Sicilian Dawn

Tom Verso (September 06, 2012)
When the Phoenicians came to Sicily circa 1000 B.C. they were not the first. Sicani, Sicels and Elymians anticipated by centuries the dozens coming after; all who could not resists the Mediterranean Siren’s inexorable lure. Each brought a unique civilization, only to see it transformed and absorbed in the Sicilian Charybdis. Sicilian-Americans, the progeny of all those melded they still hear the siren’s enticing melody coursing their veins? Increasingly I hear: “Are you Italian? No! I’m Sicilian!

 Classical Language Education (Latin & Greek) and South of Rome Historiography

Language – the raw material of historians

Historians seeks knowledge of past societies based on the remnant documents of the past society; which differentiates them from archeologists who seek knowledge of the past based on remnant materials (shards, arrowheads, structures, etc.). Accordingly, the ability to read and understand the language written in the document is a necessary prerequisite for the historian

in this sense, is not to be understood as simple comprehension and translation. Rather, the historian must have mastered fluency in the language of the society being studied, such that the nuances and connotation of the language allow him/her to grasp cultural implications.

then is the historian’s raw material
. With any craft, the more refine the raw material, the higher the quality of the final product. Similarly, the Historian’s Craft; the better mastery of the language, the more refined the raw material and the higher the quality of the history produced.

Up to circa 1900 ‘classical education’, modeled on the fifteenth-century Italian standards, was the principle form of upper-middle class education in Europe. It constituted very intense training in ancient Greek and Latin.  The great classical scholar A. J. Toynbee, who was of the last generation trained in the Italian tradition, explained what very intense meant. Students were expected:

This is to say, students compose their own original texts and verses in the ancient language. 

Given that such a classical education no longer prevails, it is reasonable for students of ancient Southern Italy and Sicily history to seek out nineteenth century classically trained scholars before contemporary scholars, who are given attenuated at best classical language training.

Any student of the Hellenic roots of Western Civilization who ignores ninetieth century scholars like Toynbee, E. A. Freeman, etc. seriously compromises the confidence they can have in their studies. For any contemporary historian who challenges those great scholars, the burden of proof is on the challenger.

Imagine The professor/teachers at an Italian American History Association conference discussing such imaginings.





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