Saturday, October 31, 2009

Leo Arficanus Blog 1

In this week's reading we began Leo Arficanus by Amin Malalouf. I have found that, just like many others in our class, that this book has come as a major relief. I would much rather read a fictional narrative and still learn the history required from this course than read a boring textbook.

This book is about Leo Arficanus, whose life we know very little about. The author creates this story and fills in the gaps of this mans life and history. The beginning of the book describes Leo Arficanus' early life when he is a boy living in Grenada. The story describes his father as having two wives. One of which is Leo's mother, and the other is a Christian slave. I have always found situations like this very interesting. Being acustomed to our society and culture, I can't imagine it being socially acceptable for a man to have multiple wives.

As the story continues, the man with two wives (Muhammad) gets both women pregnant at the same time, which does not go over well with either woman. The sense of competition is enhanced between the two wives. Interestingly enough, one of the women has a boy and other has a girl. The reader quickly see's the importance of a man having a son over a daughter in this culture as Muhammad pays little attention to his daughter and only focuses on the newborn son.

I'm interested in learning how the difference in religions between the two wives will be significant in the story. What will the juxtaposition of a Muslim mother and Christian mother mean for the development of the relationships?

-Justin Lovett

Friday, October 30, 2009

Leo Africanus

So we have began reading Leo Africanus which is a ficitonal story which is different from all the other books we have read so far. This book describes the life of a character named Amim Maalouf. This setting is in the 1500's in the town of Granda and Fez and it begins with the start of his life. His parents were Salma (his mother) and Warda (his father). With the birth of Amim, Salma was able to establish herself as more than being Warda's mistress. They now have physical proof that they are together. In the reading the narrator tells us that Abul Hasan Ali has lost his postion as sultan. He sent troops to go and fight Christian areas in which Muslims had no chance of winning. Granda was surrounded and the Castilians took control of everything. The civilians there were asked what the sultan should do. And then they all agreed that the best thing to do will be to surrender. The Castilians took over the entire city which in turn made the Muslims to leave.

What I found interesting was about the structure of a family. How people in other countires will perform polygamy and think that it is acceptable. It's interesting to see how things have changed and also to compare their morals. Why are most polygamists male oriented and the women more of a possession to men. What has caused women to feel like they have no say or value?

Part 1 and Polygamy

In this weeks reading we begin reading the book Leo Arficanus by Amin Malalouf. He opens the book up by discussing the problems and struggles between Christian society and the Muslim societ. The part of the book, Grenada, is where most of this is done. Grenada was under the main control of the christians and most people of this time were discriminated against for their personal beliefs in regards to religion. A scene he set up in the book is where he is talking to someone who speaks of paying ransoms for the Muslim slaves in the area. The person also tells of how they are chained every night like animals, make shoes and are slaves held captive by their owners. He is there to help pay their debt and free them. Another main subject of the first part of the book is polygamy. Women of that time actually liked being in a multiple partner marriage. some described it as being easier to deal with life when there are more people to deal with the problems and that men should deal with everything in the house and not have to go outside the home, cause if they do then they will find other happiness.
I found it interesting that women of this time liked the idea of a polygamous relationship. Although it is looked down upon on today in a way that it is viewed as disgusting it was actually a smart, efficient way to live. This is my opinion. I do agree that it is out of the question in today's society but it did make sense to me of why they felt a polygamous relationship may be beneficial to everyone involved. My question is: What do you think the turning point of polygamy was that made people view it as something negative?

Historical Fiction

This week’s class discussion focused on “microhistory”, defined as looking at one individual’s life to study history. Our reading, Leo Africanus, is the This is nearly the opposite of what we have been doing until now. We are no longer looking at the world system as a whole, but one man’s experiences while traveling. The individual approach for studying history must be approached cautiously however, as one man’s experiences can only be generalized so far. A “great man’s” actions may affect thousands of people, or most of society, but he is still only one man. Using only a microhistory perspective can add rich detail to a historical study, but it must be used in combination with a more overarching survey.

The style of Leo Africanus particularly relates to historical perspective. The book is written as a fictional memoir of the life of a real man. Some of the events are very close to historical fact, while others are completely fabricated in order to tell a good story. And while the fabricated parts may be historically relevant, and based in fact, we must remember that not everything in the book actually happened. This book can help us put a more human face on the Middle Ages, but it is still a second hand, and fictionalized account.

I also reflected on how much liberty Maalouf can take while maintaining a historically accurate story. Everything in the book, all of the characters Leo Africanus encounters, and all of his experiences are realistic, but not all of them actually happened. The book may not be reliable as a textbook, but reading it is still worthwhile, yet I wonder, how much Maalouf can fabricate before the book is no longer worth considering a historical text and becomes a novel for enjoyment only.

Part one

In this weeks reading we begin the book by Amin Malalouf entitled Leo Arficanus, in which he discusses the problems and struggles between Christians and Muslims, particularly in this part of the book in Grenada. Specifically he speaks of how Grenada has fallen to Christians and that in those days people were discriminated against for what they believed in. One part of the book he talks to someone who speaks of paying ransoms for the Muslim slaves in the area. It is shame that people of this time were so oppressed; the friend says how they are chained every night like animals and make shoes and are slaves to their owners. He is there to help pay their debt and free them. The book also touches on a subject not normally acceptable in today’s time. Polygamy is a special topic in the first 100 pages. Women of that time did not mind being in a multiple partner marriage, she describes it as being an only child and how it is easier to deal with life when there are more people to deal with the problems and that men should deal with everything in the house and not have to go outside the home, cause if they do then they will find other happiness.
One thing, which was brought up in class, is what is the difference from today and now? To think there ideas just 500 years ago are accepted in today’s standard is just ludicrous. I do not understand how someone could have multiply partners in marriage. Jealousy today would run wild; could you even image one woman with multiply male partners? No just ridiculous. To compare polygamy to being an only child is just wild. That is not even close to what we think or see today.
I wish he would have answered more questions about the slavery that was happening. I think this is something that is just not highlighted about in very many books and I would like to know more about it and how it really affected people around them.

Leo Africanus pt.1

The first section of Leo Africanus was much more interesting than the other books we have read so far. By using the first person perspective to describe the life of the main character the author keeps the reader interested. I thoroughly enjoyed the great attention to detail used to create a mental picture for the reader of the first few experiences of the main characters life. These detail highlight the aspects of the author's culture that reader might not be familiar with. I enjoyed that the author used both words of the character's native language and the descriptions of these words in English to detail the feast his family celebrated shortly after his birth.

The most interesting part of this reading for me was the detail the author uses to show the relationships within his family. Just by showing these relationships he opens up the entire culture he grew up in for the reader. From religion to the relationship between his mother and father, these details show the reader that the culture in which they are being submerged is quite different from their own.

Leo Africanus: Commentary 1

This week we began reading Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf, which is a much different read from our past two books. Told in first person, we are giving fictional accounts of what life was like in Grenada during the 15th century. Hassan, our narrator, shares stories with us as they were told/passed down to him by his older family members. In this beginning section of the book, we read about hot topics in Grenada such as: women, alcohol, religion, and of course – war.

Because of its religious diversity (Christianity, Muslim and Judaism), Grenada seems almost as the perfect setting for this story. With such a widespread religious composition, I have to admit I was surprised when I read about Hassan’s father’s affair with a Christian slave girl, Warda. Why am I surprised? I guess it may be ignorant of me, but I would assume that in a city so religious-heavy – I wouldn’t expect one to have affairs, but I suppose I’m wrong. But I have to say – I was even more appalled to learn that his father’s wife, Salma, was also his cousin! Now I know – things of this nature were more common during this period of time, (and again this may be ignorant of me) but I think that is completely wrong, in more ways than one.

What I wanted to know more about would have to have been about the religious diversity. And maybe this will be covered later in the book, but what were the percentages of people in each religious category? I would like to know, how did they religiously interact with each other? Surely, some religions felt their religion was superior to others – how did this effect culture in Grenada during the 15th century?

Leo Africanus

Leo Africanus is a fictional story which describes the life of Amin Maalouf. It starts
off at his birth and follows his life in Granda and Fez during the 1500s. Amin's birth was a
great accomplishment of his mother Salma; this was because it made her more than just a
mistress to her husband Warda. Later on in the reading the narrator tells us that Abu'l Hasan'
Ali lost his position as sultan. He sent groups of troops to go and fight Christian areas which
began a war that the Muslims had no chance in winning. Granada was surrounded and the Castilians control everything. Many people were asked to give their insight on what the sultan should do. Finally the secretary to the sultan said that their best hope was to surrender. When they surrendered the Castilians took over the entire city and forced the Muslims to flee.

I thought that the ties between everyday life, religion and spiritually were extremely interesting. Salma was a main believe in holiness and the powers that it possessed so she reached out to many people who could help her acquire it. She went to a women and received a potion from her which was grant her a child. She doesn't hesitate to take it and in theory it works. In today's standards the thought of using potions and magical people are only read about in books. Not many people would expect a child from a sip of a liquid. But then again in today's world there are many different amazing things that occur that can be though of as "magical". Perhaps its the modern day mysticism that we all ignore?

Blog 7: Man of the World or Man Who has Just Scene it?

Leo Africanus is, so far, the most interesting perspectives on a global society. I’m positive that it is due to my ability to connect with the individual. While I am not Muslim, I have never fasted, my mother is a boldly independent woman, the first person perspective creates a conversation like atmosphere. With this type of source material, a significant amount of biases can be expected. We can already see divisions within the presented culture. For example, he illustrates division between his mother and father, societies division of men and women, division of free and slave women, and even class division.
When Hasan speaks about himself, he never really identifies himself with one culture or nation. But he is constantly classifying others. The passage that stuck with me was:

“I, Hasan the son of Muhammad the weigh-master, I, Jean-Leon de Medici, circumcised at the hand of a barber and baptized at the hand of a pope, I am now called the African, but I am not from Africa, nor from Europe, nor from Arabia. I am also called the Granadan, the Fassi, the Zayyati, but I come from no country, from no city, no tribe. I am the son of the road, my county is the caravan, my life the most unexpected of voyages.”
His life truly is based on reactions to events. He is continuously changed by society rather than society changing for him. When I was googling him, I found numerous photos of him and was interested to see the different perspectives.

Third book reading

In class this week we discussed a lot about religion in our country verses others, and we also discussed the importance of a nuclear family in some countries and not in others. We were given a statistic in class about the importance of religion. In America the importance of religion to people is similar to religion to people in the Middle East. However, in Europe religion is not as valued to people as America and the Middle East, and we talked about why. The history of the nuclear family in America is a value that we have, but in other countries and in history having many women is considered acceptable.

One reason I think religion is so much more valuable in America than in Europe is the history of each country. In Europe there has been a lot of unrest change in the government that America has never experienced. Communism, for example, is a government that took over many countries for as much as 50 years. Communism was extremely anti religion and after that rule people were lost in religion. There was not the history in the families to carry on the tradition so religion became of less importance. In America we have never been ruled by communism, nor had a president that was anything but Christian. People look up to the government no matter what is the rule. Most people in America are Christian, so that has never been questioned in such a degree as in Europe.

The nuclear family has always been an important value with Christian moral views, but in places like Middle East, people have different morals and values that do not include monogamy. In history having many women for many kids is considered normal in a lot of the Middle East. The practicality of having many women was to have children to work for you, mostly boys. These children were expected to work and they all had their place. In American history having children was also used for work, but that mentality has changed. In America today work and education is more important than the Middle East. Education and work beyond the family has not moved into a period of women being educated.

Leo Africanus Blog 1

Leo Africanus serves as a breath of fresh air in this class as well as my entire curriculum from dry textbooks to a more interesting literature portraying a culture in a more sympathetic, relatable way. I’m really excited about this narrative approach and the way that Maalouf sets his story to the background of historical events. It is a much more entertaining way to learn the history and culture.

Leo Africanus begins in the 15th century with Muslim Spain, a place I don’t know much about. The first story tells of a man, Hasan, living in Granada. His story gives us great insight into the society. His father had multiple wives, his mother and father were cousins, marriages were arranged at very early ages, there was great military power, the leaders (sultans) were uncaring and selfish, Granada was a trade center, and my favorite subject thus far, the Spanish Inquisition.

The Inquisition was led by Ferdinand and Isabella who were Christian Spaniards who demanded the ‘reconquest’ of Spain from the Muslim and Jewish hold that had occurred in their recent history. The Spanish Inquisition is notorious for its brutality. There were no limits to extermination, it was basically convert to Christianity or be expelled. It was amazing to have a firsthand account of these events which brought it to life as opposed to being a topic of interest in a history textbook. Hasan had to flee Granada and due to these traumatic events, he really wasn’t able to stay in one place for the rest of his life.

In regards to the Inquisition, I drew a lot of parallels from it to modern Europe. Today, there are many similar events and wannabe revolutions similar to the Inquisition in order to expel Muslims mostly from the fairly homogeneous Christian nations of Western Europe. Examples are the skinheads in England, Le Pen in France, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. But none of these figures have been able to start a major revolution or expulsion of these other races/religions. Do you think it’s possible for something similar to the Inquisition to happen today in one of these nations?

Dana Bodnar

Blog post 11/30/09

To retell history is a daunting task, but to combine it with narrative is almost impossible. It seems that Amin Maalouf has done the impossible with “Leo Africanus”, combining history and narrative, and doing so seamlessly and eloquently. He has taken a man whose life little is known about, and filled in every detail to create a story both compelling and fluid.

The book opens with the story of Africanus’ early life, as a youth in Grenada. It tells the tale of his family, his father and his two wives, one a Christian slave, and the other his mother, a Muslim woman, from his arranged marriage. There is a story of a rivalry and distress, not only among the two women, but within the two religions that inhabit the city. Both women become pregnant at the same time, and this enhances the rivalry of the women. However, they begin to bond over their shared abusive relationship with Muhammad (thank goodness for abuse!). When their children are born, Warla has a girl, and Muhammad is instantly disinterested. Salma has a boy, thus securing her place as the mother of Muhammad’s first son. The story then continues with a recounting of Salma’s childhood among the civil war in Grenada, and more events of Grenada.

What was most interesting was the situation in the family of issues brought on by polygamy. The fact that this was acceptable for a man in this society is very interesting just in how it is so different from our own society. What was it that made it okay for a woman to “imprisoned” as Salma is described in the book. She is simultaneously described as free. How would she actually feel about this?

The Average Man Theory

no links this week...sorry, I fail

Now, Leo Africanus may not be the story of the “average man” or the “man on the street.”  He certainly is an exceptional figure whose travels, if matched, can almost certainly not be bettered by any other figure in history (Marco Polo, the commonly thought of traveler, merely visited strange lands, Leo Africanus lived in them, and with the people of them).  However, this is not an example of the “great man” that was discussed earlier when we talked about Genghis Khan and the Mongols.  Leo Africanus is a relatively average man in terms of societal standing, which we can see from the relatively average circumstances of his birth.  Certainly this average situation seems better off when one considers slaves and the super-poor, yet those groups were not at the time considered part of society.  To retroject a term onto the time period, his upbringing was comparable to that of gentlemen of later English society.  From here he is able to visit and understand various cultures and religions and ways of thinking.  Yet none of this is from the point of view of the great rulers. 


So why is it valuable that we study him?


I believe that we study someone like Leo Africanus first of all because of the variety of cultures and worlds he is able to provide insight on.  We can see what life was like in Italy with the Pope, in Muslim held Spain, in North Africa, etc all trough the eyes of one observer and one participant, removing one variable that is often seen in contemporary accounts.  Also, through the study of a relatively average person, we can see a more accurate and vivid account of what life was like at the time, as well as a different view of rulers than what is often seen in official accounts sanctioned by those rulers.  It is of course important to study the great and powerful, the poor and discounted, as well as those that occupy the middle ground between the two.  Leo Africanus has important things to share with us that we can learn from.  Studying the average allows us to see a different part of history, and to better understand what we had already heard from other sources.

Leo Africanus Blog Commentary One

This weeks readings were entirely refreshing, new and different from the previous books we have read. Both Before European Hegemony and The Age of Empire were more historical and textbook like with many facts and they were also very repetitive whereas Leo Africanus is written in first person and incorporates what life was like in the 15th century in a very interesting way. This book does a good job of keeping ones attention as well as makes me want to keep reading. The first pages did a good way of capturing the status of women in the family; I found those pages some of the most interesting in what we have read so far. I enjoyed the way the narrator narrates his own birth. Hasaan, the narrator tells stories in the book the way his parents relayed them to him. It goes through his family’s troubles that happened because of the fall of Granada. Granada is a specifically interesting city because of its religious composition, in which the main religions are Muslim, Judaism, and Christianity. This is encompassed into the story by Hasaan’s father taking a Christian woman as his mistress and because both Hasann’s mother and the Christian woman had a Jewish midwife.
One thing that shocked me from off the bat was that Hasaan’s father and mother were cousins. I understand that in many cultures and in history this was a normal occurance, but due to my culture from growing up in the United States in the 20th century, their marriage repulses me. Also I found that the cohabitation of so many religions astounding, as well the competition between the pregnant women entertaining. I enjoyed finding out that they were able to bond when they were put through a humiliating event together, because I found that very lifelike. I feel as though when people go through a big event together it seems to bring them closer, and I like how the author included this. What do you think about it? But what amazed me the most was solely how the author was able to work in many historical events in such an intriguing way and fit them into the life of young Hasaan.
What I wondered though was why in the culture was Warda, the Christian slave woman, considered to be a free woman after giving birth. What do you guys think about this? I would think that she would be outcast or something for giving birth as a mistress, what makes this culture different? What reasoning do you think they have behind deciding that a slave who gives birth is no longer a slave?

Leo Africanus 1

There is nothing like first person perspective to help you appreciate history. Even though the story is fictional, the fact that it is based on a real person's life and has some historical accuracy makes it so much better than a text book for me. I found it interesting that the story started out well before the main character's birth, and the fact that a women's perspective was given is something new to this course. His mother Salma gave us some unique insight into the events of her own youth and the way women were treated and were forced to survive in Muslim society. Even though she was really a second class citizen, her interaction with her brother and the fact that her son is relying so heavily on her testimony shows that she was a strong and intelligent woman.
Aside from the role that women played in society in the 15th century, another thing I took away from this reading was the way politics worked under the sultan and the interactions between Christians and Muslims. Hassan's uncle provided the best perspective on this matter, by discussing the different ways that people reacted to the sultans. The first sultan, tyrannical and hated, was complained about very privately in ambiguous terms because people were in fear of their lives. The second sultan, who was less feared, was complained of much more openly- "Our people are merciless towards sovereigns who do not behave towards them as sovereigns" (24). The people did not care for this sultan either even though they had deliberately put him on the throne.
At a gathering at the sultan's palace, Hassan's uncle is involved in the debate over whether the city of Granada should try to resist Castile or simply surrender to minimize damage, since the sultan is apparently traitorous anyways. Eventually the decision is made to surrender, but rather than being spared, the Castilians force all of the Muslims of Granada to flee, thus beginning Hassan's many travels. Clearly the significance of book one is that his childhood and youth had a huge impact on Hassan- the details of Muslim life, the religious conflict he sees, his forced immigration and his studies at the university in Fez all shaped him into a world traveler and intellectual.

Leo Africanus Commentary

The book “Leo Africanus” by Amin Maalouf focuses on typical life in Grenada during the 1400’s. This book, however, is fictional and viewed through the eyes of Africanus growing up. The firsthand account of life during this time period allows for comparative insight on subjects concerning women, alcohol, civil war, and cohabitation of faiths. An interesting part found early on in the book, is Leo’s father, Muhammad, and has extra marital affairs with a Warda, a slave girl. His wife and cousin, Salma, could do nothing about it either compared to this day an age where such an act is socially unacceptable. This really opens my eyes in the differences and rights women have come to acquire since the 1400’s. Also, the importance of carrying on a family heir or legacy is also shown by the numerous cases of married men having relations with slave women.
Grenada proceeds to enter a civil war after war is declared on the neighboring Christian empire with no hope full outcome. Eventually, the Grenada is separated into two warring regions between the Sultan and his son. This personal account even gives a view when dealing with revolts as in “Age of Empires,” chapter twelve. It is later told of Grenada’s eventual defeat by the hands the Castilians by the use of siege equipment, cannons, and time.
Alcohol at the time is still sold, yet illegal. The cohabitation of so many different languages and business transactions amazed me. It is possible for such religions to exist with one another, yet in Granada the Castilians sought to recapture Granada and convert it populants why? Granada is referred to a large city which is hard to supply when not in times of war, so did the Castilians capture Grenada for religious aspects, or purely conquest?

Thursday, October 29, 2009



Although it is very easy to get wrapped up in the lavish descriptions of wars and celebrations the main point of the book relates directly to all of our other readings; the connection between areas in the 15th century global system. Leo Africanus was one of the first detailed source of knowledge to Europeans about other parts of the world system. His travels were vast; he was taken prison in Rome, escaped to Istanbul and had many other global adventures. He represents the connection between the global system; the trade and travel that made our global system today possible.

Overall, I loved the first reading assignment of this book. Its was informative and fun to read. I also thought the portryal of women was accurate for this time period...but that is a completely different discussion..maybe for next time!

Leo Africanus

I have taken many classes in which the professors suggested reading the Book Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf, although I never had the time to actually read the book, now I know why they pushed it so much. It is a great firsthand source to the global structure in the 15th century. Especially after reading our other assigned readings, which were much more factual and dry, this is a nice change. It presents all the main cultural and social points we learned about Muslim Spain in this period, but in a more relatable form.
The story of "Leo Africanus" begins with The Book of Granada in which we meet Hasan, the central character who will become a great traveler and scholar in his adulthood. First, we learn of the story of Hasan's father and mother, which reveals a great deal of cultural knowledge. The first story focuses on the competition between Hasan's mother and his father's second wife. The competition of who can get pregnant first, but more importantly, who can bear a son first. Following the story of Hasan's birth and intimate description of his circumcision and the following large celebration, we also hear from many other voices of this time period. Stories from Hasan's uncle, father, and again his mother show us the social, cultural, and political atmosphere of the time.
Obviously, throughout the first part of the book, the role of religion in society is stressed again and again showing its importance. From the story of "Noah's flood" to the old shaikh who condemns the "wine drinkers and poets" of the community and finally the veililng of women in the communities. Furthermore, this overly religious shaikh is mocked and made fun of for blaming the people's sins for the eventual fall of Granada. But when this prediction comes true, he was no longer mocked. The religiousity of the people is palpable in every page of the book. It truly portrays the atmosphere of 15th century Islamic Spain.

Leo Africanus - Blog 1

Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus begins with the birth of the narrator, Hasan. Through the narrator’s voice, the reader learns about life in Granada and Fez during the late 1500s. Hasan’s birth is a great triumph for his mother, Salma, because it cements her status above that of her husband’s mistress, Warda, who “only” gives birth to a daughter. The reader is then informed of assorted religious happenings. Abu’l Hasan ‘Ali lost favor as sultan when he became too extravagant. He imprisoned his wife and children and did whatever his mistress told him to do. He even sent detachments of troops to challenge Christian holdings which began a war that the Muslims could not hope to win. However, Boabdil, one of Abu’l-Hasan’s sons managed to escape and usurp his father’s position as sultan through a violent civil war. The Castilians continued to advance and eventually laid siege to Granada. Dignitaries and all who would speak were called to give their opinion on future actions to the sultan. Al-Mulih, the sultan’s principal confidant, adamantly suggested surrender. Astaghfirullah, a shaikh, spoke against this notion and revealed that Al-Mulih had already orchestrated the terms of surrender with a spokesperson of King Ferdinand. Although surrender was not desirable, it was the best option, so the people voted in favor of it. The Castilians took over the city, and the Muslims were encouraged to leave. Warda, who had been a Christian, found her brother and was forced to leave Muhammad. Muhammad was not satisfied with this, so although he leaves with Salma and Hasan in order to reach Fez, he sets it up so that Warda finds them again on the boat. Salma does everything she can to regain her husband’s affection, but when he discovers her pouring an elixir on him, he immediately divorces her.

I found the interaction between religion and mysticism very interesting. Salma, and eventually Muhammad, come to rely on Gaudy Sarah to tell them about news of the world, as well as various predictions. Salma takes a potion offered by Sarah in order for her to conceive a child, which theoretically works. She also visits numerous soothsayers to discover how to bring Muhammad back to her and takes an elixir to help her do so. Amulets and charms are sewn into children’s clothing to ward off the “evil eye.” Despite their devout worship and exile for religious reasons, the family seems to be more opportunistic. They will try anything just in case their religion does not come through. I am not sure yet how far this extends, but I think it may be possible that the family is religious more through tradition and mores of the society versus anything else.

I thought it was extremely interesting that Warda was a slave but was given the status of free woman once she gave birth to a child. Does that mean that she could have left her husband with no consequences? That clearly would not have been in her best interests since she was completely provided for and treated well, but I really would have liked to know if that was possible. As a slave, she had been able to go about unveiled, but in public in the book, she is veiled, despite her being Christian. Was that part of a mark of her being a “free woman”? What does being “free” entail in this society? I then found it intriguing that Juan, the brother of Warda (Esmeralda), felt that Warda had still been a captive and was only free once the Christians took control of the city. If she became a free woman with the birth of her daughter, was she not then no longer a captive? As is proven later when Warda rejoins Muhammad, she apparently wanted to stay with Muhammad whether she was free or not, although her reasons are not necessarily clear.

Maalouf-The Year of the Hostelries

Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus is a refreshing contrast to the more factual styles of our previous readings. Rather than viewing history from a macro perspective and simply providing a record of important people and figures, this text is written from a first person perspective. Not only does this narrative make for an easier read, but it also gives a personal view of the individual impact of large-scale historical events. While we have read and discussed facts and figures about a variety of cultures and their interactions in this time period, these cultures cannot be fully appreciated or understood without first-hand accounts like Maalouf’s.

A prime example is the chapter describing the Year of the Hostelries. Previous readings certainly described the rise and fall of cities heavy with culture. Those readings, however, did not go into the dynamic detail of this reading. In this chapter, Hasan is still a child, and the hazy, dreamlike state with which he describes Fez matches that of a childhood memory. In his description, it is apparent that while he had spent his entire childhood in the capital of Granada, his past city of residence did not match the vibrancy and bustle of Fez. The narrator’s description provides greater transparency than a listing of cities and the dates of their success.

Another striking description in this chapter is that of the plague. The plague is mentioned in all historical texts about this time period, but this view is unique in its inclusion of the emotions and reactions to the disease. “The whole of Fez was living in fear of this disease; it spread so quickly no man seemed able to escape it…The whole town became an enormous infected area, and no medicine proved effective against it.” It is this palpable fear that further defines the plague as more than a disease but as an almost living monster that cannot be stopped. The narrator even uses some sarcastic humor in describing how the blame was spread for the arrival of the plague, with each group of people blaming another. This commentary certainly helped me identify more with the cultures of the time period.

Through all of the reading, the importance of religion stands out. A primary example is when Muhammad pulls out his prayer rug and prays in the midst of being robbed, demonstrating that the responsibility to answer the call to prayer precedes all else. In addition to insight on religion, the narrator describes family interactions involving Muhammad’s wives and concubines and the shame and embarrassment that revolve around them. It is very interesting that Hasan’s uncle greets him but treats everyone else very coldly. Is this abandonment of family acceptable given the distance they traveled or is Muhammad’s punishment deserved?

LA Blog 1

This book - Leo Africanus - is very different from the first two more non fiction style books we have read in this course. This book is special in that it relates historical events very interestingly and in a way that educates the reader about the time. Although Maalouf talks about specific people, he is able to fill in the gaps with historically relevant and accurate facts and events. The beginning of the book focuses on Leo's childhood and also gives an introduction to how the culture was back during the time. Some key events include, Leo's parents betrothal, marital problems with having a 'second wife,' Leo's birth, the celebration of his circumsision, etc.

Reading this book so far has been interesting to me because although I am not intimate with the culture and the religion, I am not completely unacquainted with it either. I know a great deal about the religion and the society and look at it through a more personal way rather than a foreigner's perspective. I was reminded of when I read Hosseini's The Kite Runner, where I felt the same type of reserved intimacy with the Afghani culture. Some of the words that are mentioned I can figure out the meaning based on some relations with Hindi words and meanings. Some of the superstitions I have heard also. There are definently a few aspects that overlap. Yet, the status of women are never a surprise, but rather something to lament. However, that it what they called normal and what they were used to. I did find Leo's mother's grief and anxiety over the second wife and the pressure to have a boy to be very heart wrenching and terrifying. I find the description of emotions and internal strifes very thought provoking.

I also wonder how the Jews, Muslims and Christians were able to coexist. I understand that all three religions come from of the same roots, however there are also some very MAJOR differences. In today's age, they really can't get along...what was different in the past? How on one side could there be crusades, and on the other religious tolerance and diversity in the Andulasia?

blog 8 - leo africanusl

This week we began a new book, Leo Africanus, written by Amin Maalouf. Thus far, the book has been a rendition of Leo Africanus’ childhood. Maalouf’s style is story-like, descriptive, and significantly more enjoyable to read than the other books we have read in this class. Maalouf recounts Leo Africanus’ childhood by events broken down by chapter. Through these renditions we see how culture, tradition, family, values, and politics were different in 15th century. The major events described in Leo Africanus have been the betrothal of his parents (who were cousins), father’s mistress, significance of Leo Africanus’ birth, his circumcision, the fall of Granada, Salma’s family not accepting them in their home, and lastly Leo Africanus’ father declaring a divorce.
These major events are also particularly eye-opening to the differences between our culture and the Muslim and Spanish culture in the 15th century. What is particularly surprising to me is the treatment of women at the time. Women were discluded from many family traditions, and their only real role in life was to provide children – boys. A woman’s emotions were not taken into account, nor were her wants/ dreams. Because of the mentality/ brutal consequences, women, like Salma, could not even voice their opinions to their husbands. This treatment of women stands in stark contrast to the way cultural movements of the 20th century- what a long way we’ve come. However, I donk it’s important that we consider the way women are still treated in the Middle East and Africa. The treatment of woman seems to have remained stagnant in many Islamic countries/communities.
I was almost confused, yet pleasantly surprised at the interaction between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. It seems as if these religious groups live in segregated communities and socialize mainly amongst themselves, yet I did not sense a significant amount of tension between the groups when they did socialize. Why and when did tension increase over time? Why couldn’t these three religions remain living peacefully near each other?

Leo Africanus 1

This book is exceedingly more interesting and enticing than the past ones. This book describes the period in which we were studying from the point of view of a single person. This shows a much more personal account of the facts we are used to learning about in class and in books. The first few chapters also give you an idea what the life of a Muslim woman in that time period. The book describes a husband that took on two wives after a few years with the first one and not receiving any children. Then it is the wife the bears the son that becomes important. Women were not allowed to leave the house without being veiled and usually accompanied by a man. They also had/have no say in whether they agree with their husbands taking on another wife or not.

The book describes the political situation, which was one of powerful monarchies. And also the attitudes of the people who lived under that rule. Obviously this was during the time of struggle between the Christians and Muslims because there were many comments against Christians as well as Jews. Also, The book describes the war with the Spanish under Ferdinand and Isabella. I think this is very interesting because before reading this book I understood the facts but I did not truly understand the situation. I think this book will really make this time period and what we have studied hit home.

--Dorothy R Smith "Bunny"

Leo Africanus 1

This book takes a very different perspective on history than the previous two books, it is told through the eyes of one man and his experiences. In this week’s reading, Hasan introduces himself and his family. He talks about his father’s multiple wives and about his birth celebration. He first explains the dynamics between his father’s two wives, one being his mother and the other woman being a slave girl. His mother and father were cousins and engaged to be married from an early age. At the time of Hasan’s birth, he said it was Ramadan and people broke the fast celebrating his birth. Also, he talks about the Sultan Albu’l-Hasan ‘Ali that held military parades to exhibit his power in Granada. Hasan said that on the 10th day of the parade, there were many fights breaking out and one man was killed and several were wounded. The sultan did not care so much about his country, but rather only pleasuring himself with fortune and slave girls. The sultan was extremely disliked and ended up being removed from power July 14th, 1482.

I thought the dynamics between Salma and Warda were interesting. Salma hears a quote from Gaudy Sarah stating, “For us, the women of Granada, freedom is a deceitful form of bondage, and slavery a subtle form of freedom,” This quote was really interesting because even though Salma was the free woman, she envied Warda being a slave because she was able to go out “unveiled, sing, dance, pour wine, wink her eyes…” It is interesting because society does not have high expectations for how a slave girl should act and thus, in a way she ends up having the freedom to be herself without restraint.

I found Leo Africanus much more stimulating than the other items we have read. I find it extremely interesting to read a first hand account of the 1500’s. Prior to the reading I have done in this book, I have no knowledge of everyday life at this time. The first readings did a great job painting a picture of what Leo Africanus was describing.
I found the chapter “The Year of Astaghfirullah especially interesting. Society was a lot different. I never realized there was as much cohabitation between people of different religions as there was. Jews and Christians are mentioned living and doing business with each other. I also didn’t know how much of a social taboo drinking was. Although it was condemned in the Islamic faith muslim vendors still shamefully sold and drank it. We learn that Shaikh Astaghfirullah spends much of his sermons on how alcohol furthers one from God and how many hypocritically sit in prayer while “last night they were prostate in their cups.”
I really enjoyed this reading. This book gave me a much better understanding of what life was like in the late 1400s. I look forward to reading more and learning more about Leo Africanus’ life.

Leo Africanus

This book takes a different approach to illustrating the global system in the late fifteenth-century; it is, after all a collection of stories told to the narrator, Hasan, as well as original stories told by him. The story begins with accounts from Granada, a city in Muslim Spain (Andalusia). We learn through the accounts of Hasan and his parents that Granada is an international city: the doctors there study works from the Hippocratic writers (from ancient Greece) and Galen (a Roman); trade products such as silk are abundant; there are references to the "Tartar" invasions, as well as memories of the plague; and there are also accounts of Christopher Columbus, who could be called a founder of imperialism and (almost-)modern globalization.

However, this global city exists under a dark cloud of invasion, molestation, and exploitation. It is invaded by Christian-Spaniards under Ferdinand and Isabella during the "Reconquest" of Spain against the Muslims and Jews who before had been living in the Iberian Peninsula for several centuries. The Spanish Inquisition, notably brutal, forcefully converted or expelled Jews and Muslims from "Al-Andalus". Hasan, in this story, lives through these tumultuous events, and as he foreshadows in his narrative, he is never again able to stay in one location for the rest of his life; he will be called Leo Africanus, but, as he says in the introduction, he is not African...

I have called the city of Granada a "global city". So I wonder: does the fact that Granada was on the global stage in the late fifteenth-century account for its invasion and "reconquest" by Ferdinand and Isabella? or was it all simply about religion?

-Stefan Larson

Leo Africanus: Granada and Fez

Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus is extremely refreshing after the previous readings in this class because it is a collection of a man’s memories that convey important parts of history as opposed to a list of events, people, and places overtime. This reading personally reminded me of The Kite Runner because it is incredibly eye opening to a society entirely foreign to me. In this reading the majority of the stories are from when Hasan was very young, so they are told based on how he remembers his parents describing them to him. We learn how his family came to be, how Granada falls from a great city to a conquered land, how many people had to deal with the difficulties in taking refuge, and how religion and the notion of magic play a significant role in their lives. After the many troubles with war in Granada are described, Hasan and his family leave, only to deal with more difficulties such as dealing with not being welcome in Salma’s family’s home. The reading finishes abruptly with Hasan’s father telling his mother that they are divorced since she snuck into his room one night with a “magical” perfume, even though it was with good intentions.

I was shocked by stark differences from our society early on in the reading since it began with the story behind Muhammad and his two wives, Salma and Warda. It was both strange that he was betrothed to his cousin Salma at a very young age and that he held a Christian woman, Warda, captive as his second wife. Then, Salma’s words were the most astonishing to me: “For us, the women of Granada, freedom is a deceitful form of bondage, and slavery a subtle form of freedom.” These words were so strong because of course I have no way of relating to them, experiencing nothing even close to make me say such things. Also, I found the stories of unsafe roads to be intriguing since we have discussed in class how that has influenced trade for merchants in the past.

I found the role of religion to be the most interesting throughout this reading. The idea of having multiple wives, the elaborate ceremony for a son’s circumcision, the extreme conflict between different religions, and the overall fear of God were fascinating. Also, the story about Muhammad quickly beginning to pray on his rug facing Mecca even though he was at the time being robbed was an exciting story, especially since his commitment to religion is what made the bandits leave. My question would be, if this extreme level of religion influenced our society in America, how do you think our culture would be different today?

Leo Africanus, Part 1

During the reading, I found the Year of the Crossing chapter to be really disheartening. Like many people throughout time, all across the world, they have been asked to leave their homes for reasons that (in truth) make little sense. It's sad to read about what it was like, making the choice between a life of "tameness" in your home or a life with your god, but not in your home. What makes it all the more sad is how commonplace this has been throughout human history. In many cases, people have had to flee their own home for fear of persecution, or sometimes death.

We've seen it in the Americas with many indigenous people, with Granada (and similar Muslim places, during periods of Christianity conversions, with many African countries and villages (similarly through Christian means), the Jews during the Holocaust period, and many many more. I don't know if I would be able to handle a decision like that, being asked to leave a place (my home) to save myself from harassment or death. I would hate that. It's not really a fair choice, especially since I have lived in my hometown for 18 years of my life (basically from when I was born until I came to college). And even being here was hard! I miss my home... I couldn't imagine moving away permanently for reasons like that.

Anyways, I definitely like Leo Africanus way more than the other books. Probably because this is an actual story, but it's also really interesting. I can't wait to read the rest of the book :)

Do you think there will be a time in our world where "homes" will remain homes for the entire population? *Excluding natural disasters.

Leo Africanus- Maalouf Commentary 8

Leo Africanus- Maalouf
Commentary 8

This week’s commentary reflects on the start of Amin Maalouf’s novel, “Leo Africanus.” His writing style is fictional, but she uses historical events and people to add validity to the story. The book takes place in Grenada, Spain during the late 15th century. This location was chosen purposely to depict Grenada’s mixture of religions; mainly Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. Additionally, Maalouf aimed to give a contextual representation of society, especially in terms of family structure.
Pages 1-100 introduced Leo Africanus’ family. His mother Salma was late to conceive, causing her husband Muhammed to bring home a slave-girl, Warda, for a mistress. Ultimately, they both become pregnant, and Salma is lucky enough to birth Muhammed’s first son. This sets the stage for Africanus’ life while conveying the struggle and hardships women endure in the 1400s.
I appreciate Maalouf’s literary interpretation of Leo Africanus’ life. I think I am enlightened by history in a new way because the style of her writing is so fictional. Although I am vaguely familiar with Grenada’s history in the 15th century, the story seems well researched and historically accurate to a degree. I am excited to gain a worldly and realistic perspective of this era that I have not yet attained.
My question is in regards to the machismo nature of the society portrayed. How has the flow of globalization brought this heavily male dominated order to be? How does present-day Grenada relate/contrast to that of the country during the 15th century?


The book “Leo Africanus” written by Amin Maalouf is different from all the other books we have read so far. This is because the book is written as a personal tail of memoirs to explain the life of Hasan bin Muhammed al-Wazzan al-Fasi who was given the Christian name of Leo Africanus. This is a lot different to read and analyze compared to our other readings because it is only the single point of view of Leo’s life as he sees and explains it. As we talked about in class this brings on some kind of bias about the information that is being presented and what really happened in his history. This bias will always occur when you look at history from one persons point of view and it makes me wonder how much of it we can believe. Either way, Muhammed’s life story so far is an interesting one and it brings up many interesting points and events that occurred during this time period. The first interesting part of the book has to deal with polygamy has this was accepted during this time. This is interesting as he impregnates two different women and really wants a boy. If this were to occur today it would be on Jerry Springer or Maury, but polygamy is seen as an easier form of life. The wives are able to work together to take care of the kids and stuff around the house making life much simpler. The book then moves to his travels as Maalouf uses language and religion to show us the Muslim culture and to dissolve some of the stereotypes they are given.

This book is much different from the ones we have previously read and is much more interesting to me. The part that stuck out for me was something I remember talking about in class was that it is very difficult to force ones religion, culture, and beliefs on areas that already have their own established. Even when the Spanish took back what the Muslims attempted to control.

My question is if any country today will ever be able to force religion and cultures on another country. And if they do conquer those aspects of a country will they be able to hold it and claim it as part of country.

Blog 1: Leo Africanus

This weeks reading of the Introduction of Leo Africanus, dealt with the dramatics of family. The setting is of the Reconquista and Fall of Grenada, each provided the Iberian peninsula with religion idealism, and created the desire to expand. At this time Leo Africanus's parents were to become married, after a long engagement- as cousins. This marriage was arranged in order to have children, specifically boys. Sons were a big deal during this time. Everyone wanted sons, to raise them strong and powerful. It was hard for for Leo's mother to originally conceive, and this frustrated his father and caused a lot of tension in the marriage. His father went on a long trip and came back with a mistress. Women were treated very differently in this time period depending if they are wedded or not. Mistresses were able to sing, dance, and do a lot more than a married woman, who was forced to take care of her husband, the house, and children. His father ended up impregnating the mistress, as well as his mother! When Leo's father found out he had the potential to have two sons, he was ecstatic. His mistress gave birth to a girl, but his wife delivered a boy. Leo's father was overjoyed at this.
I find it interesting the favoritism between wed women, and mistresses. It reminds me of life today. When a girl has a boyfriend or husband, to another man's eyes, she is unattractive. If a single woman walks by, she is appealing. It is unfortunate because this is why men today cheat on their wives. But for Leo Africanus' family, it was all the norm.


Leo Africanus

The section of Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus and takes place between December fifth and fourteenth, 1489. It gives the account of a dysfunctional family’s beginning. It was the month of Ramadan, which fell in mid summer that year. Tensions were rising rapidly and quarrels were popping up all around Granada. The town was worn out from civil war and faced threats from unbelievers that put the fate of all Muslims at risk. The family begins with a woman, Salma and a man, Muhammad. These two were cousins, who were engaged to be married when they became adults. They finally married and were together for over four years before Salma was able to conceive.

During that time span, Muhammad began to lose interest in his wife because of her infertility. The rumors which were floating around were finally confirmed when Muhammad returned home with another woman. Her name was Warda and he acquired her from a soldier. Salma’s barrenness was finally solved when she was presented with a special elixir to put in a glass of orgeat syrup. It was given to her by a woman named Gaudy Sarah and was intended to entice Muhammad to come to Salma. Finally, with Sarah’s help Salma became pregnant. However, Warda also became pregnant, causing Muhammad to rejoice at the thought of having two sons. The race was on between the women for the birth of the first son. Wada gave birth first, to a baby girl named Mariam. Muhammad barely looked at his first born child, disappointed that Mariam was born a girl. Salam’s gave birth to a baby boy, reuniting her with Muhammad, who ended up only caring for this section of his family.

I found this multiple family situation to be very interesting. While I was reading, all that kept popping up in my head was some sort of throw back edition of Jerry Springer. We have a couple who is arranged to be married as children; the only catch is that they are cousins. Now, they finally get married but over time the husband begins losing interest in his wife. He goes out and picks up some other woman, who is considerable more beautiful then his current wife and begins to keep her as a mistress. The husband then proceeds to have children with both women, abandoning his mistress and first born child, which was a girl to be with his wife and his first born son. These circumstances really painted the picture for me. All I kept seeing was Muhammad on stage being grilled with questions while sitting between his two families.

My question is does anyone else get this picture in their head or am I just nuts? Maybe it’s a different show for you like Maury?

Leo Africanus and women

I found the conflicts that developed in the first pages of the book very interesting. "For us, the women of Granada, freedom is a deceitful form of bondage, and slavery a subtle form of freedom" (6). Leo Africanus tells of his mother's struggles with his father; how he only really saw her as his cousin to which he was betrothed from birth, and not as his wife. It goes on to explain that having taken a mistress, the mistress was given freedoms that the wife, herself, did not have and in general the father seemed to care more for the mistress than his own wife.
It's very interesting to compare the literary descriptions of Leo Africanus' mother's life to the rights women are given in modern culture. The slave was able to sing, dance and pour wine because she was a mistress and not a wed women. In our culture, women have much more rights and freedoms than the women of Granada had at the time; simple joys of singing and dancing are performed by women of the U.S. without thought.
Another part of the book that was interesting was the father's joy to understand that he had two births and the possibility of two sons. The ideas of birth have drastically changed over the years; even in the times of the 18th century let alone the 15th, it was ideal to bare a son in order to take on their father's work (be it the throne or what not), but in today's culture birth is seen more as the making of a family rather than the continuation of a family's line and/or inheritance.

Religion and Leo Africanus

The Reconquista and the Fall of Grenada in 1492 provided the Iberian penninsula with religion idealism that further fueled the desire to expand their empires. Additionally, it influences other religious aspects such as the Inquisition against Jews.
I feel as if religious motives can be exploited by people to justify any act if you try hard enough. The records of documented crimes against the Spanish Church are laughable. For instance, Luis de Stangel was accused of heresy for his belief and practice of the Jewish faith. To avoid punishment, Stangel composed a written confession; and consequently, he was later charged with heresy and perjury. It was assumed that after he had written his confession that he was lying so he also was charged with heresy.
Things like slavery can also be justified through religious means. The natives of Africa were considered heathens, as they were not Christians, and it was assumed that it was the holy duty of Christians to enslave them so that they would convert to Christianity and experience salvation.
Religion is really a difficult subject for me, as I went to Catholic school for the majority of my academic career. I see how that is is blindly followed and so easily exploited so that few will benefits. I mean, if it wasn’t for modern science the Pope might still be torturing people who thought the Earth moved around the Sun. One of my favorite quotes is that “you can believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God if you want. But it strikes me as odd, that Shakspeare—a mere mortal, was so much better in terms of basic writing skills”. I would constantly bring up that since man wrote the Bible from what was inspiration from the Holy Spirit, and man is inclined to sin… couldn’t it have been written down wrong?
I do not believe that a person has to be religious to have ethics and morals. I don’t need to believe in God to not want to kill people, or kick puppies. I think morals and ethics are inherent to people. Besides most major religions follow the same basic code of conduct of being a good person.

The life of Leo Africanus reminds me of the fable of Prester John in that both were the Christian that lived among the Muslims and were seen as a tool to defeat the Muslims. I do find it ironic that it alledges that Leo Africanus reconverted back to Islam before his death. It makes me feel as if he too was using religion for his own personal gains, like escaping oppression from Christians.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leo Africanus- Blog 1

The first part of Leo Africanus by Maalouf that we were instructed to read was very intriguing and was interesting for me to read. The book opens up very sad because Salma, the mother, was struggling to have children but she finally got pregnant. However, her husband, Muhammad, had gotten another woman, Warda, pregnant too. Muhammad was with Warda as well because he did not feel attracted to Salma because she was unable to have children for so long. This depressed Salma until Sarah, the fortune teller came, and told Salma to drink some of her potion and she will become the new mistress to Muhammad. Muhammad was only interested in having a boy and Sarah told Salma that she has gotten uglier during her pregnancy which meant she should be having a boy. Warda ended up giving birth to a baby girl and Muhammad wanted nothing to do with the child. Salma had a boy and there was a large celebration being thrown to celebrate the birth of Muhammad's first son.

During the celebration, Abu l'Hasan tells the story of how the last celebration was when Salma was extremely young. The last celebration was rained out by Noah's flood and Salma got lost in the flood. The remembrance of the last flood brought back many unwanted memories to Salma.
A civil war erupted in Grenada, where the family lived, and Abu was removed from power.

Everyone was traveling with the uncle when he tells the story which brings back memories of when they used to live in Grenada. The Year of the Amulets was very dangerous due to the dangers hanging over the city and also because there was a nursing baby and most nursing babies did not survive. During The Year of Astaghfirullah, Shaikh was made fun of for repeating phrases in sermons, but in the siege of Grenada, no one made fun of him because the Most High would punish them. The Year of the Fall was marked by the heavy snow that covered Grenada which made food very scarce. Muhammad's family was well off and had plenty of food to eat, but there was a loss of jobs all around and the people in the city had no means of escape. Attacks were however reduced because of the winter. The peace treaty was also said to be underway.
Sarah delivers a book of fortune to Muhammad which he studies. He tells Sarah she and her family must leave the land at once. She tells Salma she is going to stay but a few days later she decides to leave. Some people stayed in Grenada and were held as hostages to Ferdinand. Then, Grenada fell permanently. Sarah chose the path of exile and Salma's family was said to be next.

This book seems very interesting to read, a book that I will most likely not be able to put down as I read on because it is written in the form of a memoir. The story is sad, but more intriguing to read about than just facts in a book. The book tells an actual story of Leo Africanus and his travels during the Renaissance era.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Origins of the word "revolution"

Revolution has had many meanings since its inception. It comes from the Latin revolutionem which means, "a revolving." First it was used to describe celestial bodies. From about 1450 it was used to mean in general use "instance of great change in affairs." It gained a political meaning in 1600 from the French. It was first used as a noun (revolutionary) in 1850, from the world revolutionize, which means "to change a thing completely and fundamentally."

In class we were talking about how revolve means to come back to where one started. I think this line of thought corresponds to the celestial body definition.