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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gerard of Cremona

Cremona was, and is, a commune by the Po river in the middle of the Po plain in northern Italy. I believe that its capital has been called Crema, but what do I know. Cremona has seen many invaders. Among them were Romans, Byzantines, and Lombards. A strong written record of 'invaders' goes back to about 400 BC, when a Celtic people moved into the plain of Po. However, the name Cremona probably dates back to curious settlers of much earlier times. I've heard of Ligures, or Ligurians, who once held that plain of the river Po. I've heard that they were such great seamen that the Mediterranean, or a large part of it, was once called my their name.

Cremona was Rome's first military outpost and later was a Byzantine stronghold. It became a free-state in 1039. By the mid-1100s I believe that there was a sort of civil war between Crema and Cremona. Sounds a bit like the early U.S.

Cremona has been a center of musical culture for the last 500 years. The many notables who have called it home include theologians  philosophers, mathematicians, composers, painters, and architects.

Among those notables was the pop singer known as Mina. She was popular throughout the 1960s and well into the '70s. She was admired for her three-octave range and her powerful voice.

Another notable of Cremona is Gerard (1117 - 1187). He was a scholar. He read and wrote Latin and Greek and probably Hebrew from an early age. Later he became expert at reading and translating Arabic.

Gerard traveled to Spain. He wanted to explore and research Arabic libraries there, especially that of Toledo. He was particularly interested in Ptolemy's Almagest, which Arabic scholars had studied, translated, and preserved from about 200 AD. In the great library of Toledo he found much more than a fine translation of the Almagest, he found his life's work. For hundreds of years the Arab scholars had been adding their own knowledge, wisdom, and science to that which they had learned from the Greeks, Jews, Persians, Egyptians, etc. Much of the best of astronomy, medicine, history, and the wisdom of the ancients was there.

Translation of those works into Latin and the vernacular by Gerard and others began the illumination of Europeans which brought them out of the Dark Ages.

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