Thursday, November 12, 2009

Leo Africanus: Commentary 3

This week’s reading of Leo Africanus, I felt the story actually pick up quite a bit for me. Hasan has been exiled from his community because he was defending his brother-in-law, who was being accused of committing a murder. This allegiance led to his dismissal from his community, landing him in Egypt. With him he took his slave, Hiba and several other guards.

While in Constantinople Hasan serves as a diplomat. The Ottoman Empire, currently being run by the Turkish were beginning to take over the country. In the midst of turmoil between the Mamlukes and the Ottomans fighting for authority, Hasan’s wife, Nur, gives birth to a baby girl. Almost immediately following the birth of his daughter, Hasan is captured by Italian pirates because of his position as a diplomat. He is then brought to the Pope (Leo X), where he forms a very unusual (but positive) relationship. They shared many of the same opinions, ideals, and even religious perspectives. He ends up being baptized, there in Italy, and undergoes a name change from Hasan to Leo Africanus.

My question for this week would be - what was it about Hasan/Leo Africanus that attracted Pope Leo X so much? Why do you think he and Hasan were so quick to build a friendship/relationship that would lead to a baptismal? Giving the circumstances that Hasan was kidnapped, taken away from his wife and newborn – don’t you think Hasan would’ve desired more to be released to return to Egypt?


  1. I think the Pope liked Hasan so much because Hasan was a "global citizen." Hasan was familiar with different religions, languages, cultures, and countries (and he had great charm). The Pope needed these attributes to engage in diplomatic exchanges with the Ottomans as well as other Europeans.

  2. I agree with what Stefan said. I think that Pope Leo and the Catholic Church were fearful of the rising Ottoman Empire and wanted to learn as much as they could in order to best prepare themselves to deal with potential conflict. In response to the other question, I think that Hasan likely had some desire to return to his family, though I also think he was not totally unhappy with his situation, as he was seemingly always in the center of several cultural or religious movements, in this case Lutheranism. I think that he was intrigued by these events, which helped to make him the "global citizen" that he was.

  3. I agree that the Pope liked Hasan because he was a "global citizen". Even though I do think Hasan was not completely happy with his situation, I do think he should have desired more to released. He had a lot going on for him at home esp his new born daughter so I think he should have tried harder to get back to Egypt.