Thursday, December 08, 2011

Viri Galilei, etc.

Reading Galileo in Rome  by Mariano Artigas and William R. Shea, I discover a curious array of verbal curiosities.  One is the story of a young Dominican named Tomasso Cacini who  in 1614 undertook to speak out against Galileo's supposed heresies from the pulpit of Santa Maria Novella in Florence:

 Caccini seems to have chosen as his text the passage in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, in which two men clad in white said to the disciples after Jesus' ascension into heaven: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking at the sky?"  In the Latin version, which Caccini quoted, "Men of Galilee" is "Viri Galilei," which can be rendered as "Men of [Galileo] Galilei." The pun startled the congregation, but there was more to come. Caccini launched into a denunciation of Galileo, the Copernican system, and all mathematicians, whom he branded as enemies of Church and State. He was dead serious.
William R. Shea and Mariano Artigas. Galileo in Rome: 
The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius(Kindle Locations 735-737). 

Two involves a polemical work of Galileo's which he entitled The Assayer--in Italian, Il Saggiatore.  A mischievous Jesuit was able to go him one better by recasting it as Il Asaggiatore, "The Wine-Taster."  "Galileo," the authors dryly remark, "knew and loved his wine."

The third is more incidental, but it caught my fancy anyway.  It's the word "Quarantine," and its etymology.  Evidently it comes from "forty"--"quaranta"--as in 40 days' isolation.  But why 40?  Because  that was the time Jesus spent in the wilderness (as if to cleanse himself) before he undertook his preaching.   

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