Moors Expelled from Sicily and Southern Italy

October 31, 2011

It's often claimed that Italians south of Rome are mostly descended from Moors who invaded in the Middle Ages. But according to historian Julie Anne Taylor, the large scale presence of Muslims in medieval Italy was restricted to just two southern locations (first Sicily and then the area around Lucera) and in both cases ended with mass expulsions. Her narrative is consistent with the available genetic data, which estimates only low levels (2-4%) of gene flow from Arabs and Berbers into those two locations, and even lower levels (0-1%) in the rest of the country.

When tensions between the Christians and Muslims in Sicily in the first decades of the thirteenth century disrupted life on Frederick II's island, the emperor did what the Christian rulers of Iberia had done in the eleventh century: he removed the Muslims from his kingdom. Instead of expelling them, however, he deported them to Lucera, a town previously inhabited by Christians in Apulia, forty miles or so from the Adriatic Sea in the southern Italian peninsula. The first deportations began in the 1220s and continued for twenty years. By mid-century, Sicily's Muslim population no longer existed. Some had fled to North Africa while the majority had been settled in Lucera and small villages in the same region.


Rebellions of Muslims in villages around the island prompted Frederick to find ways to rid Sicily of them, but not to the point of depriving himself completely of their talents and uses. He shipped them off to Apulia, forced them to settle in Lucera, and put them to work in the service of the kingdom.


When Charles I of Anjou took possession of the colony in 1265, life became increasingly difficult for the inhabitants until, in 1300, Charles II decided to liquidate the colony entirely. He had all the Muslims in southern Italy sold into slavery, took the gold from their sale, and confiscated all of their property. Officials took inventory of all the grain and agricultural products stored there before carting them off to feed the Christian populations of southern Italy.

Sally McKee. "Review: Muslims in Medieval Italy: The Colony at Lucera, by Julie Taylor". The American Historical Review, October 2004.

Our estimates of NW African chromosome frequencies were highest in Iberia and Sicily, in accordance with the long-term Arab rule in these two areas. The chromosome frequencies in the two samples were not significantly different from each other (Fisher's exact test P=0.83) but were both significantly different from the peninsular Italy sample (P<0.01). An inspection of Table 1 reveals a non-random distribution of MNA [medieval North African] types in the Italian peninsula, with at least a twofold increase over the Italian average estimate in three geographically close samples across the southern Apennine mountains (East Campania, Northwest Apulia, Lucera). When pooled together, these three Italian samples displayed a local frequency of 4.7%, significantly different from the North and the rest of South Italy (P<0.01), but not from Iberia and Sicily (P=0.12 and P=0.33, respectively). Arab presence is historically recorded in these areas following Frederick II's relocation of Sicilian Arabs.

Val Badia 0.0
Veneto 0.9
Central Emilia 0.0
Central Tuscany 1.2
Tuscany-Latium border 0.0
Northeast Latium 0.9
Marche 0.7
South Latium 0.0
East Campania 2.4
Northwest Apulia 3.3
Lucera 1.7
West Calabria 0.0
South Apulia 0.7
Sicily 3.8
Colonized locations 2.8
Rest of country 0.4
Whole country 1.1

Capelli et al. "Moors and Saracens in Europe: estimating the medieval North African male legacy in southern Europe". Eur J Hum Genet, 2009.

Related: Mediterranean Sea as Genetic Barrier

Jersey Shore: Before They Were Guidos

October 20, 2011

Here are some childhood photos of the (fully) Italian cast members of MTV's reality show Jersey Shore when they still looked normal, prior to the harmful effects of steroids, tanning beds, hair gel and hip-hop.

Mike Sorrentino:

Paul DelVecchio:

Sammi Giancola:

Vinny Guadagnino:

Deena Nicole Cortese:

Another Richard Lynn Refutation

October 6, 2011

They just keep coming. The others can be found here.

As stated at the outset, the aim of this analysis is not to demonstrate that IQ in Southern Italy is the same or higher than that in the North. On the other hand, a simple statistical exercise, based on correlations among variables, such as that by Lynn, is far from conclusive. Recent studies have shown a significant statistical relationship (p-value = 0.008) between the presence of storks in the European continent and the birth rate (Matthews, 2000); an association which seems particularly remarkable in the case of Germany (Höfer et al. 2004). We know how hard it is to explain causality by means of statistical exercises and certainly causal relationships are not captured by simple statistical correlations.

Our previous discussion suggests a different relationship among the variables analyzed by R. Lynn and those collected in the present article. Allowing that school tests are representative of differences in IQ, we have seen that:

  • they clearly show how the North-South difference in cognitive ability does not exist at the age of 7. The correlation between regional educational achievement (INVALSI) and regional per capita income becomes positive (0.44) at the age of 10, but is, however, considerably lower than that found through PISA test scores;
  • the IQ-average income relationship did not exist in the past, although if it had derived from a genetic difference, it would consequently have done so;
  • knowledge of genetic differences in Italy does not support Lynn's opinion that peoples from North Africa and the Near East strongly influenced the genetic structure of the Southern Italian population. Genetically, the influence of the Phoenicians and the Near East populations accounts for a very small fraction, while the predominant genetic influence derives from the long phase of Greek colonization.

The existence of differences in IQ, as revealed by school tests and other tests (supposing that these actually reveal "fundamental" diversities in intelligence), seems much better explained as being socially, economically and historically influenced rather than being genetically determined. Capabilities in problem solving are enhanced by a developing and stimulating environment, according to the so-called "Flynn effect".

In the past, the Southern Italian economy has at times been more advanced than the Northern one; for example during both the Roman antiquity and the high Middle Ages. Perhaps the North and the Centre were more advanced than the South in the late Middle Ages; although nothing certain can be said on the matter. The following decline of the Italian economy as a whole, from the late Middle Ages until the end of the 19th century, probably cancelled the existing economic differences. When per capita GDP diminishes and approaches the level of bare subsistence, differences among regions disappear. In the 19th century, Italy was a relatively backward country both in the North and the South. The statistical material available from the end of the 19th century onwards, does not actually indicate a deep North-South divide, in economic terms. The start of modern growth from then on affected the North much more than the South and economic disparity began to exist between the two parts of the country. In 1891 the North-South difference in per capita GDP was less than 10 percent; it was 20 percent on the eve of World War 1, and 45 per cent after World War 2. In 2010, per capita GDP in the South is about 60 percent that of the North. As ordinarily happens, relative backwardness implies the accumulation of adverse influences. While literacy and years of education grew in the North with respect to the South, infant mortality diminished much more quickly in the North than the South. Institutions, including families and schools, work much better in prosperity than backwardness. Estimates of IQ are likely to be higher where families, municipalities, provinces and regions invest more in education. Remarkable emigration from the South to the North, especially between 1950 and 1975, increased the North-South diversity since emigration, in Italy as elsewhere, is always selective. Since IQ registers education and years of schooling to a greater extent than intelligence, the relative position of the South compared to the North deteriorated in both the cultural environment and the economy more or less contemporaneously.

Daniele and Malanima. "Are people in the South less intelligent than in the North? IQ and the North-South disparity in Italy". Journal of Socio-Economics, 2011.