From an Arab Queen to a Yiddische Mama: The Travels of Marital Advice around the Medieval Mediterranean

Oded Zinger*, David Torollo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This study explores the travels of a literary anecdote about ten pieces of advice that a mother gave her daughter on the eve of the latter's marriage. Tracing the various incarnations of the anecdote from its first attestation in ninth-century Arabic works to later versions in Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Italian, Catalan, and Yiddish demonstrates the connectivity of the medieval Mediterranean and the porous nature of political, religious, and linguistic borders when it comes to popular ethical literary texts. Studying the changes introduced in each new incarnation allows us to explore the process of translation and adaptation involved in cultural transmission between different linguistic and religious communities. The travels of the anecdote also highlight the commonalities and differences in normative gender roles in different societies across the medieval Mediterranean.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)471-516
Number of pages46
JournalMedieval Encounters
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.


  • Mishlei he-'arav
  • Umāma bint al-Hārith
  • cultural transmission
  • gender roles
  • marital advice
  • popular ethics
  • the ideal wife
  • the medieval Mediterranean


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