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Frederick II (Abulafia)

2003-06-09 2 min read Books marco

Closing in on the end of Abulafia’s famed biography of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Two Sicilies in the XIII century. Fascinating book, with all the factual accuracy that one could wish for, and a much more realistic view of the emperor than in any other book I have read so far.
Frederick and I date back very far. Turns out his home town of Waiblingen is actually just a few commuter train stops from Ludwigsburg, where I (partially) grew up. Add to this his dual nature as German and Italian, his neutral stance to religion, and you have concocted enough to make him very endearing to me.
And then there was Dante. In the Inferno, Dante places Frederick with the heretics – even in class they would tell us, though, that it was all politics of the guelfo Dante. Still, it compelled the rest of the bunch to swing all the other way around, and secular historians made Frederick a model of perfection: learned, wise, just, curious; in the end, he exemplified the Renaissance monarch more than two hundred years before the Renaissance.
Frederick’s life was one of war. He was constantly involved in campaigns against his foes, and there were foes aplenty. He participated in a crusade, battled against his lords in Sicily, against revolting communes in Lombardy, agains the German feudal establishment. Cities hated him for taking away their rights, the Church hated him for taking away its rights, the lords hated him… you guessed it.
So, although Abulafia is strongly on Frederick’s side, he can’t conceal the fact that this Emperor with a vengeance was percieved by everyone as a nuisance. I guess if we want a revisionist bio, we’ll have to wait for another twenty years.