Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Miscellany page #84
started in late September, 2021
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1. Sept. 29
Selene Salvi writes:

"Yesterday [Sat. Sept. 25] I went with some friends to search the area from Licola to Lago Patria. I'm looking for traces of an ancient sanctuary hidden in a "border" area where people from all over came together. It's a fascinating story. The name of the sanctuary was Hama ('together'). We walked about 20 km (12 miles). The area is very degraded. Truly a shame. I'm going back in a few days by car! There is still something to see... Selene Jones"

She really signed herself like that. No kidding. She asked where she could get the equipment you see in this image. If Hamae is there, they'd better hide. What? Oh, right. They're already hidden.  Well, wherever they are, they're in trouble.

2.  Sept. 30
                            The New Gleaner of Sapri
                                            or Return to Trivia

My original entry on the "Gleaner of Sapri" is here. It contains the history of the events, the poem, a translation, an image of the original sculpture, and later events. All that is well-known throughout Italy. Two years ago the town of Sapri commissioned another statue from  local sculptor, Emanuele Stifano. Ir's not meant to replace the original. They're not even in the same place .The original is seated on a rock, looking out to sea. The new one is in a public park.
It's good work, but it is, let's say, immodest. She is full-length and stunning. Voluptuous. It has caused a ruckus from those who think the work "sexualizes our patriotic poetry."   You be the judge. I have no opinion. Longfellow, who translated the original poem into English knew a lot. I'll ask him. I view it as a good sign of "returning to normal" that people are fussing about things like this again.

3. Oct.1

Renato Carosone (1920 – 2001) was one of the most popular Italian singers and songwriters of post-war Italy. Born in Naples, he was a musical child and studied piano and composition at the Naples Conservatory, graduating in 1937 when he was 17. He was drafted and sent Eritrea, then an Italian colony. The  exposure to African music, primarily the rhythms, influenced him greatly. Some of his music became know internationally. He and Domenico Modugno ("Volare") toured in the United States without singing in English. Carosone sang the repertoire of the  familiar "Neapolitan Song" (think "'o sole mio") as well as his own music. He wrote "Mambo Italiano", but by far his best known song in Italy and abroad was "Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano" because of Vittorio de Sica's 1960 film "La Baia di Napoli" (English title: It Started in Naples) with Clark Gable and Sophia Loren. The title of the song means "You try so hard to be an American". The song was and remains very popular such that it spawned a "tribute parody" updated to current events entitled "Tu Vuò Fà 'o Talibano". His post-war career was successful and included a concert in Carnegie Hall in New York City. His songs were sung by America singers such as the Andrews Sisters and Connie Francis. He retired but made a comeback with performances at the Sanremo Music Festival and on TV  until the late 1990s. Carosone died in 2001 at the age of 81 in Rome.

4. Oct.3
                                        Greek in Ancient Pompeii

In August, 2021, the director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, announced the discovery of a remarkably well-preserved skeleton during excavations of a tomb that shed light on the cultural life of the city before it was destroyed by the volcanic eruption in AD 79. A skull bearing tufts of white hair and part of an ear, as well as bones and fabric fragments, were found in the tomb in the necropolis of Porta Sarno, an area not yet open to the public in the east of Pompeii’s urban center. The discovery is unusual since most adults were cremated at the time. An inscription in the tomb suggests that its owner, a freed slave named Marcus Venerius Secundio, helped organize performances in Greek in Pompeii. It is the first confirmation that Greek, the language of culture in the Mediterranean, was used alongside Latin. “Performances in Greek are evidence of the lively and open cultural climate that characterized ancient Pompeii,” said the director, adding that Marcus Venerius clearly had been able to make a living after he was freed as a slave, given the “monumental” size of his  tomb. “Maybe not super rich, but he reached a considerable level of wealth."

5. Oct. 4
                                                Sail on, O Sheep of State! —or
                                            If you're a sheep, this is as good as it gets.

Please, is there nothing to lighten the despair? these tales of refugee woe and agony? Well, yes. The ones who are rescued and taken to Lampedusa are safe. No more beatings, torture, rape. Whatever their future, they're safe.
And maybe this.

From Lampedua - 02 October: 13 Tunisians, among whom were 2 women and 3 children, were spotted 20 miles (30 km) off the island by the Italian coast guard and escorted in. There was also a sheep on board their boat. What? Yes, a sheep just bleating to be rescued. The refugees are safe, but the sheep had to be quarantined. A veterinarian had to come down from Sicily and determine its condition. The first condition, of course, is that it's a sheep. No help for that. If it turns out to be a healthy animal, it is good to go. Go where? I don't know. Right now, it's trimming weeds at the Immigration Reception Center, but it'll sure have tales to tell of the great escape! the high seas! the rescue!  something to thrill the little lambs before they're all turned into chops and diplomas for semi-literate high-school seniors.
6.  Oct 5

                                                        The Comitato 3 Ottobre
The annual October 3 commemoration on Lampedusa has just finished. The participants have dispersed. A few live on the island, some were former refugees come back for the occasion, many were young people from various countries who wanted to be in this noble, endless fight for justice. The memorial is organized by the Comitato 3 Ottobre, by their self-description, "a non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness on issues of integration and acceptance through dialogue with citizens, students and institutions. On October 3, 2013, in a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa, 368 migrants lost their lives. 155 people survived including 41 minors. For this reason, we have chosen October 3 as a symbolic date, not only to commemorate the victims of that shipwreck but to remember the thousands of people who regularly die drowning in the Mediterranean or remain stranded at the eastern borders of Europe. On March 16, 2016, the Italian Senate gave final approval to establish the “Day of Remembrance and Reception,” to be celebrated on October 3 every year." Comitato 3 has adopted "Europe Starts in Lampedusa" as a slogan and uses this image (above) as an icon.

7.Oct 13
Napoli Jones and the Temple of Toads

Will someone please get Harrison Ford a rocking chair!? I see that he is running around down here, specifically Sicily, for the new Indiana Jones movie, which is about...zzzzzz....oh, sorry. I fell asleep. If you want to pre-see that, read this item about Karst caves in Southern Italy, including The Ear of Dionysius in Sicily.

I'm excited about out real-life intrepid archeologist/painter/scholar/etc, Selene (Jones) Salvi, who is on location somewhere (but she's not sure where) unraveling the mystery of the Hama Sanctuary. It is mentioned in the Capuan Tablet, written in Etruscan. She has an adventure going. As you see at the top of this page, "it is in the area from Licola to Lago Patria...hidden in a "border" area where people from all over came together... The name of the sanctuary was Hama)." She is now trying to figure out if the name Hama is Greek, Etruscan, or even Aramaic. If Greek it means "together"; if Etruscan, maybe the sacred vessel used for libations, amula, hence "amulet". Aramaic? The modern descendant of Aramaic is called Syriac and in Syria there is indeed a city, Hama, that means "fortress".  This is going to be tricky ...dum-de-dum... very tricky.

But wait. As (ahem) a modest scholar of linguistics, I know something about syllables. Many languages have syllables. What if it's something else entirely. I put that idea to Prof. Wendy Steinberg, a native speaker of Chinese at Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. I said, "two syllables HA and MAyou guys have syllables, right? How about it?" She backed away and gasped! "NO! NO! STOP HER! That's Hama 蛤蟆or 蝦 蟆, both mean "toad"! Toads are detested in Chinese culture, laihama 癩蛤蟆 ‘toad covered in sores' is used to call a person ugly.  PLEASE STOP HER! MY GOD, IF SHE GOES IN THERE...!"

(to be cont. at #9)

8. Oct.19

The Week of the Italian Language in the World is an event held since 2001, becoming an important initiative dedicated to the celebration of the Italian language internationally. Each Week is dedicated to a different theme serving as a common thread for a rich program of conferences, exhibitions and meetings. The previous editions of the Week have focused on ties with creativity: such as music (2015), design and fashion (2016) and film (2017). The 2018 edition was on the relationship between language and the web, in both its physical and digital sense. The 2019 edition was titled “Italian on the stage"and involved 900 events in more than 100 countries, dedicated to music, popular song, theater,drama and melodrama.This year's 2020 edition is dedicated to “Italian in words and images: graffiti, illustrations, comics."
This external link has complete information.

9. Oct 20 (
cont. here from #8)

Selene writes that she and friends are going back on Oct. 31 in their search for the lost city of Hama. Oct 31 is Halloween, the night when the boundaries between the living and the dead are blurred and when you might get "visitors". This is not just silly trick-or-trick nonsense in European folk-lore. Heck, a few guard dogs and electrified fences will keep those punks away. I mean the supernatural.

The tabula Capuana  
(recent image, right)
The tablet was uncovered in 1898 in the burial ground of Santa Maria Capua Vetere. The Tabula Capuana ("Tablet from Capua", is an ancient terracotta slab, 50 x 60 cm (20 x 24 in), with a long inscribed text in Etruscan, apparently a ritual calendar. About 390 words are legible, making it the second longest surviving Etruscan text. (The longest is the Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis/ ("Linen Book of Zagreb", dated to the 3rd century BCE. It remains mostly untranslated because of our lack of knowledge about the Etruscan language, though the few words we understood indicate the text is likely a ritual calendar. It is kept in Zagreb, Croatia, at the Archaeological Museum.)

Our (though it is in a German museum) Tabula Capuana divides the text into ten sections. We try to decipher the text based on the supposition that it prescribes  certain rites on certain days of the year at certain places for certain deities.
(See Scrivere etrusco: dalla leggenda alla conoscenza, scrittura e letteratura nei massimi documenti della linguaetrusca. Electa editrice. 1985.) Then there is "The Liver of Piacenza", found in a field in 1877 in the province of Piacenza. It is a life-sized bronze model of a sheep's liver covered in Etruscan inscriptions, measuring 126 × 76 × 60 mm  (5 × 3 × 2.4 inches) and dated to the late 2nd century BC. It now kept in the Municipal Museum of Piacenza.

Thus, the Etruscan language had a literature of some sort in Campania. That is important, and Selene is excited. "I am on the trail of the Etruscan goddess (or god?), Letham or Lethamsul, from which we get "letum", Latin for "death"
perhaps an Etruscan goddess of the Underworld we can tie to Lete. The Tabula Capuana says that Letham is tied to Hama. So I'm going back to Monte Gauro. Some say that's where it is. Strange that I decided to do this on Halloween."

I think, well, strange is one word for it. I think there is such a thing as "intrepid explorer" and such a thing as "foolish". Short exchange between Selene and myself:
"Why Halloween? What about the supernatural?"
"I don't believe in that."
"Are you sure?"
"Do you believe in God? That's supernatural."
"I don't know."
"You know what Decartes said, right? 'If I say there is nothing, who just said "there is nothing" if not Yours Truly? Thus I exist. Thus there is something.  Mutatis mutandis, my dear. The underwear that had to be changed has been changed."  (That is funny or at least makes sense if you know that mutanda in Italian means "underpants".)
"Hold still, dear. I'm going to hit you with my shovel"
On his website, Archeologia, storia e storiografia etrusche e italiche,  Carlo D’Adamo points out that Italy totally forgot about the poor, illiterate farmers who found the Tabula Capuana in the first place and were sharp enough to bring it in to be looked at. Italy then honored Giulio da Petra, the director of the National Museum of Naples,  who had declared it fake. He gave it away to a German museum.

10. Oct 20
What is a Rare Jewish Language?

The Oxford School of Rare Jewish Languages (OSRJL) of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies (OCHJS), together with other institutions across Europe and elsewhere, starting in October 2021, OSRJL will offer a range of free online language classes on eleven vernacular languages, spoken and/or written by Jews from the Middle Ages until today, taught by leading university scholars. Their list is: Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic, Classical Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-French, Judeo-Greek, JUDEO-ITALIAN!, Judeo-Neo-Aramaic, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Tat, Judeo-Turkish, Karaim, Ladino, Yiddish. The last one, Yiddish, is not rare and not even endangered. The next-to-last, Ladino (originally the language of Spanish Jews) has had increased attention recently --rare? Maybe. Endangered? No. On that list, I had to look up Judeo-Tat and Karaim. Don't worry about it!
My interest is Judeo-Italian. The course is taught by Dr Marilena Colasuonno of the University of Naples. It is offered over three terms. The first term provides an overview of the (socio-)linguistic issues related to Judeo-Italian and a description of Judeo-Italian documentation. The second term focuses on a sample of literary Judeo-Italian texts mainly from 1200 to 1700, analyzing fearures of phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. The third term course reads, analyzes and translates spoken Judeo-Italian texts from the 19th and 20th centuries. The course places special emphasis on the geographical variation in the varieties of Judeo-Italian in light of Italian dialectology and  on similarities and differences among the Judeo-languages in the perspective of Jewish Interlinguistics.

Wow. OK, have to go find Marilena. More later.

11. Oct 26

A mural has just been finished (image right) on the building where Massimo Troisi was born. The red building is in San Giorgio a Cremano. It is the former palazzo Bruno, where Troisi was born in Feb 1953. The square has also been renamed for this actor/director/comic. In 1978 the building collapsed but was rebuilt with funds provided by the local community. The artists were Salvatore Tukios, Dario Ghost and Racso. They worked quickly and had the work done in a few days. The mural shows Troisi standing next to his bicycle, well-known from his film Il Postino (The Postman) The idea and plan for the mural came from author Ernesto De Martino, prof. Vittorio Pandolfi, and Gaetano Riccio. There is a complete page on Massimo Troisi, this remarkable, popular and likeable celebrity on my website here. It includes this entry.

12. Oct 27
                                                        GNV Ships and Aldo Grimaldi

GNV stands for Grandi Navi Veloci (abbr. GNV). That is, "Large Fast Ships." They are.  First, a shipowner is the owner of a merchant vessel. Not the captain — the owner, the person who equips and exploits the vessel for delivering cargo. Shipowners typically hire a licensed crew and captain rather than take charge of the vessel in person. GNV was created in 1992 by Aldo Grimaldi (1922-2018) (image below). His family was vital to the post-war Italian merchant marine (shipowner Achille Lauro was his uncle). Aldo got a university degree in maritime economics and sciences and a ship captain's license in Naples. His first  "shipowning" was recovering and refurbishing  "Liberty ships" left from WWII. The first GNV ship,  Majestic, went into service in 1993 on the Genoa-Palermo route, followed in 1994 by the Splendid on the Genoa-Porto Torres (Sardinia) route. They were the first cruise ferries ever operated by an Italian company.

The fleet was enlarged with new cruise ferries through the 1990s. New routes were added, including Livorno-Palermo, Genoa-Olbia and Genoa-Barcelona. In 2002 and 2003 the new, large cruise ferries La Superba and La Suprema went into service. Lines for Tunisia and a new Civitavecchia (Rome)-Palermo line, were opened. In 2008 the fleet was enlarged with three ro-ro (roll-on roll-off) cargo ships and a new Genoa-Barcelona-Tangier line was opened. In 2010 GNV opened new lines between Sète (southern France), Tangier, and Nador (Morocco) and in 2015, GNV opened a new line between Italy and Albania.The company as of 2018 operates a fleet of thirteen cruise ferries, including some of the largest ferries in Europe. Recently GNV converted one of their ferries, Splendid (image above), into a hospital ship in order to treat coronavirus patients. The ship was delivered to Liguria, Italy, on 23 March 2020, for the symbolic cost of 1 EUR. With help from a number of local and national companies, who donated time, materials, and expertise, Splendid was converted into a hospital ship in 10 days.

13. Oct 29

                                    Exhibit on Aniello Falcone

At A Short History of Neapolitan Painting, I have a subsection on "Painters of the Neapolitan Baroque." My entire comment on Aniello Falcone (1600-1656) was "...noted for his paintings of battle scenes. Falcone was accustomed to arms and was an excellent swordsman. One story says that during Masaniello’s Revolt of 1647, Falcone resolved to avenge the death of a nephew at the hands of Spanish troops; thus, he formed an armed band named the Compagnia della Morte, or Company of Death. They fought in the streets by day; at night they were painters again.
I see now that the Diocese museum at Donnaregina square is holding the first exhibit ever (!) on Aniello Falcone (that, in itself, is hard to believe). There are 23 paintings on display through January 22, 2022. Falcone was called the "Neapolitan Velàsquez." (Around here we think that Velàquez was the Spanish Falcone... but I quibble.) He was born in Naples, the son of a tradesman, he showed his artistic tendency at an early age. He was one of the most prominent pupils of José de Ribera. His famous scenes are taken from both biblical and secular history. He was nicknamed the "Oracle of Battles". He gained a wide reputation and his works were sold across Europe. He was commissioned by Philip IV of Spain to paint a series of scenes from Roman history for the Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid. Falcone painted various religious subjects such as Rest on the Flight to Egypt in 1641 (Naples Cathedral) his frescoes for the chapel of Sant' Agata In S. Paolo Maggiore, Naples. When Masaniello’s revolt was crushed, he and Salvator Rosa fled to Rome. Falcone then went to France, where Louis XIV became one of his patrons. He was allowed to return Naples, where he died in the plague of 1656. Two of his battle-pieces are in the Louvre and in the Naples Archeological Museum. His pupils included Salvator Rosa and Carlo Coppola, Domenico Gargiulo (known as Micco Spadaro), Paolo Porpora and Andrea di Lione.

14. Oct 30

Halloween (also Hallowe'en) (lit. Holy Eve) is the night of October 31. It is now generally celebrated by merry-making and masquerading, typically children "trick or treating" from door to door. The roots of the festivities are much more serious than that and go back to the belief that this is when the portal between life and death opens and when you might expect "visitors". These three links will explain some of that.

                     halloween.php                  miscellany68.php#hallow

                                The Witches of Benevento

15. Nov 1
La Grace
— yo-ho-ho

I hadn't seen a ship like this since... well, we did a lot of trick-or-tricking in the 1700s with these things. "Avast! Give us everything or we will kill you and might anyway just for the hell of it. Yo-yo-ma!  Our captain plays the cello! Aaarrgh!" She sailed right in front of my house. Silently, smoothly, ominously. Early morning. Just getting light. I wasn't really afraid, but I thought, Please, not yet. I'm not ready.
   La Grace is a replica of a brig from the 18th century. The original bore this name (“Graceful”) during travels around Europe and across the Atlantic to the Americas. La Grace was also renowned for her corsair activities. Especially well-known is her victory over two Spanish barques carrying sugar, tobacco and wine near the coast of Guatemala. This modern replica is used solely to teach the art of old-time seamanship. Her crew is mainly from the Czech Republic. (Yes, you can get to the open sea from Prague.) This replica was laid down in 2008 and launched in 2010. Her home port is in Prague. ID: MMSI number: 270467000; Callsign: OL5614. Length: 23.8 m (78.1 ft). Height  25 m (82.0 ft) (waterline to top of rig height). Has a diesel engine, of course, which the original did not! You can go aboard if you want. Yo-ho-ho.

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