Archive for the ‘Wine’ Tag

Source: Montepulciano c. 1900   Leave a comment

The following comes from Hewlett’s The Road in Tuscany, published just over a century ago. Montepulciano was already a dominant Tuscan wine, though Hewlett was sceptical. SY

Men went muffled to the ears in fox-skin; boys blew on their fingers and trotted after us. Every one was active, on the jog; the caffé doors were not generously open, the wine-shops shut-to theirs with a snap as the topers pushed in or came huddling out. Your glimpses of the far-off country were of purple-black hills; gloom lay in the valley, here and there showed a house, pale as a ghost. A dust of snow came scudding over the way. You saw the far-stretching vista of the hill-street peppered in whirling white. And this was May! And this was Italy! Stern, stern is the spring in Montepulciano; but I gather from what I have seen since that the summer is yet more fierce. And yet, out of the chance vantages of their crags, they grow, or did grow, a fine red wine which Redi calls the king of all the Tuscan vast. They are said to have been famous for it from the ninth century, and Mr. Addington Symonds liked it: my bottle, perhaps, was of a poor year. Assuredly, if Bacchus in Tuscany requires to blink unhindered at the sun, this is the place for him; for of late I have seen the whole bare rock quivering under canicular heat – cliffs, houses, roofs, and steeples all pale and hot as metal. You know all extremes of weather when you are so close to the sky.


Posted December 21, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Source: Turin Phylloxera Council   Leave a comment

The following text ‘The Turin phylloxera council: ideas as to the phylloxera and rules for watching the vineyards‘ by the council secretary, ‘Professor Jemina’ was translated into English by Her Majesty’s Government in 1887. It gives us a glimpse of the first phylloxera crisis in Italy. SY

An important branch of the produce of the nation, the cultivation of the vine, has been seriously and continually threatened from the moment when the Phylloxera appeared in Italy. We have now in our midst the enemy of the vine who before was at our doors, and although warned by authorities on the subject to hold ourselves in readiness for so sinister a visit, yet the fear when once awakened is not slight. Happily, however, our present position is much more favourable than was that of France, for that nation remained in ignorance of the gravity of the danger from 1863, the year in which the damage due to the Phylloxera became apparent in the department of the Gard, until 1868, when the illustrious Planchon discovered the evil and studied the characteristics of the destructive insect. During this period the cultivation of the French vine continued, and the evil spread with rapid strides. But we, knowing the danger, shall be able in great part to avoid it. Moreover, France had not ready at hand powerful antidotes such as are now known, and later on she awoke to the necessity of destroying the original centres of infection. To this must be added the facts that much of our vine cultivation is considerably more scattered than in France, and that Italy having to fight against Phylloxera finds herself in a more favourable position, being abundantly supplied with American vines, which arc known to resist the disease. The Italian Government proceeded at once with the most efficacious means that science and the practical experience of neighbouring countries could suggest, and as far as lay in its power, to destroy the original centres of infection in various parts as they became apparent, and it will proceed, we hope, in the same way to destroy other centres as they continue to become apparent; and so, inch by inch, the ground will be contested with the destroying insect, and our vine culture will be for several years safe from the terrible scourge, giving us time to prepare ourselves for the greater damages against which we may have to bear up in the future, and saving from serious and unlooked for financial confusion those districts in which the vine is the principal, and in some of them the single resource. To effect this the Government alone will not suffice – the assistance of private cultivators is required; each ought to watch his own vineyards, and be able to discover at once doubtful cases of an invasion of Phylloxera, and then to continue a careful inspection. To the cultivators of the vine in the associated provinces we therefore offer these short practical instructions, forming a summary of the gist of information which they ought not to ignore.

What is known of the Insect; its different stages and ways of multiplying itself. The Phylloxera or vine louse is a small insect similar to the grubs which live on the tender buds of the rose, the peach, &c., and like them nourishes itself by means of a sucker, which it attaches to the vegetable tissue, and thus absorbs the nourishing juice of the plant. It was introduced into Europe from North America, where it lives upon the vines of that country, which, owing to the structure of their roots, offer a greater or less degree of resistance to the enemy. The Phylloxera can live on the leaves of the American vine, and produces nut-galls, and then it takes the name of ‘galli-cola’; ‘but on the European or home-grown vines it lives generally on the roots, which it damages or alters in a peculiar way, and then it goes by the name of Phylloxera ‘radicicola’. Let us then give our special attention to the Phylloxera which lives upon the roots, that being the form of the disease which is of the greatest interest to us, inasmuch as it is that which injures our vines. (1) In the spring there issues from an egg, deposited in the previous autumn at the foot of the vine, where it has passed the winter, a very small insect, which travels underground to the end of the most delicate roots, and there nourishes itself by sucking the sap from the vine. It increases in size, changing its skin three or four times (in the same way as the silk-worm during its periods of sleep), and develops into a female without wings, able when full grown to deposit eggs of her own free will. The eggs, a few days after being deposited, open, and the young are born, forming small colonies round the mothers. The young nourish themselves, grow, change their skins, and become, in their turn, so many adult females, able to deposit new fecund eggs. Each female can, between the spring and the autumn, produce from 8 to 10 families in succession, each consisting of from 30 to 40 eggs, so that from a single egg, supposing that all the insects born should continue to live, there would be at the end of the year a production of several thousands of millions. (2) Some of the females above-mentioned pass in the month of July or August into the chrysalis state (like the silk-worm when in the cocoon), and after some time they change their skins, issue from the earth with wings, and aided by the wind, they fly to a greater or less distance, and deposit four or six eggs on the under-side of the leaves of the vines. (3) Some of these eggs are of a larger size, and become female insects without wings; others are smaller and become males without wings, hatching in a few days. Insects of this breed, a sex distinct by itself, do not feed upon the vine, but are destined for breeding only. The male dies after a short time. The female deposits a single egg on the stem of the vine underneath the bark, and afterwards dies too. It is from this egg which passes through the winter, and is not hatched until the following spring, that our biology of the insect begins. (4) ‘We have said that of the females found on the roots all do not develop wings; some in fact at the end of the autumn cease to nourish themselves, retire from active life, pass the winter motionless on the roots, and are said to be ‘hibernating’. On the arrival of spring they take a new lease of life, and continue the process of development. For the sake of brevity let us cease to point out further distinctions not required for the object which these short instructions have in view.

Damage done to the vines by the ‘root’ Phylloxera (radicicola), and how it extends. The Phylloxera on the extremities of the roots produces a special and very characteristic kind of swelling which continues to change, or rather to rot, and the vine no longer able to nourish itself, dies. During the first year the Phylloxera is generally found on the most slender roots; afterwards it is found on the ramifications of the roots next in slenderness, and also on the thickest, and on that part of the stem which is under the soil, and it remains there until the vine dies. The Phylloxera then leaves it, crossing the cracks in the soil by itself, and proceeds to other neighbouring vines, where it finds new nourishment, and thus it is that the evil is spread ‘by diffusion’: it spread as a spot of oil upon paper, and is called the Phylloxera ‘spot’. Then, meanwhile, the vines which are, as it were, in the centre of the spot sicken, sprout less, remain stunted, and in the vineyard have a depressed and drooping appearance. This becomes more apparent when the stems of the vines are near each other. But the disease may be spread to a distance by means of  dissemination,” creating new centres of infection, either by means of the flying insect, or through the agency of man himself, who carries the Phylloxera which lives on the roots, from one place to another to great distances, on plants or some other object coming from an infected vineyard.

How the presence of the Phylloxera can be detected in a vineyard. During the first year of the disease the vine gives few or no signs of deterioration; but when the roots are laid bare distinct swellings or knottings are discernible at the extremities of the most minute of the roots, swellings so characteristic of the disease as to be recognizable by a peasant himself when once seen. During the second year, if the vine is strong, it makes an effort to put forth new roots, tender or capillary, but as soon as the Phylloxera gets upon these, death is inevitable, and the vine gives external signs of dying away either in the spring or in the summer. In the third or fourth year the vine generally dies. In the second or third year the ‘spot’ begins to be apparent in the vineyard if the vines are a slight distance apart, and the drooping or ‘Phylloxera depression’ which we pointed out above, in other words the dying away and the disease of the vines, proceeds in the direction of the lines if these are some distance apart. These facts, however, are influenced by the climate, by the nature of the soil, and by the strength of the vines, as, for example, in the neighbourhood of Pallanza the deterioration of the infected vines was but little apparent, owing to the relatively greater power of resistance possessed by the Isabella vines cultivated there, as compared with the European vine cultivated elsewhere.

To resume, we have:

External characteristics.

Backwardness in sprouting.

Leaves of a yellowish colour, and of a size below the average.

Budding stage of less than average duration.

Grape matured with difficulty.

It is worthy of remark, however, that similar symptoms are sometimes due to other diseases produced by cryptogamy, but with careful inspection these are easily to be distinguished. Nevertheless the presence of other diseases does not exclude the possibility of the existence of Phylloxera. Less easy of detection is the winter egg on the stem under the bark, and the eggs deposited in the autumn by the winged Phylloxera on the underside of the leaves.

Characteristics of the roots. The characteristics of the roots are much more important and easy to recognise.

(a). A swelling of the slender roots, the capillary, especially during the first year of the disease. During the first formation they are of a yellowish orange colour, but afterwards they grow black, and then rot towards the end of autumn, and become loss apparent.

(b). The ‘root’ Phylloxera resembles fine grains of yellow sand, visible to the naked eye of an expert, but more so with a lens. As winter approaches the ‘root’ Phylloxera passes to the ‘hibernating’ stage, grows darker in colour, and consequently becomes less apparent. They are no longer found on the roots near the surface, but penetrate deeper into the soil to escape from the cold. It is hardly necessary to add that the Phylloxera is not found on dead vines, since they would find there no nourishment, and they are rarely found on those that are dying away.

Steps to be taken by the cultivator of vines to avoid the introduction of the Phylloxera into his vineyards. To take no plant, no matter what, which comes from a place infected or under suspicion, a thing moreover prohibited by law. To confine himself to increasing the number of the local vines.

How to discover the presence or suspicions signs of the Phylloxera. Inspect, here and there, in different parts of the vineyards the roots of some of the plants, with a view to acquiring a thorough knowledge of the construction of the sound roots in their normal condition, and the power of distinguishing them as occasion requires from those which show the swelling characteristic of the Phylloxera. It will be sufficient, in order that the lower parts of the roots of the vines may not be injured by the inspection, to examine them with a hoe, at one side at the feet until the first crowns of the roots are reached; this during the summer, but during the autumn and the winter the examination must be carried deeper below the surface. The following must especially be visited: Vines that are dying away or sickening, or that are in the neighbourhood of vines that are dying away, vines that are purchased away from the estate, and vines in gardens where ornamental vegetation exists. In cases of suspected Phylloxera the local authorities should be at once informed, and specimens of the roots under suspicion, both of the slender and of the thicker kinds, should be gathered from different vines. These roots should be placed in a tin box with a closely fitting lid, and a ticket should be attached to the box giving the names of the locality and of the proprietor of the vineyard. When reasonable suspicion of Phylloxera exists, the authorities will provide for the examination of the roots, and will have the vineyards inspected by the persons appointed for the purpose.

This short pamphlet, in which we proposed to set forth the essential points which the practical cultivator of the vine ought to know, has no other object than to inspire the reader with a desire to make himself better acquainted with a subject of such great importance. Among the many publications worth consulting, we especially recommend the official report of the Ministry of Agriculture, No. 11, ‘Information and Directions as regards the diseases of the vine louse and of the Phylloxera.’ In this little work are reproduced two woodcuts showing 1. The Phylloxera in the egg, lava, chrysalis and winged insect stages. 2. The leaves of the American vine with the nut-galls. 3. The Phylloxera on the vine roots. 4. The various characteristic swellings of the capillary roots. These woodcuts are owed to the courtesy of Signor Franceschini, the Government Phylloxera Commissioner for the province of Milan, and already form a part of his work on the Phylloxera.

Posted December 16, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Comment: Ordish on phylloxera in Italy   Leave a comment

The spread of phylloxera – the vine-destroying American aphid – through Italy in the late nineteenth century has often been described in print but only rarely in English. The following is the most extensive passage in that language known to this author and comes from George Ordish’s The Great Wine Blight (Sidgwick and Jackson 1987), 172-175.

‘Though the phylloxera was probably present in Italy in 1870 it does not appear to have been recognised until 1875 or to have become at all general until 1879, when it was found at Lecco and Agrate, Milan Province. The reason for its slow spread was the comparatively isolated nature of Italian vineyards and the habit of growing many vines through trees on long extension shoots. Such plants tend to have deep roots in firmly pressed ground. There is thus no opportunity for the aphids to enter through cracks in the soil and attack the roots.

At first the Italians saw the phylloxera in France as a great opportunity for them. ‘L’Italian può diventare la prima cantina d’Europa’. Sempé found their statistics difficult. He says:  ‘…they are no shining example of fixity and permit all sorts of conclusions to be drawn from them, allowing the viticultural papers on the others side of the Alps great opportunities to make some very strange calculations.’ And later he refers to their bizarreries and the contradictions in them.

The usual course was followed, it being realized finally that American roots were the answer. At first it left the provision of the new plants to private enterprise and to some wine-growers’ organisations, but later some government control became essential (Royal Decree of 4th March 1888 (3rd series), unifying the decrees of 24th May 1874) to overcome the ignorance and fraud prevalent at that time.

Vignerons were in great haste to ‘reconstitute’ their vineyards and the ‘wood-merchants’ prospered, ‘for the wretched purchaser is not in a position to complain very much until two or three years have passed, if he has been supplied with fraudulent or unsuitable material. Many a bundle of ‘first-class American wood’’ in passing from hand to hand changed its variety as many times, now being 420A, now 3309, now 41B, according to local preference’. The State encouraged viticultural associations  (consorzi) which were easily formed in the north, if they did not already exist, but had to be pushed in the south, and came to exercise more and more control over the sale of rootstocks.

Trained teams were sent out to destroy foci and frequently met with considerable resistance, as in the Côte d’Or, France. The Government bore half the cost of these measures, mostly abandoned during the First World War, which gave the pest a chance to spread. At the end of the war the appalling results of some of the early ‘reconstitution’ plantings were but too obvious, and energetic steps were taken to regularize the nursery business (Law No. 1363, 26 September 1920). A feature of the earlier campaign was the establishment of a nursery on the island of Monte-Cristo where half a million genuine American plants, true to name and free from phylloxera, were raised and distributed free throughout Tuscany. The Government distributed free cuttings of Americans, particularly York-Madeira, and 120 k. of American vine seed and gave subsidies to growers who would establish vineyards with this material.

The Italians produced a number of distinguished phylloxera specialists, such as the famous Professor Battista Grassi, who published an exhaustive study of the genus (thus including other species of Phylloxera, such as quercus) in 1912. Even at this late date the infestation was not large. Grassi estimated that out of 4.5 million ha. of vines in Italy just under 4 million were still unattacked. But he also points out that this is no reason for complacency. The member of the Chamber of Deputies who maintained that there was no need to worry about or to vote funds for phylloxera defence because France had been attacked and had overcome the pest by means of American vines, said Grassi, forgot to mention the trifling fact that it cost their neighbour11 million thousand francs! One did not have to be a prophet, or the son of a prophet, to predict that if steps were not taken the phylloxera would not stop until it had destroyed every vinifera in Europe.

In addition to being a great scientist Grassi was a remarkably practical man with an ability to put across his ideas in striking terms. He laid down a successful Italian policy. In 1908 he pointed out that the country did not have the money to destroy the phylloxera; no minister dared ask for the sums needed, which would be at least 100 million lire a year, when the total vote was but 1.5 million, the same sum now with 600,000 ha. attacked as when there were 60. Here he quoted an old saying: ‘The cake is always the same size and all we get is smaller slices of it.’ Even the great German ‘success’ in Alsace, where they spent a million marks in destruction of foci was all talk. A recent inspection showed Alsace to be infected in spit of the million spent. It was too late to destroy foci one by one because that would not stop the pest spreading. What was needed for people to know the pest and to delay its attack whilst reconstituting on American roots. The pest was spread by rooted cuttings and plants and never by bare cuttings. The legislation prohibiting  the movement of all vines should be repealed and applied only to plants and roots. By allowing the innocuous cuttings to move freely one would avoid the temptation at present existing of smuggling roots around the country and thus spreading the pest. Grassi’s hearers were not to think that he was advocating a ‘free phyloxera in a free Italy’ (a reference to Cavour’s slogan, ‘a free state in a free Italy’) but just common sense. His policy was adopted in essence and, as noted above, considerable control was exercised over nurseries.’


Posted December 14, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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History: the wine-methanol crisis of 1986   Leave a comment

The wine-methanol crisis of 1986 is certainly the most serious of all modern Italian alimentary scandals and proved catastrophic for both Italian wine producers and for Italian wine consumers.

By 1986 a series of wine makers across northern and central Italy had begun to include methanol (illegally) in their wines to increase their wine’s alcohol content. However, the company that truly set off the crisis and that killed and maimed dozens of people was Ciravegna based in the province of Cuneo. Indeed, from December 1985 to March 1986, Giovanni and Daniele Ciravegna cut two and a half metric tons of methanol into their wine! The practice ceased in March because the first deaths had been registered and arrests were then made.

The consequences were grave: twenty three killed and dozens left blind or with serious neurological problems. The Italian wine industry had seen its international reputation ruined: some countries – particularly Germany – temporarily blocked the sale of Italian wine.

And the moral of the story is?

Well, actually there are two…

(i) Already in 1984 a local quality inspection had mentioned problems with methanol in the Ciravegna’s production: better forewarned…

(ii) Giovanni Ciravegna was given a fourteen year sentence and when he was released in 2001 he went back to producing wine: pick your bottle carefully then. SY

Posted November 3, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Source: Sicilian Wine c. 1900   Leave a comment

The following comes from an American writer describing Sicilian wine c. 1900.

It was Cicero who said that in Sicily the sun was visible every day in the year, however bad the infertile weather. To the ancients Sicily was known as ‘the granary of Rome’. With soil so fertile that two crops could be raised in a year without impairing its substance, it is no wonder that Rome looked to this triangular island for wine and grain. Ceres, the Goddess of Plenty, according to the poets, had her residence here, and from here dispensed her favors so freely to mankind. Tradition ascribes to Sicily the honor of being the first place in Europe where wine was made. Homer, among his many lines of praise of this wonderful island, says, ‘Spontaneous wines from weighty clusters pour’. In the Bibliotheca of Diodorus Siculus the remarkable fertility of the Sicilian vineyards is often commented upon, and even in those early times the variety of the wines made upon the island was a subject of wonder and admiration.

The mountainous configuration of the island imparts to it a diversity of climate that makes variety of the vine an easy possibility, and its people have ever been ready to take advantage of the opportunities so bountifully bestowed upon them by the hand of nature. Near the seashore, amid the groves of date palms, oranges, and lemons, close to the cactus and the papyrus, the grape vine spreads its friendly branches, borne down with mighty clusters that soon will transmit to man the life they gathered from the bright rays of the tropic sun. The wines made from grapes grown near the shore are generally very strong and heavy, but farther inland and up the mountainsides they are varieties much lighter. Altitude in this climate of wine, has no restraining influence, and vines are readily grown as high up the mountains as four thousand feet above the sea level. The wine, of course, is light, being only about one half the strength of that grown on the plain, but its keeping qualities are good, improving perceptibly with age.

The ancient Sicilians were noted for their prodigality, and their extravagance and dissipations were so flagrant and notorious that they soon ceased to provoke comment and were taken as a matter of course. Their hospitality and the liberal and generous way in which they dispensed their grand old vigorous wines often caused remarks that were scarcely complimentary. Plato, in speaking of these people, says ‘they built as if they were always to live, and supped as if they were never to sup again’. How true were his words can readily be realized, for in Sicily to-day, almost twenty-five hundred years later, are to be seen the buildings of Plato’s time, grand specimens of the taste and industry of these olden people…

Marsala is the best known of the modern wines of Sicily, and by some is considered to be the equal of Marsala Madeira, which it greatly resembles. It wine. was first made on an estate which belonged to Lord Nelson, the hero of Trafalgar. It was originally called Bronte, after the estate, but subsequently received the name Marsala-Bronte, then Marsala. It has always sold remarkably well in England, but very little of it ever reaches America.

Until quite recently the vintage was very carelessly conducted, and the Sicilian rivalled his brother the Italian in his wanton wastefulness, but of late years, through the intercession of the nobility and others high in rank, viticulture has received more attention and in consequence better wines are being made.

The Sicilians have never, as a whole, earnestly sought for foreign markets for their wines, being satisfied to make only enough for home foreign consumption. Some few merchants have, however, sold their products abroad, but at rare intervals. Now they are seeking for foreign marts, and with every promise of success.

Some twenty-five years ago the Duke of Salaparuta began the making of Corvo wine with a view for foreign trade, and also to improve and advance the condition of the people in his district. His success has been signally satisfying, and Corvo wine is fast making a place for itself in almost every large city in the world. It is a light table wine, resembling in many respects the Sauternes of France, though perhaps a shade dryer. It is amber in color and while warming to the system it is not heady. Its one great recommendation is that it is a pure wine in every respect, and is therefore worthy of all the praise that can be bestowed upon it.

The Duke did not receive very much encouragement at the beginning of his venture, as it was thought to be an impossibility to make a pure article that the people would appreciate, and the enormous outlay of capital that was necessary for an enterprise such as he had planned was condemned on every hand. But this opposition had very little weight with him, and he proceeded to put his ideas to practical use with but little ceremony. He showed his wisdom by improving, instead of discarding, the local methods which were best adapted to the region. Science was brought to the aid of nature, and the result has been all that man could wish.

Don Enrico has made a thorough study oenology, and his knowledge of the science is comprehensive. Minutiae of detail are carefully observed both in practice and theory, and every possible advantage is taken of the smallest item that in any way promises a betterment of existing conditions. Every modern appliance that is used in vinification is to be found at Casteldaccia and the Villa Valguarnera. The vineyards produce nearly a quarter of a million gallons yearly of wine of the first order, every drop of which is aged by time alone, taking several years before it reaches that degree of perfection for which the wine is celebrated. European royalty has taken a decided fancy for the wine, and the greater part of it goes to them. Even the present Emperor of Germany, with the fine wine of the Rheingau at his disposal, is very fond of Corvo, and has praised it on many occasions. Freiherr von Babo, the director of the celebrated wine school of Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, who is considered to be the best authority of Europe, and in fact of the world, on wines, has endorsed Corvo wine unqualifiedly. Unfortunately for us, the demand for it in Europe is so great that very little of it reaches America at present.

In Sicily and in other wine countries drunkenness and intoxication are seldom met with, and although immense quantities of wine are consumed by every individual, over-indulgence is thought to be very degrading and by some almost a crime. Inebriety Should a man show an ungovernable uncommon, fondness for wine every art and device that can be thought of is used to correct this tendency, so that he may appear among his neighbors in his proper light and not be an object of scorn and abhorrence.

Among the people there is a story of a woman who had resorted to every expedient known in the community in order to reform an intemperate husband, but her efforts had been without result; the man was confirmed in his habits, and redemption seemed an impossibility. One evening when he was brought home in his usual state of inebriety she had him carried to the graveyard and placed him on one of the graves to sleep off the effects of the overindulgence. While he was sleeping she prepared him his supper and then donning a white, flowing robe and covering her face with a mask, she sat beside him awaiting his return to consciousness. When at last he opened his eyes she arose and in sepulchral tones said, ‘Arise and eat, it is my orders to feed the dead’. ‘Ah,’ said he, ‘if you had known me better you would have brought me something to drink instead’.

Wine has always played a part in the events of the island ; sometimes it has been a minor, but on several occasions it has been a very How the French lost factor. Charles of Anjou owes to wine his loss of Sicily, and also the lives of more than eight thousand of his soldiers. The Sicilian Vespers is the name given to this massacre, but very few know how it came about or why this time, Easter Monday, of all times, should be chosen for the uprising. The truth is that although the blow had been planned it was for a later period, and had it not been for wine it would have been deferred, and aged Giovanne da Procida, who was at the head of the conspiracy to drive the French from the island, would have had to look for another cause to begin the revolt.

It was the day after Easter, 1282; the people of Palermo were at a picnic on the meadows enjoying themselves as only the Sicilian knows how, and all thought of the morrow had been cast to the winds. Singing and dancing were everywhere heard and seen, when suddenly a company of soldiers that garrisoned the city came upon the scene. For a while all went pleasantly and the people, although somewhat constrained in the presence of the soldiers, kept up their merrymaking. But the soldiers soon tired of the decency and began to be insolent and abusive. To quote from Crawford, ‘they drank from cups of wine that no man had offered them, grossly jesting with the women and girls, who turned from them in angry silence’. The men were angered almost to fighting pitch, but with remarkable control restrained their passions and tried to overlook the almost unbearable rudeness. Intoxicated with wine, and every minute growing bolder, the captain of the company gave orders to search the men and also the women for concealed weapons ; he himself began the search, but it was the last act of his life, for as he was about to lay hands upon one of the women her husband cried out, ‘Now, let these rascals die at last’, and he had no sooner spoken than the captain lay dead at his feet. Every one of his soldiers were killed, not one escaped to tell the story; and that evening, when the vespers were rung on the bells of the church of the Holy Ghost, they also pealed the death knell to the reign of Charles of Anjou in Sicily. The insurrection spread and in a surprisingly short space of time more than eight thousand soldiers were massacred, and the island was free from the hated French.

Posted September 7, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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