Venice

In my Renaissance and Reformation course this week, we did a quick tour of the major Italian city-states. One of the most distinctive, of course, is Venice, on account of all the canals. You know its Venice when you see a gondolier, sporting a horizontally striped shirt and straw hat, standing at the rear of his boat and propelling it with a rowing oar. Two such images that came immediately to mind:

Detail, Ragu spaghetti sauce label.

This prompted a search on YouTube for Venetian scenes. The Casino Royale reboot (2006), with its famous sinking piazza, was the one most people know:

I had forgotten the chase scene in Moonraker (1979), perhaps the campiest James Bond film: among other contrivances, Roger Moore’s gondola turns into a hovercraft.

This aging Gen-Xer then remembered that Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” video was set in Venice – and had forgotten that it features a lion wandering around (later in the video, a man in a Venetian-style lion mask acts as her seducer).

I was pleased to see this, because the symbol of Venice of course is a lion – specifically, the winged lion of St. Mark. From Wikipedia, here is the flag of the medieval Venetian Republic:

Well played, Madonna! (St. Mark has been the patron saint of Venice ever since the Venetians stole his relics from Alexandria in 828. His symbol was inspired by Ezekiel’s vision of the four winged creatures, which was eventually applied to the authors of the four gospels.)

A winged man, ox, eagle, and lion, symbolic of the evangelists Matthew, Luke, John, and Mark respectively. From Preachingsymbols.com.

Eoin O’Duffy

From History Ireland, via my friend Tom MacMaster:

Despite a growing body of historical writing on the life of General Eoin O’Duffy, there are still large gaps in our knowledge of this enigmatic figure. His various roles as organiser par excellence in the GAA, Irish Volunteers, Garda Síochána and, of course, as head of the Irish Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, are well known. Often derided as a hysterical, grandiloquent, and even absurd personality, O’Duffy nevertheless manages to capture the imagination and curiosity of those interested in Irish politics during the inter-war period. It is probably fair to say that his role as head of the 700-strong Irish Brigade on the side of General Franco’s Nationalists stands out as O’Duffy’s best known politico-military achievement. But it is due to this very fact that the General’s reputation in Irish folk-memory is held with a mix of retrospective embarrassment and scorn after the tragi-comic performance of his brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

One fact that tends to be forgotten, for example, is that O’Duffy’s ideological support for Franco had not come out of the blue—the Irishman had, after all, been rubbing elbows with international fascist leaders from as early as 1934.

It is also noteworthy that his idea of leading Irish soldiers abroad to fight on the side of a fascist army was not completely new for him in 1936 either. O’Duffy had pledged Blueshirt volunteers to Benito Mussolini’s forces after Il Duce invaded Abyssinia in the autumn of 1935. This article will examine Eoin O’Duffy’s involvement in international fascism during the mid-1930s before turning to his promise to Mussolini of 1,000 Blueshirts in the Italo-Ethiopian war. It will also investigate how people in Ireland reacted to O’Duffy’s pledge before examining why he never went.

Read the whole thing. Former Reinhardt professor Pat Zander gave a talk on O’Duffy for our Year of Ireland back in 2012.

UPDATE: Ron Good draws this picture to my attention, from Ian S. Wood, Ireland During the Second World War (Caxton Editions, 2002). The Lord Mayor of Dublin “could easily be an organgrinder’s monkey.”

Etruscans

From the Guardian (although it is anachronistic to say “Turkey”; the term “Anatolia,” being more purely geographical, would be a better one to use):

The enigma of Italy’s ancient Etruscans is finally unravelled

DNA tests on their Italian descendants show the ‘tuscii’ came from Turkey

They gave us the word “person” and invented a symbol of iron rule later adopted by the fascists. Some even argue it was they who really moulded Roman civilisation.

Yet the Etruscans, whose descendants today live in central Italy, have long been among the great enigmas of antiquity. Their language, which has never properly been deciphered, was unlike any other in classical Italy. Their origins have been hotly debated by scholars for centuries.

Genetic research made public at the weekend appears to put the matter beyond doubt, however. It shows the Etruscans came from the area which is now Turkey – and that the nearest genetic relatives of many of today’s Tuscans and Umbrians are to be found, not in Italy, but around Izmir.

The European Human Genetic Conference in Nice was told on Saturday the results of a study carried out in three parts of Tuscany: the Casentino valley, and two towns, Volterra and Murlo, where important finds have been made of Etruscan remains. In each area, researchers took DNA samples from men with surnames unique to the district and whose families had lived there for at least three generations.

They then compared their Y chromosomes, which are passed from father to son, with those of other groups in Italy, the Balkans, modern-day Turkey and the Greek island of Lemnos, which linguistic evidence suggests could have links to the Etruscans.

“The DNA samples from Murlo and Volterra are much more highly correlated to those of the eastern peoples than to those of the other inhabitants of [Italy],” said Alberto Piazza of the University of Turin, who presented the research. “One particular genetic variant, found in the samples from Murlo, was shared only with people from Turkey.”

This year, a similar but less conclusive study that tracked the DNA passed down from mothers to daughters, pointed to a direct genetic input from western Asia. In 2004, a team of researchers from Italy and Spain used samples taken from Etruscan burial chambers to establish that the Etruscans were more genetically akin to each other than to contemporary Italians.

More at the link.