Encyclopedia of Southern Italy

Aa – Aj


A: In the ancient Roman world, A usually stood for the praenomen Aulus. In many inscriptions it stood for the singular title Augustus; AA meant duo Augusti (two Augusti); AAA meant tres Augusti (three Augusti); etc.

Aaron ben Gershon Abu Al-Rabi of Catania: (fl. 1400-1450). Sicilian-Jewish scholar, cabalist, and astrologer. Having been educated at Treviso, he was well-acquainted with the various scientific and philosophical controversies of his time. He was an excellent grammarian and had a good working knowledge of the Arabic language. He was also familiar with the practice of astrology and the tenets of the Cabala. During his lifetime he traveled widely through the lands bordering the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, making many connections with influential Jewish and Christian leaders and scholars, including Pope Martin V.

Abacaenum (Greek: Abakainon) (see full page)

Abagnole, Giuseppe: [b. Nov. 25, 1816, Casole, [NA]. d. Feb. 13, 1869, Aversa [CE]]. Patriot. He was a member of Garibaldi’s Mille (Thousand) in 1860.

Abamonti, (or Abbamonte), Giuseppe: (see full page)

Abarbanel (Abravanel): A Jewish family which flourished in the Kingdom of Naples in the 15th and 16th centuries. Their ranks included prominent merchants, bankers, scholars, and philosophers. Originally centered in Spain and Portugal, they fled into exile in southern Italy when the Inquisition was imposed in 1492. Two of their members, the brothers Giuseppe and Giacomo Abarbanel, created a commercial network throughout Apulia, Basilicata, and Calabria. When, in 1510, the new Spanish government in Naples issued a decree of expulsion against the Jews, the Abarbanel family was able to successfully bribe court officials into granting them special exemption.

Abarbanel (Abravanel), Isaac: (b. 1437 in Lisbon. d. 1508 in Venice). Financier and scholar. A member of a prominent Jewish family, he had earned great wealth and a reputation for great intellect and scholarship in his native Portugal. During these years he was honored with several high appointments by King Alfonso. On the accession of John II to the Portuguese throne, Abarbanel found himself out of favor and forced to flee to neighboring Castile. He now devoted much time to the study of the Old Testament, but soon reentered the political arena. It was not long before his gifts brought him the attention and favor of King Ferdinand of Aragon, who now ruled Castile jointly with his wife Isabella. This favor, however, was of no help when, in 1492, Jews were banished from the Spanish kingdom. Not wishing to become a victim of the Inquisition, Abarbanel decided to seek a friendlier and more tolerant home. Accompanied by his three sons, Judah, Joseph, and Samuel, he resettled at Naples, in 1493, and soon earned a place of honor at the court of King Ferdinand I. He was able to use his great talents to rebuild his fortune and to play an important role in the kingdom’s intellectual life. For the next few years, Abarbanel enjoyed the royal favor of Ferdinand and his successor, Alfonso II. He made several close contacts with leading Jewish and Christian scholars throughout Italy. Abarbanel’s misfortunes returned when, in 1495, the French King Charles VIII seized power in Naples. Accompanying Alfonso II into exile at Messina, Sicily, he remained there until the former king’s death. He then relocated for a short time to the Greek island of Corfu. After the French retreated from the Kingdom of Naples, Abarbanel returned (1496) and settled in the port-city of Monopoli in Apulia. He was his intention to devote his time hereafter to scholarly pursuits and avoid politics. His rest from forced travels, however, proved all too short. In 1504, Spain defeated France for control of southern Italy and annexed Naples. The Inquisition which he had fled in Spain was now brought to Italy, forcing Abarbanel to flee once again. At the age of 71, he resettled in Venice, remaining there until his death. Abarbanel had one more, short episode in his political career when he played an instrumental role in effecting a treaty between Venice and his native Portugal. When he finally died in 1508, he was interred in a beautiful tomb at Padua. Abarbanel’s surviving literary works are concerned with Biblical studies and commentaries. Throughout his life, Abarbanel claimed, although without any proof, that he was a direct descendant of King David of Israel.