Identities in touch between East and West: 11th to 21st century

by Luciano Gallinari (Volume editor) Heba Mahmoud Saad Abdel Naby (Volume editor)
©2022 Edited Collection 266 Pages


This book is one of the publications of the bilateral Egyptian-Italian
research project “Intercultural Relations between East and
West from the 11th to 21st century” funded by Academy of Scientific
Research and Technology (ASRT) and the National Research
Council (CNR) (2019–2021). The book previews some of
the research presented in the 2nd international webinar organised
by the project in May 2021 entitled “Art, Culture and Trade
as Evidence of Bonds between East and West: 11th to 21st century”.
In that webinar, researchers from Italian, Egyptian, Hungarian
and Belgian Universities highlighted some topics focusing on
intercultural bonds between the Western and the Islamic worlds.
In the book, we have chosen to deal with multi-layer concepts
such as “Identity”, “Otherness”, “Diversity” and “Minorities” declined
in the relationships between East and West.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface (Luciano Gallinari and Heba Abdelnaby)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Authors
  • Bridge between East and West: The Pattern of Fool for Christ through the Egypt in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages (Isabella Gagliardi)
  • Byzantine and Islamic Amphorae in Syracuse. New Light on Trade Networks and Identities in Early Medieval Mediterranean (8th–11th Century) (Giuseppe Cacciaguerra)
  • The “Islamic Narrative Path” for Political, Religious, and Bellicose Legitimacy: The Role Played by Christian Historical Figures in Late Antiquity (Marco Demichelis)
  • The Role of Muslims and Martyrs in the Identity Process of Medieval Sardinia. Historiography versus History (Luciano Gallinari)
  • The Epigraph of San Saturnino in Solanas (Cagliari, Sardinia) (Giovanni Serreli)
  • Genoese-Mamluk Diplomacy during the Bahri Dynasty: An Overview (Richard Knorr)
  • Trade between Dubrovnik (Ragusa) and Alexandria 1250–1517 AD (Rania Mohammad Ibrahim)
  • A European Jewish Awakening in Mamluki Land (Ali El-Sayed)
  • Fascination with the East: The Foreigners’ Pursuit to Honor and Present the Islamic Heritage of Egypt (Heba Mahmoud Saad Abdelnaby)
  • Identities, Belongingness, and Places: Can Travel Literature Connect Cultures? Italian Travelers Discovering Egypt in the XIX Century (Maria Antonella Pasci)
  • “On Eagles’ Wing”: The History of the Yemeni Jews and Their Exodus to the Promised Land (Zoltán Prantner and Abdallah Abdel-Ati Al-Naggar)
  • Series Index

←16 | 17→

List of Authors

Heba Mahmoud Saad Abdelnaby

Professor of Islamic Archaeology and former Vice Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University. She was a visiting scholar/ professor at several distinguished institutions such as Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, George Washington University, and Mary Baldwin University. She was also a member of several international research projects.

Abdallah Abdel-Ati Al-Naggar

He has been a Senior Fellow of the Egyptian Academy of Sciences & Technologies since June 2013. He is currently a senior researcher in five international work programs and an active participant in three other projects. His current Research Institution is: Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE).

Giuseppe Cacciaguerra

Researcher at the Institute of Heritage Science (ISPC-CNR). His current research topics are (i) Late Roman and Medieval Archaeology of the Mediterranean, focused on trade organization, urban history, rural settlement and socio-economic organization, and (ii) Development of ICT methodologies for Urban and Landscape Archaeology.

Marco Demichelis

He is Berenson Fellow (2022/2023) at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, with a project entitled: Paolo Giovio, Giovanni Botero, and Islamic Otherness at the End of the Italian Renaissance. He has previously been Marie Curie Research Fellow (IF 2016) and Senior Research Fellow in Islamic Studies and History of the Middle East in the Institute of Culture and Research at the University of Navarra (2019–2021).←17 | 18→

Ali El-Sayed

Currently an Emeritus professor of Medieval History at the History Department, Faculty of Arts, Damanhur University and former Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He is also the Egyptian PI of the Bilateral Project between the CNR (Italy) and the ASRT (Egypt) entitled: “Intercultural influence between East and West: 11th-21st c.” (2018-2020).

Isabella Gagliardi

Teacher of History of Christianity and Churches at the University of Florence, she is Membre Associé of Laboratoire d’études sur les monothéismes and Directeur d’Etudes Associé, DEA 2022 at Fondation Maison de Sciences de l’Homme in Paris. Her research’s topics concerns the history of religious movements from the Ancient to Early Modern societies in the Euro-Mediterranean context with a comparative perspective and with a special attention to the women history.

Luciano Gallinari

Researcher at the CNR-ISEM, PhD in Histoire et Civilisations (EHESS, Paris). Italian PI of the Bilateral Projects between the CNR (Italy) and the ASRT (Egypt) entitled: “Peace Building between East and West (XI–XVI c.)” (2015–2017) and “Intercultural influence between East and West: 11th–21st c.” (2018–2020).

Richard Knorr

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. Currently a graduate student of the Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies (GPTS) at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS).

Rania Mohammad Ibrahim

Postdoctoral Researcher-Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb University. She is a member of the Cost Action (CA18140) ‘People in Motion: Entangled Histories of Displacement across the Mediterranean’ (PIMo).

Maria Antonella Pasci

PhD Candidate at the Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi, Roma.←18 | 19→

Giovanni Serreli

Researcher at the ISEM CNR, he deals with the study of human settlement, defense systems and institutions between Middle Ages and Early Modern Age. He teaches Medieval and Modern Institutions at the ASCa School of Archival, Paleography and Diplomatics. Complete CV: https://cnr-it.academia.edu/GiovanniSerreli/Analytics/activity/overview

Prantner Zoltán

He is Associate Professor of the Department of International Studies at the Institute of Welfare Society of the Kodolányi János University

←20 | 21→
Isabella Gagliardi

Bridge between East and West: The Pattern of Fool for Christ through the Egypt in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages

1. Where Did the Fool for Christ Come from?

The traces of a behavioural typology categorisable as “madness for Christ” were found in the pars Orientis of the late ancient and medieval world, where there was even an onomaturgical coinage, deriving a peculiar term to indicate those who followed Christ through the madness simulation. The specific words are salòs (masculine) and salè (feminine)1. In fact, numerous ancient narrations (4th–12th century) tell about a man and a woman who lived in the Byzantine territories who went down in history as saints “mad for Christ” (saloì). They were ascetics who devoted themselves to simulating madness in order not to risk the spiritual pride and, at the same time, to be free to act in any social situation and thus to frequent even the most suspected outcasts, first heretics or prostitutes, in order to lead them back to God2. Information on these individuals is entrusted to texts ←21 | 22→in Greek and Syriac, which fed both the Christian liturgical sources, thus determining the compilation of other hagiographies, and, in the aftermath of Islamisation, other writings dedicated to the madman of God (malāmati), produced especially by the Sufi environment. It is an extreme, radical phenomenon, so it presents conceptual markers more easy to identify: so it became possible following this phenomenon through the different ages and countries in a documented way, not shallow. Thus this chapter illustrates the interpretations and practices of madness for Christ transmitted by Greek, Syriac and Arabic sources, tracing their links and mutual and transversal influences.

The sources analysis leads to a first conclusion: in the oldest testimonies that served as an original model and vector of pattern dissemination, the madman for Christ is almost always a monk who has reached such a high level of asceticism and spiritual perfection that he can run the risk of leaving the monastery for living in the world, in order to convert sinners and win souls for Christ. In fact, there are some saloì who remain in the monastery and many of them, perhaps the most famous, who leave it and go among the laity “to make fun of the world”, protected by their granitic faith.

The second conclusion to be reached is the model of holiness outlined in the hagiographic and liturgical memories of the saloì was developed in ancient Syria and from there it spread in two geographical directions, one towards the East and the other towards the West, passing the Mount Sinai and arriving in the Egyptian territories. Through the Syriac texts it went eastwards and was conveyed to the territories of the former Sasanian empire, now Islamised, while through Sinaitic and Egyptian monasticism it reached North Africa. From there, the Greek texts of early monasticism migrated to the western part of the Empire, starting in the Justinian era and following the political axis of the Byzantine conquest (Iberian territories and Italian territories) and the political-religious axis of the alliance between the patriarchate of Alexandria and the patriarchate of Rome.

The propelling centre of this kind of sources can be identified in late ancient Egypt, where the memories of Palestinian Sinaitic monasticism were before channelled and after spread all over the mediterranean world.←22 | 23→

These hagiographical and ascetical accounts were translated into Latin and in this form they became the narrative vehicle of the madness for Christ. These sources were, namely, the Vitas Patrum, Rufinus’ Historia Monachorum in Aegypto, Palladius’ Historia Lausiaca, Pascasius’ Liber Geronticon, Valerius de Bierzo’s Liber Vitas Sanctorum Patrum Orientalium and Gregory the Great’s Book IV of Dialogi. So these narrations transmitted the perception and practice of the holy madness to medieval Latinity. The message, coming from the Orient of the monastic beginnings, took root in the Western monastic environment, together with the liturgical memories of the Byzantine saloì and, in particular, of Simeon salós. Thus the hagiography and the liturgy nourished peculiar ascetic experiences, in the pars Occidentis, by reworking in a peculiar way the idea of “becoming foolish for being wise3”.

Through the influence exerted by Constantinopolitan sources and anonymous wandering ascetics from the West (e.g. Procopius of Ustjug), the idea of holy madness took root in the Russian area, inspiring the existential choices of the so-called yourodivij, whose presence is unbroken from the Middle Ages until the end of the 20th century4.←23 | 24→


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (June)
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 266 pp., 19 fig. col., 7 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Luciano Gallinari (Volume editor) Heba Mahmoud Saad Abdel Naby (Volume editor)

Heba Abdelnaby is a professor of Islamic archaeology and former vice dean for graduate studies and research at the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University. She was a visiting scholar/ professor at several distinguished institutions such as Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, George Washington University and Mary Baldwin University. Luciano Gallinari is a researcher at the CNR-ISEM. He has completed his PhD in Histoire et Civilisations (EHESS, Paris). He is the Italian PI of the bilateral projects between the CNR (Italy) and the ASRT (Egypt) entitled “Peace Building between East and West (XI-XVI c.)” (2015-2017) and “Intercultural influence between East and West: 11th-21st c.” (2018-2020).


Title: Identities in touch between East and West: 11th to 21st century