Man and environment. Italy described by the Muslim geographer al-Idrīsī at the behest of King Roger II of Sicily

Vittorio Gualdi

Abstract


In 1130, in Palermo, Roger II of the Hauteville family, son of Roger I of the same family and Adelaisa del Vasto, was proclaimed King of Sicily, Duke of Puglia and Prince of Capua. During his reign, which lasted about 15 years, Roger II called upon a great number of scholars, of different origins and religious confessions, who were particularly expert in many knowledge sectors at that time. One of these was the distinguished Muslim geographer al-Idrīsī, who was commissioned by Roger II to describe the whole known world, divided into sections on the basis of their climate. The work, written in Arabic, was accompanied by comprehensive cartographic documentation, also reproduced on a valuable silver planisphere, weighing 150 kg, which disappeared from the palace of Palermo, following looting by rebels in 1161, during the reign of Roger II’s son, William I of Hauteville (known as the Bad). The part of the document on Italy was translated into Italian by Amari and Schiapparelli and published, in 1883, by the Royal Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. This part is of great historical importance, developing interesting agriculture - and forestry -related arguments, which are considered in this study set out below, due to the value that they have in the history of Southern Italy’s forests.


Keywords


Man and environment; description of Italy; muslim geographer al-Idrīsī; history of Southern Italy’s forests

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