Giulio Cesare conquista la Gallia. E l’Europa nord-occidentale ‘abbraccia’ la civiltà greco-romana (1)

Statue of Vercingetorix in Burgundy

Monumento ottocentesco a Vercingetorige (Aimé Millet) vicino a Alise-Sainte-Reine, Borgogna, Francia. © T. Clarté. Click for credits

English original

Come sarebbe oggi il mondo senza Giulio Cesare e senza il varco che egli aprì per i greco-romani verso l’Europa occidentale e settentrionale?

Analogamente, come sarebbe oggi il mondo senza Colombo, Cortés e Pizarro, senza gli insediamenti europei nel Nord e Sud America (e altrove)?

Conquista militare e culturale

Entrambi gli esempi hanno in comune il fenomeno della conquista militare e culturale. Nel primo caso abbiamo l’espansione della civiltà greco romana nell’Europa centrale e settentrionale. Nel secondo l’espansione della civiltà europea nelle due Americhe.

Entrambi gli eventi storici hanno comportato costi umani elevatissimi tra le popolazioni sottomesse e la tragica estinzione di numerose culture.

Dying Gaul. Musei Capitolini, Rome

Gallo morente (più precisamente un gallo o galata della Galazia, chiamata ‘la Gallia dell’est’). Musei Capitolini, Roma. Click for credits

Figura controversa

Quanto a Giulio Cesare, poiché questo è un blog su Roma, ci troviamo di fronte a una figura senza dubbio controversa.

Un carnefice che vide nella Gallia solo l’arena per prepararsi all’imminente guerra civile, un imperialista sia pure con un grande disegno, un genio mosso da ‘necessità storica’ (se una cosa del genere ha un senso) … si potrebbero scrivere interi libri sull’argomento (e che difatti sono stati scritti).

Varco a nord e a ovest

Considerata oggi non vi è dubbio che la conquista della Gallia (vasta e fertile zona riccamente popolata, corrispondente alla moderna Francia, al Belgio, alle terre tedesche a ovest del Reno, all’Olanda meridionale e a gran parte della Svizzera) realizzata da Giulio Cesare dal 58 a.C. al 50 a.C. abbia creato un notevole ampliamento dell’orizzonte storico del Mediterraneo.

Caesar added areas of West and North Europe to the Roman world

Estensione romana nel 40 a.C. (Wikipedia). Dal 58 al 50 a.C. regioni dell’ovest e del nord Europa vennere aggiunte da Cesare al dominio di Roma

Attraverso quel ‘passaggio’ aperto da Cesare un numero molto elevato di popoli (celtici, germanici, del mare del Nord e successivamente del Baltico) abbracceranno gradualmente la civiltà greco-romana fino a formare con essa un corpo unico anche se con anime diverse, un’apertura il cui effetto durevole andrà oltre lo spostamento del baricentro dal Mediterraneo verso il Nord Europa e poi oltre Atlantico.

“L’opera di Cesare”

Lo storico tedesco Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903), capofila degli estimatori del generale romano, così scrisse nella sua monumentale Storia di Roma che gli valse il premio Nobel nel 1902 (VII, 6, Principi dello sviluppo romano):

“Ciò che riuscì successivamente a fare il gotico Teodorico [più di 5 secoli dopo, MoR] poco mancò che già non lo facesse il germanico Ariovisto“, sconfitto da Cesare.

[Mommsen si riferisce ad Ariovisto, leader germanico degli Svevi e di altre tribù, che, penetrato nella Gallia attraverso il Reno, aveva sottomesso numerose tribù galliche a partire dal 60 a.C. Lo stesso Cesare giustificò la sua conquista come guerra preventiva]

“Se ciò fosse successo, lo nostra civiltà [germanica, nordica, MoR] si troverebbe di fronte alla civiltà romano-greca difficilmente in rapporti più intimi di quello che lo sia con la civiltà assira e indiana.

E’ opera di Cesare dunque se, dalla passata grandezza della Grecia e dell’Italia, un ponte conduce all’edificio più vasto della moderna storia del mondo, se l’Europa occidentale s’è fatta romana, se l’Europa germanica è divenuta classica; se i nomi di Temistocle e di Scipione mandano alle nostre orecchie un suono diverso da quelli di Asoka e di Salmanassar, se Omero e Sofocle non si limitano, come fanno i Veda e i Kalidasa, ad attirare il dotto botanico, ma fioriscono per noi nel nostro giardino”.

Gaius Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria

Busto di Cesare, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Ora, nessuno storico è imparziale, riflettendo il tempo e luogo in cui è vissuto (oltre che le proprie scelte personali).

Mommsen era un liberale tedesco dell’Ottocento, intriso di cultura classica, che detestava gli Junker prussiani (nobiltà terriera conservatrice e spina dorsale dell’esercito tedesco) ed era in sintonia con la lotta di Cesare contro l’oligarchia senatoria, il che può averne influenzato il giudizio sul generale romano.

Nei prossimi post indagheremo un poco su motivazioni e conseguenze delle azioni di Cesare considerando le parole sia di ammiratori che di detrattori.

Senso di perdita

Tra questi ultimi, Goethe parlò di ripugnanza per i trionfi di Cesare; Camille Jullian, il maggiore storico francese della Gallia e capofila di chi lamenta la spoliazione della cultura gallica, sostenne che i Galli, prima di essere sottomessi, stavano per unirsi in qualcosa di superiore alle tribù sparse in competizione l’una con l’altra.

Il dolore per la perdita di una civiltà che non ha potuto esprimersi è bene espresso da Olbodala, commentatore francese (o belga?) del nostro blog:

“Certain(e)s d’entre nous (et je fais parti du lot) reprochent à l’Italie son passé belliqueux, et ce que leurs ancêtres Romains ont fait aux nôtres (Celtes et Germains).

Les Romains ont détruit notre culture (celtique et germanique) et civilisation, et l’on remplacé par la leur (greco-latine).

C’est un drame d’avoir une apparence physique celtique et germanique, mais d’avoir une langue et une culture incompatible avec nos origines septentrionales.”

Ceremonial Celtic Helmet from III century BC Gaul

Elmo cerimoniale gallico del III secolo a.C. Wikipedia. Click for credits

“Alcuni di noi (e io sono tra essi) biasimano il passato bellicoso dell’Italia e ciò che i vostri antenati romani hanno fatto ai nostri (celti e germani).

I romani hanno distrutto la nostra cultura (celtica e germanica) e civiltà, e l’hanno sostituita con la loro (greca e latina).

E’ una tragedia avere un aspetto celtico e germanico ma una lingua e una cultura incompatibili con le nostre origini settentrionali”.

ψ

Post correlati:

Stress e gioia. Conquista e dolore
France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)

Statue of Vercingetorix in Burgundy

19th century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet) near the village of Alise-Sainte-Reine, Burgundy, France. © T. Clarté. Click for credits

Italian version

What kind of world would we live in today without Julius Caesar and the “boundless home” he created in West and North Europe for Greco-Roman conquest, migration and influence?

Similarly, what kind of world would we live in today without Columbus, Cortez and Pizarro? Without the settlements of Europeans in North and South America (plus Australia, New Zealand etc.)?

Military & Cultural Conquest

What both examples have in common is military and cultural conquest.

The former regards the expansion of the Greco-Roman civilization towards West and North Europe.

The latter the expansion of the European civilization in South and North America (etc.).

Both historical events resulted in massive human cost among the conquered and in the tragic extinction of numerous cultures.

Dying Gaul. Musei Capitolini, Rome

Dying Gaul (actually a Celt from Galatia, called ‘Gaul of the East’). Capitoline Museums on Capitoline hill, Rome. Click for attribution

Controversial

With regard to Caesar, since this is a blog about Rome, the Roman general is a controversial figure without a doubt.

A butcher who regarded Gaul only “as the parade ground” on which to gain experience for the approaching civil war, an imperialist albeit with a great design in mind, a genius moved by ‘historical necessity’ (if such a thing exists) … one could write books on it (which in fact have been written.)

North & West Passage

Seen from today there is little doubt that the conquest of Gaul carried out by Julius Caesar from 58 BC to 50 BC (a vast, fertile, richly populated area, Gaul, corresponding to modern France, Belgium, the German lands west of the Rhine, South Holland and much of Switzerland) created a remarkable extension of the historical horizon of the Mediterranean.

Caesar added areas of West and North Europe to the Roman world

The extent of Roman rule in 40 BC (Wikipedia). From 58 BC to 50 BC areas of West and North Europe had been added to Rome by Caesar

Through that ‘passage’ opened up by Caesar a very large number of folks (Celtic, Germanic, from the North sea and later Baltic sea) will gradually embrace the Greco-Roman civilization up to form one body albeit with different souls, a passage or channel whose durable effect goes beyond the shifting of focal point from the Mediterranean to North Europe and elsewhere.

“The work of Caesar”

The German historian Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903), the leader of Caesar’s estimators, thus argues in his monumental History of Rome, (V,7. The Subjugation of the West) which earned him the Nobel Prize in 1902:

“What the Gothic Theodoric afterwards succeeded in [e.g. more than 5 centuries later, MoR,] came very near to being already carried out by Germanic Ariovistus,” defeated by Caesar.

[Mommsen refers to the Germanic leader of the Suevi, Ariovistus, who had entered Gaul by crossing the Rhine and had subdued many Gallic tribes in 60 BC. Caesar himself justified his conquest as preemptive action to protect Rome]

“Had it so happened, our civilization [eg Germanic, Northern, MoR] would have hardly stood in any more intimate relation to the Romano-Greek than to the Indian and Assyrian culture.”

“That there is a bridge connecting the past glory of Hellas and Rome with the prouder fabric of modern history; that Western Europe is Romanic, and Germanic Europe classic; that the names of Themistocles and Scipio have to us a very different sound from those of Ashoka and Shalmanaser; that Homer and Sophocles are not merely, like the Vedas and Kalidasa, attractive to the literary botanist, but bloom for us in our own garden—all this is the work of Caesar.”

Gaius Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria

Gaius Julius Caesar, Art History Museum, Vienna, Austria

Now, no historian is impartial, he reflecting his time, place and personal choices.

Mommsen was a 19th century German liberal, imbued with classical learning, who hated the Prussian Junkers (conservative landed nobility and backbone of the German army) and was sympathetic to Caesar’s fight against the senatorial oligarchy—which may have influenced his judgement on the Roman general.

In the next posts we will investigate a bit on Caesar’s actions, motives & consequences by listening to some of his admirers and detractors.

A Feeling Of Loss

Among the latter, Goethe spoke of repugnance for the triumphs of Caesar; Camille Jullian, the main French historian of Gaul and leader of those who lament the despoliation of Gallic culture, argued that the Gauls, before being crushed, were about to unite into something superior to the scattered tribes in competition with one another.

The feeling of loss from a Celtic civilization that could not express itself is well phrased by Olbodala, a French (or Belgian?) commentator to our blog:

“Certain(e)s d’entre nous (et je fais parti du lot) reprochent à l’Italie son passé belliqueux, et ce que leurs ancêtres Romains ont fait aux nôtres (Celtes et Germains).

Les Romains ont détruit notre culture (celtique et germanique) et civilisation, et l’on remplacé par la leur (greco-latine).

C’est un drame d’avoir une apparence physique celtique et germanique, mais d’avoir une langue et une culture incompatible avec nos origines septentrionales.”

Ceremonial Celtic Helmet from III century BC Gaul

Ceremonial Celtic Helmet from III century BC Gaul. Wikipedia

["Some of us (I being among this number) blame Italy's warlike past and what their Roman ancestors did to ours (Celts and Germans).

The Romans destroyed our culture (Celtic and Germanic) and civilization, and replaced it with theirs (Greek and Latin).

It is a tragedy to have a Celtic and Germanic physical appearance but to possess a language and a culture incompatible with our Northern origins."]

ψ

Related posts:

Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)
“Caesar was like the wind. Can we condemn the wind? And yet what scourge can it bring forth!” (3)
The ‘Black Book’ Of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Campaign (4)

France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow
Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

L’hymne à l’Euro qui ne cède pas

La danse de L’Euro (cliquez sur l’image pour les crédits )

Voici l’hymne à l’Euro qui ne cède pas:
(by MoR)


ψ

Sous le feu des spéculateurs,
sous l’attaque des agences de notation
au moment même de son grand effort
pour sortir de la crise,
la zone Euro ne s’effondrera pas.

Ils disent que le dollar américain
(et la livre sterling)
n’aiment pas l’Euro.

S’il est vrai, c’est une grave erreur.

Ils devraient aller main dans la main.

Malgré leurs détracteurs
(où qu’ils se trouvent)
l’Euro et l’UE
seront renforcée à la fin.

Cette danse composée par ‘he who writes’
pour nos pièces de monnaie tintement
(que les lecteurs nous pardonnent)
exprime ce sentiment.

C’est la danse de l’Europe
qui défie et avance,
et qui finira
par se retrouver plus unie.

ψ

English and Italian versions

L’inno all’Euro che non cede

La danza dell’Euro (per i credits clicca sull’immagine)

La danza dell’Euro

Un inno all’Euro che non molla:
(by MoR)


ψ

Sotto il fuoco della speculazione
e l’attacco delle agenzie di rating
proprio quando lottava per rialzarsi,
la zona Euro non crollerà.

Si dice che al dollaro
(e alla sterlina)
l’Euro non piaccia.

Se è vero, è un grave errore.

Dovrebbero camminare mano nella mano.

Malgrado i detrattori
(ovunque essi siano)
l’Euro e l’Unione Europea
usciranno dalla crisi più forti di prima.

Questa danza da me composta
per la nostra moneta tintinnante
(mi perdonino i lettori)
esprime tale sentimento.

E’ un inno all’Europa
che sfida e avanza
e che alla fine
si ritroverà più unita.

ψ

English and French versions

A Hymn to the Euro that does not Yield

Are the Euro coins dancing? Click for attribution

Euro Dance

A hymn to the Euro that does not yield:
(by MoR)


ψ

Under the fire of speculators,
under the attack of the rating agencies
at the very moment of its great effort
to rise from the crisis,
the Euro zone will not collapse.

They say the US Dollar
(and the Pound Sterling)
do not like the Euro.

If true, it is a big mistake.

They should go hand in hand.

Despite their detractors
(wherever they are)
both the Euro and the EU
will be strengthened in the end.

So this dance I composed
for our tinkling coins
(may readers pardon me)
that expresses this sentiment.

It is the dance of Europe
challenging forward,
and getting more united,
in the end.

ψ

French and Italian versions

A new Manius chapter has been posted (update: Latin Poets, Ulysses and other stuff)

Helmet found in Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England (6th cent. AD) One of the images that enrich our soap on Ancient Britannia: maniuslentulus.blogspot.com

Hi, a new Manius chapter has been written and posted. The English version links to the Italian original.

I hope all is well with you all.

Too late to say anything else. See you tomorrow.

MoR

ψ

Update. What I had to say I have posted over at the Manius Papirius Lentulus blog dialogue section. Here it is.

Latin Poets of the Golden Age

'A favourite poet' by the Victorian painter Alma Tadema (1888). Detail. Click to enlarge

Regarding this painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912) Jenny had asked :

“I need to know which (favorite) poet the Roman women are reading in that painting. I just ordered Slavitt’s translation of Ovid’s Love Poems, Letters and Remedies. Looks great.”

MoR: “According to Rosemary J. Barrow (*L. Alma-Tadema*, Phaidon 2001) the poet is divine *Horace* – I add links for the sake of new readers, and basically am a pedantic teacher to the marrow -, who was from *Venusia*, South Italy, today’s Venosa in Mezzogiorno’s Lucania also called Basilicata.

Rosaria, a first-generation Italian American blogger, is from Venosa: here she describes her home town; the Ford Coppola family is from Bernalda, Lucania, a town not far from Venosa.

[Incidentally, Rosaria's personal account on his town, with Orazio's statue in the main piazza, and the bay-leaves crown the best school students received, similar to the one Orazio's statue wears, is so compelling]

The bronze wall panel behind the 2 Roman women in Tadema’s gorgeous painting has inscribed a few words by Horace. The title of my Manius soap (Misce stultitiam consiliis: Add Folly to Wisdom) is taken from Horace (4 Odes, xii. 28), and the ‘act’ the buddies in the plot perform in the taberna (read Chanting in an Ænglisc taberna) is one of Horace most perfect choral songs from the *Carmen Saeculare* (Song of the Ages!), probably his most perfect (and classical in the real-deal sense of the term) poem.

Horace (together with Vergil) is Rome’s bard and his poems were sacred to the Romans – no easy stuff, Horace; Lord Byron confessed he couldn’t understand Horatius Flaccus; but I believe every minute spent on Horace’s lines is worthwhile  – although sacred, I don’t mean it in the sense of the Judeo-Christian ‘Revealed Writ’ of course. For that – revealed-by-god(s) words – you have to turn, outside the Jewish tradition, to the amazing Orphic Greek literature, for example, which I’m sipping here and there and find terribly inspiring.

Tibullus visiting his beloved Clelia. Click to watch it in full resolution

True Romans & Celts.
A different temperament?

Horace was the most loved ancient poet in 19th century England. His tone befitted the Victorians who kinda felt like the spirituals heirs of the Romans. He was also fun like most Roman writers (he for ex. preferred the liberty of loving slaves or unintelligent women, since Roman matrons were a headache to him, a tad too matriarchal perhaps, but basically I think he didn’t find a long-for-life love (Vergil did, probably, but I guess it was a man) and most of all Horace is the real classical thing more than Vergil in some way, while Tibullus and Catullus (and Vergil) were a bit more … romantic since – so darn interesting for the Manius’ blog – they were Italian Celts from North Italy, id est continental Celts, id est cousins to insular, British-Isles, Celts.

I absolutely adore Tibullus and his elegies, so beautiful & melancholic, and Clelia (Tibullus’ true love – see a painting below- : differently from Horace he was more or less monogamous: Clelia not by chance is Manius’s lost love too.

[Tadema painted Tibullus at Clelia's, and Catullus at Lesbia's - see above and below. How could he not ;-) ]

But Manius is not monogamous. Massimo, the positive hero, is.

Ovid is a sparkling choice Jenny. His verses are peculiar, naturally flowing, and possibly much more fun than all the poets I’ve mentioned.

Catullus at Lesbia's by Sir Laurence Alma Tadema (1836-1912). Click to enlarge

All the best Rome could give

ALL these poets are the best Rome could give and were much deeper than the coeval Greek literature, that was extremely refined but void and spineless. Catullus was another first class Italian Celtic poet, very romantic as well. He was in love with the sluttish Clodia he calls Lesbia.

True Romans from Rome were – and still are – not much romantic (in both the arts and common sense of the term); Manius, Massimo, Giorgio (and myself) are partly true Romans, partly North Italian Celtic, so they are a tad romantic too (I guess it takes also bad weather to be ‘romantic’ lol).

I mean, it all fits together perhaps – or so it seems to the Man of Roma (now Manius) ;)

Then Paul Costopoulos had said:

“Now, Manius, I have a throwing dagger but what tells you how I will use it the only time I will be able to throw it because retrieving it once thrown is rather problematic.

Not being a Roman and being a merchant why would I hurt potential costumers?

Of course you are my friend and that could cause me some scruples and those guys do seem to be cutthroats so they could also be out to cut mine, they seem to be somewhat xenophobic.

All considered, I will side with you after all.”

MoR:Being a merchant why would I hurt potential costumers?

Right Paul, you got into the Pavlos character as I see it at least, probably because it’s part of you despite what you may think who knows.

Ulysses and the Sirens by John William Waterhouse (1849–1917). Detail. Via Wikimedia. Click for a bigger image and a higher resolution view of it

Ulysses, ie the Mediterranean Man

To me Pavols is a symbol par excellence of the Mediterranean Man ready to survive in every circumstance and to exchange knowledge goods symbols experiences with a wonderful good nature – given to him by Helios ok – but with an admirable life balance reached tho thru horrible toil it must be said:

the Med, one often forgets, is a ruthless stepmother and no fertile area as the Nordic European lands.

One reason why the Germans are so big compared to the Greco-Romans and successive Mediterranean people: their climate may be horrible but they got BEEFY in the course of the centuries from the beefy cattle that got (and still gets) BIG – as them – from the fat-and-so-green-from-rain darn grass)

« La rareté en Mediterranée – Fernand Braudel écrit – des vrais pâturage. Elle entraîne le petit nombre des bovin … pour l’homme du Nord le bétail de la Méditerranée semble déficient. La Méditerranée, II, pp. 290-291, Livre de Poche »

You add, Paul:

Now, Manius, I have a throwing dagger but what tells you how I will use it the only time I will be able to throw it because retrieving it once thrown is rather problematic.

Well well, I don’t think this to be a problem. I had added the following italic text (but had to prune this and other stuff, it was too verbose:

“Pavlos pulled out an inlaid-with-gold throwing dagger that he always carried with him (even in bed?). He had already shown his ability to use it with deadly precision..

If you have even a colossus before you – Ulysses had one-eyed Polyphemus – you can dispatch him in a second by throwing dagger hurled into the left or right eye (your choice).

But, true, both the Romans & their Greek copain then would all be slaughtered by the rest of the Angles. So yes, Pavols waits for the events to unfold.

Nikos Kazantzakis: Odyssey, a Sequel

nikos kazantzakis

Nikos Kazantzakis, a modern Greek genius. Click for attribution & additional infos

MoR: “A side note à propos de Ulysess. In the winter of 1938, at the age of 45, your father’s countryman Nikos Kazantzakis from Crete (1883 – 1957) published his “Odyssey” (a modern Sequel) in Athens. A huge tome of 835 pages in 24 books with 33,333 verses!

[visit Nikos Kazantzakis' virtual museum]

There’s a good English translation by a Greek American, Kimon Friar (Simon & Schuster, NY 1958).

The two worked together for a long time in order to achieve a good translation. I, being a book maniac, have it on my shelves but have sipped only here and there.

It is as BEEFY as the Germans mamma mia!!”

Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria etc. Arab Spring Revolutions seen from Rome (2)

Refugees from North Africa are flooding Lampedusa, Sicily

[read the previous chapter]

Libya, a Critical Situation

“Thousands of people, mainly from Tunisia, but also from Libya and Egypt, have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in recent weeks” (BBC).

“Since January Italy is facing an exceptional flux of immigrants, with over 22,000 landings mainly from Tunisia… from Eritrea and Somalia via Libya on the island of Lampedusa.” (Le Monde)

Lampedusa, between Sicily and Tunisia

The situation in Libya is more critical. According to Le Monde anti-Gaddafi rebels have no military experience, despite arms and support arriving from Egypt and Nato intervention. The port city of Misrata in north-western Libya (130 mi to the east of Tripoli, see image below) seems now to be the hub of the crisis.

Gaddafi is ready to conquer it and there are rumours of tortures suffered by the unfortunate who in Misrata fell into the hands of pro-Gaddafi forces. BBC mentions use of “human shields in the war-torn town.”

Libyan uprising main cities. Via Wikipedia. Click to enlarge

According to one of Gaddafi’s 5 beautiful Ukrainan nurses, El Rais’s health is that of an iron-man :roll:

Is the Ukrainian nurse’s evaluation accurate? Well, a desert raider like him might get extra boost from ‘fight’. Berlusconi is similar but he is not a desert man

France who first led to the intervention now fears that “we are likely to get bogged down in Misrata” (as French foreign Minister Alain Juppé’s put it). France also fears too many immigrants are coming from Italy. Italy protests France is against the Schengen agreement and says Europe should help to contain the human flood.

More British war planes seem ready to begin ground attacks (instead of just no-fly-zone checks.)

Gaddafi has sent a message to Obama yesterday. Today H. Clinton dismissed it saying he must resign and go into exile. Anti-Gaddafi rebels complain that bureaucracy is causing “Nato to take too long to respond to calls for air strikes” (BBC ) [not to mention the fact that Nato has killed quite a few anti-Gaddafi protesters by mistake!]

Berlusconi and Sarkozi will meet in Rome on April 26th. By the way Italy has finally recognised Libya’s rebel National Council.

Berlusconi was hesitant given his personal ties with Gaddafi. Now that all is more or less in the hands of Nato he looks happier.

Moscow, Berlin and Turkish Ankara seek a role as mediators. Ankara has sent Ambassador Omur Soledin to Libya.

ψ

These the recent facts. Allow me some (Roman) rambling now.

Lost in their Opiate Dream

Women of Algiers

Women of Algiers by Eugène Delacroix, 1834, the Louvre, Paris. Click for a wider view of this great but a tad decadent painting (this is just a detail) and for credits

Aren’t the French and the British lost in an opiate dream that they can still play a world role ‘of their own’? I am for a EU tighter unification, it is clear, and any prima donna or Trojan horse trying to dismantle such process from within really rails me.

The Britons are famous in their efforts to obstruct any real unification of ‘the continent’ – from Napoleon’s (was it good?) and Hitler’s (it was good) until today.

And the French? Are they pro EU only when they can play a grandeur role in it?

[Gosh, when at times they pronounce this word (France) I cannot but think of De Gaulle (my father imitated le Général not without fidelity and humour) who used to say he had 'une certaine idée de la Fraaaance'.]

Of course I can understand their opiate dream, their greatness belonging to only 4-6 generations ago, a short span of time. But aren’t their imperial souvenirs damaging this region, Europe, the richest of the planet (not for long) but the weakest politically?  With the huge challenges ahead of us (ie Bric) is it intelligent? Is it forward-thinking?

[See a presumptuous post of mine on EU Trojan Horses]

Braudel observed:
“Sicile-Afrique? Fondamentale”

Italy, the eternal loose woman, is reclining herself on the middle of the Mediterranean.

Fernand Braudel:

L’Italie, avec la Sicile et la Tunisie coupent la Mediterranée en deux … Est et Ouest. La liaison Sicile Afrique est fondamentale”.

This centrality favoured the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean.

Carthage (today’s Tunis) had the same central position in the Med though reversed (from South northwards). Rome though won (but … read here)

Italy and Tunisia cut the Mediterranean in two. Wikimedia. Click to enlarge

Among the European nations Italy is perhaps the most popular in North Africa and the whole Med area (some grudge left in Libya, of course.)

We eat the same food, they sing our songs (and us theirs but we’re not aware of it,) they watch since the 1950s our now horrible TV, they get consoled and excited by our III-World South which they can understand.

Tunisia in the last 100 years always looked at Sicily (and Italy) as a beloved guiding light and its greatest inspiring model (“les Italiens pour nous sont comme des dieux”, “Italians are like gods to us”, a Tunisian manager once told me. You may like this post.

This role of Italy – its Mediterranean centrality over the millennia and our today’s persisting cultural and economical influence – is responsible in my view for a certain succession of events:

Berlusconi –> Ben Ali –> Mubarak …. then the rest of the Arab Spring.

A theory of mine perhaps. So let’s now test it.

All North Africa is exploding. Arab protesters in Paris. Click for credits and to enlarge

Arab 2011 Revolution.
Are all MED BIG MEN resonating?

1) Berlusconi began to wobble …

… and while the entire world was cheerfully chatting about it (lots of fun stuff) the Tunisians were watching closely...

[Some mysterious harmony vibrating in the Mediterranean ...]

They couldn’t but notice this North MED(iterranean) BIG MAN about to fall, and they know he being not terribly different from many other modern-day MED BIG MEN all over coastal Mediterranean.

[A darn tradition of ours. Let us mention: a majority of tyrants in Greek city states, Alexander and the Hellenistic monarchs; the Roman well balanced republic later superseded by Julius Caesar, Augustus & other emperors; Louis XIV le Roi Soleil; Napoleon; Napoleon III; Mussolini il duce; Hitler son of romanized Austria-Germany;  Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria; Francisco Franco, the Caudillo; Salazar his neighbour; De Gaulle le général; Italian Umberto Bossi il celodurista (I got it hard!) and Silvio Berlusconi il Cavaliere]

Of course our PM is not Bel Ali, Gaddafi or Mubarak. Italy is democratic.

But Italy (unique in the West) has this patriarchal-paternal figure (Papi his girls called him) whose de facto powers go beyond democracy. Berlusconi can influence voters being the richest tycoon and media owner in our country - as if President Clinton and Murdoch were the same person!

Now our PM has though less constitutional power than Clinton and our usually sage President of Republic counts too in our charter. Magistrates are independent and tough, and people are not stupid. Which all is saving our ass from media fascism I hope.

So Berlusconi is something Tunisians could understand. Ben Ali controlled almost all Tunisian media via his family (I worked for a Tunisian Internet company owned by Ben Ali’s daughter or wife, I forgot.)

ψ

2) … so Tunisia blew up. Also plagued by unemployment etc. Tunisia rebels against Ben Ali’s well-organized fascism. I am witness to black-clad secret police guys’ total ubiquity. Mediterranean resonating empathy I’ll repeat.

After Berlusconi wobbles Tunisia begins to blow. Click for credits and to enlarge

A small country Tunisia, one might say. Ok, but Tunisia’s rebellion infected Egypt.

Now THIS changed things entirely.

The Land of Pharaohs Wakes Up

Egyptian protests. March of the Millions: Tahrir Square. Click for a great night view

2) Egypt gets infected. The Arab world and beyond is following.

Well, given its ancientness & importance when Egypt sneezes a whole piece of the planet may catch pneumonia. Egypt is the most respected Arab state of all, beyond a doubt.

Digression. According to the Indian-British Indologist A. L. Basham – A Cultural History of India, Oxford 1975 p. XXI- “there are four main cradles of civilizations [on this planet]: 1.China. 2. The Indian subcontinent [probably the most influential in the very long run imo, MoR]. 3. The ‘Fertile Crescent‘ [ie Egypt, Eastern Canaan-Syria-Phoenicia, Mesopotamia ie Iraq, MoR]. 4. The Mediterranean, especially Greece and Italy.”

THIS was perhaps Cleopatra – found on the Esqulinus hill, one of the 7 h. Well …

[I'm starting - some scholars are starting - to suspect a North-Europe Hyperborean cradle too. Read here if you dare :-) ...]

Egypt is at the head of num 3 region (even though Iraq invented writing.) The Greeks totally recognized Egyptian and other Eastern influences.

[But some scholars in-between 1800s-1900s  - mainly German but not only - wanted ALL colonizing West's knowledge to be derived from an abstract ‘pure’ Greece in order to justify the exploitation of the lower-races. Winckelmann (1717 - 1768) earlier and Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) bear a foundational responsibility among the rest for this gloomy error]

Pythagoras (Πυθαγόρας) who spread a scientific-religious cult all over South Italy – which will affect Plato, ALL West science & the core of Christianity – travelled long years in Egypt, in the Middle East and Mesopotamia perhaps too: he was permeated by African and Eastern wisdom! Herodotus (Ἡρόδοτος) surely spent years in Egypt. Just 2 examples, the former being the greatest of them as for the future of Western culture.

Btw, the story of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Gaius Octavius and Cleopatra - do you remember it? (see above how sexy might have been Κλεοπάτρα, the last Pharaoh of Egypt; read this post)

Now all is getting dangerous  – but also promising let’s hope for humankind.

ψ

So let us laugh a bit. Berlusconi-owned newspapers barked against France who dared enter Mare Nostrum ie the Med:

“Beyond the Alps they should remember once in a while that in their history they don’t just have Napoleon, they also have General Cambronne!” (ineffable Georgio Mulé)

Filippo Ceccarelli’s comment on the Roman daily Repubblica:

“Imagine which weight will be given, in that place of sheer humility that is Paris, to this saucy invitation from George Mulé.”

A wild laugh, that gave me a half hour of oblivion.

ψ

This whole Arab thing is dangerous but I am fascinated that many of these countries are more ancient than Italy or Greece.

It is important to understand that Syria, Egypt etc. are not only Arabic: they are much more (and earlier) than that (read 1, 2 – delighful Diana Haddad! – and especially 3)

The more ancient a country – pls be patient – the greater its reverberations in large parts of the world.

Hadn’t Islamic revolution started in Iran, former ancient (non Arabic) Persia at the head of a thousands-year-old Empire, great model for Alexander and later Rome?

Which also explains why Fascism, invented by the Italians – a complete and rich State theory & practice – was so influential in the world despite Italy’s negligible economical importance at that time.

Which applies even more to today’s Egypt. A whole piece of the world is now boiling because of the land of the Pharaohs.

ψ

As French Fernand Braudel loved to say – “civilizations are not mortal.”

Related posts:

Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria etc. Arab Spring Revolutions seen from Rome (1)

The Southern Shores of the Mediterranean

Mare Nostrum, Patriarchy, Omertà. 1

Mare Nostrum, Patriarchy, Omertà. 2

Permanences. Rome and Carthage

Love Words from Egypt

Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 1


Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 2

Folks of the Mediterranean Sea

“America, the Greatest Collective Effort Ever existed”. Antonio Gramsci

New York. Click for credits and to enlarge

While replying to Thomas Stazyk‘s comment on a post on Antonio Gramsci I realised it was more convenient to write a new blog post instead.

I usually reply to my readers one by one. Tomorrow it will be the others’ turn.

Explaining Paris Hilton

Thomas. Thank you for an interesting and insightful 795 words! For me, Gramsci adds the needed dimension to Marx that is required to understand/explain contemporary culture. I think his ideas of cultural domination and hegemony go far to explain everything from the Tea Party to Paris Hilton, and maybe Facebook and Twitter as well, but the whole technology thing needs more thought. I’m worried that saying that social media (and reality TV) are vehicles of cultural domination might sound too much like a conspiracy theory. But they certainly do support Gramsci’s view that hegemony is achieved and maintained by consent of the subordinate class.

MoR. “Gramsci adds the needed dimension to Marx that is required to understand/explain contemporary culture.”

You may refer to Gramsci’s study of Marx’s superstructure. Gramsci criticises the notion of a superstructure as simple ‘skin’ of a society, and of a socio-economic base, the ‘skeleton’, that is what really matters by determining the conscience etc.

“Women – Gramsci said – fall in love with the skin, not the skeleton”. Seduction, again, ie cultural hegemony.

[Update: ie people are ‘seduced’ by the ‘skin’ or cultural elements (superstructure) more than by the ‘skeleton’ – socio-economic class structure. It is a metaphorical way of stressing the importance of cultural hegemony, of men’s choices – free, non mechanically predetermined by the economical class structure – and of 'intellectuals' in history.]

I think his ideas of cultural domination and hegemony go far to explain everything from the Tea Party to Paris Hilton, and maybe Facebook and Twitter as well.

I’ll get to Facebook and Paris Hilton. But I’ve got to follow a long forgotten reasoning.

Since the core of Gramsci’s reflection is the superstructure – intellectuals being like the agents of it –, by analyzing both the high and the pop culture(s) of several countries he strongly advocates a blend of the two levels.

The intellectuals, he argues, should not be separated– as it always was the case of Italy – from the ‘elementary passions’ of the common people. A folk should be culturally united, as a tendency at least.

Greek Tragedy & Shakespeare

Such culture [update: of a high level, where the 'intellectuals' and the common people interact in a two way process] he calls ‘national-popular’ (complex notion to say the truth.) Among the best examples of it Gramsci indicates the Greek tragedy and the Elizabethan theatre, where the majority of the people were involved in a great experience. To him the only Italian example of such ‘artistic unity’ of the people [update: high-low interaction] is the Italian opera (I may possibly add, since I saw it with my eyes, the ‘popular’ love for Dante one can still experience in many parts of Tuscany and elsewhere.)

The Italian Renaissance to him, though sublime, was too elitist [update: ie no participation of the populace, no high-low interaction] and one cause in the end of the Italian decline. The protestant Reformation saw instead great popular participation (Renaissance-Reformation are to Gramsci also dialectic metaphors – in the Hegelian sense of thesis and antithesis – that he uses abstractly.)

Even if at first the Reformation – Gramsci argues – was like a return to the dark ages, it later liberated people’s energies by reaching higher levels of culture and contributing to the construction, among the rest, of the American nation.

US Cultural Hegemony

San Francisco Fire Department Engine 22 (1893). Click for credits and to enlarge

The first British immigrants to the New World were in fact an intellectual and especially moral elite – Gramsci argues. Defeated religiously in their fatherland but not humiliated, they brought to the New World great will, moral energy and “a certain stage of European historical evolution, which when transplanted by such men into the virgin soil of America, developed – and continues to develop – the forces implicit in its nature but with an incomparably more rapid rhythm than Old Europe”, where the relics of the past generated opposition giving to every initiative the equilibrium of mediocrity …

We all know what happened, how Europe went down and how the US have become the dominant power.

Following Gramsci’s reasoning, the United States exert yet today a cultural hegemony over the world, at both a high and a popular level of culture. Their universities are excellent in all fields (they even have among the best Dante’s specialists!) etc., intellectuals are not that detached from the people (they tend to ‘disseminate’ knowledge in their books, not like here in Italy although things are changing a bit – while France, a not at all bad ‘national-popular’ place in the 19th century – see 19th-century French literature! – is nowadays possibly even more elitist than we are, but I’m not sure.)

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

Not concluded. Tomorrow, Thomas and you folks. I am European, not American. And my dog Lilla is recovering but she is 15 years old.

ψ

See next installment:

Is America Too Young to Maintain its Cultural Hegemony in the Long Run?

More on Antonio Gramsci:

American Engineer, German Philosopher & French Politician: Gramsci’s Ideal Blend for the Modern Leonardo da Vinci
Seven Aspects of Antonio Gramsci’s Thought

Related posts:

Democracy, Liberty & the Necessity of a Solid Education of the People
Culture, Kultur, Paideia
The Last Days of the Polymath

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