ROMANELLI, SAMUEL AARON (1757–1817), Italian Hebrew poet and traveler. Born in Mantua, he acquired a knowledge of ten languages including English, French and Spanish. He began his journeys through Europe at an early age. By his late 20s, he reached London where he wrote a Hebrew translation of Pope's Essay on Man, Massah al ha-Adam, and a lament on the death of Moses Mendelssohn (1786). On his way back to Italy in 1787, he decided to tour Morocco. While there he took up employment wherever he could find it and at the same time wrote his travelogue, Massa ba-Arav (Berlin, 1792; repr. with introd. by H. Schirmann in Romanelli, Ketavim Nivḥarim, 1968; Eng. trans. by Schiller-Szinessy, Romanelli's Travels in Morocco, 1887). It is for this attractive description of Jewish life in Morocco written in a biblical Hebrew style that he is best known. In 1790 he left for Europe where he eventually settled in Germany. There he befriended the principal "me'assefim" (see *Me'assef), e.g., I. *Euchel and D. *Friedlaender. While there he composed an allegorical play in three acts, Ha-Kolot Yeḥdalun (Berlin, 1791), for the marriage of one of the Jaffe Itzig family. The same year, he published his philosophical poem Ru'aḥ Nakhon, concerning the existence of the soul and God. In 1793 he worked as a proofreader in Vienna, where he published a play for the marriage of Charlotte Arnstein, Alot ha-Minḥah, which appeared with an Italian translation. After the French conquest of northern Italy, Romanelli returned to his homeland and settled in Mantua in 1807. The same year, and in Napoleon's honor, he published Zimrat Ariẓim, Raccolta di inni ed odi, Italian translations of poems and prayers composed by members of the Sanhedrin. In 1808 he published Maḥazeh Shaddai… Illusione felice ossia visione sentimentale, a metaphysical poem with an Italian translation (Turin, 1808). His latter years he spent in wandering through northern Italy, finally settling in Casale Monferrato where he died. Many of his works are still in manuscript, including his Hebrew translation of the Italian playwright Metastasio's play Temistocle under the title Talmon.
Waxman, Literature, 3 (1960), 135–9; A.B. Rhine, in: JQR, 2 (1911), 49–52; S. Schiller-Szinessy, Romanelli's Travels in Morocco (1887), introd.; H. Schirmann, Samuel Romanelli, Ketavim Nivḥarim (1968), 7–12, incl. bibl.; R. Fahn, in: Mizraḥ u-Ma'arav, 5 (1932), 345–6. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: N.A. Stillman, "Samuel Romanelli and his Massa ba'rab," in: Hebrew Annual Review, 9 (1985), 343–54; idem, "The Jewish Courtier Class in late 18th Century Morocco as Seen through the Eyes of Samuel Romanelli," in: The Islamic World from Classical to Modern Times (1989), 845–54; M. Pelli, "The Literary Genre of the Travelogue in Hebrew Haskalah Literature: Shmuel Romanelli's Masa Ba'rav," in: Modern Judaism, 11:2 (1991), 241–60; idem, "On the Role of the Melitzah in the Literature of the Hebrew Enlightenment," in: Hebrew in Ashkenaz (1993), 99–110; H. Schirmann, "Sh.Romanelli, Ha-Meshorer ha-Noded," in: Le-Toledot ha-Shirah ve-ha-Dramah ha-Ivrit (rpt. 2003).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.