Thursday, September 04, 2014

10-11, The Middle Ages

Number 4 in a Series on Countries Named After Peeps

We have had a lot of countries named after Jews, and a lot of countries named after citizens of the Roman Empire, with a fair amount of overlap between the two. There have also been quite a few peeps compressed into a relatively short period of time. Now there is a long stretch of time, approximately from the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity until the Age of Exploration, where only two people lived whose names feature in the names of countries today.

10. Hashim ibn 'Abd Manaf ?- 511

The only peep on the list who was never a formal member of any of the Judeao-Christo-Islamic religions, Hashim was a popular leader of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca who is said to have saved the city from famine by sending a hundred of his camels to collect grain in Syria, which he distributed freely to his fellow Meccans (the name ‘Hashim’ is related to a root meaning ‘starving’). His descendants proudly took his name, and his great-grandson founded a religion you may have heard of. The ‘Hashimi’ family name is taken now to refer to descendants of Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah, and the royal families of Morocco and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan can trace their ancestry back to her.

Hashim is anecdotally said to be buried in Gaza, making him the only person a country is named after whose remains are not in an officially recognised country.

11. Domingo Félix de Guzmán 1170 –1221

A young man from a wealthy family in Old Castille, Domingo’s first recorded act of any importance was also feeding the hungry: as a student, he is said to have sold all of his possessions to buy food for the poor at a time of famine. In 1215 he founded the Order of Preachers, more commonly known as the Dominican Order – one of the two big orders of ‘friars’, distinguished from ‘monks’ in that they did not sit still in one place praying and working, but wandered about the countryside doing things. His career was the basis for one of the big pop hits of 1963-1964

Long before then, the first permanent European settlement inthe Americas was (re)named after him, in 1495 or 1496. The name of this city became an alternative designation for the island it was located on, which in English we call ‘Hispaniola’. The western half of the island was taken by the French, but Saint Domingue had a population that was 90% slaves which turned out to be an unviable arrangement for the colonizers, and the rebellious slaves gave their half a non-European name derived from the original Taino inhabitants . The eastern half of the island, which remained in Spanish hands most of the time until independence, is now the Dominican Republic.

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