Friday, August 8, 2008

The MOOR the Merrier

Sailing through the Mediterranean aboard the Celebrity X cruise ship, I was struck by how many European countries still had Moor castles, which means they had a black history, as in a history of black folks, and I ain't talking slavery.

My curiosity about them was piqued, so I did a little digging when I got home. The Moors were "black as ink" north Africans who crossed over into Spain, Italy, Portugal and of course, Greece. They were Muslims world renown for their soldiering skills. They built impenetrable seaside fortresses in many countries, and held high ranks in the Roman Empire. Many historians believe the Moors could have conquered the world had they not suffered internal strife. Isn't that always the case?

Blackamoors, as they are sometimes called (an oxymoron if ever I heard one), were a most feared army, hence the phrase, "There are no Moors on the coast," which over the years evolved into "The coast is clear." Black Africans were recruited for soldierly duty by many other countries, too, including but not limited to Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, and even Britain.

In fact, Shakespeare wrote a play whose main character Othello was a Moor. Othello was a general in the army of Venice, and when he failed to promote his ensign Iago to a higher rank, Iago launched a smear campaign in order to gain revenge. He called Othello crude racial metaphors like "vile black man." I guess the "N" word wasn't out then. Suffice it to say Iago played the race card, and it all ended tragically, as did most of Shakespeare's plays, but forgiveth me my digression.

As I shake off Shakespeare, I dig out my photos of all the Moor castles I've seen. They are all now either museums or monasteries, or some other kind of tourst attraction. I'm just thankful they didn't demolish them for new condos.


Patricia W. said...

Love the history lesson. Thanks!

I, Star Woman said...

You're welcome, Patricia! It's part of why I travel, I love to learn.