Normanni, Svevi e Angioini nella storiografia europea del Seicento e del Settecento

Author: Kristjan Toomaspoeg

The Norman, Hohenstaufen and Angevin Kings of Sicily in European Historiography of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

The aim of this paper is to answer to the question, what exactly was known about the history of southern Italy before the birth of the nineteenth-century positivist historiography? The art historians like Aubin-Louis Millin who ‘rediscovered’ the South Italian Middle Ages in the napoleonic and post-napoleonic era did not move in an unexplored space, as there existed a consistent amount of works on Mezzogiorno and its past rulers, translated or originally written in several parts of Europe since the 17th century. Two of those works, the Compendio delle historie del Regno di Napoli of Pandolfo Collenuccio (first edition in 1539) and the Civil History of the Kingdom of Naples of Pietro Giannone (1723) were translated in French, English, German, Latin and Spanish and can be considered as ‘best sellers’ of their time. Though, some other historians did have success in Europe, like Scipione Mazzella, thanks to his work translated in English as Parthenopeia or the history of Naples (1654). The interest for the history of the Southern Italy was motivated on one hand by the attempt of the Roman Curia to affirm its supremacy on the Kingdom, and the consequent propagandistic work carried out by authors such Cesare Baronio and by their opponents. On the other hand, most of the authors writing on this topic were French, a fact that can be explained by the direct interests of the French Crown in the South Italy, specially when the Bourbons rised to the Spanish and thereafter also to the Sicilian throne, in the 18th century. The French historiography reached a good scientific level with works such as Histoire des rois des deux Siciles de la maison de France of Charles Philippe de Monthenault d’Egly (1741). The today’s perception of the medieval kings of Sicily, was in big part created by the historiography of the Modern Era, with great consideration for the Norman dynasty, lot of controversy about the Hohenstaufen and generally negative attitude towards Charles I of Anjou. The rule of Charles I has produced also two important historical and cultural topics: this of the insurrection of the Sicilian Vespers and this of the execution of the young Conradin. The latter was chosen in 1545 by Martin Luther as an argument in his polemics agains the papacy and became in consequence very well known in the protestant Europe, including the Scandinavia. It can be affirmed that the 17h-18th century history writing had undoubtedly a strong ideological influence on the art historians working on South Italy and might have influenced their educational path.