Friday, November 13, 2009

Blog Hasan

This week’s readings of Leo Africanus they talk alot about the character Hasan and we get to witness his journey as a trader. After returning home and finding that his father has died, he coontiunes on his journeys as a trader and on his travels to Tlemcen. He waits for Nur and as he is waiting he sees the ottoman patrol bring in a local governor from a a connecting providence. The Ottoman patrol decided to publically hang the man and the man did not submit any emotion and took the death silently. The rope broke three times and then it worked and the man was finally hanged. On a boat back to Tunis a child runs into a soldier. Hasan saves/helps the child out and the soldiers let him go, because the boy had the same name as his son, who he hasn’t seen in months. I found it interesting that the soldiers during this time were not far from soldiers of our time when it came to compassion. Instead of killing the boy or anything like that it showed that soldiers still had feelings and longed for their family while out during war times. I would like to see more examples of the soldiers struggle against their orders given. Like did they kill everyone or did they have any compassion for some people. I would like to see the "human" side of the soldier. My question is why was death not a big deal during this time and why people took death so easy?.....It seems that way but maybe they were secretly suffering inside? idk

War and Failure in North Africa

This week’s sections open with a description of two battles in North Africa which occurred in 1511.  The first battle described is the one led by the Sultan of Fez to recapture the city of Tangier, which is met with great resistance and a large number of dead Muslim warriors.  The second appears to be more successful.  This is an campaign led by the Lame Sharif to siege the city of Agadir, which seems to meet much more success in the beginning.  Both, however, end in failure ( ).  As our constant narrator tells us, not a single line of his writings deal with the battle, but rather entirely with the reactions of their leaders.  This is very interesting to me, as often the reaction to failure is more important than the actual failure itself.

First, we see the reaction to the defeat at Tangier by the Sultan of Fez.  This reaction is typical of what is seen in today’s political world.  The Sultan attempts to spin the defeat to show it as less severe than it was.  The Sultan claims that the number of dead is not that bad, and that it has shown that the Muslims are willing to fight, can rally the population of the Muslim world, while not attracting the attention of vengeful Portuguese leaders.  However, outside the Sultan’s tent the dead number more than three hundred and the soldiers who remain alive are distraught.  Included in great detail is the account of one man whose son was killed in the battle.

Later, we see the account of the Lame Sharif and his reactions to the battle at Agadir.  There the Muslim forces were met with greater success in their siege.  However, the attack is called off seemingly prematurely, and the Portuguese hold the city.  When confronted and asked to explain why the siege was lifted, the Lame Sharif explains that he had no desire to take the city, as it would require his army to remain there to resist Portuguese attempts to retake the city from him.  He explains that his goal is not to take a single city, but rather to take over as the head of all the Muslim states.  This is a goal that is clearly self-serving and does not have the best interests of the Muslim world at heart.  Yet when that is pointed out to him, the Sharif merely becomes angry.

My question pretty much boils down to looking for your reactions to failure, comments on theirs, etc…


In this week’s blog Leo Africanus is the focus and the character Hasan is the subject. Through this section of the book we see his many travels as a trader. One part I wanted to highlight was the part when he arrives home to find that his father had passed away. After finding out about his father dying he proceeds on his travels, one place he goes is Tlemcen where he thinks Huran is at. The books follow him through his travels and at one point he stopped outside of Cairo. He could not proceed further without Nur with him so he waits for her. As he waits he sees that the ottoman patrol bring in a local governor from a local providence. They bring him there because he was not letting provisions in and such. This is interesting because the ottoman patrol decides that then and there they would hang the man. He was okay with them hanging and took it like a man. Only the rope broke three times on him. Until finally the rope did not break and he was publically hung by the ottoman patrol. Following that later in the book, Hasan is on the boat back to Tunis and as the garrison is inspecting the boat the a child runs off into the solider, as this happen Hasan stands up and helps the child out and the soldiers releases him, saying that his name is the same as his boy, who he hasn’t seen in months.
Interesting enough, this section sheds light on some similar life styles that we have today. Specifically how the soldier says that he has not seen his family in months. That is something that in common today. If you look at the war we are currently in, or conflict, soldiers of the United States are on tour of somewhere near a year, and only come home every couple months to see their family as well. I also found it interesting how they dealt with death. We talked about it on Wednesday session, but to see someone publicly killed is today is not norm. The norm today is death is supposed to be peaceful and private. If someone were killed today like a hanging in a town square, that would be seen as just wrong.
I would like to see the book go more in depth of how the ottoman soldiers were, were they strict or were they seeing it as a job? I am just curious because it seem pride in ones country back in the 15th and 16th century was the reason for die, unlike today it is fighting for pride, but money is still a big issue for signing up.

In this week’s reading, Hasan was exiled from his community for supporting the pardon of his brother-in-law who was the suspected murderer of Zarwali. After that, Hasan describes his arrival in Cairo and the onset of the plague, children being affected first. Hasan says that everyday there will hundreds of deaths. He finally traveled to Rome, where the Pope X baptized him under his new Christian name, “Leo Africanus.” I thought the most interesting part of this week’s reading was learning about the religion.

Hasan and Hibin

The reading for this week dealt with Hasan’s exile for backing up his brother in law. His travels and experiences are interesting, and I was intrigued by the custom of throwing gold coins at his departure.

However, I am continually fascinated by the romance in the novel. As mentioned in previous blogs, his relationship with his slave Hibin is extremely complicated. He leaves her with his family instead of taking her with him, what does that say about his love for her and relationships men had with slaves in this time period? I feel that there is a social boundary that is impossible to cross in these times, and all of the relationships in the novel seem extremely rigid. There is a way to marry, and there is a way to love your slave. These boundaries cannot be crossed.

This is interesting in comparison to today’s standards. I was wondering where our boundaries lie today in the US. Certainly there are laws that display the social norms, but I feel that family has more to do with relationship standards than society as a whole. It seems that in general we value monogamy, and marriage as a tribute to that bond between two adults of opposite sexes. In different families and locations there are other standards put on top of that. For example: whether or not premarital sex is frowned upon, how early dating should begin, what types of people should date (based on gender, age, race, class). There are a host of unspoken rules today, just as there were in Hasan’s time. I keep wondering in this class if society really does change, or if each society just interprets human nature with a different set of rules.

--Arielle Parris

Blog 10

Part 1:
Hasan is currently working as a diplomat in Constantinople. His wife Nur then gives birth to a baby girl. Sadly he is captured by pirates and used as a slave. Because of scandals surrounding his family (his brother allegedly committing murder) this was deemed a form of exile. As a result of these unfortunate mishaps Hasan is brought closer to Rome where he is then baptized and is given the name Leo Africanus.

Part 2:
I feel that this was a very interesting chain of events. I felt bad that Hasan a.k.a. Leo Africanus was punished for a crime that his brother may or may not have commited. This is especially unfortunate because he has a new born.

Part 3:
Why do you think in these times people's families were punished for their potential wrong doings? Is this something we still see today?

Leo Africanus pt. III

In this section of the reading we follow Hasan as he is pulled this way and that by forces largely outside his control. He attempts to do the right thing by standing up for his brother-in-law who is accused of murdering the man to whom his sister had been betrothed. Because of Hasan's previously public dislike for the murdered individual and his obvious bias towards the side of his brother-in-law, Hasan is seen as a suspect and consequentiality exiled. He tries to take slight control of his situation by attempting to honor his family name by leaving in style and throwing gold coins as he makes is procession out of town. He is accompanied by his slave girl and a gaggle of guards. Again he is set back by a storm that keeps him seculded in a cave with Hibin where the situation takes a turn for the better and he realizes that he is in love with her. To protect her he returns her to her family as he continues his travels.
The rest of the section includes more examples of Hasan attempting to do the right thing for other people but is thwarted by some other force. His efforts to warn Cairo of an impending invasion by a Turkish sultan go largely unheeded and the city is toppled anyways. As we have seen before, any moment of joy for Hasan is closely linked to that of sorrow or conflict. He finds a new wife and adopts her son as his own just as the situation of the sultan's invasion unfolds. After a stint in Mecca he ends up in Rome where he is baptized, given a new name(Leo Africanus) and taught of a new religion.
I found it interesting that one man can cover so much area through his travels. Hasan is everywhere. Whether he likes it or not, his experiences are forcing him to become a man of the world. What I did not fully understand was why Hasan was exiled so easily but sent out of town with a group of guards. In my mind, if you exiled someone in this time you would simply boot him out of your territory and not care what happens to him next.

Luxury, Exile, Slavery...and Freedom?

At the beginning of our reading for this week, Hasan is living in luxury in Fez, but before long his life begins to unravel as his wife Fatima dies along with the child she was going to bear, he is accused for being responsible for putting Zarwali in a perilous situation that lead to his murder by sending him into exile, and then sent into exile himself. The grand departure he makes from Fez only turns to despair when a great storm robs him of all his riches on the trip to return Hiba to her tribe. Though she was able to secure him more than 1,000 dinars, he found depression in Timbuktu, which was soon destroyed by fire. Hasan manages to get to Cairo, but the city is plagued by disease. With the happy responsibility of guarding the home of a generous stranger, he finds himself a new wife. On the way to Mecca, however, he is robbed again of all he managed to recover for himself when he is captured and enslaved by an Italian pirate Bovadiglia, who was charged with tracking down a respectable, Arabic-speaking gentleman to aid the Pope.

It was very interesting to me how the relationship between Pope Leo X and Hasan developed, as well as Hasan's reaction to his enslavement. The Pope immediately takes a liking to Hasan. He is given anything he requests. The door to his room is eventually unlocked, and while taking classes and teaching classes for the Pope, he is eventually "freed." But, how free is he? He resists responding to the Luther-supporting Hans (a student) out of respect for his "protector." Does he forget how he came to be there? His curiosity for learning seemed to make him submissive to his situation. Not once does the reader get the impression that this was some sort of injustice!

How are we to understand this? The most troubling thing for Hasan is when his name is changed to Leo Africanus and the lack of regular prayer to guide men's daily lives. His identity seems to be at risk and he makes his new name sound more Arabic. I am surprised that he does not feel more passionate about the luxury and corruption Christianity.

From Fez to Cairo to Mecca to Rome

Although Leo Africanus is known for his extensive travels, this week’s readings proves this fact. The story transpires from Fez to Cairo, back to Fez, back to Cairo again, to Mecca, and finally to Rome, where Hasan is enslaved. The section begins, however, with Ahmad the Lame revealing his true character to Hasan; he wants to take over all the lands. Then there is a detailed description of the Zarwali’s murder by Hasan’s brother-in-law and friend, Harun. At the same time, we learn that Hasan’s beloved wife, Fatima, dies in childbirth and Hasan’s true emotions are revealed in his mourning period. To make matters worse, the Sultan confronts Hasan about involvement with the Zarwali’s death. Although Hasan had nothing to do with it, he is exiled for a period of two years. I found the way Hasan left Fez very interesting; he claims in order to “honor his family” he must leave in a manner of elegance and wealth (he even throws gold coins). In exile, he travels to Cairo describing the desolation and first signs of plague in the region. But Hasan meets his next wife here in Cairo and inherits a son, Bayazid. They travel back to Fez and again to find Harun. On this journey Hasan finds out that the Grand Turk, Sultan Salim, is planning to attack Cairo. They travel back to Cairo to warn the city, but the Sultan eventually takes over anyway. Hasan then travels to Mecca—I found this section extremely interesting because it again emphasized the importance of faith in this time. Hasan says about Mecca, “With every step I took, I found myself transported into a world of dreams…at the centre, the Noble Mosque, the House of Abraham…the Ka’ba…I longed to walk around it until I became exhausted”(279). But the last part of Hasan’s journey in the section is his enslavement and capture in Rome. This is where Hasan receives his famous name, Leo Africanus, through baptism by the pope.

Besides the reoccurring theme of religion, I found one more thing very interesting in the readings—the apathy toward war and death. In the first few paragraphs of the reading, Hasan comments that he did not have one description or “progress” of battle in his writing. He focused more on the kings and courts and the courtiers. When the mentions of hundreds upon hundreds of bodies on the battlefield is made, it seems as though this is of no importance. Furthermore, Hasan, depicts the story of an old man with his dead son’s body without any emotion at all. Again, more deep into this section, when Hasan is talking to Nur’s son, he apathetically talks about stepping over a Turkish head. The boy seems to have no emotional reaction to this at all, he simply shrugs his shoulders when asked about it. So, my question is why is this apathy so rampant? I understand warfare and death were more common in this time, but I would expect a bit more sadness or at least shock to the death of family members. Were these people just more used to war than we are today?

Leo and The Year of the Grand Turk

In spite of the title, Leo's work is not a comprehensive description of the entire African continent. There is no mention, for example, of Christian Ethiopia or of the lands to the south of the Sudanic zone, which already were familiar to European readers from contemporary Portuguese and Italian reports. As mentioned above, Alvise Cadamosto's description of his voyages to West Africa was first published in Italy in 1507. The first volume ") of the "Asia" by João de Barros, which describes the advance of Portuguese discoveries on African coasts until 1498 with extensive accounts of Gold Coast, Benin, and the kingdom of Congo, was published in Portugal in 1552. "The Prester John of the Indies" by Francisco Alvares, providing an accurate description of Ethiopia, was published in Portugal in 1540.

The emphasis in Leo's work is, understandably, on Morocco: the description of Fez alone takes as much space as the two entire books reserved for Tunisia and Libya. Even if the author's primary focus is geographical, an historical aspect is always present, albeit sometimes superficially, as most passages contain at least one or two historical anecdotes related to the respective area. As to the composition and approach, Leo's work represents the traditional literary genre of "the routes and the realms" which was famoured by medieval Arab geographers and historians, such as Ibn Hawqal, al-Bakri, and al-Umari, whose works Leo used as sources for his own work. Hence we may characterize Leo's "Description of Africa" as the final contribution of Islamic learning to Western civilization, in the sense that it offered new, hitherto unknown knowledge to Western scholars; the end of the cultural exchange which had begun in the eleventh-century Spain and Sicily. On the other hand, Leo's work was by no means unique to his readers. Similar approach was used by many Renaissance scholars, who considered geography, ethnography, and history inseparable subjects.

Leo's knowledge was above all based on his own experiences and observations. I have already referred above to his great voyages which are supposed to have taken him almost everywhere in the Islamic Mediterranean, from southern Morocco to Arabia, and across the Sahara. The question whether these voyages represent events that really took place or whether they are just a literary invention by a cunning captive who wanted to impress his patron has some relevance when we are estimating Leo's reliability as an historical source from the point of view of modern historiography. Considering, however, his repution and influence on the development of European geography of Africa, the question is less meaningful. Until the early nineteenth century, Leo's European readers were not capable of distinguishing facts from fiction in his text, any more than medieval readers had been able to separate reality from imagination in Marco Polo's "Travels". This concerns particularly Leo's description of the city of Timbuktu, which he depicts as an African version of Zipangu.

Towards the end of October, the brother of the bishop of Salamanca, a Spaniard and a Captain, captured on the sea a Turkish ambassador whom the Grand Turk had dispatched to the king of Tunis on the Barbary Coast. The man was taken to Rome with twelve other captives and placed in the house of the above mentioned bishop at Sant'Agostino in Rome, where the Cardinal of Nantes had once lived. Then the said ambassador was taken to the Sant'Angelo.

Becoming Leo Africanus

This weeks readings in Leo Africanus begain with the exile of Hasan. He was exiled because he stood up for his brother-in-law and pushed for a pardon for him. Due to being exiled, Hasan decided to make a grand exit and throw gold coins to people. Hasan then reluctantly accepts money from his slave and lovers ancestors for her return and travels to Timbuktu and then Cairo where he meets his third wife. From there he travels to the capital of the Ottoman Empire (where Hasan’s third wifes late husband was the prince of) on a mission with the pirate Barbarossa. I found the politics and plans in this section to be interesting, with the Grand Turk Salim’s plan to invade Egypt that Hasan finds out. When Hasan returns to Cairo to warn them about the coming invasion he is greeted by the birth of his second daughter. He leaves Cairo to go to Mecca, but instead an Italian pirate captures him and brings his to Rome. In Rome, Hasan is given to the Pope and he studies and teaches. In Rome, Hasan’s name is changed from Hasan to Leo Africanus. This week’s section of the book is when the importance of religion is truly shown, as well as the battles between the religions.

This section of Hasan’s life was very interesting, although I believe I enjoyed the previous readings more. There wasn’t one part that stood out completely more interesting than the others. All the places Hasan travelled and things he did and observed stood out, like watching the battles at Agadir and traveling to Cairo. I also found all the religious tension intriguing.

One thing I find interesting about Hasan and the culture is that in this section he meets and marries his third wife. I have found every marriage or romance story in Leo Africanus to be quite interesting. Just in this section before Hasan heads to Cairo, there was Hasans relationship with his slave girl, Hiba. I could not grasp their relationship. First, there was the section where they were trapped inside the cave because of snow when Hasan realizes his love for Hiba because he decides to bring her back to her family instead of reselling her to another person. Another section that shows his “love” for her is when he leaves Hiba’s ancestors and Timbuktu is the first place he decides to go. Timbuktu is important to Hasan and Hiba because it is the place where they shared their first kiss. But then if he loves her, one would think that he would want her to be with him on all his next journeys, and that he would not have given (sold) her back to her family. So I guess my question is, what do you think of love and marriage in Leo Africanus, and what do you think of marriage in the book overall?

Leo Africanus

The latest readings marked a pivotal point in the story in which Hasan is reborn into Leo Africanus. His life was very unique from any other’s of his time or now. It began with Hasan being banished from his community for supporting the pardon of his brother-in-law who was the suspected murderer of Zarwali.Hasan left Fez with lots of riches and a group of guards, both which were lost at a site. At this site, Hasan went in a cave for protection from a storm and the dying guards with Hiba, his slave and lover. They stayed there a few days and during this time Hasan realized he was in love with her. So when they left the cave, he returned her to her family. After that, he left for Timbuktu, but experienced yet another misfortune. A massive fire burnt down a great portion of the city, so he left for Cairo. Eventually he ended up in Rome where the Pope, Leo X baptized and Christianized him, donning him the name ‘Leo Africanus.’

In Rome, Leo was acquainted with Lutheranism. I’ve never read of this time in a narrative style and it’s actually really fascinating. The Protestant Reformation is one of the most major movements of the Christian church and here I am reading a first-hand experience from someone living through it. Not only does Maalouf weave in historical figures but he also includes major historical movements that impact the plot equally as strongly. I haven’t got the time to do research at the moment, and I’m positive Maalouf did a ton, but I wonder if anyone has caught any historical inaccuracies? This work is fiction since it is written as a narrative, but it is set to the back drop of historical events. But in every other case of this, there is usually one or two things that are slightly changed for the plot to run smoothly. So my question is if there are any in Leo Africanus.

Leo Africanus Reading 3

This weeks reading of Leo Africanus brought some important aspects only obtained through first hand account. Leo is cast out for two years due to Hassan's the Ferret murderous act. This allows Leo time to go to Egypt, more particularly Cario where he left a house to watch over. He quickly finds himself adapting to the way of life. He encounters his up and downs along the way. He eventually is taken to Italy in which he officially changes his name to Leo. He was captured by the Christian pirates and is taken to the Pope and presented as a lavish slave so to speak. The pope and Leo become close and have many discussions.
One item of discussion that i find particularly interesting in the incorporation of religion and state. I guess it is very much related to technological advances, but at the time they felt the plague was caused by the "Most High." Today we know that the disease is cause by a virus. Also how religion was used to incorporate conquests known as "Holy Wars." Again, today if a country like USA were to declare war supporting religious conquest as it goal, we would have utter chaos,yet the states or Monarch's governing convinced millions to do so. It still amazes me to see the depth that religion is tied into how the state governs over the people. They seem to utilize it as a strategic tool of governing rather than a omniscient being. My question to everyone is, what steps or changes occurred for split of religion and state?

Leo Africanus, Part 3

This book really has captivated me more than the other reads! I really enjoy the story telling, and I think Maalouf does an incredible job of bringing the story to life. Hasan's new life in Cairo is really quite extraordinary, when you take where he initially started in Book I, to now in Book III.

Moreover, I think it's really shocking to realize just how easily people were exiled back in these times, for some really silly reasons really. I mean, now-a-days (or perhaps even to someone who doesn't follow the religion?) they seem silly. Hasan's willingness to stand up for his family should be commended, not discouraged and punished. But, alas, if this did not happen, would we have such a great story afterward? Hasan's exile led him to Cairo, and new places to travel to, stories to tell.

I also think it's really sad what the Ottomans / Turks were doing to the different kind of people. All of the killing (for really no reason), and especially the showing off of the heads and what not. Totally unnecessary! But what's especially disheartening is how commonplace this kind of thing has been throughout history, and even still, it's prevalence in modern day. Throughout our existence and now, we fight and kill people for no reason aside from simple differences in small things, like religion, skin color, birth region, and many other petty things. I wonder if humanity can ever reach the point where we don't kill for petty reasons, or really any reason. We've existed for so long, and failed. What do you guys think?

All's Fair In Love And War

Leo Africanus started to get a lot more enjoyable towards the middle and end, and I think I've got a handle on some of the themes that seem to be emerging. (Although it's been a while since I analyzed a work of literature and I might be a little rusty!)

Written in a memoir-style of "this is my life's tale", the eponymous narrator often displays not-very-subtle foreshadowing of "doom" that will afflict him in the next chapter. ("Little did I know then that this would be my undoing" etc.) In fact, this "doom-predicting" happens so frequently that I think it certainly shapes how we read the story of this Hasan, this Leo Africanus.

I read this story as having a decisively fatalistic edge to it. Hasan's exciting life is wrought with big changes that he clearly has no control over. His life fluctuates like a roller-coaster between good fortune and bad, and his telling of his story reflects his helplessness to maintain control of his own destiny in the face of Big Events like wars and women.

Wars and Women! These are the two forces in life, as expressed in this book, that man can never control. Wars, or rather, the whims of politicians, religious leaders, and rulers (and even just regular really rich guys with a lot of influence). Much of Hasan's life is spent catering to the whims of fat, greedy self-important sultans and politicians to try to save his own family and himself from humiliation and misfortune, and caught up in trying not to endanger himself getting caught up in political and religious rebellion. An adventurer and diplomat at heart, Hasan holds no clear convictions of religion or politics, but is certainly a man to take up arms for the women in his life.

Women, of course, are also major players in shaping the road Hasan takes through life, through the slave-girl Hibin who he loves but can never bear him a son and whom he eventually returns to her people in Africa, to his unattractive cousin Fatim who he has to marry (although lucky for him she eventually dies in childbirth!) as a promise to his dying uncle, to the princess Nur who entreats him to become stepfather to her young fatherless son, who is destined to one day rule Constantinople.

Of course this helping-women-streak was all started by his half-sister Miriam, who entreats him to save her from an arranged marriage with the violent, generous Zarwali. Her desperate plea to her estranged brother moves him to a point that he endangers everything to free her from this marriage. Although it ends up with her in a leper colony, Hasan's friend Harun marries her and takes her out of the city (and then makes her join him in his quest being what sounded suspiciously like being a Muslim Robin Hood, but hey, that sounds more fun than having to be married to some old guy). Then Harun kills the Zarwali for revenge and Hasan is banished for accessory to murder. The point is, Hasan's actions rarely have the effects he intended, but they certainly make life exciting.

Hasan is an adventurer through life, his individual path a boat and the tides of history the waves that push him one way or another. His lack of firm conviction towards wars and politican disputes, his lack of a nation to call his own, all of these make him the perfect person to tell us how great historical events are experienced by the "everyman" (of course, an "everyman" with significant more opportunities for travel and influence than every other everyman, but still.) He's just some dude trying to make a buck and score some chicks, and if he has to talk to some sultans or leaders of religious rebellion to do that, then, that's just how you gotta roll to stay in the game.

-katie dempsey

leo Africanus 3

In this section of reading Hasan receives his new name, Leo, at his baptizing in Rome, Italy. Around this time, while working as a diplomat in Constantinople, Egypt, during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, his wife Nur gave birth to a girl. However, not long after he was captured by Italian pirates because of his position of power and was used as a slave. This was a form of exile because of scandals that surrounded his family, in that his brother was accused of murder. It is this that brought him to Rome and closer to the Pope and his religion and allowed him to be baptized and adopt the name Leo Africanus.

This is so interesting I think because it seems so unlikely to happen. I could not have predicted in the beginning of the book that Leo would become baptized and a Catholic by choice and that he and the Pope would share so many thoughts and ideas. It is very interesting that the pope almost instantly trusted Leo, especially because he was brought into Rome one a slave ship. Also, I think it is interesting that Leo spends time contemplating the issue of separation of church and state. However, he is of the opinion that the army should use religion as their support. However, personally I think that they should stay away from each other. I think that with religion in the mix war gets too personal… not that war shouldn’t be personal, because it should. But I think it should be a different type of personal. War should be personal because you are taking the lives of other human beings not because your religion or beliefs tell you it is.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Exiled for Loyalty

In this weeks reading, Hasan was exiled from his community for standing up for his brother-in-law. He then traveled/exiled to Egypt. Where he employed his time as a diplomat. He later traveled to Rome. In Rome, Pope Leo X took particular interest in Hasan. While in Rome, he was baptized and took on the name of Leo Africanus.

I love the idea of Hasan taking a new name. Our names because our identity throughout our lives. What we choose to be called and how we choose to introduce ourselves to the world is extremely telling. On the most basic level, our names can dictate our heritage, in some cases our religious background, and even the formality (when you choose to be called Matthew instead of Matt). Nicknames can form bonds within groups, can give an individual to embrace a different name or version, or even distinguish an individual from a crowd.

Its interesting to me that Hasan chose to take the name Leo Africanus. The name is so different from his cultural identity. Or rather his childhood cultural identity. From the first page of the book Hasan declares himself not a man of a nation or tribe, but a man of travel.

Can anyone truly become a man of travel? Or are we forever burdened with our cultures? Is our ability to distinguish ourselves apart from our previous cultures contingent on our own perspectives, others perspective of our cultures, or both?

From Hasan to Leo

This section of the reading begins with Hasan’s time in Constantinople as a diplomat. During his time there, the Ottoman empire is rising to the height of its power, perhaps due to a mostly peaceful time. For the time, Constantinople stands out for its peaceful blend of cultures and religions. Ironically, though, the Ottomans look to disturb the peace by looking for ways to expand their territory. One such way is to take over the Mameluke Empire and its central city, Cairo. Despite the attempt by Hasan and Nur to warn the city and the Mamelukes’ courage in the city’s defense, the Ottomans prove too strong and ransack Cairo. After the birth of his daughter, Hasan and family leave the city and enter into a nomadic lifestyle.

Hasan’s adventures continue about a year later. He is captured by an Italian pirate, and because of Hasan’s skills as a traveler, scholar, and diplomat, he is taken to be placed in the service of Pope Leo X. He falls into favor with the Pope, and is baptized and christened Leo, which directly leads to the name Leo Africanus. Hasan utilizes his skills to become a scholar in the city of Christianity, and through his experiences, he learns of the earliest forms of Lutheranism, the movement to purify the Catholic Church by removing its corruption.

These last chapters were very interesting in their use of real historical figures in combination with Hasan’s storybook adventures. Also interesting is Hasan’s time in Rome, as there are many similarities between Rome and the other major cities Hasan has lived in, like Constantinople and Fez. It seems that Hasan is at the center of many of the major cultural and religious movements of the time. Also evident in the reading is that conflict extends beyond religion or politics, but is rather a combination of a broad range of factors, from politics to religion to race to economics to sheer coincidence. It is this historical lesson that is still applicable today, as many of our current topics for debate, like immigration or the economy, are multi-faceted issues, hence the debate. So, with these issues, is there a single solution we should be looking for or should me merely settle for the compromises that leave room for improvement?

Leo Africanus - Blog 3

This section of Leo Africanus begins with Ahmad (the Lame) revealing his plan of betrayal so that he can eventually take over the lands. The Zarwali, who was exiled based on Hasan’s suggestion, is then attacked and killed by Harun, Hasan’s childhood friend and brother-in-law. Hasan is assumed to be a cohort of Harun’s, which leads to his own exile, which occurs after the death of Fatima and their infant son. Hasan and Hiba head back to her tribe, where Hiba’s tribesmen buy her back (which gains money for Hasan). Hasan left, alone, for Cairo, where he pseudo-inherited a house and met his next wife, a Circassian woman named Nur. She revealed to him the existence of her son, a boy named Bayazid, who is the last of a line of princes who will be able to “make the throne of the Ottomans tremble” (245). Hasan’s period of exile ended so he, Nur, and Bayazid returned to his family at Fez. Hasan learned of the death of his father and set off with Salma, Nur, Sarwat, and Bayazid to track down Harun. While carrying out orders from Harun, Hasan learned of a plot in which Sultan Salim was secretly planning on attacking Cairo instead of Persia. When Nur found out about this, she insisted that they head back to Cairo to warn her people. Nur was pregnant once they reached Cairo again, which prevented them from leaving. The Grand Turk came and occupied the city, but Tumanbay was staunchly opposed. Tumanbay attempted to regain the city, but in the end, he was hanged for his efforts. Hasan decided that a pilgrimage to Mecca was called for. Bayazid’s identity was nearly discovered twice on their return trip, but he remained protected by anonymity. Hasan was actually then abducted and transported as a slave to Rome, where he remained in captivity for some time. The Pope himself saw that Hasan’s education was taken care of, and Hasan also learned about Martin Luther during this time. After his baptism with the name John-Leo, Hasan is again free.

I found the following phrase the most interesting one of this entire section: “Even if we could pardon your brother-in-law for what he has done, how could we pardon him for the things we accuse him of having done?” (251). This seems to be common throughout history. Once society or governments find a scapegoat, that person is blamed for anything and everything. Even if they are truly innocent of all crimes, they are built up to be horrible in the public image. This allows the government to hold someone up as the anti-citizen so that everyone else is aware of how they should not behave. This, to me, seems related to later in the section when the Ottoman soldiers began arresting anyone by accusing them of being a Circassian in disguise. The truth is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the perception of those in power. It basically comes down to arbitrary assignment of blame.

Although this was only briefly mentioned, I would have liked to know more about the practice of female “excision” in Cairo. When Nur gives birth to a daughter, the midwife offers to do this operation, which Hasan politely declines by saying that it is not a practice that is followed in his country. The woman looks surprised and upset by this fact, but I cannot tell if that is because she came expecting to do the operation and was disappointed that she would not be able to, or if she disapproved of Hasan’s daughter not having an excision. However, if she disapproved that strongly, I do not understand why she would not have made an argument in favor of it. Why did this practice came into being in the first place? I understand that it had a religious aspect, but I would have liked it to have been better explained in the story.

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?


As we approach the end of this book Hasan’s story becomes very interesting. Some of the parts I found fun to read were of him being exiled and eventually captured. The reason for Hasan’s exile was because of his brother. This is a strange compared to now because back then you were placed and associated with your family and your family name. Just because you have a relation to someone by blood can get you exiled if one of you does something wrong. Whole families would be removed from communities simply because they were related to a criminal. This is different from today because if your sibling or parent does something wrong they are responsible and the rest of the family can continue with their lives. They are not removed from society because of what someone else did, but they are still looked at differently society.

The ending of Maalouf’s chapter of being captured I feel like it was written as a cliffhanger to keep the reader interested. Whatever the case he kept me reading about how he was taken to Rome. I wanted to talk about how people dealt with power in that time. Power was ruling, the ottoman how supreme power, but how did it come about, what were the so scared of? I want to know how they can be across continents and still able to sustain a family life. Think about it, today were have social tools to connect with people at a moment notice. They come home and it almost like they never left. Hasan describes his palace as only looking different on the outside, but the family was sad, but still connected to him.

What really boggles my mind is how the pens lost to the devils at home for the second time. I understand that we have a lot of injuries but we have sid the kid and he knows how to win da cups. He is like Hasan who had to learn the way of his enemy as they kept him captive. The question I have is why Christian leaders gave their name to their converted captives? Why did Leo X name Hasan Leo Africanus? HMMMM I wonder.

Leo Africanus

In this week's readings Hasan continues his never ending life adventure. This section of the book is similar to the other sections, as Hasan moves from one stage of his life to another. Very similar to the last section we read Hasan has to deal with death in his life, when he loses his wife. Not to long after he finds himself in a new place, starting a new chapter to his life.

In the beginning of the reading Hasan is exiled from his community for his contribution in defending his brother, who was accused of murder. Hasan left with no choice but to leave, took his slave Hiba and a few guards and was off to yet another place he would call home. During his travels, a storm killed the guards and Hasan realized his love for Hiba. He then decides to take Hiba back to her family. Her family agrees to buy her back, but Hasan refuses the money.

Later, Hasan is captured by an Italian pirate. He is then moved to Rome and taken in by Pope Leo X. In Rome, Hasan becomes an academic scholar and continues to teach and learn, just as he has throughout most of the book. In Rome Christianity is practiced, so Hasan is baptized and renamed Leo Africanus. I found this part of the book interesting because, when we first started reading I wasn't sure where the name Leo Africanus came from. But now I see where the name came about.

Following Leo Africanus's life has been very interesting. I think it is cool that throughout all the drastic changes that have occurred in each section, Leo has still remained somewhat the same guy. But what I don't understand is how he has been able to just pick up and leave place after place, but do it like its not big deal. I guess when you have no choice that's what you have to do.

-Justin Lovett

Leo Africanus and Globalization

This week's reading has strong thematic similarities to our readings in Before European Hegemony. Both dealt with interactions between different religions, international trade, and the proliferation of European influence. From a first hand point of view Hasan describes the conflict between the Muslims of Grenada/Fez and the Catholics of Portugal/Spain, then between the Catholic church and the following of the protestant Martin Luther. These conflicts had particular significance for Hasan, whose entire life and travels were cause by them. Despite the hardship that they cause him, he is in favor of a connection between religion and politics/warfare, even telling the pope that he regrets that secular sultan reign instead of religious caliphs, saying "As long as caliphs were rulers, Islam was radiant with culture. Religion reigned peaceably over the affairs of this world. Since then, it is force that rules, and the faith is often nothing but a sword in the hand of the sultan" (292).

As a trader by profession, Hasan is the perfect example of the international trade going on the 15th and 16th centuries. He describes his transactions with people from all around the Mediterranean and Middle East, and mentions several times the Italians (particularly the Genoese and Venicians, whom Abu-Lughod singled out as powerful and wealthy merchants). It is through trade that Hasan gains much of his knowledge and diplomatic skills.

Since his childhood, when his hometown was captured by the Portuguese, Hasan witnessed the proliferation of European influence in the world. Although he did not realize it, he may have been witnessing the beginning of European hegemony. His knowledge of Europeans begins minimally, starting with his Castilian step-mother, his Italian merchant acquaintance, and finally his immersion in European culture when he is brought to Rome as a slave. There he is witness to another historic event- the beginning of religious conflict amongst Christians, at the monk Martin Luther threatens the power and wealth of the Roman Catholic church. Here Hasan, now baptized Johann Leo de Medici, is in a very unique position, caught between his Muslim faith and his sympathy towards both sides of the conflict, understanding the viewpoints of both his benefactor Pope Leo and his enthusiastic protestant friend Hans.

What struck me most was the pope's behavior towards Hasan. Although he was imprisoned as a slave, he treated him like a son, and was concerned with his education and his faith. Clearly he hoped that by baptizing Hasan and setting him free, he would return to his people and bring converts to the Catholic faith. But the way he went about this was strange and seemed destined for failure. He must have known that converting him against his will would not be sufficient to ensure that Hasan would spread Christianity upon his return to the Muslim world, no matter how well he treated him.

Leo Africanus

In this week’s reading Hasan becomes Leo by becoming baptized in Italy, and his journey there is most unusual. In Constantinople, Egypt, Hasan is a diplomat, and the Ottoman Empire which was run by the Turkish and they were starting to take over. The Mamlukes and Ottoman are fighting for power, and during this chaotic time his wife, Nur, gives birth to a girl. He then is captured by Italian pirates since he is a diplomat and brought on as a slave. He is brought to Rome where he becomes close to the Pope, and then becomes baptized. This is the time his name goes from Hasan to Leo Africanus, and both the Pope and Leo shared a great deal of the same religious and political views.

One thing that I found interesting is the movement of Hasan in his life. He went from a diplomat in Constantinople to baptized in Rome. Since the Ottoman Empire was so strong during this time it makes sense that Hasan would be pushed out. It is bizarre that he was captured as a slave on a ship and presented to the Pope, and then the Pope basically takes him in. It is interesting to me that the Pope would be so quick to trust Leo, especially since the Ottoman Empire was taking over some many areas.

The separation of church and state is an issue that is brought up by Leo. Leo believes that the military should be backed up with religion. I understand during this time that religion was very closely tied to the culture. I do not agree with the military being backed by religion, and believe that separation of church and state should be practiced. I believe this because of the world I grew up in of democracy, which is the reason for my ideas, but Leo and the Pope grew up in a different reality. But, Leo and the Pope are both extremely close with their religion, so they see religion being part of every aspect of their lives. When it comes to war, I believe that regardless of what a person’s religion, if they believe in what is being fought for then they belong in the fight.

blog - 11

The beginning of the end of the novel starts with Hasan sent into exile. Hasan was banished from Fez because he was linked to the death of Zarwali. The Sultan sent him into exile for two years, but he would face repercussions if he did not leave. Hasan left with Hiba and guards who he had hired to come with them. They were caught in a snow storm upon leaving. During the storm Hasan and Hiba took refuge in a cave which eventually was blocked by the snow, shepherds came to open the entrance but were not happy to see Hasan and Hiba inside, yet the shepherds still showed them hospitality. While hiding out, Hasan realizes he is very much in love with Hiba, and decides to take her back to her family. A few days later Hiba is taken to her family who offers to buy her back. Hasan refuses to accept their money. Hasan leaves for Timbuktu, Cairo, Constantinople, and then Rome. In Rome, Hassan becomes a teacher and a scholar; he also becomes involved with the Lutheran movement. In Rome Hasan is baptized by Pope Leo X and christened under the name Leo. It is in Rome where Leo picks up the name Leo Africanus.
This section of the reading is highly important because the exile of Hassan from his community and his arrival in Rome. He is exiled due to his allegiance for his brother who was accused of murder and subsequently dismissed from his community. A Sicilian pirate named Pietro Bovadiglia eventually abducts Hasan to be an offering to tofor his crimes.
While in Rome Hasan meets Pope Leo X and proclaims in front of him“God is great.” He comes to learn that his time in Rome will be spent learning and teaching. He must learn Latin, catechism, gospel, Hebrew and Turkish. In return he must teach Arabic to seven students. Although Hasan was technically in captivity mentions his time was “without pain for the body and highly profitable for the mind.”
I found it interesting how receptive Hasan was to his captors and similarly how much interest the Romans took in Hasan. I found myself wondering If I were put in a situation like this would I be able to gracefully accept my captor’s will as Hasan did.

Leo Africanus

In this week's readings Leo Africanus tells of the times in Cairo; he wrote "when a high dignitary was captured, he was perched upon a donkey, facing backwards, his hair in a blue turban and deck out with little bells which were hung around his neck...he was paraded around the streets before being decapitated" (269). These wars became a witch hunt and soldiers began arresting passer-byers and accusing them of being Circassians. He also goes on to talk about the rape and pillage that continuously went on as well. It seems that each side takes control of the killing back and forth for a while within the chapter; the victims once fearful turn vengeful and the killers once merciless run scared. Leo Africanus soon goes on to discuss how his travels turned when he was enslaved by Pietro Bovadiglia, a Sicilian pirate; he was to be given as a gift to the Pope himself. Pope Leo X soon discussed that Leo Africanus was a man of knowledge and was taken on harsh circumstances that he could not agree with, and as Africanus stated at the end of the chapter, "My year's captivity was thus without pain for the body and highly profitable for the mind" (294). Ironically, Leo Africanus was most stimulated during the time that seemed so bad.

Blog Post Leo Africanus

This week, Hasan’s wacky adventures brought us to one of the most important parts of the story, the rebirth of Hasan as Leo Africanus. He has found himself in Rome, the world center of Christianity. He is baptized and rechristened Leo under Pope Leo X. He becomes a teacher and a scholar in Rome. It is also in Rome that he comes upon Lutheranism, a new movement in Rome to purify the Catholic Church and its various corruptions.

But how did he get there? The reading begins with Hasan’s exile from his community. He was exiled for defending his brother in law who was accused of murder. He left with a bang, scattering coins to the townspeople. He left with his slave Hiba and some guards. However, on their journey, a storm struck which killed Hasan’s guards, and Hasan and Hiba sought refuge in a cave. The two were snowed in, and it was during this time that Hasan realized that he loved Hiba. They were rescued by shepherds, who acted generously to help them.

The two of them then head to Timbuktu, and to Cairo, and also in Constantinople before Rome. What I found most interesting in this section is how Hasan / Leo seems to live many lives, have many families and lovers, yet is so disposed to pick up and leave for another part of the world. Perhaps he is an explorer at heart, and he seems to fit in no matter what part of the world he is living in.

The one question I have for this section of the reading is about Leo’s move to Rome. How did he so quickly become ingratiated with the pope and become such a well respected figure in Rome?

Leo Africanus: The End Part

The last part of Leo Africanus illustrates the tensions between the Islamic world and the European world; even further, it sketches and examines the tensions among parts of the Islamic world and among parts of the European world at the micro level. On page 269 for example, Hasan tellus about the defeat of Mamluke Cairo at the hands of the Ottomans (Turks). We also get a lucid picture of the cloudy politics that go on during Hasan's time; that is, the political maneuvering, allegiance making and breaking, and war mongering between Islamic political leaders.

When Hasan goes (i.e. is taken) to Europe, he experiences much of the same politics in Rome that he experienced in the cities of North Africa and Constantinople. The Papal States (and Rome especially) feel threatened by the successful conquests of the Ottomans, as well as fellow European states like parts of the Holy Roman Empire. The climax of the end chapters is the advance of the wacko, eclectic, and mutinous armies of Charles V. Casting a shadow over these events is the Protestant Reformation, which acts as if it were a ghost in the machine of European, and, as we have learned from Hasan, world history.

In these last chapters I enjoyed Maalouf's implementation and use of real historical figures in Hasan's narrative. While casually browsing Wikipedia to get background knowledge on the events portrayed in Leo Africanus, I was surprised and very pleased at the amount of historical figures and accuracies, as well as the close relationship between historical fact and artistic license that Maalouf exhibits in his book.

Historically, I think it is a mistake to assume that relitgion is to blame for the many conflicts that plagued the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I think Maalouf's (Hasan's) account of history tells us that the tumultuous period of history that Hasan lived through did not revolve around a single black-and-white issue. Instead, Maalouf creates a character who is religious, and who was expelled from the place of his birth, whose family experiences the everyday politics of a city like Fez, who grows up to be a merchant and diplomat, who is captured by the Pope for diplomatic reasons... Such details show us that Hasan's time was multi-dimensional.

Looking at the global picture with a historical lens today, as well as the smaller micro-conflicts and problems in/between/amongst societies, I think Maalouf's lesson is still prevalent. No conflict is one-dimensional; everywhere conflicts have dimensions of race, trade, religion, power, as well as rich amounts of history. To end with a question: what issues of history are related to globalization?

-Stefan Larson

Commentary 10

This week’s commentary on Leo Africanus commences with Hasan’s visit to see Ahmad. Here Hasan details the ongoing war against the Portuguese, which was looking positive for them. After three days of war, Ahmad shifted his orders by lifting the siege. A subsequent fight emerged between Hasan and Ahmad, pushing Hasan towards the decision of leaving.

A year later, Hasan’s wife Fatima died during childbirth, along with their son. This devastated Hasan, although he forced himself to continue with his life. The Sultan ordered Hasan to his palace to discuss Zarwali’s death. Hasan argued that he was not the murderer, Huran was, but was still objected to punishment for banishing Zarwali and putting him into a dangerous situation. For that, Hasan was equally banished as punishment. Hasan’s next stop was Cairo. He was enamored by the religious beauty and wealth of the Capital. Unfortunately, a pandemic of disease hit Cairo by storm, killing hundreds of people daily. Eventually, the pandemic ceased and spirits were lifted.

I stop my summary here because I am most interested in the effects of this widespread disease of Cairo and its people. The 16th century seems a little late for the Bubonic Plague, but I am not a history buff. What illness was spreading exactly? What were the immediate and long term effects on the people and the city, besides high morbidity?

Commentary 10

This week’s commentary on Leo Africanus commences with Hasan’s visit to see Ahmad. Here Hasan details the ongoing war against the Portuguese, which was looking positive for them. After three days of war, Ahmad shifted his orders by lifting the siege. A subsequent fight emerged between Hasan and Ahmad, pushing Hasan towards the decision of leaving.
A year later, Hasan’s wife Fatima died during childbirth, along with their son. This devastated Hasan, although he forced himself to continue with his life. The Sultan ordered Hasan to his palace to discuss Zarwali’s death. Hasan argued that he was not the murderer, Huran was, but was still objected to punishment for banishing Zarwali and putting him into a dangerous situation. For that, Hasan was equally banished as punishment. Hasan’s next stop was Cairo. He was enamored by the religious beauty and wealth of the Capital. Unfortunately, a pandemic of disease hit Cairo by storm, killing hundreds of people daily. Eventually, the pandemic ceased and spirits were lifted.
I stop my summary here because I am most interested in the effects of this widespread disease of Cairo and its people. The 16th century seems a little late for the Bubonic Plague, but I am not a history buff. What illness was spreading exactly? What were the immediate and long term effects on the people and the city, besides high morbidity?

Leo Africanus Blog 3

This section of Leo Africanus covers a two year time span in Hasan’s life. The year begins with the Sultan of Fez and the Lame of Sharif both attacking the Portuguese. Each however had different motives. One wished to recapture Tangier while the other wanted to relieve Agadir. Hasan decided to be an official scribe for these battles, but upon re-reading his records in Rome 3 years late, he had discovered that he had written little about the actual fighting. He focused more on the princes reactions to defeat and recalled one specific example regarding a defeat to the Portuguese where three hundred soldiers had fallen in the fight for Tangier. The sovereign justified the loss by stating to Hasan that only a small portion of the dead was comprised of the Calvary. He went on to say that most were infantry men, “beggars, louts, good for nothings, of whom hundreds of thousands exist in his kingdom, far more than he could ever arm or supply” (202). However, when Hasan left the tent, he ran into a group of soldiers standing around a body which had just been brought in from the front. Upon seeing him leave the sovereign’s tent, an older soldier approached Hasan and said, while fighting back tears, that his eldest son was just killed in battle but the sovereign should not cry for him. He believed that his son, along with all the dead were guaranteed a rewarded on their Day of Judgment and he was ready to meet the same fate if his master commanded it. The sovereign pulled out of the battle several days later, not achieving in pushing the Portuguese. The people who had sacrificed their lives had died in vain and those who were left lived with the realization that their lives had been changed forever all because of one mans motives.

I found the section where Hasan was banished to be very interesting. Harun, who was pardoned before by the sovereign two years earlier had been seeking and finally achieved his revenge on the Zarwili. Harun had captured him along the road and basically scared the old man to death. He then buried the body under a fig tree nearby, not removing the Zarwili’s clothes, shoes or jewels. The sovereign told Hasan that the body had been discovered near his sisters and her husband’s house, still possessing everything, showing the killing was one of revenge and not robbery. Even though he is not guilty of the crime, the sovereign decides that since Hasan left a criminal at large, which resulted in a murder, along with several other acts that Hasan should be banished from Fez for at least two years. Hasan actually didn’t mind a two month vacation from Fez and after a month of getting his affairs together left Fez.
My Question is do you think Hasan should have been punished for the actions of Harun? Is he responsible for what he did?
As Hassan's story continues to unfold, we find him living in Constantinople as a diplomat, a valuable perspective showing us the relatively peaceful situation found there. The Ottoman Empire, founded on their trade of furniture ironically, are looking to expand and are headed towards Cairo. Though Hassan and Nur race back, they cannot stop the unfolding massacre of Mameluke. They then begin their nomadic life with their new daughter Hayat.

A year later he is captured by an Italian pirate and brought back to Rome as a captive, though he is seen as valuable cargo being a scholar and diplomat. This gains him an audience with Pope Leo X, who takes an immediate liking to him and has him baptized as Leo Africanus. In another interesting perspective, we see the birth of the Protestant Revolution through his eyes as it reaches Rome.

My question is: Why does Hassan, aka Leo, have this loyalty to a pope who treats him as no more than a pet? Also, is the peace he observes merely foreshadowing for inter-religious bloodshed to follow?

Leo in Rome!!

This part of Hasan’s life was dangerous and intriguing. We see Hasan living in Constantinople as a diplomat. He notes that there is relative peace and prosperity between various religious and cultural groups at this time. Internally the Ottomans seem to be at their height of power and are looking for new lands to conquer. Hasan learns that the Ottomans have set their eyes upon the Mameluke Empire centered in Cairo. Nur and Hasan race back there to warn the city and its leaders of the impending danger which is heeded. Nonetheless the city is conquered and a great massacre of the people takes place. It is during this great time of fear and death that Nur gives birth to Hasan’s daughter that they aptly name Hayat, or life. After things die down a little, the family escapes the city and begins their nomadic lives for a while.
In the following year, Hasan is captured by an Italian pirate that has been looking for a traveler, scholar and diplomat. Hasan is brought to Rome the seat of Christianity where he is received by Pope Leo X. Hasan is now an academic inside of Rome doing some teaching and learning. He is baptized and renamed Leo but comes to be known as Leo Africanus. In his time in Rome, he is introduced to a fledgling Lutheranism. The main focus of this movement is against the extraction of German gold to pay for churches in Rome and against the indulgences that Rome has come to rely on.
What is most interesting is how Hasan, now Leo, is able to remain loyal to the Pope that received him as a son while at the same time acknowledging the obvious problems with the Roman church. The question then becomes: is it inevitable at this point that bloodshed between Christians will happen? Why with the looming religious war within Christianity is the Pope so concerned with Leo?

Religion and Politics

Hassan continues his journeys across the Medieval world in this week's reading. He observes the battles at Agadir, where he takes extensive notes about the Holy Wars, and acts as a dignitary for the Sultan of Fez, and attempts to negotiate with Sharif the Lame. Hassan returns home only to find that he is being banished from his home in Fez for two years. Hassan then travels to Cairo, where he sees the once mighty capital of the Muslim world begin to decline through plagues, weak and corrupt leaders and outside threats. He meets, and marries his third wife, who's dead husband was a prince of the Ottoman Empire. Hassan, Nur and Bayazid eventually come to travel to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, as a part of the pirate Barbarossa's diplomatic mission, where he discovers the Grand Turk Salim's plan to invade Egypt. He returns with his wife and stepchild in order to warn her people, the Circassians. As the Ottomans conquer Egypt Hassan prepares to flee Cairo upon the birth of his second daughter, Hayat. He watches as Tumanbay and his army of released criminals, citizens and a few trained soldiers attempt reclaim Cairo, and after Tumanbay's execution flees the city. He then goes on a pilgrimage to Mecca, but on his way home is captured by an Italian pirate, and taken to Rome where he is given to the Pope. He studies and teaches there for over a year, and eventually is given the name Leo Africanus.

While reading this section I continued to reflect on the importance of religion in the Medieval ages. First, in the wars between the Muslim Africans, and the Christian Portuguese. The war is fought over a mixture of greed and religion. Both sides want to control powerful African cities, like Agadir, and also use the power of religion, to support their holy war. My impression was that, while the Sultans and kings desire riches, they use the power of religion to gain support amongst the people. One Muslim man Hassan encounters says, "Tell the sultan not to weep for those who have died, for their reward is guaranteed on the Day of Judgment. My eldest son has died, and I myself am ready to follow him to Paradise as soon as my master commands it!" All the while the sultan is in his tent, not in the least concerned that hundreds of his soldiers are dead, because he has shown sufficient ardor for the holy war, without pushing the Portuguese into striking back. The power of holy war should never be underestimated, as Hassan continues to see during his time in Rome. He is there while Martin Luther threatens Papal power, and European society is on the brink of destruction over the division of the Church.

While the world has changed significantly since the days of Leo Africanus, Tumanbay and the Sultans, many elements of their times remain. Religion is still an important factor in many wars, still today, we hear of "jihad" the fight in the cause of Allah or the conflict in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants which peaked in the 1980's. And while today in America we support the separation of church and state, religion still affects elections, politics and laws. Basically, we see religion as less important than during the Middle Ages, yet with globalization and the power of the internet, religions are interacting more than ever before. So, how has all of this interaction affected religion today?

Week 11

Personally, I believe that Cairo is a beautiful city and I plan to travel there when I graduate. Therefore I am very biased when talking about this city. As the center of the Islamic world I feel it is ideal for this because of its location to the Nile river which gives it a prime location for trade as it has access to waterways. The pyramids are very confusing mostly since they are mysterious in that most Westerners do not know how they were built. I have a friend who lives in Cairo and when I told him that we, as Americans, thought it was a huge mystery as to who built the pyramids and that the Jews or Aliens built them. This caused my friend to laugh because according to him the architect who designed them is well known in Egypt. Since then, I have referred to the pyramids as the JEW-ramids simply to anger my friend.
The capital of the Islamic world moved from Cairo to Constantinople with the central Islamic power shifting from the Mamluks to the Ottomans. Constantinople was a major city is the Byzantine Empire and was envied by Muslims since the time of the prophet Muhammad. Mehmed II finally conquered this city and quickly transformed it into the capital of the Islamic world.
As far as religious war goes I feel that there are more between people of different religions than of the same religion. This is because with ideals, each side believes that God is "on their side" therefore they will win a battle or war. I think its ironic since each side feels the divine fighting on their behalf when obviously this could not be the case. As far the the Protestant Reformation, I feel that anytime an individual stands up against a religion to say that it is "wrong", obviously there will be some repercussions. During the history of religion it has often been linked with its own military since there was no seperation of church and state. I feel that religion should be completely independent of any sort of military simply because religion is a set of beliefs which should not punish those who believe differently or impose its beliefs on others.

Leo Africanus

This section of the book starts with the exile of Hasan. Hasan was banished from his community for an incident regarding his brother in-law. Hasan pushed for the pardon of his brother in-law who is then suspected of killing Zarwali. The master sent him into exile for two years, and if Hasan did not leave within a certain time frame anyone who saw him would be ordered to bring him in with chains. While on his way out of Fez, Hasan made sure to make a grand exit, which included throwing gold coins to people in the street. He felt he needed to exit in celebration to help bolster his self-esteem. Before leaving he got himself guards who would protect him and his treasure. However at one of the stop sites a terrible storm blew through which killed the guards and left the money exposed, and people took it. While the guards were outside dying, Hasan was inside a cave with Hiba, his slave and lover. The entrance to the cave became blocked with snow and a few days later shepards came and unblocked it, however they were not happy to see Hasan and Hiba. Hasan however asked for their generosity which forced the shepards to show good manners. While in the cave Hasan also realizes he is in love with Hiba, which can be seen when he agreed to take her back to her family and not just resell her to the first merchant who offered. A few days later Hiba meets up with her tribe who shells out money in order to buy her back. Hasan says that they need not pay him, she can go back for free but she refuses. Hiba tells Hasan a story about her ancestors and how they always repay their debts. Hasan leaves shortly thereafter now with some money in his pockets and heads to Timbuktu, the place where he shared his first kiss with Hiba. While in Timbuktu however there is a massive fire which destroys a lot of the city yet he will always have his memories. After the fire Hasan decides to head to Cairo.

What I found intersting about this portion of the book was the mention of hospitality and the role it played with the shepards. Hasan said he had heard the proverb 'they always have a dagger in their hands, either to slit your throat, or to slit the throat of a sheep in your honour.' The shepards took the idea of generosity very seriously playing the good host when asked for generosity. I found this to be interedting because during the times of war and uncertainty I would not have figured hospitality to be on the list of things to do. Maybe this is just who shepards were.

What I did not really understand was Hasan's reluctance to take the money from Hiba's family once she was back with them. Yes, it is a noble thing for him to act uninterested in the money considering he loves her but lets be realistic. I personally found Hasan to be preoccupied with money especially during this time. He threw gold coins out to random people and had guards watching his fortune. And soon after that his money was stolen so I figured he would be anxious for the money. Do you think he just did not want to appear anxious and materialistic or do you think Hasan really loved Hiba enough to forgo the money awaiting him?

Leo's Adventures

As we discussed in class, Leo Africanus did not live the life of an ordinary man. He had many adventures and with them many unique experiences. He saw many magnificent places, exchanged words with several notables of that time and era, and had his share of fortune and misfortune. Things that plagued many people occured in his life also - like the death of his wife in childbirth and the death of his future son, losing the love of his life (Hiba), losing fortunes, being banished. Extraordinary things like meeting nomads, being saved by his beautiful slave and then becoming father of the heir to the Turkish empire also occurred. Leo's travels to Cairo proved to be exciting and fruitful - the first time he met his future wife Nur and became father to Bayazid - heir to the Turkish Empire. On his return trip on the insistence of Nur - he was essentially a political spy, bearing the burden of the Ottoman Empire's secrets and real plans. There he received another girl from Nur and also witnessed a bloody yet brave and courageous (on the side of the Mamelukes) battle between the Mamelukes and Ottomans. While on a campaign, Hasan is captured as a slave because of his high connections - being a diplomat, merchant and wide traveler - and taken as a "gift" to Pope Leo X. The Pope finds his thoughts on religion and war very interesting and takes an avid liking to Hasan, who after being baptized becomes Leo. Leo is delighted at all the love he is given by the Pope as well as all that he learns under his charge.

I found it interesting that despite having so many women in his life (in wife/lover figures), Hasan has yet to have a son. In the culture back then, it was very important to have a son to carry on the family name and be the heir to the family fortune. I wonder if this small detail will unfold into something bigger later in the book, or if it just an insignificant detail. I also found the fate of Hasan in regards to Bayazid to be very ironic. However, how Hasan responds to the situation shows great character, morals, and courage. Hasan seems to be a very honest, smart and compassionate man.

This is more of a history question - but diplomatically, what exactly was happening between the Ottomans and the Mamelukes? It seems as though in the Muslim world, the Ottomans were the "big boys on the block." That probably meant that after their fall after WWI there were a lot of problems in the Muslim world - as they were.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recently in class we discussed the exponential growth of knowledge in the world today and where we are. In the talk I do not want to bring in other facts but discussed where I think we are in the exponential growth chart. If you think about what the curve looks like you will see that it will remain flat and the start to grow, grow, and spike up to the top of the graph. In my opinion, the world today is just at the bottom where the line begins to turn upwards. I think this because of all the knowledge we have in the world today is just the tip of the ice berg if you will. The video displayed in glass showed that perfectly. Today we are beginning to know so many that we are training our children for jobs that have not yet been created. This type of mass knowledge has just started in the beginning of the twentieth century and I wonder, could you easily point to the growth of the human race knowledge to the power we know as globalization? It’s serious though to how we live today, information is literally on your fingertips, site such at Wikipedia, Google, and facebook offer definitions, resources and social connections we cannot have even thought about fifty years ago, and again to all points back to globalization. The world I shirking and the amount of knowledge of kid will know will be astronomical, if we can get on the internet and find out a bio about anyone, and this has started just within the last five years, imagine what the world will be like in 50, esp. if you think that the exponential growth will continue.