism, which I oppose).

Judaea was still majority-Judaean at this time, even after the failed First Judaean Revolt and the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem around 65 years prior that left around 950,000 Judaeans dead and many others sold into slavery.

Though this blog supports most anti-colonial rebellions as a general rule, it is interesting to see the Bar Kokhba Revolt through the eyes of a secular Roman. Hadrian felt the Judaeans were fanatics, and clearly they were.

Many Romans also felt that the Christians of that time were also fanatics, and in fact many of them were also. In the Romans’ eyes, all the Romans asked was for the Christians to swear allegiance to Rome and pay their Roman taxes, and the Christians refused to do either, especially the swearing allegiance part. Instead, they preferred to kill themselves.

The Romans thought these suicides were the acts of an insane religious fanatical death cult, in the same way that many of us nowadays feel that Muslim suicide bombers are part of a crazy fanatical religious death cult.

Many Romans were secular, believe it or not, especially the educated ones. They had their Roman gods, of course, but many Romans, especially the ruling classes, didn’t really believe in their own gods very much.

In 130, Hadrian visited the devastated city of Jerusalem, which had still not been rebuilt after the Romans laid it to ruins some 70 years prior. Hadrian felt sorry for the Judaeans and promised to rebuild the city.

But the Judaeans became angry when word got out that Hadrian was going to rebuild the city as a pagan metropolis instead of a Judaean holy city and that he was going to rebuild the Judaeans’ Second Temple as a pagan temple to the Roman god Jupiter. The new city was to be named Aelina Capitolina. The Judaeans regarded the excavation of the Temple to rebuild it as a pagan monument as a religious transgression.

In 131, Hadrian added insult to injury by banning circumcision, which the Judaeans practiced as an essential part of their religion. Hadrian viewed circumcision as primitive, barbaric, body mutilation.

The Jewish wise man Akiva convinced the Judaean religious leadership of the Sanhedrin to rebel against the Romans. A military hero named Simon Bar Kokhba was chosen to be the leader. The name means sun of a star in Aramaic. It is interesting that the Judaeans at that time were speaking Aramaic, not the Hebrew of primordialist Zionist fantasy.

Simon Bar Kokhba was also designated the Judaean Messiah. This designation deeply offended many Christians (who were still mostly converted Jews at this time) since they felt that Christ was the real Messiah. Consequently the Christians would not support the rebellion.

In 132, the rebellion began, and the Judaeans had learned from the two previous rebellions and fought well. The Romans were routed, and for 2 1/2 years a Judaean state called The Era of the Redemption of Israel was formed. Bar Kokhba designated himself Nasi Israel, or ruler of Israel.

The crazy, endless procession of animal sacrifice at the Judaean Temple was restarted, which, in my opinion, is an example of one of the most primitive forms of ethnoreligious barbarism known to mankind (Sorry, Jewish readers!).

From morning to evening, the line of Judaeans with animals to sacrifice would snake away from the Temple and the blood of the slaughtered beasts ran red like a river away from the building!

The Romans gathered up a huge army and fought for three years. In 135, Bar Kokhba was driven to a redoubt at Betar. The fortress of Betar was then overwhelmed and the Judaeans were defeated. 580,000 Judaeans lay dead.

Much later, the name Betar was adopted in the 1920’s by a Jewish proto-fascist organization in the Jabotinskyist tradition. In my opinion, the recrudescence of the Betar decades later became the Kach or Kahane Movement, although the original Betar Movement apparently still exists at a much reduced level, since I visited their website not long ago.

However, just to demonstrate the proto-fascist roots of the Israeli Likud party, let us note that current and former Israeli Likud leaders such as former Prime Ministers Yitzak Shamir and Menachem Begin, current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and former Defense Minister Moshe Arens are all former members of Betar.

The fact that the US media fawned and fawns over such crypto-fascist characters is profoundly disturbing and makes one question the extent to which our media believes in democracy, if such folks are regarded as role models.

Hadrian tried to wipe out the Judaean religion, which he felt was the source of repeated rebellions. He banned the Judaean calendar and Torah Law and had many Judaean scholars executed. He built Roman statues on the ruins of the Temple and burned the Judaeans’ sacred scroll.

Jewish scholarship moved to Babylonia (Iraq) where the Babylonian Talmud was written hundred of years later, from 400-700, laying the foundation for modern rabbinical Judaism. Judaism started to reject radicalism and messianism and became more cautious and conservative. This can be seen in the Talmud’s reference to Bar Kokhba as Ben-Kusiba, which means false prophet.

As the final insult, he renamed Judaea to Syria Palaestina, after the Judaeans’ ancient, now-extinct enemies, the Philistines. This is one silly reason that Jewish Zionists find the geographical term Palestine so infuriating and illegitimate. Do Zionists really get livid about events 1,870 years ago? Zionists do.

It is interesting that hysterical, racist Jewish Zionist promoters of settler-colonialism in Palestine may be entirely wrong about the name Palestine coming from the Roman renaming of Jerusalem as Syria Palaestina, even if ultimately the dispute is just more Zionist verbal subterfuge and sophistry.

For instance, in the 1100’s BC, Egyptians refer to the inhabitants of Palestine as “Peleset” or “sea-people” because around this time, there was a lot of settlement going on in Palestine via Mediterranean seafaring trade merchants. The Akkadian language from the same period refers to the Southern Syrian region as Palashtu.

In fact, most Egyptian and Akkadian references to the region, even during the Judaean period, refer to it as Peleset (Egyptian also refers to it as Deyen, probably a reference to Danaos of myth) or Palashtu, and less commonly as Israel.

Judaeans only started showing up in Palestine en masse around 900 BC. But according to crazy Zionist ethnonationalist volkisch liars, only the Jews have always been there! Go figure!

Following Hadrian’s order, Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina, turned into a Roman pagan city, and Judaeans were forbidden from entering the city. Most modern Jews regard the uprising as a horrible tragedy, and certainly many Judaeans lost their lives.

But at the time, Bar Kokhba was widely regarded as a religious fanatic akin to the way many of us see Osama bin Laden or Pat Robertson, even by many of his own people. As you can see in the text, most Jews outside of Judaea were not much interested in the rebellion, which they tended to view as fanatical and not in their interests.

This text shows another side to the Bar Kokhba rebellion, cleansed of its Zionist primordialist whitewashing, exemplified by Jabotinsky’s proto-fascist Betar above and David Ben-Gurion (the father of Israel) taking his name from one of Bar Kokhba’s generals.

This text comes to me via a friend who got it from a mailing list he is on. He reports that a “cultured Arab” typed the text below out from the novel and sent it to the list. We thank this Arab, whoever he may be, for this bit of manna from heaven.

Now – On to the Romans and the Israelites!

Memoirs of Hadrian

By Marguerite Yourcenar

Translated from the French, New York,1954-1963

Excerpts from pages 233-249 for the years 132-135 AD:

…Jewish affairs were going from bad to worse. The work of construction was continuing in Jerusalem, in spite of the violent opposition of Zealot groups.

[RL: The construction referred to is Hadrian’s rebuilding Jerusalem as Aelina Capitolina, a Roman pagan city with a Roman pagan temple built in place of the destroyed Judaean temple. The violent opposition described is that of Judaeans who regarded the construction as a sin.]

A certain number of errors has been committed, not irreparable in themselves but immediately seized upon by fomenters of trouble for their own advantage.

The Tenth Legion Fretensis has a wild boar for its emblem; when its standard was placed at the city gates, as is the custom, the populace, unused to painted or sculptured images (deprived as they have been for centuries by superstition highly unfavorable to the progress of the arts),

[RL: Note that Hadrian regarded the Judaeans as uncivilized, backwards, fanatical barbarians, a view shared by many Romans.]

…mistook that symbol for a swine, the meat of which is forbidden them, and read into that insignificant affair an affront to the customs of Israel.

The festivals of the Jewish New Year, celebrated with a din of trumpets and ram’s horns, give rise every year to brawling and bloodshed; our authorities accordingly forbade the public reading of a certain legendary account devoted to the exploits of a Jewish heroine (Easther) who was said to have become, under an assumed name, the concubine of a king…

…of Persia (Iran), and to have instigated a savage massacre of the enemies of her despised and persecuted race. The rabbis managed to read at night what the governor Tineus Rufus forbade them to read by day; that barbarous story, wherein Persians and Jews rivaled each other in atrocities, roused the nationalistic fervor of the Zealots to frenzy (a feast of Purim).

[RL: Note the Roman view of Purim as a barbaric spectacle of bloodthirsty revenge, a view that, unfortunately, I share. Are the Jews to celebrate this blood-soaked festival, which promotes the notion that Jews and non-Jews are locked in eternal conflict until the end of time, forever? If so, what are the chances of reconciliation between Jews and non-Jews? Zero?]

Finally, this same Tineus Rufus, a man of good judgment in other respects and not uninterested in Israel’s traditions and fables, decided to extend to the Jewish practice of circumcision the same severe penalties of the law which I had recently promulgated against castration (and which was aimed especially at cruelties perpetrated upon young slaves for the sake of exorbitant gain or debauch).

[RL: Note that the Romans put circumcision on a par with castration! I certainly do not agree, being circumcised myself. I regard anti-circumcision activists as ill-advised kooks, and the whole movement has a wide streak of anti-Semitism running through it.

If you are interested in the subject, just search Google and discover all sorts of web pages devoted to the “horrors of circumcision”.]

He hoped thus to obliterate one of the marks whereby Israel claims to distinguish itself from the rest of human kind.

I took the less notice of the danger of that measure, when I received word of it, in that many wealthy and enlightened Jews whom one meets in Alexandria (Egypt) and in Rome have ceased to submit their children to a practice which makes them ridiculous in the public baths and gymnasiums and they even arrange to conceal the evidence on themselves.

I was unaware of the extent to which these banker collectors of myrrhine vases differed from the true Israel. As I said, nothing in all that was beyond repair, but the hatred, the mutual contempt, and the rancor were so.

In principle, Judaism has its place among the religions of the empire; in practice, Israel has refused for centuries to be one people among many others, with one god among the gods.

The most primitive Dacians (Bulgarians) know that their Zalmoxis is called Jupiter in Rome; the Phoenician Baal of Mount Casius has been readily identified with the Father who holds Victory in his hands, and whom Wisdom is born; the Egyptians, though so proud of their myths some thousands of years old, are willing to see in Osiris a Bacchus with funeral attributes; harsh Mithra admits himself brother of Apollo.

No people but Israel has the arrogance to confine truth wholly within the narrow limits of a single conception of divine, thereby insulting the manifold nature of Deity, who contains all; no other god has inspired his worshipers with disdain and hatred for those who pray at different altars.

[RL: Here Hadrian hints at an age-old clue to the riddle of anti-Semitism – the chauvinism of the Jews. How did the Jews persevere as a minority for 2000 years amidst frequent oppression? It’s the racism, stupid!

How about by preaching racist hatred against all non-Jews, banning most contact with Gentiles other than for business, and even building ghettos for themselves to keep their people from mingling with Gentiles?

How about by saying prayers throughout the day, every day, cursing the Gentiles in every way and wishing for their destruction, and instituting vicious penalties for Jewish women who had sex with Gentile men (like having their noses chopped off)?

Note that as late as 1800, any observant European Jew would refuse to eat or even have tea with any Gentile as a matter of custom. While this sort of behavior is a smart ethnocentric way of ensuring continuity of your race as a minority, it didn’t exactly help the Jews to win friends and influence people, and to the extent it yet exists, it still doesn’t.

Jewish separation and chauvinism is and was one of the major contributors to anti-Semitism, despite dishonest denials by Jewish scholars who specialize in and propagandize the mystification of anti-Semitism.]

I was only the more anxious to make Jerusalem a city like others, where several races and several beliefs could live in peace; but I was wrong to forget that in any combat between fanaticism and common sense the latter has rarely the upper hand.

[RL: Note here that Hadrian comes across as some sort of a Second Century universalist and multiculturalist!]

The clergy of the ancient city were scandalized by the opening of schools where Greek literature was taught; the rabbi Joshua, a pleasant, learned man with whom I had frequently conversed in Athens…

…but who was trying to excuse himself to his people for his foreign culture and his relations with us, now ordered his disciples not to take up such profane studies unless they could find an hour which was neither day or night…

[RL: Note again the ferocious condemnation by the Judaeans of those Judaeans who had extensive contact with Gentiles and the refusal of the Judaeans to assimilate to larger society in the tiniest way by studying Greek, which they regarded as a sin.]

…since Jewish law must be studied night and day. Ismael, an important member of the Sanhedrin, who supposedly adhered to the side of Rome, let his nephew Ben-Dama die rather than accept the services the Greek surgeon sent to him by Tineus Rufus.

[RL: Wow! Talk about fanaticism! No wonder the Romans were appalled by the Judaeans. The guy let his Judaean son die rather than have a “contaminated” and “unclean” Gentile doctor profane him by operating on his body!]

While here in Tibur means were still being sought to conciliate differences without appearing to yield to demands of fanatics, affairs in the East took a turn for the worse; a Zealot revolt triumphed in Jerusalem. An adventurer born of the very dregs of the people, a fellow named Simon who entitled himself Bar-Kokhba, Son of the Star, played the part of firebrand or incendiary mirror in that revolt.

I could judge this Simon only by hearsay; I have seen him but once face-to-face, the day a centurion brought me his severed head. Yet I am disposed to grant him that degree of genius which must always be present in one who rises so fast and so high in human affairs; such ascendancy is not gained without at least some crude skill.

The Jews of the moderate party were the first to accuse this supposed Son of the Star of deceit and imposture; I believe rather that this untrained mind was of the type which was taken in by its own lies, and that guile in his case went hand with fanaticism.

He paraded as the hero whom the Jewish people had awaited for centuries in order to gratify their ambitions and their hate; this demagogue proclaimed himself Messiah and King of Israel.

The aged Akiba, in a foolish state of exaltation, led the adventurer through the streets of Jerusalem, holding his horse by the bridle; the high priest Eleazar rededicated the temple, said to be defiled from the time that uncircumcised visitors had crossed its threshold.

[RL: Note again the Judaean association of Gentiles with uncleanness, contamination and profaneness. Gypsies also have this view of non-Gypsies, and similarly, they have also played the role of European minority from the East locked into endless conflict with non-Gypsies, as the European Jews from the East were locked into endless conflict with Gentiles].

Stacks of arms hidden underground for nearly twenty years were distributed to the rebels by agents of the Son of the Star; they also had recourse to weapons formerly rejected for our ordnance as defective (and purposely constructed thus by Jewish workers in our arsenals over a period of years).

Zealot groups attacked isolated Roman garrisons and massacred our soldiers with refinements of cruelty that recalled the worst memories of the Jewish revolt under Trajan; Jerusalem finally fell wholly into the hands of the insurgents, and the new quarters of Aelia Capitolina were set burning like a torch.

The first detachments of the Twenty-Second Legion Deiotariana, sent from Egypt with utmost speed under the command of the legate of Syria, Publius Marcellus, were routed by bands ten times their number. The revolt had become war, and war to the bitter end.

Two legions, the Twelfth Fulminata and the Sixth Ferrata, came immediately to reinforce the troops already stationed in Judea; some months later, Julius Severus took charge of the military operations. He had formerly pacified the mountainous regions of Northern Britain…

[RL: This is a reference to the last holdouts of the Celtic Empire, (in this case, Scotland) which once stretched across Europe from one end to the other, already at this time largely destroyed and scattered by Roman conquest.

The most recalcitrant of the Celts were in the far western edges of Europe, in the least habitable and most difficult-to-pacify areas, where to this day, the last holdouts of the Celtic languages Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Breton, and Welsh fight for survival and the Cornish and Manx languages rise from the dead.]

…and brought with him some small contingents of British auxiliaries accustomed to fighting on difficult terrain.

Our heavily equipped troops and our officers trained to the square or the phalanx formation of pitched battles were hard put to it to adapt themselves to that war of skirmishes and surprise attacks which, even in open country, retained the techniques of street fighting.

Simon, a great man in his way, had divided his followers into hundreds of squadrons posted on mountain ridges or placed in ambush in caverns and abandoned quarries, or even hidden in houses of the teeming suburbs of the cities. Severus was quick to grasp that such an elusive enemy could be exterminated, but not conquered; he resigned himself to a war of attrition.

The peasants, fired by Simon’s enthusiasm, or terrorized by him, made common cause with the Zealots from the start; each rock became a bastion, each vineyard a trench; each tiny farm had to be starved out, or taken by assault. Jerusalem was not recaptured until the third year, when last efforts to negotiate proved futile; what little of the Jewish city had been spared by the destruction under Titus was now wiped out.

Severus closed his eyes for a long time, voluntarily, to the flagrant complicity of the other large cities (which) now become the last fortresses of the enemy; they were later attacked and reconquered in their turn, street by street and ruin by ruin. In those times of trial my place was with the army, and in Judea….

In the spring of the third year of campaign the army laid siege to the citadel of Bethar, an eagle’s nest where Simon and his partisans held out for nearly a year against the slow tortures of hunger, thirst, and despair, and where the Son of the Star saw his followers perish one by one but still would not surrender.

Our army suffered almost as much as the rebels, for the latter, on retiring, had burned the forests, laid waste the fields, slaughtered the cattle, and polluted the wells by throwing our dead therein; these methods from savage times were hideous in a land naturally arid and already consumed to the bone by centuries of folly and fury.

The summer was hot and unhealthy; fever and dysentery decimated our troops, but an admirable discipline continued to rule in those legions, forced to inaction and yet obliged to be constantly on the alert; though sick and harassed, they were sustained by a kind of silent rage in which I, too, began to share….

In my dispatches to the Senate I suppressed the formula that is regulation for the opening of official communications: THE EMPEROR AND THE ARMY ARE WELL. The emperor and the army were, on the contrary, dangerously weary.

[RL: The leaders of Roman military campaigns, by tradition, began their missives and return speeches to the Roman Senate with the phrase, “The army and I are well.” In this case, Hadrian left out this characteristic phrase. The fact that he did not say it is attested widely by historians, making it one of the most famous aspects of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.]

At night, after the last conversation with Severus, the last audience with fugitives from the enemy side, the last courier from Rome, the last message from Publius Marcellius or from Rufus, whose receptive tasks were to wipe up outside Jerusalem and to reorganize Gaza, Euphorion would measure my bath water sparingly into a tub of tarred canvas; I would lie down on my bed and try to think.

There is no denying it; that war in Judaea was one of my defeats. The crimes of Simon and the madness of Akiba were not of my making; but I reproached myself for having been blind in Jerusalem, heedless in Alexandria, impatient in Rome.

[RL: Hadrian traveled widely.]

I had not known how to find words that would have prevented, or at least retarded, this outburst of fury in a nation; I had not known in time how to be either supple enough or sufficiently firm.

Surely we had no reason to be unduly disturbed, and still less need to despair, the blunder and the reversal had occurred only in our relations with Israel; everywhere else at this critical hour we were reaping the reward of sixteen years of generosity in the Orient.

Simon had supposed that he could count on a revolt in the Arab world similar to the uprising that had darkened the last years of Trajan’s reign; even more, he had ventured to bank on Parthian (Persian) aid.

He was mistaken, and that error in calculation was causing him slow death in the besieged citadel of Bethar: the Arab tribes were drawing apart from the Jewish communities; the Parthians remained faithful to the treaties.

The synagogues of the great Syrian cities proved undecided or lukewarm, the most ardent among them contenting themselves with sending money in secret to the Zealots; the Jewish population in Alexandria, though naturally so turbulent, remained calm; the abscess in Jewish affairs remained local, confined within the arid region which extends from Jordan to the sea; this ailing finger could safely be cauterized, or amputated.

And nevertheless, in a sense, the evil days which had immediately preceded my reign seemed to begin over again….The evening courier had just informed me that we had reestablished ourselves on the heap of tumbled stones which I called Aelia Capitolina and which the Jews still called Jerusalem; we had burned the Ascalon, and had been forced to mass executions of rebels in Gaza.

[RL: The Ascalon was the Judaeans’ sacred scroll.]

If sixteen years of rule by a prince so pacifically inclined were to culminate in the Palestine campaign, then the chances for peace in the world looked dim ahead. I raised myself on my elbow, uneasy on the narrow camp bed.

To be sure, there were some Jews who had escaped the Zealot contagion: even in Jerusalem the Pharisees spat on the ground before Akiba, treating that fanatic like an old fool who threw to the wind the solid advantages of the Roman peace, and shouting to him that grass would grow from his mouth before Israel’s victory would be seen on this earth.

But I preferred even false prophets to those lovers of order at all cost who, though despising us, counted on us to protect them from Simon’s demands upon their gold (placed for safety with Syrian bankers), and upon their farms in Galilee.

I thought of the deserters from his camp who, a few hours back, had been sitting in my tent, humble, conciliatory, servile, but always managing to turn their back to the image of my Genius.

Our best agent, Elias Ben-Abayad, who played the role of informer and spy for Rome, was justly despised by both camps; he was nevertheless the most intelligent man in the group, a liberal mind but a man sick at heart, torn between love for his people and his liking for us and for our culture; he too, however, thought essentially only of Israel.

Joshua Ben-Kisma, who preached appeasement, was but more timid, or more hypocritical (than) Akiba. Even in the rabbi Joshua, who had long been my counselor in Jewish affairs, I had felt irreconcilable differences under that compliance and desire to please, a point where two opposite kinds of thinking meet only to engage in combat.

[RL: We see here the ancient complaint against the Jews of “dual loyalty”, which obviously is and was often based on verifiable fact (much more so in the past than today).

The Jews have been ferociously ethnocentric for centuries, to the point of seeing non-Jews as agents of contagion and contamination, and even banning Jews from the tiniest non-business relations with Gentiles.

That this mindset would make most Jews (at least until around 1800 or so, and in some places and/or during certain times afterwards) more loyal to the tribe than to whatever despised state they were minority residents in at the time seems as clear as air.]

Our territories extended over hundreds of leagues and thousands of stadia beyond that dry, hilly horizon, but the rock of Bethar was our frontier; we could level to dust the massive walls of that citadel where Simon in his frenzy was consummating his suicide, but we could not prevent that race from answering us…

I raised my head and moved slightly in order to limber myself. From the top of Simon’s citadel, vague gleams reddened the sky, unexplained manifestations of the nocturnal life of the enemy. The wind was blowing from Egypt; a whirl of dust passed like a specter; the flattened rims of the hills reminded me of the Arabic range of moonlight.

I went slowly back, drawing a fold of my cloak over my mouth, provoked with myself for having devoted to hollow meditations upon the future a night which I could have employed to prepare the work of the next day, or to sleep.

The collapse of Rome, if it were to come about, will concern my successors; in that eight hundred and forty-seventh year of the Roman era my task consisted of stifling the revolt in Judea and bringing back from the Orient, without too great loss, an ailing army. In crossing the (camp’s) esplanade I slipped at times on the blood of some rebels executed the evening before.

I lay down on my bed without undressing, to be awakened two hours later by the trumpets at dawn.

End of the excerpt.

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“Europe’s Crisis Spawns Calls for a Breakup—of Spain,” by Matt Moffett

Very interesting article! I support this secessionist movement 100%! It’s clear that Catalans really are a nation in need of national liberation. I think that Spain could still do quite well if they let Catalonia go. The Catalans have never been happy living in Spain, and nationalist sentiment is very high. It’s a typical subject of animated dinner table conversations at the family table – that’s how normal and heated politics is in this part of the world.

Catalan is a separate language from Spanish, and Spanish speakers can’t exactly understand Catalan speakers. I know I have a hard time reading Catalan myself. Catalan looks and sounds sort of like a mixture between Spanish and French. It is close to the Occitan language of which Provencal is a part.

Language politics is a big deal here. Valencians, who only speak a dialect of Catalan and not a separate language, have formed a ridiculous movement that says Valencian is a separate language from Catalan. It’s as if the British decided that British English and American English are two separate languages. However, the use of Valencian as a tongue is declining.

Catalan is most spoken in the north around Barcelona. It’s in pretty bad shape in France. It’s also spoken in the Balearic Islands, where it’s not in particularly good shape either. There is a tiny community of Catalan speakers on Sardinia.

There are also many Spanish speakers in Catalonia who do not speak Catalan. Lately, Catalan nationalists have taken the reigns demanding the Catalan be the language of instruction in schools. They advocate having no schools where Spanish is the language of instruction. In addition, all building signs must be in Catalan also, not only in Spanish. But Catalan signs need not carry a Spanish translation.

So Spanish speakers feel that they are being discriminated against, and they are angry.

If Catalonia got its independence, the new government would probably make Catalan the official language.

As you can see, Catalans feel that they don’t get their money’s worth out of the taxes they pay. They pay more than their fair share of taxes and don’t get back much in return. To them it’s a ripoff. With the horrific crash of the Spanish capitalist economy (30% unemployment), a lot if Catalans simply want out.

However, the Spanish state is horrified by this since Catalonia is a powerful industrial engine for the state of Spain. In addition, Spanish Francoist fascists never really went away, and to some extent, this mindset continues on at the upper levels of Spanish politics. The Francoist elements are so insane and awful that they would probably try to prevent Catalan separatism by force.

To the north, independentists have won election the Basque Country too. I have long supported their movement, and I even support the armed ETA guerrillas. It would also be difficult to split off the Basque Country as it is also an economic engine.

There is a similar movement in Galicia in the far northwest near Portugal, but it’s far less popular.

There is another movement in Belgium which is discussed in the article whereby Dutch speaking Flanders wants to secede from French speaking Wallonia.

This article also shows how asinine HBD theory is. Catalans have a reputation for being hard working and more productive than most of the rest of Spain, who the Catalans see as a bunch of layabouts. Yet the people of Catalonia and those of the rest of Spain are identical genetically. The differences are merely cultural. A similar dynamic is at play in Belgium, where the industrious Flemish are the same genetically as the purported layabout Walloons.

According to HBD idiots, every time you have harder working people and layabouts in the same country, it’s always a racial thing. Usually the busy folks are the Whites or the often more Northern type (who tend to be more White) while the lackadaisical parasites are the (often more southern), “niggerized” or “Indianized” folks.

We see this most typically in Italy (White Padanian “Celts” versus Sicilian-niggers), but you see it in other places too. Even the fight in the EU now over the north (read Whiter folks) supporting the unproductive welfare cases in the South (read: niggerized Whites, mongrels, off-Whites or non-Whites) boils down to this kind of a sick racist dynamic.

There may even be something similar going on in India with the Indian bread basket of Punjabi “white folks” complaining about having to support the more Australoid “Indian niggers” in the south.

There are some progressive people on here who are enamored of some aspects of this HBD crap, and I really urge you to be careful with these ugly racist arguments.

Europe’s Crisis Spawns Calls for a Breakup—of Spain

By Matt Moffett

Many people in Catalonia, a province known as “the factory of Spain,” feel that the rest of the country has become an economic millstone. They’re pushing for an independent Catalonia. WSJ’s Matt Moffett reports from Barcelona.

BARCELONA, Spain—This vibrant northern region of Catalonia has long been known as the “factory of Spain” for generating wealth that helped sustain the entire nation. Now Catalonia, beaten down by years of recession, has become the battleground in what threatens to become an economic civil war.

Protesters in Catalonia last month marched for independence in Barcelona.

In protests large and small, hundreds of thousands of Catalans are embracing a stark proposition: Only by breaking ties with Spain and becoming an independent country can Catalonia free itself from economic malaise.

Catalans go to the polls Nov. 25 for a regional parliamentary election, and polls show pro-independence parties in front.

“Madrid has been draining us dry for too long,” says Josep Casadella, a corporate human-resources administrator. He became an Internet sensation not long ago after posting a video of himself refusing to pay the fare at a toll booth and complaining that Spain should build free roads for all the taxes it collects.

The region’s president, Artur Mas, has called the marriage between Catalonia and Spain’s capital one of “mutual fatigue.” He has pledged to place an independence referendum before voters.

Appalled at the separatist sentiment, a military veterans’ association said that politicians pushing for Catalonian independence should be tried for “high treason.” In recent days, pro-Spanish- unity protesters held a smaller demonstration of their own. Marchers held a sign reading: “Help, Europe. Nacionalists are crazy.”

Spain’s internal struggle echoes a larger debate convulsing the euro zone itself, as wealthier northern nations complain about supporting poorer southern ones. But now, as Europe enters its fifth year of crisis, the economic strains are deepening the fractures within some nations.

In Spain and Belgium, and to a degree Italy, local and national governments are battling over how to allocate scarce resources. Even within Germany, which is economically stronger and politically stable, richer areas are grumbling about the cost of subsidizing the poorer areas.

Catalonia’s president, Artur Mas, called the marriage between his region and the Spanish capital one of “mutual fatigue” in a speech, likening it to the way “northern and southern Europe have grown weary of one another.”

Cultural and linguistic variances within many EU countries only make matters worse. Catalonia itself is a prime example: Its own language is widely spoken and instilled in younger generations as the main language in most elementary schools.

Throughout the continent “there are some very long-standing strains and tensions of unequal regional economic development that are now being brought to the surface,” says Adrian Smith, editor of the journal European Urban and Regional Studies.

Catalonia’s turmoil represents a major threat to European leaders’ hope of containing Europe’s crisis by stabilizing Spain, which is home to the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy but is also vying with Greece for the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone, around 25%. Policy makers had hoped that EU aid would keep Spain afloat while investors digest losses in Greece, which is even more troubled.

Spain’s financial markets are quivering at the mere talk of secession of Catalonia, which produces almost 19% of Spain’s economic output and 21% of its taxes. Investors fear the revolt will undermine Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s plan to get a grip on spending, particularly in the 17 regional governments that have been a big source of Spain’s deficit.

If pro-independence parties triumph at the ballot box in next month’s regional election, Catalonia’s leader, Mr. Mas, will face pressure to make good on a vow to place an independence referendum before voters. National authorities say that would be illegal.

Mr. Mas studiously avoids the word “independence” to define his goal. Some analysts believe he would satisfied simply with a more favorable revenue-sharing deal. Meanwhile, impelled by swelling support for secession, he has become bolder, asserting publicly several times that “Catalans demand the instruments of State.”

“We are convinced that an independent Catalonia is perfectly viable economically, ” says Albert Carreras, Catalonia’s finance secretary. “Rather, we question whether Spain is viable if Catalonia were independent. ”

Further muddying the Spanish political picture, pro-independence groups in Basque Country—another region where separatist sentiment is strong—won control of parliament there in elections Oct. 21.

Outside of Spain, Belgium faces the biggest separatist strain. There, a vibrant separatist movement in the wealthier, Dutch-speaking Flanders wants to cut ties with poorer, French-speaking Wallonia. For the moment, a political impasse has been avoided by formation of a coalition government that excludes the separatist N-VA party, even though it won the most votes.

Still, local elections this month only heightened tensions. The N-VA’s leader, Bart de Wever, won the mayoral race in Antwerp, the country’s second-largest city, and used his acceptance speech to call for more independence. “Your government does not have the support of Flanders,” he told Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who hails from Wallonia.

In Italy, as in Spain, the regional spats are partly rooted in pre-crisis deals that gave regional governments more spending authority, but without more responsibility to raise revenue, says Alberto Alesina, a Harvard University economist. “All that people are talking about are enormous scandals and wasting of money at the regional level,” says Mr. Alesina. In Italy, he says, the south is the bigger culprit but says the north is hardly blameless.

When the southern island of Sicily recently needed a €400 million transfer, or about $520 million, from the central government to continue paying its bills, Northern Italians grumbled about claims of payroll-padding there. They cited as an example the island’s 27,000-strong corps of forest rangers hired during the fire season. Sicily is roughly the size of Massachusetts.

In Spain, financial woes are putting the union on the rocks. In August, Catalonia said it would seek a €5 billion bailout from the national government to make debt payments. Catalan officials say they would have no need for budget-cutting or bailouts if the central government were distributing tax revenue fairly. Some 43 cents of every euro Catalonia pays in taxes doesn’t come home, according to data compiled by the Catalonia government.

Underlying the grievances is Catalans’ image of themselves as a hardworking, thrifty people, “the Germans or Lutherans of Spain,” says sociologist Enrique Gil Calvo, who was born in a neighboring northern region. Residents of Catalonia, about three-quarters of whom speak Catalan, are openly scornful of what they consider to be the indolence of southern Spaniards.

People from Madrid, for their part, poke fun at what they perceive to be Catalans’ workaholic, stingy nature. The discovery of copper wire, one joke goes, came about as a result of two Catalans engaging in a tug of war over a penny.

The debate is no laughing matter to Catalan independentistas, as the secession supporters are known. They view themselves as patriots “just like George Washington,” says Jaume Vallcorba, a businessman who heads a pro-independence group, Fundacio Catalunya Estat.

As an independent nation, Catalonia would have GDP per capita of €30,500, which would rank it seventh in the European Union, just behind Denmark and ahead of Germany, Mr. Vallcorba’s group says in its presentation. He adds that Catalonia’s exports to the rest of the world recently surpassed its sales to the rest of Spain.

Spain’s prime minister, Mr. Rajoy, termed the Catalan independence push “madness of colossal proportions” in a speech this month.

In a briefing, a senior official in Madrid said that Catalans conveniently overlook help they get from the national government, such as the billions of euros being used to bail out a locally run savings bank.

Even some Catalans think the independentistas “are painting a picture that is prettier than the reality would be,” says José María Gay de Liébana, an economist at the University of Barcelona who can trace his Catalan lineage to the Middle Ages. How, he asks, would Catalonia’s already indebted and deficit-ridden government shoulder the added economic burden of opening embassies all over the world, creating its own police and customs agencies, and possibly an army?

Mr. Gay de Liébana adds that Catalonia would have to assume a reasonable share of Spain’s national debt, perhaps as much as €200 billion. And he wonders whether the breakaway nation would ever be accepted into the EU, particularly in the face of certain opposition from Spain. “People would say we abandoned the ship when things got tough, instead of rowing together,” he says.

As Spain’s economy sinks further into recession, however, more people seem willing to take the plunge to independence. “There are many people who didn’t favor independence a couple of years ago, who now view it as our only hope,” says Laia Serrano, an economist who last year formed a nonprofit group, BarcelonActua, to help the growing number of recession victims.

On a recent Thursday night, she had set up a soup kitchen on a downtown Barcelona street where about 60 people lined up for meal boxes. One 78-year-old retiree said the situation reminded him of waiting for ration tickets in the hard years after the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

“Everyone says that independence will mean more jobs, so we have to support it,” said another man, who said he was 35 years old and unemployed for four years.

Clashes with central authority are a recurring theme in Catalan history. In the 18th-century War of Spanish Succession, Spain’s Bourbon king, Philip V, crushed Catalan forces who had cast their lot with his Austrian rival. Later, during the Civil War, Catalonia was a stronghold of resistance to another strongman, Gen. Francisco Franco, who would harshly suppress Catalan culture during his four-decade dictatorship.

Perhaps because Catalonia couldn’t count on much support from central authorities, an aggressive spirit of entrepreneurship flourished. “Catalonia was globalized before anyone knew what that meant,” says Salvador Cardús i Ros, a political writer. Even in the 19th century, he notes, a distinctively Catalan product, the tangy sausage butifarra, was marketed abroad and manufactured with machinery from Germany, meat from Northern Europe and spices from Asia.

Today Barcelona is home to international heavyweights such as Mango MNG Holding SL, the women’s fashion retailer, and Grupo Planeta, the dominant publisher in Spain and Latin America.

Catalonia is a big tax contributor to the central government. But officials in Barcelona complain the money isn’t redistributed fairly. The annual deficit between what Catalonia pays in taxes and what it gets back from Madrid represents about 8% of Catalonia’s total output, roughly €16 billion, Catalonian officials calculate.

Catalans complain that, as a consequence of underinvestment, their local roads and infrastructure is inferior to that in poorer parts of Spain. “We have to choose between using public roads that are dangerous, or toll roads that are expensive,” says Manel Xifra, president of Comexi, a packaging-machinery company with €100 million in revenue.

In Catalonia, toll roads make up almost three times the proportion of the regional highway system as they do in the region of Madrid—a smaller geographical area, but one that is roughly similar in GDP and population.

He also complains that national officials have dallied for years in making a logistically important investment to connect Barcelona’s port to its train line. And that Barcelona’s airport provides too few international flights, forcing transfers when he travels for business.

Some Catalan executives, though, are worried about the impact of the independentistas on business. Jose Manuel Lara, the chief of Grupo Planeta, recently told a radio interviewer that much of the company’s operations would need to be transferred out of Catalonia if it seceded, because it wouldn’t make sense for a Spanish language publisher to be based in a region where Catalan was the official language.

To cover its expenses, Catalonia’s government has ratcheted up the top marginal income-tax rate to 56%. That is the highest in Spain, and only a hair below Sweden, at 56.6%.

“You can’t tolerate a Swedish level of taxes and African level highways,” says Xavier Sala-i-Martín, a Catalan economist who teaches at Columbia University and who says he is “pro choice,” supporting the Catalans’ effort to determine their future democratically.

Catalonia’s frustrations surged to the forefront during a Sept. 11 independence rally that drew more than one million demonstrators. Rosa Maria Sastre, an 81-year-old retiree, was too infirm to join the independentistas, so her granddaughter marched carrying a poster-size photograph of Mrs. Sastre. “We’d been waiting a long time to send a message,” Mrs. Sastre says.

On both sides, ardor is rising. The mayor of the Catalan city of Vic recently draped the red-and-yellow striped Catalan banner on the balcony of the historic municipal hall there. A few nights later, vandals climbed up and burned the flag to cinders.

—Frances Robinson and David Román contributed to this article.

Write to Matt Moffett at matthew.moffett@ wsj.com

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“Jihad Sheilas”

Interesting video originally appeared on Australian TV under the name Jihad Sheilas. It profiles two female Australian converts to Wahhabi Islam who got deep into the Al Qaeda like Islamist scene. Both women appear to have links to radical Islam and probably Al Qaeda and related groups.

The movie is also interesting for the accents. The announcer speaks something called General Australian which is something like Received Pronunciation or RP in the UK. The two women both speak a much broader accent that is more common among the general population, especially in the rural areas. I understood everything of what the narrator said, but I sometimes struggled to understand both of the women. The broad Australian English accent is pretty hard to understand!

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Iranians and Mediterraneans – A Close Relationship?

Here.

A man, apparently a Southern European, had his DNA tested at an online site. He noticed that several Iranians matched his DNA profile. He then noted that three of his Iranian friends had DNA that tested closest to Southern Europeans (Mediterraneans, or Meds), closer to them than even South Asians or Middle Easterners.

This is what I have always thought about Iranians. In addition, when I meet Iranians, I often say, “You folks are White, right?” They always very enthusiastically nod their heads. “Yes! We are White!” One even told me that Iranians were “a European people.” It’s true that all of these folks were ethnic Persians and not members of other ethnic groups in Iran.

But there is something so White about Persians and Iranians. To me they have always seemed like “Europeans outside of Europe.” Looking at their Indo-European language, there is something to that. The same wave that brought Persian to Iran also brought the IE languages and genes to Europe.

So in this view, Iranians will be closer to Greeks, Turks, Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese than to anyone else. If you look at Persians closely, you can’t help but see the resemblance.

It is time we welcome the Iranians and Persians into our great White family. They will be right at home with us.

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The Reality of Dialects in Italy

It’s often said that the dialects of Italy will be dead in 30 years. There is no way on Earth that that is true. On the other hand, the hard or pure dialects are dying, as they are all over Europe, in Sweden, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The hard dialects are often spoken only by the old now, and many old words have fallen out of use. The hard dialects often had a limited vocabulary restricted to whatever economic activity was typical of the area. A lot of the old dialects are now being written down in local dictionaries to preserve their heritage.

The dialects were of course killed by universal education, and this was a positive thing. All Italians should learn to speak some form of Standard Italian. In the old days when everyone spoke dialect, people had a hard time communicating with each other unless there was some form of regional koine that they could speak and all understand. It doesn’t make sense if you can only talk to people in a 20 mile or less radius.

A diglossia where hard dialects would exist alongside Standard Italian was never going to work. People are pretty much going to speak one or the other. As people learn Standard Italian, their local dialect will tend to become more Italianized. In other cases, the hard local dialect will tend to resemble more the local regional dialect.

For instance, in southern Campania, the region of Naples, in a part called Southern Cilento, there are still some Sicilianized dialects spoken, remnants from Sicilian immigrants who came in the 1500’s. These dialects are now dying, and the speech of the young tends to resemble more the Neapolitan Cilento speech of the surrounding area more.

In other cases, koines have developed.

There is a regional koine in Piedmont that everyone understands. There is a similar koine in West and East Lombard, the Western one based on the speech of Ticino. There is a Standard Sicilian, spoken by everyone and understood by all, and then there are regional dialects, which, if spoken in hard form, may not be intelligible with surrounding regions. A koine has also developed in Abruzze around Pesaro. There is “TV Venetian,” the Venetian used in regional TV, a homogenized form that has speakers of local dialects worried it is going to take them out.

Even where hard dialects still exist, the younger people continue to speak the local dialect, except that it is now a lot more Italianized and regionalized. A lot of the old words are gone, but quite a few are still left. So the dialects are not necessarily dead or dying, instead they are just changing.

In the places where the dialects are the farthest gone such as Lazio and Tuscany, the regional dialects are turning into “accents” which can be understood by any Standard Italian speaker.

The situation in Tuscany is complicated. Although the hard dialects are definitely going out, even the hard dialects may be intelligible to Standard Italian speakers since Standard Italian itself was based on the dialect of Florence, a city in Tuscany.

Florence was chosen as the national dialect around 1800 when Italian leaders decided on a language for all of Italy. But the truth is that the language of Dante had always been an Italian koine extending far beyond its borders, just as the language of Paris had long been the de facto Standard French (and it still is as Parisien).

This is not to say that there are not dialects in Tuscany. Neapolitan speakers say they hear old men from the Florence region on TV and the dialect is so hard that they want subtitles. And there is the issue of which Florentine was chosen as Standard Italian. A commenter said that the language that was chosen was the language of Dante, sort of a dialect frozen in time in the 1400’s. In that case, regional Tuscan could well have moved far beyond that.

Even in areas where dialects are said to be badly gone such as Liguria, local accents still exist. It is said that everyone in Genoa speaks with a pretty hard Ligurian accent. That is, it is Standard Italian spoken with a Genoese accent.

Many younger Italians are capable of speaking in what is called “close,” “strict” or “tight” dialect. This means the hard form of the dialect. Speaking in this hard dialect, they often say that outsiders have a hard time understanding them. They can also speak in a looser form that is more readily intelligible. People adjust their speech to interlocutors.

We seem to be seeing a resurgence of interest in dialects among young people. Even if they can’t  speak them, many understand them. Most young people grew up with mothers, fathers or certainly grandparents who spoke in this or that dialect, and they learned at least to understand it from them. In addition, in many parts of Italy, dialects are still going strong, and many young people at least understand the local dialect even if they do not speak it.

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Check Out Massese

This is a news broadcast in the dialect of Massa, part of the dual city of Carrara Massa in the far north of Tuscany. This is actually an Emilian dialect related to Modenese in the province of Modena in Emilia. Carrara Massa was part of a political and religious unit with Modena for a very long time, and it influenced their dialects.

All of the dialects in this part of the far north of Tuscany near the border of Liguria have undergone such influence. As such, the dialects of Carrara Massa have seen little influence from the Tuscan dialects in the region although Massa has undergone a lot more influence from Versiliese, spoken in the historical area of Versilia along the coast just to the south.The dialect of Carrara is much more pure and has almost zero Tuscan influence, but the dialects of Massa and Carrara are similar.

There are about four different dialects spoken in each Massa and Carrara. It is said in Carrara that the dialects change every 100 yards! This may be an exaggeration, but you get the picture. The old dialect of Carrara is now spoken only by the elderly and the new dialect spoken by younger people is heavily Italiainized.

There are beautiful beaches in both Massa and Carrara and the women are said to be very beautiful.

The region to the north of the border with Emilia and just into Liguria around Sarzana just across the border in Liguria are similar. The dialects to the north are referred to as Lunigiana and Gargafuna in the mountains. The Lunigiana dialect is probably understandable throughout this region and is spoken by about 300,000 people. Outside the region in the rest of Tuscany and Liguria and in Emilia, intelligibility is probably marginal, although intelligibility tests with Modenese have not yet been done.

This is a Gallo-Italic dialect spoken in Tuscany.

This broadcast in the pure dialect of Massese is probably hard to understand for speakers of Standard Italian who do not speak a Gallo-Italic language. To me, it’s sounds very strange and sounds nothing like Standard Italian. It almost sounds French to my ears.

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Check Out Torrese

Torrese is the Neapolitan dialect spoken on the Italian coast 10 miles southeast of Naples. This is a port city with a very unique dialect. The hardcore Torrese does not even appear to be completely intelligible in Torre del Greco 5 miles to the north or in Castellamare di Stabia 5 miles to the south.

The video above, apparently from Naples TV, is making the rounds with Italians on Youtube, mostly because no one seems to be able to understand what these women are saying. For sure, this is one wild, over the top dialect all right.

There are also a lot of comments about people who can’t even speak proper Italian, about low-class, slummy, scummy, uneducated people, and about the slums of Naples. It’s true that the Naples region has a lot of run-down housing, especially in suburbs. There is also a tremendous amount of corruption, and the Camorra, or the local Mafia, is simply everywhere. They have even heavily infiltrated the police. For a while there, trash was piling up all over Naples because no one wanted to collect the garbage.There is not a lot of random violent crime, but there is a lot of property crime. Be careful even parking your car on the streets.

The women in the video are apparently complaining about cockroaches in their building. They appear to be saying that they are as big as rats, which is dubious.

The “Southern Question” has long been a problem of Italian politics. It’s a question that is heavily tinged with the racism that Northern Italians feel towards Southern Italians. A frequent comment, along the lines of “Africa begins at the Pyrenees,” is, “Africa begins in Naples.” Northern Italians often say that Naples is part of Africa. Southerners are said to be criminal, rude, belligerent, hot-tempered, violent, corrupt, stupid, uneducated and poor. In addition, they can’t even speak proper Italian.

Drawing a line at where the South begins is difficult, but an argument can even be made that Abruzze is southern in culture. Where Rome fits is anyone’s guess. Perhaps a more proper division is North, Center and South Italy.

The Southern Question shows no sign of resolution in my lifetime.

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Check Out Romanesco

Romanesco is the Italian dialect or language of Rome and the surrounding area. This Youtube video took Italy by storm. It is called “Girls of Ostia Beach – Interview in Dialect.” The announcer interviews two teenage girls on the beach in Rome for about 1 1/2 minutes.

Their dialect was so strong that those who made the video had to put subtitles on it because many Italians couldn’t understand any of the dialogue otherwise. So you see, even the dialect of Rome is unintelligible in much of Italy.

This is interesting because Rome and its province of Latium and Tuscany are the two parts of Italy where the old dialects are the most far gone. Here they are heavily diluted and Italianized, reduced in many cases from full languages to mere dialects of Italian. But as you can see in this video, the hard dialect of Rome is still alive and well.

The video caused a storm all over Italy but especially in Rome. Many people, especially Romans, were outraged at the girls’ dialect, which they felt was coarse, rude, vulgar and low class. They compared it to the speech of the ghetto or to uneducated idiots. The truth is that this is just hardcore Romanesco dialect from the center of Rome, not from the suburbs or surrounding villages.

Many older Romans were outraged at what the video said about their beautiful Roman dialect. They longed for the “pure and elegant” Romanesco of 50 years ago, now kept alive by the elderly.

Many said that this was not Romanesco at all but instead was Romanaccio, a so-called rude street form of the “true and glorious” Romanesco. The truth is that what you hear in the video is the language of quite a few Roman youth today. And indeed it is quite a bit different from the hardcore Romanesco now spoken by the older folks.

Even if you can’t understand Italian, if you listen to the dialect and try to compare it to the subtitles, you can see that the speech bears little resemblance to the subtitled words.

I don’t speak Italian, but I kind of liked the sound of this dialect. Has kind of a wild sound to it. And the girls are pretty nice to look at.

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Check Out Siculo Gallo-Italic

These are fascinating Romance dialects spoken in Sicily. The are called the Gallo-Italic dialects of Sicily. Some of them are also found in other parts of Italy, mostly in the far south in Basilicata.

Gallo-Italic languages are spoken in far north of Italy and are so called because there is heavy French influence on these Italian varieties. They include Venetian, East and West Lombard, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Emilian and Romagnolo.

In the 1100’s and 1200’s, Sicily was ruled by Norman rulers from the north of France. They had conquered much of Italy, and were in control of parts of the north also. In order perhaps to consolidate their rule in Sicily, which they had just conquered, they sent some Norman soldiers to Sicily to help populate the region and set up Norman outposts there.

These were mostly soldiers from the southern Piedmont (Monferrate)  and Ligurian (Oltregiogo) regions of Italy and from the Provencal area in the south of France. There were also a few from the Lombard region and other parts of northern Italy. They went down there with their families and formed a number of settlements in Sicily and a few other places in Italy.

Over the next 800 years, their Gallo-Italic language came under heavy influence of varieties of Sicilian in Sicily, Basilicatan in Basilicata and other languages in other parts of Italy. Yet the heavy Gallo-Italic nature of their lects remains to this day and Sicilian speakers of surrounding villages find Gallo-Italic speakers impossible to understand.

The dialects have tended to die out somewhat in the past 100 years. Villagers were tired of speaking a language that could not be understood outside the village and increasingly shifted to the Sicilian language. A situation of bilingualism in Gallo-Italic and Sicilian developed. Over time, this became trilingualism as children learned Standard Italian in school. Gallo-Italic was used inside the village itself, and Sicilian was used for communication with outsiders.

Whether or not Gallo-Italic lects in different parts of Sicily can understand each other is not known, but they have all undergone independent paths of development over 800 years or so. The same is also an up in the air question about Basilicatan Gallo-Italic and Gallo-Italic settlements in other parts of the country. This is an interesting question in need of linguistic research.

In this 1 1/2 minute video, I am not sure if I understood a single word he said. The language he is speaking sounds like a mixture of Provencal Piedmontese with a heavy dose of Sicilian. Sicilian itself is so odd that a Sicilian speaker can barely be understood at all outside of Sicily. It has at least 250,000 words, 25% of which have no equivalent in Standard Italian. It underwent heavy French, Spanish and especially Greek and Arabic influences.

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Mutual Intelligiblility in the Romance Family (Reading)

Just a personal anecdote. I have been reading a lot of Italian lately (with the help of Google Translate). I already read Spanish fairly well. I have studied French, Portuguese and Italian, and I can read Portuguese and French to some extent, Portuguese better than French.

But I confess that I am quite lost with Italian. This is worse than French and worse than Portuguese. A couple weeks of wading through this stuff hasn’t made me understand it any better.

Portuguese and Galician are said to be so close that they are a single language. I don’t agree with that at all, but they are very close, much closer to Spanish and Portuguese. Intelligibility may be on the order of 80-90%.

Nevertheless, the other day I tried to read a journal article on Galician. It looked like it was written in Portuguese, and who would write in Galician anyway? I copied the whole thing into Google Translate and let it ride. I waded through the whole article, and I must say it was a disaster. I had a very hard time understanding many of the main points of the article.

Then I remembered that Translate works on Galician now, so I decided on an off chance that the guy may have written the piece in Galician for some nutty reason. I ran it through Translate using Galician as target. The article went through perfectly. You could understand the whole thing. It was then that I realized how far apart Portuguese and Galician really are.

You can try some other experiments.

Occitan is said to be nearly intelligible with Spanish or maybe even French, better if you know both. There’s no Google Translate for Occitan yet, but I had to deal with a lot of Occitan texts recently. I couldn’t make heads or tails of them despite by Romance reading background. So I tried using Translate to turn them into Spanish or French. French was a total wreck, and there was no point even bothering with that. Spanish was much better, but even that was a serious mess.

Now we come to the crux. Catalan and Occitan are said to be so close that they are nearly one language. Translate now works in Catalan. So I ran the Occitan texts through Translate using Catalan. The result was a serious mess, but you could at least understand some of what the Occitan texts were about. But no way on Earth were those the same languages.

People keep saying that if you can read Spanish, you can read Portuguese. It’s not true, but you can see why people say it. Try this. Take a Spanish text and run it through Translate using the Portuguese filter. Now take a Portuguese text and run it through Translate using the Spanish filter. See what a mess you end up with!

Despite the fact that I can read Spanish pretty well, I have tried to read texts in Aragonese, Asturian, Extremaduran, Leonese and Mirandese. These are so close that some even say that they are dialects of Spanish. But even if you read Spanish, you can’t really read any of those languages, and they are all separate languages, I assure you. Sure, you get some of it, but not enough, and it’s a very frustrating experience.

There are texts on the Net in something called Churro or Xurro. It’s a Valencian-Aragonese transitional dialect spoken around Teruel in Aragon in Spain. It also has a lot of Old Castillian and a ton of regular Castillian in it. Wikipedia will tell you it’s a Spanish dialect. Running it through both the Spanish and Catalan filters didn’t work and ended up with train wrecks. I doubt if Xurro is a dialect of either Catalan or Spanish. It’s probably a separate language.

There is another odd lect spoken in the same region called Chappurriau. It is spoken in Aguaviva in Teruel in the Franca Strip. The Catalans say these people speak Catalan, but the speakers say that their language is not Catalan. Intelligibility with Catalan is said to be good. So effectively this is a Catalan dialect.

I found some Chappurriau texts on the Net and ran them through Translate using Catalan as the output. The result was an unreadable disaster, and I couldn’t really figure out what they were saying. Then I tried the Spanish filter, and that was even worse. I am starting to think that maybe Chappurriau is a separate language as its speakers say and not a Catalan dialect after all.

I conclude that the ability to cross read across the Romance languages is much exaggerated.

Not only that, but many Romance microlanguages, transitional dialects and lects that are supposedly dialects of larger languages may actually be separate languages.

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Filed under Applied, Aragonese, Asturian, Catalan, Comparitive, Dialectology, French, Galician, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Classification, Language Families, Language Learning, Leonese, Linguistics, Occitan, Portuguese, Romance, Sociolinguistics, Spanish