Gilded Serpent presents...
DANCERS OF THE INFIDEL EMPEROR
We know that the BellyDance goes back thousands of years to ancient
Egypt and Sumer. But seldom do we find many references to dances in history. Especially Western History. Well,
did you know that Belly Dancers played a significant role in the life and destiny of a great European monarch?
You would like to hear more, you say? Well, then allow me to unfold the tale.
Know then, O Dancer, that in the 13th century of the Christian era there lived the greatest ruler of men between
Charlemagne and Napoleon. He was a man of titanic genius and energy, a poet and philosopher whose thought was centuries
ahead of his time. He spoke six languages and kept a brilliant court where mathematicians and philosophers, poets
and artists, architects and musicians gathered from both Europe and the Middle East, where all religions were tolerated
and accepted. He was a ruler of justice and vision, who laid foundations of modern law and government that stand
in Europe to this day. He was the master statesman and diplomat of his age, who regained the city of Jerusalem
for the West after the first crusaders had lost it, without spilling a single drop of blood. He aspired to the
rulership of a Universal Empire based on law and justice, and nearly achieved it.
He was the fabulous Frederick II of the House of Hohenstaufen, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Sicily, King of Germany,
King of Jerusalem, Romanorum Caesar Semper Augustus, Felix Victor ac Triumphator and known to his contemporaries
simply as stupor mundi: the Marvel of the World.
And, O dancer, know this also: that in defiance of the morality of
his times and in spite of the maledictions of two popes, he openly kept a harem of beautiful dancing girls.
He was German by blood, a grandson of the great emperor Frederick Barbarossa, but brought up in Sicily and in his
heart he thought of himself as a Sicilian to the end.
Now, this island of Sicily had been under Moslem domination for two centuries when Count Roger I conquered it in
1091. At that time it was the pearl of the Mediterranean: rich, cultured and civilized, for it lay on the major
sea-routes of the great Inland Sea. Roger was a Norman, and so descended from Viking sea-rovers, and like all of
that race he was not only a good pirate but a shrewd trader and administrator as well.
Finding an efficient Moslem administration, he kept it, and under
his son the Sicilian court became a world center of learning and culture for Christians and Moslems alike.
Contemporary writers, both Arab and Christian, describe the predominance
of the Moslem influence at the Sicilian Royal Court. Nor was it limited to administration and learning; the whole
tenor of life was Oriental rather than Western. For quality of life and learning, Islam was far in advance of the
semi-barbarian European kingdoms, and the Norman Kings of Sicily soon became known throughout the West as "the
Their palaces were centers of poetry and music as well--- and of dancing. For know this, O Dancer: that even before
the Normans came, this charmed isle of Sicily was famous throughout Islam for the skill, grace and beauty of its
So Frederick's mother was Constance, daughter of Roger II. He was born in Sicily and raised in its culture. More,
because of the rise and fall of political tides among the great families, his upbringing was neglected, and for
the first twelve years of his life he was allowed to run wild in the streets of Palermo. In truth, he learned lessons
there that served him as well as any he had at court.
Frederick, it was said, was not above the middle height - "broad rather than tall" and auburn-haired,
inclining toward baldness in his later years. He had robust limbs, a strong body and limitless energy. He was an
expert swordsman, a fine archer, and a master horseman. A contemporary wrote: " To this is added a regal majesty
and majestic features and mien, to which are united a kindly and generous air, a serene brow, brilliant eyes, an
expressive face, a burning spirit, and a ready wit."
Frederick was gifted with an inborn optimism - contemporary references to his gaiety and cheerfulness are frequent.
It was natural to a man who always enjoyed superbly good health, and excelled from childhood in the sports that
were admired in his own circle - he was a magnificent horseman, a champion in the exercise of arms, a renowned
huntsman, and he was notoriously successful with women. Their beauty, it was said, was like meat and drink to him.
He was also one of the most intelligent men of his or any other time. His court was visited by the intellectual
elite of both Europe and the Moslem world, and he conversed with the great minds of his time as an absolute equal.
In Sicily the Emperor built palaces with colonnaded courts, enclosed gardens and fountains, until they surrounded
Palermo, in the words of an Arab poet, "like a necklace of jewels around the throat of a beautiful maiden."
Here on summer evenings when the perfumed Muscat wine was flowing freely, Frederick and his court, after a lavish
dinner enlivened by discourse on Divine and Natural Philosophy, would sit among the pavilions of the Favara and
the Cuba, which stood on small artificial islands among palm trees.
Frederick had created them for nights such as these, when the silver
moonlight mingled with the golden beams of the torches reflected in the waters. And then, O Dancer, would come
the sound of oud and ney and tabla, and the sight of smooth supple bodies twisting and tempting within their veils,
as the Dancers of the Emperor wove their spells of form and movement, and the musicians sang."Long draughts
of cooling water cannot compare with my content when I kiss the lips of my beloved. Her breath is scented with amber
and by its fragrance I know that she is there."
Little wonder then, that Frederick was to call upon himself the horror
of the pious when he said that God would not have chosen Palestine for his Holy Land if he could have seen "My
own Kingdom of Sicily."
For Frederick's enlightened attitudes and the condemnation of the Popes had given him a reputation for heresy and
blasphemy that would have earned him the stake had he not been the most powerful man in the Western World. He was
accused, with some justice, of actually favoring Islam over Christianity, and thus came to be called by the pious
"The Infidel Emperor".
The Hohenstaufen emperors believed that they had the right and duty to re-establish the universal empire of the
Caesars. And this put them in direct conflict with the Popes of the Church of Rome, for the Church domains and
sphere of influence in central and northern Italy split the Imperial domains in two, between Germany and Southern
Italy and Sicily. Besides this there was the ideological dispute. Like his grandfather Frederick Barbarossa, Frederick
believed that the church should confine itself to spiritual matters and leave secular power to the Emperors. But
this was the time of the great Caesar-popes, when the Church of Rome was exerting itself as a temporal as well
as a spiritual power. And it was the time when the church was coming under increasing criticism for corruption
and greed on all levels. Men felt that the true path of Christianity had been forgotten. Heresies were rife, and
heretics were being burned, but the Church could not still the cry for reform that came from within its own ranks.
St. Francis of Assisi
Chief among the reformers
was St. Francis of Assisi. Only by submitting to the discipline of the Church did he escape being condemned as
a heretic, but he and his Franciscans were tireless in seeking to reform the church. In this quest they sought
to enlist the aid of the great and powerful. St Francis even visited the Sultan of Cairo to this end. And it was
inevitable that he should seek out the most powerful ruler in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor. So one night he arrived
at the Emperor's castle at Bari, on the coast of Southern Italy.
What happened next, O Dancer, has become legend. There are many versions
of the story. Here is mine:
The castle at Bari looks out over the sea, and the slanting rays of the
descending sun have turned its waves into burnished gold as the Emperor looks out from his high window. The summer
air is tinged with the salt tang as the evening breeze brings it to him, and the air is filed with the high, desolate
cry of gulls. A voice comes from behind him: "Your Serene Highness may yet consider that there may also be
advantage to be gained in seeing this Francis of Assisi." Frederick turns to regard the speaker. The Emperor
is dressed in a long ample robe that reaches to below the knee, made of cendal, and the light silk is dyed a brilliant
red, enriched at the throat and wrist with fine embroidery of cloth of gold. He is girt about the waist with a
broad leather belt studded with jewels, from which hangs a broad-bladed dagger: a huntsman's knife. His gaze on
the speaker is intense, magnetic. It is said that his eyes change color with his mood, from violet to an unreadable
sea-green capable of striking fear into whom they gaze upon - "cold, like an adder's eyes" - someone
has described them. But now they are warm and deep blue, and the emperor's countenance is open, smiling and filled
with the joy of life. And why not? For, he is young and strong and master of a great empire, and it is passing
brave to be so.
His eyes meet those of the speaker, and there passes between them a look
of shared understanding, as between kindred spirits. The man who has spoken is broad, like Frederick , but taller
and older. On his pure white surcoat is displayed a black cross. The monkish appearance of this garb is belied
by the broadsword that hangs at his side, and displayed on the black cross is the symbol of a black eagle: the
Emperor's own heraldic device and thus a sign of especial favor to the bearer. This man is Hermann von Salza, Grand
Master of the Order of Teutonic Knights and Frederick's lifelong close friend, confidant and confederate. For years
the two have worked hand in glove. Like Frederick, von Salza is a past master at politics and diplomacy. He is
also master of the most disciplined force of fighting men in Europe, and of a network of spies that encompasses
both Europe and the Middle East.
"Advantage, Grand Master?" says the Emperor. "Saving yourself
and others of your Order, never yet have I found there to be much advantage in talking to a monk."
"Yet here your Majesty may find it so. It were well to make common
cause with this faction of the Church for the good of the Empire and its people."
"The good of the Empire and its people, Grand Master?" And
now Frederick's smile has grown hard, and his eyes have become snake-cold. "It is the arrogance of these priests,
their greed and corruption, that disturbs the peace of the realm and weighs upon the backs of the people, Grand
Master!. They say of me that I am godless, but I tell you this, there is one thing that is sacred to me above all
else, and that is my dignity and duty as Emperor. I am a Hohenstaufen of the Imperial line. I will not rest until
the Empire is made universal once more, and ruled by me from the city of the Caesars. The papacy will be limited
to its proper spiritual sphere, under the protection of the temporal sword of the Empire!"
Von Salza nods. "Your Serene Highness knows that in this matter
the Order is of one mind with Your Majesty. We owe allegiance to the Pope, it is true, but we have a higher allegiance.
And if the Emperor seeks to return the Church to its proper spiritual sphere, and guard it with his sword, then
we wish to be that sword. " He leans forward. " And, by your Most Sovereign Grace, that is why I have
brought your Majesty this monk. He is a reformer within the Church itself. Like your Majesty, he struggles against
the corruption of the clergy. He would see the Church return to simplicity and spirituality, to turn away from
the things of this world and teach the message of universal love and piety."
Now the Emperor's face has taken on a cynical cast "Or so he claims.
I'll tell you what I suppose, Grand Master: His reforming zeal would only last so long as to get him into power
in the Church, perhaps to St.Peter's seat itself, and then it would be forgotten."
"No, your Majesty, in the case of this man it is not so. He is sincere
and his piety is real. Why he even has had the stigmata. "
Frederick is incredulous. "Grand Master, have you, of all people,
been taken in by a religious mountebank?"
"Let your Serene Highness hear me with patience, the man is true.
They say of him that he has taken Poverty as a wife and it is so. He is as chaste as he is compassionate."
Frederick chuckles. "So I have heard, Grand Master, so I have heard.
But chaste monks are as rare as hen's teeth! "
"Not so in this case, Majesty. I have investigated. This man is
as pure as he claims. Women hold no interest for him, only God."
Now the Emperor's eyes are smiling again. "And yet, Grand Master,
and yet, if the matter is as important as you say, it were well to be sure. Perhaps we would be wise to put it
to the test. To see if this holy monk is as pure as he claims, determine if he can truly resist the temptations
of the flesh."
And with that, Frederick signals to the eunuch standing at the door,
who bows low, turns and disappears down the passageway.
It is not the eunuch who returns, but a woman. She enters with the
soul-arresting sensual grace of the dancer.
Her large dark eyes seem, at first, soft as a dove's as she looks at
the Emperor from beneath long, lovely lashes, but deep within them lurks something else, mysterious and compelling.
The black masses of her hair, escaping from under the jeweled cap she wears, fall in a dark cascade over one shoulder
to where a single convoluted tress, twisting vinelike, overarches the breathing loveliness that rises and falls
like the gentle waves of the sun-swept sea. She wears a crimson silk coat-hardy, tight fitting as a glove, so that
her own heaven-engendered beauty of form itself adorns the garment that conceals it and makes both more lovely.
Her sleeves are turned back, revealing her arms, adorned with bracelets and jewels. Her dress falls in graceful
folds from beneath the coat-hardy, and the drapery is subtly alive with the suggestion of the movement of her hips
as she walks into the center of the chamber.
The dancer is of Sicilian birth, but of Syrian blood. Her lovely features are unconcealed, but when she sees the
Grand Master in the room along with the Emperor, her hands dart quickly to her veil. Frederick forestalls her with
a gesture. She comes before him and bows, the movement as flowing and graceful as sunlit waters. The Emperor's
eyes are a deep blue as they look upon her. He turns to the Grand Master.
"She will serve, I think."
Von Salza's face is unreadable.
Frederick looks back to the dancer. He speaks to her in Arabic: "You
know what you are to do, then?"
She looks up at him with those wonderful eyes. "Yes, Great Lord,"
she replies in the same language. "I have circled my arms with gold and silver, and my eyes with kohl. I have
a thin gold chain, worn low on my hips. There is one in the chamber below: a man. He is said to be a sadu, a holy
man, of the People of the Book. He is said to be chaste, to have foresworn all intercourse with women. I am to
Her voice is a marvel: soft, with under-musics in it potent to stir the blood. The Emperor nods, well satisfied,
and lifts his hand in dismissal. With another bow, the Dancer leaves the room Frederick turns to face von Salza,
a satisfied smile on his face..
Early the next morning booted and with cloak thrown back, the Emperor
strides up the stone staircase of the great keep of his castle at Bari. He has been up since before dawn, out hunting
with his falcons (he will later write a treatise on falconry and the habits and care of birds that is used to this
day). His face is alight with the joy of his riding -- fifteen miles or more before breakfast. The old groom of
the castle is with him and they are discussing the brace of Arabian mares that has been sent as gift by the Sultan
of Cairo. As they enter the high vaulted chamber, Frederick sees waiting for him von Salza and the dancer, her
beauty fresh as the dawn.
Dismissing the groom, the Emperor strides to the long open table upon which is laid out fruits and meats and wines
for the breaking of his fast. He sits himself on the table, peels off his riding gauntlets and looking curiously
at the girl, takes up a date from a silver-chased dish and weighs it in his hand.
"Well?" he says.
"I am untouched, Great Lord", replies the dancer.
The Emperor's eyebrows lift. "He did nothing, the entire night?"
"No, Great Lord," she replies. "He did not touch me, not
The Emperor's lips are pursed. "I must say I am somewhat impressed."
he murmurs. He glances over at von Salza. " And after you tried to. ", he lifts a hand, ".entice
him. What did he do then?"
"He prayed, Great Lord."
Frederick starts. "He.prayed?" He looks again at the Grand
"Yes, Great Lord," she replies. "It was very loud."
The Emperor looks back to her, puzzled. "Eh? What was very loud?"
"His praying, Great Lord." she says, " It became very
loud. Especially after I began to move before him, as was commanded."
The Emperor struggles to control
his expression. He looks once more at
von Salza. The Grand Master is slowly shaking his head. Frederick laughs
aloud and jumps off the table. "I shall speak with
this monk,." he says.
He looks at the dancer. Turning, he opens an inlaid chest that lies on
the table and extracts a necklace of exquisite pearls. "Come," he says to the dancer and, parting the
sea-waved darknesses of her hair at the nape of her neck, he fastens the necklace upon her. " I am very pleased
with you, my rose of Soria," he says. The dancer turns to him and bows. His eyes upon her are as blue as summer
seas. "Attend me this evening in my chamber, after the evening meal."
Her voice is soft: "I am the Great Lord's to command."
And that, O dancer, is the story (somewhat embellished) of the Saint, the Emperor and the Beautiful Temptress.
Legend has it that the Emperor and the Saint spent the entire day talking together. It is a pity that no courtier
was present to record what was said.
The Emperor's court was in Palermo,
in his beloved Sicily. But the private, secret heart of his realm was on the Italian mainland, among the great
rolling plains of the Tovaliere. There, on a steep rocky outcrop, stood the Emperor's castle of Lucera. Here was
garrisoned the Saracan warriors brought back by the Emperor from Palestine to be his personal legion and royal
bodyguard. An immense fortress was built which still covers the whole summit of the hill. The walls were reinforced
at regular intervals by square and polygonal towers and, in what is now a desert, there arose an entire Moslem
town complete with mosques and dwellings for a population of thousands.
Here dwelt the companies of dreaded Saracen crossbowmen and here Moslem craftsmen forged weapons of the world-famous
damascened steel. Here were constructed engines and weapons of war: the huge catapults, mangonels, and trebuchets
that could bring down massive castle walls of the Emperor's enemies.
In the center of this vast fortress, the Emperor built himself a palace.
It took the form of an immense tower-like keep, whose scarped rectangular base was heavily fortified and above
this rose an octagonal tower, in whose center was a paved courtyard, cooled by the plashing water of a fountain.
The vaulted rooms of the tower were furnished with great luxury and with antique works of art brought from Naples.
From the windows of his great tower the Emperor could enjoy magnificent views over the endless spaces of the Apulian
Within the fastness of this keep was stored the Imperial Treasure, watched over by the Saracens of the Imperial
bodyguard. And here too, O Dancer, was kept treasure of another sort.
For here were hidden the most intimate secrets of Frederick's personal
In the secluded chambers of this tower lived the beautiful dancing girls
for whom, in November 1239, Frederick wrote from far away Lodi to order robes lined with marten fur, linen undergarments
and robes lined with silk. Even on his business of state, the Emperor took thought for his dancers, to insure that
were kept warm against the winter nights. They had women servants to wait upon them and were guarded by eunuchs.
Some of them usually accompanied the Emperor upon his constant journeys. They traveled in great luxury with numerous
possessions, and at the siege of Parma some of them fell into the hands of Frederick's enemies because they refused
to abandon their baggage in order to make good their escape.
To rule his Empire well, Frederick had to travel. And so he built a network of castles and palaces throughout his
lands, and he would move from one to the next in a magnificent caravan. Chroniclers of the time have preserved
for us eyewitness accounts of the Imperial Caravan on the march, a spectacle of unparalleled pageantry and color.
First came the advance guard of Saracen light cavalry, Frederick's personal Moslem bodyguard, mounted on magnificent
Arab steeds, gorgeously caparisoned, in their colorful and (to the Europeans) outlandish garb. And in the midst
of these warriors of Islam, O Dancer, padded silently along the swift-pacing camels of the famous Mehari breed
- gifts of the Emperor's friends the Sultans of Babylon, Baghdad, and Egypt-and these bore the Emperor's most precious
treasures, protected by his personal bodyguard. For each camel bore a palanquin, and behind the bright colored
curtains of these lounged the veiled and mysterious beauties from the Emperor's fastness of Lucera - the dancers
chosen to accompany him on his journey.
After an interval - to allow the dust to settle-would follow the court
itself, and among the cavalcade of brilliantly attired knights and courtiers the watching crowds would anxiously
seek to identify the Emperor himself - that terrifying personage whose titles awarded him the right to be addressed
as "divine" Caesar. They would have had little difficulty picking him out: the auburn hair, the calm
countenance, and the piercing, hypnotic gaze. The well knit, solidly built form would usually be attired in huntsman's
clothes and would invariably be mounted upon the famous black warhorse Dragon.
Then would come the train of pages attired in brightly striped tunics and ochre-colored hose, bearing on their
gloved wrists the Emperor's falcons. Trotting on the road beside them in pairs, lead on scarlet collars and leashes,
lean and rangy, came the imperial hounds, built for speed, but well groomed and shiny. Then the swift cheetahs
and hunting leopards, eyes hooded like the falcons' and born upon cushioned seats mounted on the crupper of Saracen
Next, an elephant with a wooden tower on its back filled with Saracen
crossbowmen, then the giraffe, whose very existence was unknown in Europe until the Emperor brought one back. Then
the lynxes and lions, the exotic birds and all the rest of Frederick's menagerie, and a whole train of mules and
packhorses, with sweating and cursing drovers, carrying the sacks and chests and coffers, the Imperial treasury,
the baggage, the books, the registers and documents of the chancery, all the necessities of government. And, at
last, the poor scribes, clerks and notaries, riding on braying mules or on foot, who must have everything in order
and ready for the Emperor's requirements at the end of the long day's march.
Is it then any wonder, O Dancer, that he was called the Marvel of the World?
If amongst all, this, you wonder that there is so little said about the Emperor's wives, it is because there is
little to say. The Emperor had two wives, both of whom he married for political and dynastic reasons, and both
of whom he ignored and kept shut up in seclusion. Like many men who gifts set them apart from their fellow human
beings, Frederick was self-centered. He could also be ruthless to the point of cruelty.
The Emperor had six legitimate children and at least eleven out of wedlock. He doted on them all, and by all accounts
they were all gifted, bright and happy people, like their father. Whichever of his dancers was the mother of his
son Enzio, she must have been the Emperor's favorite, for he made Enzio King of Sardinia. Enzio was a handsome,
golden man and his poetry was famous throughout the world.
Frederick's struggle with the Pope was political, military, and ideological.
And his lovely dancers entered into it. Their presence at his court was regarded as prima facie evidence for the
charges of heresy and immorality, which were brought against him again and again by the Popes.
The dancers were used as the major reason for the condemnation of
the Emperor made by Innocent IV at the Council of Lyons in 1245. But so attached was the Emperor to his dancing
girls that he never even considered giving them up, even though he might have gained political advantage in the
war of ideas by dismissing them.
What he did instead was to engage in what today we would call "spin".
Why, no, he would say in proclamations published throughout Europe, these girls are simply troupes of entertainers
that I have brought to my court to provide some amusement for myself and for my guests: to provide relaxation from
the cares of state with their skill and grace. At other times he would claim that the castle at Lucera was a sort
of refuge for destitute young women of the Moslem population. The Emperor had thoughtfully provided a place where
they could earn a living by doing needlepoint and other folk crafts. Of course, given Frederick's well known extreme
partiality for women, and his proven reputation as an epicure and a sensualist, no one really took these protestations
seriously and believed that the Emperor's relations with these constant traveling companions were in any sense
platonic. Least of all Frederick, who probably had a good time concocting the stories he put out. In any case,
they served to give some semblance of respectability to his life style, even if it was tissue thin, and the girls
In the end, it was his assurance in his own robust good health that caused
his death. The Emperor was fifty-four and remained superbly fit: he could still stay on horseback for twenty-four
hours at a stretch without any trouble. While on one of his hunting expeditions, he was taken violently ill and
collapsed. It appears that he had been suffering from a very serious case of dysentery for months, which he had
failed to take seriously. He had gone on working and playing hard, assuming his magnificent constitution would
allow him to throw off the condition. But this time it was not to be, and it soon became apparent that he was mortally
ill. Characteristically, he remained alert and cheerful to the end.
The people of Southern Italy and Germany mourned his passing, for they had come to regard his reign as a golden
age of peace, prosperity and justice. There are legends that say that he never did die, that it was all a sham,
for his great knowledge had given him the secret of immortality. There are other legends, told to this day in Italy
and Germany both, that, like King Arthur, he only sleeps. They say he sits at a table, surrounded by his knights,
in a cavern deep in Kyffhäuser Mountain in Thuringia, waiting for the time when he will awaken and restore
to the Empire a golden age of peace.
History does not record what became of his dancing girls.
But the Popes did not forget how close he came to destroying them. Over the next 50 years, they and their allies
set out end the line of the Hohenstaufens, this "nest of vipers", as Pope Gregory called them.
Every one of Frederick's descendants, illegitimate or illegitimate,
was hounded to death, murdered or died in prison.
The glorious Enzio was imprisoned for eighteen years before his death
and, against the customs of the feudal age, all offers for the ransom of his royal person were refused. In prison,
he wrote poems of lamentation, which are still classics of Italian literature.
The wrath of the Church of Rome fell not only on Frederick's House and line, but on his beloved Kingdom of Sicily
as well. As the lovely island was the heart of Frederick's life and sovereignty, it was seen by the popes as being
the heart of his heresy as well. Their hand upon it was heavy. Over the next few centuries the rich and brilliant
culture that Frederick had established there was totally eradicated and Sicily, once the pearl of the Mediterranean
and the site of perhaps the most advanced and prosperous culture in the Western world, was reduced to abject poverty.
Her high culture was destroyed and nearly forgotten. Because of the strong infusion of Arabic blood in their heritage,
the islanders were looked down upon as well as being held suspect of heresy. And to this day there is animosity
between Northern Italians and Sicilians. But few realize that it dates back to Frederick's reign, when the free
cities of Lombardy sided with the Popes in the wars against the emperor and held him in bitter hatred, while the
people of Southern Italy and Sicily loved him and were his staunchest supporters.
But Frederick's influence could not die that easily. The ideas which Frederick nourished and supported, of free,
rational thought and inquiry, of the promotion of secular art and science, slumbered but never fully died, and
in three centuries burst into the glory of the Renaissance.
But perhaps there is another legacy as well.
Have you ever noticed, O dancer, how many superb bellydancers there are in our modern times who are of Sicilian
descent and heritage? Perhaps you are one yourself. If so, when next you astound yourself with how easily a step
or movement comes to you, as if you were almost born to it--- well, perhaps you were. In olden times, even before
Frederick, Sicily was famed for its dancing girls and the Emperor brought over many more that he settled in comminutes
that remained there long after the fall of the Hohenstaufens. Who knows, but that in becoming a bellydancer you
were answering a call in your blood? A call from some distant ancestress who was a dark and sultry beauty who lived
and loved and danced at the court of the mighty Frederick: the immortal, infidel Emperor.
A NOTE ON SOURCES: Everything in this article is based on historical
fact. The story of the encounter with St. Francis is reported in all of the biographies of the Emperor, although
of course I have embellished it using my own imagination. Frederick's dancing girls were mentioned many times by
the popes as evidence of his immorality and unfitness to rule, and Frederick's protestations of innocence are also
historical record, as is the fact that no one really took them seriously. It is not known for sure who Enzio's
mother was, except that she was not one of the emperor's European wives. My supposition that she was one of Frederick's
odalisques is thus conjecture, but a reasonable one. My major source was Georgina Masson's Frederick II of Hohenstaufen
(Octagon. NY. 1973), but I also used:
Kantorowicz, Ernest. Frederick the Second, 1194-1250. Frederick Ungsr, NY. 1957.
Wiegler, Paul. The Infidel Emperor. E.F. Dutton. NY, 1930.
Van Cleve, Thomas. The Emperor Fredercick II of Hohenstaufen. (Clarendon, Oxford, 1972 )