Was Galileo really Italian?

  • Thread starter Ken Natton
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I’m going to open a new thread with the following thought because, though it is response to something asserted on another thread, it is actually somewhat off topic.

So, it is being asserted on another thread that Galileo, surely one of the great heroes of this particular website, was Italian. But, of course, he was not Italian. Neither was Leonardo Da Vinci, or the composer Vivaldi, all of whom are sometimes described as having been Italian. But, though they were born and lived their lives on that particular peninsular of modern Europe that we call Italy, all of them died before the nineteenth century, when the concept of a nation called Italy came into being. Galileo, for the record, was Florentine, as was Leonardo Da Vinci. Vivaldi was Venetian. Pedant, I hear you cry. But I’m not so sure that this really is pedantry. I have often encountered quizzes that ask after the nationality of the composer Beethoven, and with great authority, the quiz master always assures us that he was German. Certainly, he was born in Bonn, which is in modern day Germany. But if you had asked that question of Beethoven himself, whatever he would have said, he certainly would not have said German. You might actually have had to explain to him exactly what you were asking, because the concept of nationality, as we mean it today, is actually quite recent. If you had succeeded in getting him to understand your meaning, he might have answered Flemish, because that was certainly his ethnic identity. If you had defined it purely on birthplace, then I suppose he might have answered Hannovarian. But he certainly would not have said German. Beethoven died in 1827. Germany came into existence at the end of the Franco Prussian war in 1870.
 
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Okay, but it is abundantly clear, if you had asked Galileo himself, he would not have said Italian.
 
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Oh and Copernicus was not Polish either. He was a Prusian.
 

arildno

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I’m going to open a new thread with the following thought because, though it is response to something asserted on another thread, it is actually somewhat off topic.

So, it is being asserted on another thread that Galileo, surely one of the great heroes of this particular website, was Italian. But, of course, he was not Italian. Neither was Leonardo Da Vinci, or the composer Vivaldi, all of whom are sometimes described as having been Italian. But, though they were born and lived their lives on that particular peninsular of modern Europe that we call Italy, all of them died before the nineteenth century, when the concept of a nation called Italy came into being. Galileo, for the record, was Florentine, as was Leonardo Da Vinci. Vivaldi was Venetian. Pedant, I hear you cry. But I’m not so sure that this really is pedantry. I have often encountered quizzes that ask after the nationality of the composer Beethoven, and with great authority, the quiz master always assures us that he was German. Certainly, he was born in Bonn, which is in modern day Germany. But if you had asked that question of Beethoven himself, whatever he would have said, he certainly would not have said German. You might actually have had to explain to him exactly what you were asking, because the concept of nationality, as we mean it today, is actually quite recent. If you had succeeded in getting him to understand your meaning, he might have answered Flemish, because that was certainly his ethnic identity. If you had defined it purely on birthplace, then I suppose he might have answered Hannovarian. But he certainly would not have said German. Beethoven died in 1827. Germany came into existence at the end of the Franco Prussian war in 1870.
I do not agree with this.
The concept of "Italian" is well-established throughout history,since the primary indicator language, not arbitrary city states. This is perfectly equivalent with "Greek" in Antiquity, in which all the city states regarded themselves as Greek.
National unity is NOT a primary indicator, language is, and more diffuse ethno-cultural markers. Similar with "German" prior to its unification.

National identities and affiliations have existed for a long time before people got the idea that people of the "same" nationality ought to be subsumed in a SINGLE state.

True enough, a Genoese might preferentially call himself..Genoese, but he would definitely call himself Italian, if he was given the choice between THAT label or those of Portuguese, Spanish, Morroccan or Greek.
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As for Beethoven, I didn't know he was Flemish, so thx for that!
 
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Paul Revere was British when he made his famous ride. It's unlikely he would have said "To arms, the British are coming."
 

Borek

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Copernicus was a woman.

Which is a reference only Poles and Ivan Seeking would get.
 

arildno

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arildno

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I get it!! It is some linguistic link between Kobieta and Koperniki I haven't discovered yet! :smile:
 
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I do not agree with this.
The concept of "Italian" is well-established throughout history,since the primary indicator language, not arbitrary city states.
Well now, language is another interesting case in point. The concept of French and Italian as separate languages is also historically recent. There was a language continuum from the South of Italy to the North of France where, certainly, the language spoken in the North of France was unintelligible to those in the South of Italy and vice versa. But nowhere between those two extremes could you have drawn a border where one ended and the other began. Only in more recent times with the growth of communications and things like Newspapers and then radio and television has the language difference hardened and coalesced into a definable ‘French’ and ‘Italian’ language. A very similar phenomenon existed with German and Dutch, for example. Even today, people from the North of Germany can struggle to understand those from Southern Germany or from Austria or the German speaking part of Switzerland. They often have an easier time communicating with Dutch people.


Paul Revere was British when he made his famous ride. It's unlikely he would have said "To arms, the British are coming."
In his TV series, 'A History of Britain', in the episode about Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, Simon Schama recounts how a joke, that was current at the time had it that all of the problems of the two women could have been solved if only they had been able to marry each other. And, says Schama, in a sense, they did. And, what is more, the union bore an off-spring, called Magnum Britannia.

So, notwithstanding the Romans, that is really when that particular concept came into being.
 

arildno

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Basically, Natton:
You are incorrect.
Because the terms "italian", "german", "greek" provably have been used throughout history, not just by outsiders, but also "insiders", even though you had a multplicity of statelets, rather than nation states.
 
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I suppose next you'll tell us he wasn't European either.
 

lisab

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arildno

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Borek

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I get it!! It is some linguistic link between Kobieta and Koperniki I haven't discovered yet! :smile:
No, it is a quote from a cult Polish movie. I think Ivan watched it on Netflix following my suggestion.
 

arildno

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No, it is a quote from a cult Polish movie. I think Ivan watched it on Netflix following my suggestion.
In Norway, Netflix was introduced just two weeks ago.
I didn't know it contains hidden gems like cult Polish movies.
 
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Basically, Natton:
You are incorrect.
Because the terms "italian", "german", "greek" provably have been used throughout history, not just by outsiders, but also "insiders", even though you had a multplicity of statelets, rather than nation states.
I'm not wrong about the language continuum. Ultimately, what we are talking about is sense of identity, and sense of national identity does not follow language the exact opposite is true. I am not convinced that Medieval Venetian's felt any stronger sense of common identity with Neapolitan's than they did with Parisians.


I suppose next you'll tell us he wasn't European either.
And I am not convinced that even today, anyone has any genuine sense of being 'European'. Notwithstanding the political body we call the European Union, in truth, 'European' really is just a happenstance of geography.


Or Homo sapiens.
And his sense of what it was to be human might well have been significantly different to ours.
 

arildno

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"Ultimately, what we are talking about is sense of identity, and sense of national identity does not follow language the exact opposite is true."
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Utter nonsense, and completely unempirical.
Members of many different city states that never had been conjoined in a "state" could perfectly well understand each other.
 
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No you misunderstand me. Sense of national identity does not follow language, language follows sense of national identity. There are two European languages that are so similar, most of us conceive of them as one language and call it Serbo-croat. Ask a Serbian or a Croatian and they will tell you that they are two completely different languages. There are parts of China where people speak mutually completely unintelligible dialects, but ask the local people, and they will tell you that they are only dialects of the same language. There was a famous study that looked into how language change occurs, and studied a hardening of accented pronunciations and use of dialectic terms unique to Martha’s Vineyard. Analysts concluded that, though the residents themselves might not have actually rationalised it in these terms, nonetheless, at a time of growing tourism to the area, it was a quiet and subtle way of asserting ‘I’m a true resident of Martha’s Vineyard, you’re just a visitor.’ More broadly I suppose, people of the USA don’t feel American because they use American English. They use American English because they are American. That’s the point.
 
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I don't know who the first Italian was, but by the time Dante wrote in Italian, Italians existed. A genuine sense of being European is not what makes you European.
 
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Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an invented people. You seem to go a step further and say there are no Palestinians.
 

Borek

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I have a feeling we are talking apples and oranges here. Notion of "nationality" evolved through the time (if it existed at all in the past). Trying to use todays meaning of the word to describe society as it existed few hundreds years ago doesn't make much sense. Even if Galileo and/or Dante would call themselves "Italians" (no idea if they would!) they would mean something completely different than what we mean today.
 

arildno

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" Even if Galileo and/or Dante would call themselves "Italians" (no idea if they would!) they would mean something completely different than what we mean today"

And, by defining "national identity" as "that type of emotion only being able to exist in nation states", we have created a beautiful circle of our argument. :smile:
 
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Gingrich said that the Palestinians are an invented people. You seem to go a step further and say there are no Palestinians.
I’m not sure if that is directed at me. It is certainly not anything I intended to assert, nor do I see how you get to that conclusion. My understanding is that Palestinian as distinct from Israeli is defined not so much by ethnicity as by religion. Clearly the two peoples have distinct identities, whatever the basis for that identity might be. It is clear to me that suggesting that national identity is affected by language is putting the cart before the horse. And my sense is that defining Galileo as Italian or Beethoven as German is anachronistic. I see nothing remotely circular in the premise or the logic train that leads me to that conclusion.
 

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