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Pre-Christian Rome lives


Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

In I segreti di Roma, as we said, Corrado Augias notes that “Rome among all the greatest cities of the ancient world – Nineveh, Babylon, Alexandria, Tyre, Athens, Carthage, Antiochia – is the only one that has continued to exist without any interruption, never reduced to a semi-abandoned village…”.

This ancientness of Rome is revealed by many aspects that go back to pre-Christian (or so-called Pagan) times, in spite of the fact that the city is the centre of Catholicism.

What can happen here is that the columns of a Christian church come from a temple of Venus, or that the porch of a palace built in 1909 is sustained by a buttress from Nero’s circus (Augias).

The character of the true Romans (romani di 7 generazioni, namely seven-gererations Romans, as we say) is often crass, easy-going, cynic, wise & witty: all at the same time. Great Roman actor Aldo Fabrizi (see picture below) was a pretty good specimen. This mixture smells of centuries and of moral values going well beyond the civilization of Christ.

Aldo Fabrizi. Fair use

Roman actor Aldo Fabrizi, an icon character of the eternal city

This Christian/pre-Christian mix is palpable. Federico Fellini’s films depict it in ways grotesque though eloquent (Roma, above all, but not only).

Following is Roma’s poster and the famous Catholic Church Fashion Show movie sequence from that same movie. It may appear an excessively wild scene, but it is hard to deny how it is also much revealing.

Fellini’s Roma poster. Fair use

In his novel Rome (Augias p. 11) the French writer Emile Zola wondered if Raffaello’s ideal figures didn’t after all flash the divine and desirable flesh of Venus under the chaste veil of the Virgin; or those mighty Michelangelo’s frescos didn’t after all refer to the nature of the Olympian Gods rather than that of the Hebrews’ God.

“Was indeed Rome ever Christian – Zola asks – after the primitive age of the catacombs?”.

Also the pre-Christian role of government of peoples still survives. Imperial Rome is resurrected into Catholic Rome, governess not of the nations any more but of the minds and spirits of men.

Madonna and child by Raphael, Italian High renaissance. Public domain

Madonna and child by Raphael, Italian High renaissance

Italian version

About Man of Roma

I am a man from Rome, Italy. I’m 60 and a Roman since many generations. In my blog, manofroma.wordpress.com, I’m writing down my meditations. The idea behind it all is that something 'ancient' is still alive in the true Romans of today, of which few are left.

8 responses »

  1. I’m not familiar with the Roman names of the pre-christian Gods and Goddesses but I think Venus is Aphrodite. I’m more familiar with their Greek names. :)

    Legend says Rome was founded by two brothers – Romulus and Remus who were nursed by a wolf. I think thats the first picture you’ve got there right? :) If we sit to write down all the events and people that have sprouted from Italy, a thousand page book would not suffice! Something folks say about my country too… lol! :)

    Reply
  2. Dear Ashish, first of all my compliments for your blog. Witty and such fun! The older generation needs fresh spirit from youth or we get like mummies (I loved that post on “Interestin’ thing’s goin’ on!” and some links, like that about USA needing help: really made me laugh!).

    Yes, Venus corresponds more or less to Aphrodite, and we usually talk about Greek-Roman civilization, although the Romans were at first barbarians compared to the Greeks, their Italian neighbours (Greeks actually had founded towns in Italy too, like Cuma and beloved Naples – Napoli -, so close to Rome).

    The Romans though had the strength and the endurance of the farmer-soldier, plus, among other qualities, this talent of learning fast from all the folks they met. They internalised cultural elements from many peoples (especially from the Greeks) and spread this mainly Greek-Roman mix all over the place thus shaping the West thru their empire. The Greeks were better philosophers artists scientists, but if it weren’t for the solid Roman character, their sense of duty, lack of individualism, organization, Greek civilization would have vanished like “orange flowers swept by the cold north wind” (quoted by a wonderful movie I have to talk about some day).

    As far as the book thickness, well, who knows, maybe a thousand page book would not suffice for Italy lol, but what about India? A 2 or even 2.5 thousand page book, would it suffice? Vedic civilization started in 1700 BC, right? The Indus Valley civilization(s) even earlier? I have to brush up all this, having been too busy with networking. But I know that Rome was founded in 753 BC according to legend, and archaeology more or less confirms this. Ok, Greeks and Etruscans being our close relatives were older, but nonetheless this age difference remains. So probably we were barbarians also compared to you.

    Nonetheless it is not incorrect to say that we (Indians and Italians) are ancient peoples vis-à-vis for example Anglo-Saxons, which I though admire because they have been very successful and they seem to have some of the *Roman* qualities (either by chance or by Roman rule on them for 400 years, a period longer than the British empire).

    In the West people are so silly to forget all this about the far East. We are so ignorant about other civilisations, while we should be more humble and open. Of course I am Italian and Roman and I am here to talk about what we Italians are, from a *Roman* point of view.

    But what strikes me most is how so many people in Europe and America are surprised about this sudden success of India and China. You guys in the Far East, after all, were at the top of the world in science, philosophy, technology and richness for….1000 years? 1500 years? More? I have to check that better. Ok, you went down for 200 (250?) years due to British industrial revolution who helped Anglo-Saxons (and the nations they created) to take the lead. But what are 200-250 years? Only 8-10 generations, if we consider 1 generation = 25 years. Very little time indeed.

    The sad truth is that people in here are busier checking how fat Britney Spears is getting. We ALL in here, Europeans and Americans, need help. A LOT of help.

    Reply
  3. Haha, Thankyou. It’s been quite a long while since somebody replied to my comment with a much longer one, something I like. lol. :)

    I was always a history buff but leaning towards medieval history and the rise of the British Empire. When I played Age of Empires, it got me interested in the Mediterranean. You tell me about the Vedic Age, then there were the Maurya’s and then the Gupta’s and so on, but our government seems only to think of the last 100 years or so. Perhaps I’m the only odd one out. :)

    But what strikes me most is how so many people in Europe and America are surprised about this sudden success of India and China.
    The problem is, we who live outside, look at only the thin upper crust. In India, I think Europeans live a happy life and such and there you think the same. Sad reality is, the above is only true in cities. Still we are progressing, problem is that the governments fail to notice that Rural india does almost the same amount of production as the cities but most of the packages are for the cities. People in the villages get frustrated due to the low pay and such and go overseas… a talent drain. Population doesn’t help us either.

    Thing is we have the potential.. heck everyone does, just that we cannot unleash it because of some few power hungry people. These are thoughts from the real “Bukha Nanga People!” to borrow a quote from one of our movies. [Starving and naked people]When they say success of India, people look to Mumbai [where I've lived 6 years and I've been born there], the capital Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. What happened to the expanse between? Regional politics play a very huge part here. We have the power, but we’re locked behind bars and rather than combine together, we squabble among ourselves. :)

    Ah, Good ole Britney, blame it on the media. There its Britney, its Bipasha or someone else here. Everyone needs a LOT of help… just in different sections! :)

    Reply
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  8. THE FOURTH MONOTHEISTIC RELIGION
    by BV Bhagavat Maharaja & Isa das
    Which religion is that? You may ask, and rightly so. Most academic and news articles usually talk about the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Even though these three religions share a common theological precept that there is one GOD ([1]El Kana) and no other, they are anything but unified in describing the path that the devotee must take to reach that one and only GOD.

    Today we have attempts by all three religions to create interfaith harmony through theological fiats at ecumenical conferences that draw people’s attention to the things that unify these three religions as opposed to their differences.

    Hinduism (Vedic Religion, Sanatan Dharma) would like to join this dialog and be recognized as Monotheistic.

    Hinduism (Vedic Religion Sanatan Dharma) appears to be a polytheistic theological conception where a pantheon of deities ([3]Angels) are worshiped, it is actually a systematic process of elevating each individual soul over one birth or millions ([4]Transmigration; Jewish) to greater and greater levels of faith in the divine existence of the one original and infallible GOD ([1]Kana).

    In the Bhagavad Gita which is the book that many consider the Bible of the Vedic Religion, Lord Sri Krishna (Kana) who is understood to be GOD ([5]Allah), The Supreme Personality of Godhead explains.

    “After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” BG 7:19

    “I am in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul ([6]Lord in the heart; Jewish). As soon as one desires to worship the demigods ([3]Angels), I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity.” BG 7:21

    “Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.” BG 7:22

    In these verses Lord Sri Krishna explains how the worship of the Demigods in the pantheon is for less intelligent persons who want the temporary material pleasures of the world and not the eternal spiritual pleasures of eternal spiritual life on HIS Spiritual Planet ([7]The Garden Of Eden). Furthermore HE explains that it is actually HE who provides such temporary material benefits by empowering the Demigods to provide them. Hence directly or indirectly all Human beings are worshiping that one Supreme Personality of Godhead.

    There are many other evidences in the Vedic Scriptures of Lord Sri Krishna’s position as the original Supreme Personality of Godhead , and as the source of, even Mahavishnu ([8]Metatron), Brahma ([9]Abraham), and Siva ([10]Shiva;Judaism) what to speak of lesser demigods like Indra, Ganesha, and Durga ([11]Jewish)

    We find in the Vedas this definition of God all religions can agree on.
    The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
    Sri Isopanisad Verse One

    The point of this brief monograph is to give the reader an insight into the real nature of the Vedic Religion which in reality is monotheistic as opposed to polytheistic. The so called display of polytheism is only a device to appeal to the widest array of souls having a human experience.
    God is always inviting us “Back home back to Godhead”

    …………………………………………………….

    [1] The most holy of all names of God for a Jew is KNA or KANA, Rabbi’s have slapped my face when I have said this name out loud.

    This is considered to be the most intimate name for God in the Old Testament. Where it is translated, “I am a jealous God, have no other gods before you”, the literal Hebrew translation is, “My name is EL KNA, have no other gods before you.”

    [2]From a Vedic (Hindu) view point, Kana is also an affectionate name of Krishna, The pronunciation used above “KRE ShTN” is very similar to the way south Indians pronounce Krishna.

    [3]DEMIGODS AND ANGELS have the same function in both traditions.

    a. The Midrash teaches, “There is no blade of grass that does not have a constellation (Mazal) over it, telling it to grow.” [Sefer Yetzirah 4.6]

    “As commentaries explain, ‘God’s providence works through the angels, but the angels, in turn, work through the stars and planets. As some authorities put it,the angels are, in a sense, like souls to the stars. Thus, for example, some sources speak of the stars as having intelligence, but the commentaries note that this is actually speaking of the angels that are associated with them.’” [Sefer Yetrzirah 4.6]

    b. The Vedic conception is that there are many specially empowered demigods who help manage the affairs of the universe including the planets of our solar system.

    The controlling demigods, although not eternal themselves, function within various posts that exist as long as the universe exists.

    [4]Although the majority of sects within Judaism, Christianity and Islam do not believe that individuals reincarnate, particular groups within these religions do refer to reincarnation; these groups include the mainstream historical and contemporary followers of Kabbalah, the Cathars, theAlawi, the Druze[3] and the Rosicrucians.[4] The historical relations between these sects and the beliefs about reincarnation that were characteristic of the Neoplatonism, Orphism, Hermeticism, Manicheanism and Gnosticism of the Roman era, as well as the Indian religions, is unclear.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmigration_of_the_soul

    [5]In the “Old Testament” the 5 books of Moses, God explains that He is the beginning to the end. This same idea is expressed in the New Testament. Revelation 22:13, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. ThisEnglish usage of Alpha is based on the Hebrew Alef. Also in the Hindu (Vedic) scripture, Bagavad Gita, Krishna says “of letters I am A.”

    [6]When the soul is about to descend to this world, it first goes down to the terrestrial Garden of Eden and sees there the glory of the souls of the righteous, and then goes down to Gehinnom and sees the wicked who cry “Woe, woe”, and find no compassion. That holy form (God) stands by him until he emerges into the world, after which it keeps him company and grows up with him.” [The Zohar 43b] [KI TAZRIA (LEVITICUS)]

    [7]Apiryon symbolizes the Palace below which is formed in the likeness of the Palace above. This the Holy one, blessed be He, calls ‘The Garden of Eden,’ for He created it in order to satisfy His own ardent desire for joyous and continual communion with the souls of the righteous who have their abode there-these being those souls who have no bodies in this world. These all ascend and are crowned in that place of perfect delight, and have each their appointed places from whence they can perceive the “loveliness of the Lord”, and partake of all the delicious streams of pure balsam (aparsamon). This aparsamon symbolizes the hidden Supernal Palace, whereas apiryon is the Palace below.” [Zohar 127a Terumah (Exodus)] In other words, there is a Garden of Eden in the eternal spiritual kingdom of God, and there is also a manifestation of the Garden of Eden that exists within the material world.

    [8]Metatron in Origins of the Kabbalah where it is said, “Metatron is therefore not a proper name at all but a designation for the whole category of celestial powers performing a mission.”[Origins of the Kabbalah, III, 6]

    Regarding the revolving sword or flaming sword that revolves, it is said “the manner in which the sword rotates depends on the readiness of the individual attempting to enter. If he is worthy, it becomes the mirror through which he perceives, while if he is not worthy, he is burned out and cut off by the fire of this sword. The one who oversees the sword, preventing the unworthy from entering, is the angel Metatron.” [Meditation and Kabbalah p 80 Chapter 4, Teachings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia]

    [9]Brahmä is said to have four heads. There is an obscure reference to a four-headed angel in the Talmud. It is said, “Angels are supposed to have no back and four faces, so always to be able to behold God.”[Talmud, cf. Ezek i. 6] Also, many rabbis say that an ancient Abraham, with secondary creative power like Brahma is being referred to when speaking of Brahma.

    There is a description of how the universe was in chaos until Abraham appeared. It is said, “Over the whole, there hovered Tohu (chaos) and as long as Tohu dominated, the whole world was not in being or existence. When did that key open the gates and make the world fruitful? It was when Abraham appeared.” [Genesis II 4]

    [10]Shiva (Judaism)

    Among Sephardic Jews believe that every beracha (blessing) said elevates the neshama, (soul) of the deceased.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitting_shiva

    [11]“He summoned to issue from the side of Darkness a kind of female moon, which rules over the night, and is associated with Adonai, the Lord of all the earth. In his days, the moon was magnified and reached her fullness. A thousand mountains rose before her, and she blew them away with a puff. A thousand mighty rivers flowed before her, and she swallowed them at a draught. Her nails reached out in a thousand and seventy directions and her hands in twenty-four thousand, so that nothing could escape her. Thousands of bucklers clung to her hair. From between her feet went forth a youth who stretched from one end of the world to the other with sixty clubs of fire…” [Zohar]

    Reply

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