Obesssion and balance in creativity. Greeks’ and Romans’ Golden Mean (& Paolo Buonvino’s, a Sicilian composer.) Dialectics (5b)

diary

Read the original non pruned post and discussion.

Draft. Pictures might be changed /added.

Notice. I’ll stop posting until April 23rd. Easter reflection (a notion you can expand chez Tarot psychologique.)

ψ

James Evershed Agate (1877 – 1947), British diarist and critic, once wrote:

“Now that I am finishing the damned thing I realise that diary-writing isn’t wholly good for one, that too much of it leads to living for one’s diary instead of living for the fun of living as ordinary people do.”

What is said above applies equally to blog-writing / writing tout court since, when dealing with passions the challenge is always the right measure.

The ancient Romans developed the fine art of cuisine so that the delights of life were augmented, but there was undeniably gluttony in some milieus.

I remember that, much younger, I stopped composing music since it had become an obsessive pastime that basically swallowed me up.

Life should be harmonious. A single part should not devour the rest (as Benedetto Croce, master of harmony, reminds us.)

Benedetto Croce

Benedetto Croce (1866 – 1952), filosofo italiano

Christopher: You wrote: “Life should be harmonious. A single part should not devour the rest”
If everyone lived according to this precept there would be no civilisation and we would all be living short and brutish lives.

MoR: “Hard to say, although my post regards happiness more than creativity in the arts & sciences. Besides, creativity seems related to both balance and unbalance (take Vincent van Gogh etc.).

You possibly suggest that big creators lived disharmony in their life. Frank Lloyd Wright devoted *most* of his time to architecture, Einstein to physics etc.

Ok, but one has to see how these people actually spent their days.

I remember a Roman top advertising agency, at the end of the 80′s, where extremely well-paid copywriters and art directors were walking around in robes and were sunbathing on an elegant terrace overlooking the Parioli district’s skyline (where the rich and famous live, or lived).

I was puzzled at first because these creativi seemed to do everything except what they were paid for. The agency’s output was though brilliant and rivalled Milan’s creativi (the best we’ve got in this country).

One often needs quiet and relaxation to produce ideas, which suggests ‘balance’.

Moving to bigger examples, Beethoven’s music conveys to me the image of ​​an unhappy person.

There are many elements of anger, of obsession, in his music. His life was almost certainly disharmonious: Beethoven’s father was an alcoholic; Karl, the composer’s nephew, whose custody Beethoven had obtained, attempted suicide. And so forth.

Johann Sebastian Bach aged 61 (1685 – 1750). Click for source

Johann Sebastian Bach aged 61 (1685 – 1750). Click for source

 

Bach’s music on the contrary (with its powerfully abstract architectures that unfold like a majestic river flowing) is much more enriching consoling, imo, and well fits the image of ​​the patient German artisan, whose methodical, quiet work was conceived as a service to God. Bach was a musician but also a good Christian, a good father, a good husband and a good teacher – which suggests harmony of life.

Which doesn’t mean many breakthroughs weren’t the product of unbalanced lives. The commonplace of the deranged genius is more than a commonplace imo, though it’s not my post’s point.

Cheri: “Your point is well taken. My grandfather always told me that moderation is the key to a balanced and contented life.”

MoR: “Hi Cheri! I like roots (as you probably like your Jewish or whatever roots), this blog being a search for roots from a past that, I believe, is still working on us Latins, though not only on us.

Enjoying the pleasures of life without excess, drinking without getting drunk, a life outside compulsions or obsessions – I am often obsessing / obsessed – is not only wise, it is part of a lifestyle, and an element of grace.

To me this is particularly evident in the French, the Latin people I possibly love most.

Neapolitan Benedetto Croce, ‘master of harmony’ …

Incidentally, the Olympian beauty seeping through his works is probably of Hellenic origin, and, like the Hellenic miracle arose from formidable difficulties (if we may compare a huge thing to a small one) Croce’s serene attitude and sharp mind came at a hard price: at 17, on vacation with his parents and his sole sister, their house being wiped out by an earthquake he barely survived and remained alone.

Claudia (my daughter): “Croce’s picture doesn’t exactly conjure up Hellenic beauty!?!?”

Potsoc: “I agree with Cheri. Many creators were, indeed, unhappy people but as many had a relatively simple and happy life. The examples given speak by themselves.”

MoR: “Someone must have already done it, Potsoc le Canadien, but it’d be interesting to systematically analyse the biographies of creators (in both arts & sciences) in search of a correlation between creative intelligence and lifestyles.

My post was more about the gratification from a life with nicely distributed, non compulsive, activities, but one can blabber a bit and wonder if Balzac, for example, was compulsive in his writing.

He may have been, but his work – so vital, energetic & rich with an immense number of vividly depicted characters – suggests a life not spent exclusively on a desk with a pen in his hand.

A correlation between scientists’ lifestyles and their innovation level seems much harder to establish. They (seem to me to) reveal less about themselves.

ALL this, in any case, is a-blowing in the wind, Paul.”

Potsoc: “I guess nobody wrote a Ph.D thesis on the subject and I will not write it.”

MoR: “Ah ah ah, right Paul :-) Getting stuffy, I know.”

Sledpress: “The need for quiet and mental space in which to be creative can’t be denied, but does that support an argument against being too obsessional as a creative person?

I can only write fiction (or songs, or music) when I’m in an obsessional fugue, and it is bitter for me, because I want to have at least something of a life otherwise — probably few people are willing to have their spouse or friend snarl “GO AWAY!” should they be so unfortunate as to come ask about dinner or the water bill when one is creating.

But if I put the chisel down, it’s cold when I pick it back up, and what I wrote mocks me. (Blog posts and so on don’t count; those are five finger exercises.) I can’t start the fire again if I’ve let myself be jollied into putting it out so as to make nice on the rest of the human race. And if I don’t create something, who cares if I lived? It won’t matter.

I’ve already lost the thread of so many good ideas (maybe not lightning genius, but worth something) that I could spend the rest of my life in mourning, and for what in the end? People who really were only bored or wanted me to do them something. I vote for the obsessed people, myself.”

MoR: “You say, Sled:

“I can only write fiction (songs, music) when I’m in an obsessional fugue, and it is bitter for me, because I want to have at least something of a life otherwise …”

“If I don’t create something, who cares if I lived? It won’t matter”

Well, if creation & obsession necessarily go together with us, and creativity is our top priority, let us embrace obsession, why not.

Besides, obsession, as far as I can tell, may produce compellingly emotional results etc.

As for my experience, the insignificant (though much important to me) things I have written or composed were produced in both situations: within a quiet, balanced routine of life; or via obsession, pain, sacrificing the rest.

I sometimes think that, had I more discipline, I’d be able to kill two birds with a stone and reach a synthesis.

Paolo Buonvino 001

What I mean, I’m witnessing an example of creative discipline in my neighborhood, where a certain Paolo Buonvino is leaving a couple of blocks away from my home (it, en wikies.)

Italian from Sicily, conductor, composer of film scores, Buonvino’s music is extremely good, Sicilian-sunny and much appreciated. I exchanged a few words with him. He gave me some inspired advice on related-to-music stuff. Flavia and I have visited him once at his home.

In short, he’s the classic example of one who, compelled to compose scores at appalling speed, is nonetheless able to enhance productivity by finding the right breaks, walking about the rione, enjoying something at a bar (an ice-cream, a coffee, a cake) or watching trees or the sky on a park bench.

You see him around, always relaxed, a mobile at his ear, talking quietly with loads of people (this amazing ease with human relationships being typical of many Italian from the Mezzogiorno.)

So Paolo Buonvino, despite high productivity rates, manages to live quite well. A gift from heaven? Hard to say but some creative discipline should be taught when very young, I believe.”

Sledpress: “There is a trapdoor when someone has asked a creative person to produce something. I say this from experience.
Somehow it frees you to be both creative and human. I don’t know how this works. Only that knowing someone *wants* what you can create substitutes for the energy that otherwise only comes from obsession and a sort of rage against the people who don’t understand why you are working so hard to produce a composition or poem or story, however minor.”

Potsoc: “I moderate a group called “Imaginations”, each week we meet around a theme, different each week, and we write a short piece on the week’s theme that we will read to the group the following week. It’s much fun…and work but we all enjoy it and it has been going for most of ten years with a core of 5 steady participants and another 5 or 6 that come and go.”

MoR: “Sledpress, Paul, you two imply that creating for someone ‘waiting’ for your production can release the pressure?

I agree, an act of communication, then, almost always good. When I was writing the Manius so-to-say novel my motivation were you, the bloggers of my circle, ‘waiting’ (so I felt) for each new installment and the resulting fun, as Paul says, the jokes that we shared etc.

When a publisher told me one day that he was interested, the magic vanished. I tried to continue, but felt only the obsession (plus depression for my failure, lack of discipline.) I quit writing.

Potsoc: “Being approached by a publisher is an altogether other proposition, I agree. Sharing with friends is just plain fun.”

Sledpress: “Yes! You are touching on something that I meant.
If a publisher dangled money in front of me I might still be motivated. Because money is something squeezed out of one’s bloodstream (unless one is one of the one-per-cent who wallow in it), so it is like enthusiasm.

However the biggest fun was an experience like yours, of people hanging on for the next installment to find out what happened!!!

Stephen King writes of something like this in his classic novella “The Body” which became the film Stand By Me.

The pathetically young kid with the gun in this clip — earlier the film shows him telling stories around a kids’ camp fire with everyone asking him what comes next, what comes next. King later called this “the *gotta.*” “I gotta find out what happens.”
I miss having people who cared about that, which happened to me for five minutes.”

MoR: “You’ve said, Sled:

“the biggest fun was an experience like yours, of people hanging on for the next installment to find out what happened!!!
I miss having people who cared about that, which happened to me for five minutes.”

When was that and where? Can we reach it?”

Sledpress: “Oh, that was my silly detective novel, an inner circle read every chapter as I wrote it — the way Dickens used to work, releasing installments before the story was all set down. Then as I wrote, with caricatures of everyone who is politically active around here, I looked forward to the public consternation it would cause, another incentive.

And oh yes, I made it look as if the author was a local newspaper editor who had been a real jerk to me a couple of times — it was easy to lift little quirks of style from his editorials. People pestered him about it for years.

It got one good review even. A lot of it is free.

Along the way it let me say and even discover a lot about my outlook on the whole “res publica”, the “public thing” that constitutes local political life, which both attracts and repels me — so many people trying to be important, yet actually doing important things despite their flaws. It is really the only thing I ever finished.

Everything else I ever did disappointed me and I threw it over or put it in the drawer, but I had people asking for this, so I had to finish it, amateurish as it may be. I wrote like hell for two months and was burned-out for two more but I wish I could do it again. Only I’m afraid to yell GO AWAY at the few friends I really have.”

MoR: “Wow. Quite a good review. I’ll read the book as soon as I can, or rather buy it (I also missed your poems over at your blog: my next comment)
In the meanwhile, a portion of the review, to the benefit of readers:

“Is this story (MURDER ACROSS THE BOARD by *******) of local interest? Sure. But the writing here is so good it is irrelevant. This is just as good a murder mystery as you will find anywhere, with a compelling story and clever writing to match. The story is truly twisted [...] and the murder-mystery here is fun and energetic. No one is who they seem in this fast read, and as the story unfolds, the plot rolls along like a freight-train. What may have started as a goof on some friends or a dig at local politics has turned into a clever, engaging page-turner.”

Sledpress: “Mind you, another reader said it was cliched and awful. Then again, the point was to throw every trope of gritty detective stories into a story about local politics. Looking back I thought it needed tightening, but I’ve always hugged that one rave review to my heart.
I’m editing the pseudonym in your comment just because it really did piss off a number of people, one of whom is a habitual troll, and I’d prefer they didn’t find this blog too easily.”

Sledpress: “Oops, I was on a dashboard when I wrote the above reply and thought we were talking on my page. Oh well — if you wouldn’t mind “asterisking” the author name. Trolls shouldn’t find you either. ”

MoR: “Well, there are good and there are bad reviews, always. Who the hell cares?
I have ‘asterisked’ the author’s name, as you asked me.
And, tell this troll I am ready here waiting.”

A conversation with Carla Shodde, from Australia, on Religions, Romanness & Interlingua (Modern Latin?) – Dialectics (4)

Even the German Women were terrific fighters

Even the German Women were terrific fighters

Are the Germans ‘Always’ There?
(Why not man)

[See btw the clip at the head of the previous post]

ψ

Carla Shodde from Australia has some German DNA among the rest. A ‘budding Classicist’, as she phrased it, she is probably more than that.

We had a good dialogue at her place (see below. Here the original, not pruned, one.)

ψ

Another conversation had occurred here with Sledpress (another German, from US Virginia, this time,) which will be published as Dialectics 5, the last cherry on the pie in some way.

Why cherry on the pie?

Because Sled is a valuable writer (I have a notebook with many of her sentences since I am an aspiring non mother tongue writer in English,) she has been very much present in almost ALL discussions here and elsewhere, she being a valuable polymath (with high-level musical knowledge also,) capable of talking about everything (as our blogosphere small slice attests) … but most of all:

She has a VERY BAD temper ;-)

Which of course (any passion being powerful) is a big part of her charm and her being very good: as a writer, dialectic commentator, friend, musician (and real soul.)

Why We Love The Germans

At this point, after Easter Monday (when the exchange with The Virginian and other stuff will be already here), given the present crisis of the Euro zone, we think it’ll be high time to say aloud (from us, from many other Italians):

“Why we love the Germans and will continue to love them!”

In the meanwhile: Carla Shodde.

Impiety Among Philosophers

Found In Antiquity Carla Shodde

Carla thus presents her work and studies:

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” – Cicero, Ad Brutum. Carla recently finished first-class Honours in Classics, writing a thesis on accusations of impiety among philosophers in Greece and Republican Rome. She loves ancient art, ancient history, theology and pretty much anything to do with the Romans.”

 

Uncial sample

Courtesy of Carla Shodde’s Web site soon in our blogroll. Click to enlarge and for source file

 

MoR:Great post. About to repost the other one, I might repost this one as well, though I’m not sure, I am overwhelmed by business, family (my strength,) and my mentor’s ‘an article a day in languages that are not your own’ rule.

You are a scholar, a beginning scholar, perhaps, but hats-off scholar nonetheless. Ciao

[PS: hai per caso qualche stilla di sangue italiano? Carla è un nome italiano]“

Carla Shodde: “Thanks so much for reblogging the other post! You can reblog whatever you like, when you want to. :) And thanks for the encouragement, I would love to cultivate scholarship in Classics.

And actually, I don’t have any Italian blood, but my parents named me after my German great-grandfather Carl. They thought I was going to be a boy but when I was born a girl, they named me Carla. Italian is a beautiful language though and I wish I knew more.”

MoR: “Sorry I’ll be the usual Italian chatter-box. My thoughts come in floods, am too tired to prune and I proceed from chaos to order – my cognitive style, aspiring towards dialectics.

This exchange in fact, should you say yes, I’d love to publish over at my blog as Dialectics 4.

I’ll prune my texts of course but not much, this being the MoR plus I’d love you to reply extensively (in case you can and want) – the exchange of ideas resulting hopefully more stimulating for readers.

This being fussily said o_O  …

 

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

I)

Carla: “I would love to cultivate scholarship in Classics”

The personal opinion of a dilettante is that ‘you can’ lol become what you want if you really want it. You have ‘la stoffa’ (what it takes.)

You are creative, have passion but most of all you have discipline. Talent without discipline is zero.

A scholar I have not become (just a quirky researcher) for lack of guidance since I was abandoned to grow by myself like a weed (and am still, in the good sense though I hope, 1. Christianity and religions plus 2. intellectual curiosity helping.)

A Master Shows

I found the latter (2) after an encounter at 24 – id est a Master and inspiring polymath to whom I owe a lot and whom I call Magister διδάσκαλος, here.

The former (1) came after some study of the Ancient Roman religions (I liked that post of yours where you criticize those who consider the Ancient Roman religion void of emotions, of mysticism, simply formulaic (a total moronity imo.)

Via some study of cults, gods, goddesses and the mysteries etc. I realised how Roman Christianity was, plus Christianity was one of the several mysteries too (you might not agree here.)

A powerful blend, the ancient Roman religion – no need to tell you – which together with Christianity can provide strength and consolation. I am more Christian than Pagan, incidentally; although we ALL here, and elsewhere – eg some areas of the Roman Empire’s ex provinces – are (one may like it or not) a bit pagan.)

Let me add it is so refreshing to see a young woman – the age of my two daughters – so very ‘well’ doing what she does, and a real polyglot too (mandarin, wow, and German; Latin and Greek being of course necessary.)

 

Interlingua at Austin, Texas

Jardin de Ninos Interlingua Spanish Immersion, Austin, TX. Click for credits and source

II)

Carla: “Actually, I don’t have any Italian blood, but my parents named me after my German great-grandfather Carl. They thought I was going to be a boy”

Italian is bastard Latin so I don’t think you’ll have difficulties though my advice, you being a polyglot, is considering Interlingua instead.

Interlingua (official web site) is not artificial like Esperanto. It is ‘biological’; and, most importantly, it was conceived by solid scholars as a modern form of Latin.

For which purpose? [one might ask] English is already the lingua franca of a vast portion of the world.

A Fascinating vacation.
No ‘Direct’ contact with natives?

Ok, but take a woman from New York for example (all English speaking people we Italians btw call ‘Anglo-Saxons’, even those not wearing furs anymore – the others having passed away many centuries ago (stole this from an English guy living in Milan).

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro. Click for credits and source file

Now it turns this woman and her husband are planning a long trip to, say, Brasil, Spain, Italy and have desire to get to know the natives in a non-mediated-via-English way, ie, a more direct, ‘cultural’, way.

[As a side note, English is not much spoken the more ancient the country is (apart from India, naturally) : Romans for ex. have this couldn’t-care-less attitude thinking they are so darn universal – and they are, accepting everybody with open heart but at the same time being scared by other cultures plus also feeling superior but behaving like provincials who think they are gas nobles, or gods.]

In any case the said couple has only one solution: even if the trip will occur in 3 years (yes, they plan years in advance, the Americans lol) they nonetheless must frantically TOIL eg learn Portuguese on the first year, Spanish on the second year, and Italian on the third.

It can be done, but it’s a hard path especially until the half of it, then Latin underlying the 3 languages will make things easier.

[Getting Big Deal Man, I know ^^'  ]

Interlingua: Many Languages
at the Same Time

There is another exciting solution: learning Interlingua. It’ll take 2-3-4 months in the worst cases (or just a few weeks,) after which the couple will be able to understand and talk directly (via Interlingua) to Brasilians, Spanish and Italians, who will 70%  understand them even if they never heard of Interlingua before.

 ψ

Carla Shodde: “That’s really interesting – I’ve never heard of a language called Interlingua before, but it is nice that it uses Latin-based words to connect various Romance languages together.

I’ve been fantasising about learning early Germanic languages like Anglo-Saxon, so that I could possibly connect English and German together at their Germanic roots. A friend of mine is learning Gothic and is really enjoying the language. I’d love to read an Anglo-Saxon gospel book some day.

MoR: “By studying several cults & gods goddesses and the mysteries etc. I realised how ‘Roman’ Christianity was”

I am Christian, and I find the study of pagan theology fascinating. I believe in one God, as did the fathers of the Church, and I do not worship other gods, as it would be a deep betrayal of the sanctity of God.

While I am not a pagan, I still find pagan Roman theology interesting, both as a counterpoint for early Christian apologetics and as a subject in its own right.

“Christianity was not
a mystery religion”

Regarding Mystery Cults: I follow the most recent and well researched wave of scholarship, which concludes that Christianity was not a “mystery religion” in the same vein as, say, the Mithras cult.

“The evidence we have been examining suggests that there was little contact between Christianity and mystery cults at any time. This contrasts with a long-established scholarly tradition that tried to find considerable influence of mystery cult on Christianity. Often the debate was as much to do with contemporary concerns as with the distant past. So, for example, it suited Protestant polemicists to argue that the ‘primitive Christianity’ of the early church was corrupted by the incorporation of rites and doctrines drawn from non-Christian mystery cults… And it suited critics of Christianity as a whole to claim that many elements of Christianity, including the sacramental rituals of baptism and holy communion, were taken over directly from Mithraism.” – Hugh Bowden, Mystery Cults of the Ancient World, Princeton University Press (2010) p.207

“Pagan Theology: Overlooked”

I like studying pagan theology. I think it has been so often overlooked in modern studies of Roman paganism. Instead of viewing religion as a religion (i.e. a proposed way for reasonable humans to interact with a divine being or beings) people want to see religion only as a coded way of expressing sexism, elitism or some other secular or political goal that reflects narrow-minded modern concerns. I find it very surprising that some prominent scholars who study Roman religion have openly said they are contemptuous of all religion. Little wonder that it so commonly said that Roman religion was invented for the sake of empty traditionalism alone, or that it was a tool to manipulate the unthinking masses. I think Roman religion, at least in philosophical texts and grave inscriptions, meant much more to the people than just empty rituals.”

Answer to a complex question:
Found in the Holy Week?

MoR: “Well, gosh, wow. This will keep my brain juices working for a while I’ll admit. Not for long though. And I always (90%) come back. I spot some German determination. Schodde —> Schotte? Good. I’m a Bach wrestler since I was 19 :?

MoR: “Dear Carla, I like dialectics, as you & others know too well, id est Diskurs als argumentativer Dialog so my lateinisch discursus feedback, LOL, will be:

The answer to your very-German reply is to be found, in my view, in the Holy Week (Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Ἑβδομάς) where Christians celebrate the events related to the last days of Jesus – passion, death and resurrection, among the rest.

Last Sunday I was feeling tense, tired. Therefore for some weird reason I randomly chose a Church (every 5 meters we have one in Rome) and had the luck to find a real shepherd speaking from ‘a heart’ and from a sound-theological-knowledge (as far as I can tell) brain, as well.

I’ll say I was moved to tears twice but since I never believed in signs, in the past, it is unlikely I will believe in them, in the future.

Jesus carrying the cross. Click for credits

Jesus carrying the cross. Click for credits

Regards from Rome.

Giovanni

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)

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!!”

Ragù, Chianti (and Grappa.) Is ‘Classic’ Just a Trick by Goddess Fortune? (2)

Spaghettoni alla chitarra e ragù. Wikimedia. Click for credits

After aperitivo at the bar the conversation continues to unwind at our home while we consume a simple dinner made of spaghettoni al ragù, cheese with a side dish of boiled vegetables, all washed down with Chianti and some Grappa as digestivo.

Classicus and King Servius Tullius

Servius Tullius

Servius Tullius, 6th Roman King. Image via Wikipedia

Extropian: “In my Calonghi Latin dictionary classis means both ‘fleet’ and ‘social class’; classicus is both a ‘sailor’ and ‘a member of the first Servian class of citizens’, out of the five tax classes set up by the Roman King Servius Tullius.

So why do we say today that Herman Melville is a classic and that Dan Brown (or our Giorgio Faletti) will probably never be?”

Giorgio: “It implies some timeless worth, it is known. Less known perhaps the origin of the notion. In the 2nd century CE Aulus Gellius, a Roman grammarian, [see image below] in his Noctes Atticae (Attic nights) – I just found out – was the first to mean by classicus ‘a writer of the first Servian class’ (classicus scriptor). He was the first to connect via a metaphor 1) literary and 2) social excellence. Classicus to him was a first-class & exemplary writer.

English: Frontispiece to the 1706 edition of A...

English: Frontispiece to the 1706 edition of Auli Gellii Noctium Atticarum (Aulus Gellius Attic Nights) libri xx. prout supersunt, quos ad libros Mss. novo et multo labore exegerunt, perpetuis notis et emendationibus illustrarunt Joannes Fridericus et Jacobus Gronovii. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Extropian: “Well, it somewhat reflected the elitism of antiquity.”

Flavia: “Yes, but I’d say excellence is excellence. Horace and Virgil were of humble background (Horace – read a reply to Sledpress on him – was even the son of a freed slave,) but were revered as excellent (and timeless) as soon as their works came out.”

Giorgio: “Horace himself refers to his Odes as timeless. But people didn’t call them classici. The new meaning didn’t immediately spread. In the 5th and 6th centuries CE authors such as Martianus Capella, Fulgentius and Boethius began to reconsider earlier pagan authors as models of style and thought, although again no use was made of the term classicus in the sense Gellius did.”

Extropian: “I see.”

Villa Rotonda, Veneto, Italy, by Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580). Click for attribution

Classicus to Renaissance People

Giorgio: “And throughout the Middle Ages too we have the concept but not the word for it. Until we get to the Renaissance men, in 1400s-1500s CE.

In their Latin classicus refers again to something seen as timeless and as a standard of excellence: to the people of the Renaissance [see a Palladian villa above] the Greek and Roman past was THE classicus exemplary model in all fields.”

Mario: “In fact we still say ‘Classical Antiquity’. Of course the Renaissance is neoclassical ante litteram since it found inspiration in Antiquity and looked down upon the Middle Ages.

By the way, wasn’t the second half of the 18th century labelled as neoclassical?”

Rome and the Grand Tour

Goethe in the Roman countryside as painted in 1787 by his friend Tischbein. Click to enlarge

Flavia: “It was. Giorgio and I recently visited the exhibition Rome and Antiquity. Reality and vision in the 18th century.

At the end of the War of the Austrian Succession (1748) a long period of peace ensued in Europe. Winckelmann arrived in Rome in 1755. He there conceived his master-work History of Ancient Art (1764) which influenced the entire neoclassical attitude from that year onwards and basically blew the minds (to mention the Germans only) of people like Hölderlin, Goethe, Lessing, Herder, Heine, Nietzsche etc. The marriage and the tyranny of Greece over Germany started with him.”

Giorgio: Those were the days of the Grand Tour. People flocked to Italy and especially to Rome to study classical culture. Rome with all her statues etc. also became a huge workshop of copies purchased worldwide. Bartolomeo Cavaceppi was the best sculptor to make casts, copies and fakes.

Caffè Greco – 86, via Condotti -, possibly the oldest caffè in Rome, frequented by Goethe, Byron, Stendhal, Liszt, Keats, Mendelssohn etc. Click to enter the Caffè Greco web site

Cavaceppi’s studio was in via del Babbuino, close to Caffè Greco (opened in 1760, see above,) to via del Corso (where Goethe lived at num 18 between 1786 & 1788,) to Piazza di Spagna: all popular places among the expatriates of the time. Cavaceppi’s shop was a must-see. Goethe was there and Canova himself was greatly impressed by Cavaceppi’s atelier. Goethe bought a cast of the Juno Ludovisi [see the last big picture below] but I forgot from whom though.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Jacques-Louis David, the Scottish architect Robert Adam, Canova, Piranesi with his efforts to build a map of Ancient Rome: surely a great period for our city.”

[The exhibition catalog is now on the living room table. Grappa is unfortunately served. Art and Bacchus are a perfect match since Homer, what did you think ...]

Giorgio: “Last (but least) Italians played the guitar quite a lot during the 18th c. before the Spanish took over. I am studying Mauro Giuliani and Ferdinando Carulli who composed delightful classical pieces for this instrument, mixing sober taste (Giuliani) or brilliant grace (Carulli) with rationality.”

Jeu des dames, by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761–1845). Click to enlarge. Elegance, sobriety, classical décor and Hellenic attire (and face features) of the women

Extropian (reading the catalog): “New archaeological discoveries fuelled the Roman and Greek frenzy. A great number of statues and mosaics were unearthed and reproduced. Décor and clothes were created in the neoclassical style in Europe and in the New World. Also Nero’s Domus Aurea wall paintings – at that time thought to belong to Titus’ thermae – were reproduced on mansions, on decorative furniture etc.

[Hope you can reach this great 3d reconstruction of Roman Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea (see another movie below too:) you'll think you are in a 18th century rich palace!]

The spirit of the Ancients and of the Enlightenment (Age of reason) splendidly matched. Classical triumphed and influenced the French and American Revolutions.”

Roman Emperor Nero’s Domus Aurea fresco. 1rst century CE

Classicism as a Concept. Mere Chance?

Extropian: “Classic, more generic for valuable, is related to classical … Wait a minute. Such fundamental concept going back to this Aulus Gellius, an almost unknown, second-rate Roman writer? Something is wrong here.”

Giorgio: “Weird in fact. I now read in Google what Ernst Robert Curtius observed (in his European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages):

What would modern aesthetics have done for a single general concept that could embrace Raphael, Racine, Mozart, and Goethe, if Gellius never lived?

Extropian: “Or if Servius Tullius didn’t divide Rome into 5 classes! I wonder whether we know the exact connection Gellius-Renaissance, but certainly goddess Fortune plays her tricks when making ideas successful or not, as Curtius also suggests.”

A cast of Juno Ludovisi (ie Antonia minor, Mark Antony’s daughter), similar to the one bought by Goethe. Antonia became a model of junoesque, imposing beauty

ψ

Grappa is making all blurred at this point.

That is, we have traced some origins but couldn’t define that general concept that can embrace Horace, Mozart, Mauro Giuliani, Haydn, Raphael, Schubert, Pindar, Canova, Racine, Goethe, Jane Austen and many elements of British and American Georgian culture.

A glass of Grappa

Grappa. Click for attribution

Next time Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Busoni‘s aphorisms (big name, I know) on Mozart might help us hopefully.

Busoni’s aphorisms are in German since Busoni was Italian & somewhat German too [following Philippe's advice we try to expand language variety in this blog.]

See you then.

A vase made for the foreign market. Italians found it too rich.

How Can Japanese Little Girls Play European Classical Music Perfectly?

Japanese little girl. Click for attribution and to zoom in

In the previous post we have shown two little Japanese girls capable of perfectly playing some music of the classical period.

Which surprised me in many respects and made me reflect.

Germany, Vienna and Italy

First of all by ‘classical style’ we mean the music created from the mid 1700’s until the first decades of 1800 thanks to contributions from Germany (Southern Germany – Mannheim etc. -  but not only), Vienna and Italy, which changed the spirit & the technique of music into something inspired by the ideals of ancient classical art.

In other posts we’d mused about this magical region where many centuries earlier Roma and Germania met (and clashed,) ie the Roman provinces (Germania Superior, Raetia, Noricum and Pannonia) along the axis of what was once the limes germanicus or frontier of the ancient Roman Empire (look at this map!) that separated the world of Rome from the un-romanized Germanic (and non Germanic) tribes (read more: 1, 2, 3.)

It may be a simplification (and an obsession,) but that ‘classical music’ in its narrow sense (in the broad sense it refers to all Western art music since its beginnings) was much later to be born in such cultural crossroads – well, it didn’t happen in our opinion by mere chance.

[Roman & non Roman. Where are hence the traces of this duality in today’s societies? - we had asked ourselves]

Haydn. Portrait by Thomas Hardy. Wikipedia image

Now this ‘classical music’, that followed Baroque and developed before the spread of Romanticism, is characterized by formal balance, a certain restraint and a terse simplicity attained with extreme economy of means together with a very refined taste: which makes the performance of such art daunting despite its apparent easiness. Its model is in fact that of Hellenic art, although adapted to modern times (and to modern music, since we know so little of ancient music.)

This may be a reason why playing Mozart, Haydn or Boccherini and Clementi ‘well’, that is, with the necessary purity, is often more difficult than rendering subsequent and technically harder pieces of the Romantic and contemporary repertoire. I saw pianists who could easily play Brahms and Scriabin but sweated their way through the end of a Mozart adagio.

The Japanese and the Russians

Now, that these Japanese children, coming from a different planet, are able to do this extremely well – isn’t it amazing?

Classical balance and taste is nothing one can improvise. One needs to have breathed such air.

Take the Russians, such formidable musicians. Not completely European ok but closer to us than the Japanese for sure, they have traditionally always hesitated before the classical repertoire (and when they didn’t … the result was often not among the best.)

So, the Russians fail where the Japanese don’t – there must be something in those Eastern cultures I am not aware of.

Some readers have got any ideas?

ψ

In the meanwhile, as an Italian, I know the Japanese – a few I’ve met who study bel canto in Rome – love Italian opera quite a lot whose style always resisted the complexity of the romantic and late-romantic German harmonies and voicing (Verdi Bellini and Donizetti etc. on one hand, Wagner or Richard Strauss on the other hand: two different universes altogether! Roman & non Roman?)

Once more. What these oriental people may find in the Western ‘classical’ style of music?

Mario: “By the way, I heard that classical music makes hogs as fat as whales.”

MoR: “What?? Are you kidding me?”

Mario: “It is true! This Vietnamese pig farmer, Nguyen Chi Cong, found a new way to make his 3,000 hogs eat more quickly and happily by having them listen daily to the music of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. It seems the soothing effect is also working for other domestic animals!”

MoR: *Rolling eyes*

ψ

Related posts:

Music, Politics and History

Roman Limes. Between Two Worlds

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s Chilly Genius

From the two Sides of the Roman Limes

See also the series dedicated to the notions of ‘classic’ & ‘classical’ (1, 2 and 3)

Over at the Hannibal’s. Can We Really ‘Know’ the Greco-Romans? (2)

The Ancient Roman ‘Temple of all gods’ (Pantheon,) Rome. Click to zoom in

[continued from part 1]

Opinion and Knowledge (of the Ancients)

MoR: “Douglas, you are a friend and you raise here a big philosophical question: whether man can reach truth. I’m not qualified, my wife is the epistemologist of the family (she has a degree on philosophy of science) and all I understood (from our quarrels) is that ‘scientific’ research is all about trying to go beyond doxa, ie biased opinion, so you hit the nail on the head I believe.

By ‘research is progressing’ I meant: ok, we will possibly never ‘know’ these folks (Saxons invading Britain, Macedonians at the times of Alexander etc.) but the various ‘pictures’ we have of them are enriched day by day, researchers communicating more (such ‘pictures’ are interrelated), and, our sources being not only ancient literary texts (which reflect the view of the writer) but of course also the (less biased?) ‘data’ from archaeology, biology, from studies on agricultural techniques, fossil seeds etc.

As an example (also of various doxas coexisting), the ‘picture(s)’ of Rome’s fall – the period 300-600 CE, ‘late antiquity’ ie between antiquity and middle ages – have changed dramatically in the minds of many specialists, I believe, although the public still thinks in terms of a Gibbon’s progressively decadent, imploding empire (Gibbons mentioned Rome’s ‘immoderate greatness’ so that “the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight” plus he blamed Christianity for Rome’s weakening) which received the last blow by totally ‘rough’ Germanic barbarians.

Who is right? I don’t know, these younger historians though surely profiting from a lot more of multi-disciplinary data I think.

The Barbarian Kingdoms, ca. 526 CE. By the 6th century the Western Roman Empire had been replaced by smaller kingdoms. Click for credits and to zoom in

Feeling Too Superior, Was Rome ‘Murdered’?

It seems the news is ‘electric’ (as Peter Heather put it in his The Fall of the Roman Empire) for both the descendants of the Romans and of the Germans – I belonging to both a bit, as I said in my mystical (and emphatic) *first post*.

Basically:

  1. the ‘late’ Roman empire was a total success story.
  2. Germanic, non Roman, Europe was a two-speed reality (no new thing lol,) one portion being much more civilised than we had thought, surely influenced by Rome but absolutely non Roman (so this doesn’t include Bavaria or Austria, that were romanized, and, not by chance, when ‘Nordic’ Luther arrived, they said: no thanks).

So what the hell happened? Why healthy Rome fell?

Possibly because, blinded by her sense of superiority, Rome made fatal mistakes, and was murdered by the German Goths. Within though a period of ‘collaboration’ with the Germans.

[No easy topic the fall of Rome. Here's a big list of theories on it.]

[I believe Christianity helped a bit (love your enemy blah blah, Gibbon in this was right imo), but I still have to figure out to which extent.]

Even the German Women were terrific fighters

J. Caesar Admired German Valour

MoR: PS. Excuse my logorrhea, such ‘collaboration’ between Germans and Romans was started by Julius Caesar the Myth. One reason he conquered Gaul [today's France, Luxembourg and Belgium] was that the Germans, much stronger than the Gauls or Celts, were crossing the Rhenus (Rhine) in flocks and invading Gaul (so Caesar by conquering Gaul postponed an invasion that occurred much later with the German Franks, thence the name of France.)

Therefore Caesar, after defeating the Germans of Ariovistus, said to the toughest prisoners: “I admire your valour, so I give you a choice: either to be sold in the slave markets or to become my personal guard”. I think the Germans preferred the latter also because it was in their culture to follow the leader that proved most valorous.

Julius Caesar

Caesar took a risk, but not that much I believe. He belonged to the impoverished nobility and was a son of the slums of Rome (Subura) where he probably had lived in contact with Germans and Gauls long enough to understand their mentality. And surely, in the conquest of Gaul that ensued, the Germans proved much more faithful to Caesar than the Celts allied to the Romans. From that day many Roman emperors had German gorillas protecting them – not to mention foot soldiers and Cavalry, also used by Caesar.

Douglas: MoR, thus began the Praetorian Guard (under Augustus, successor to Julius) which became the controllers of the fates of emperors for 300 years until Constantine disbanded them. Perhaps that had something to do with the fall of Rome? Hitler seemed to have read his history well and created his own guard but tried to control them utterly and was quite successful in maintaining their total loyalty. Did il Duce? Certainly, he had his personal guard but they failed to protect him in the end from the citizens.

I think (to get back to history and understanding the common citizen of any culture or state) that with the expansion of literacy came more understanding. One source of great insight into American history is the correspondence between its citizens. These are the thoughts of the average citizen, not merely the hopes and dreams of the elite. Ancient Rome (and Athens, Egypt, and so forth) are known by what its rulers (for the most part) decided was important (and, often, flattering). To learn about the average citizen, we must make guesses and extrapolations based on myths and legends and on relics found. Do we taint these guesses and extrapolations with our own biases? Probably so.

But my bias is that history was, for centuries, the tales of kings and it was told as they wanted it told.

Old Temple of Athena at the Acropolis of Athens. Click for credits and to enlarge

MoR:

my bias is that history was, for centuries, the tales of kings and it was told as they wanted it told.

It certainly was Douglas.

MoR: [talking to both Douglas and Phil] “That you mentally associate the emperors of Rome with Hitler & Mussolini, is interesting. There’s not much linking to be made imo, apart from the masquerade etc. I explain it with the great tradition of democracy in your country, which, we Latin people, do envy.

As for the Praetorian guard, I just now read in the Wikipedia that their role – according to who wrote the article – was of stability to the Empire on the whole. I don’t think though the Praetorian guard (a substantial army) were Germans (I only believe a few gorillas around many emperors were). And maybe some of the Praetorians were, I don’t know. I’m sure instead the legions who fought against the enemies of Rome had a progressively increasing number of Germans, which in the end became a problem possibly.

Rome is an Idea

Rome was more an idea, she was pretty international. The emperors themselves (Spanish, Arab etc.) could come from any land of the empire (like the Popes.)

It is little known that Caesar’s legions who conquered Gaul came mostly from Gallia Cisalpina, today’s northern Italy (80% sure). Big difference was there between these Italian Gauls and, so to say, the French ones. The former were Celts too (though with doses of Roman & Latin blood) but wore the toga (Gallia Togata is another name for it), eg were deeply romanized (Virgil, Pompey the Great etc. came from there), hence immensely more faithful to Rome than any other external people.

They only lacked regular Roman citizenship, which was given them as a prize by Caesar at the end of his Celtic wars. So Caesar – no Hitler or Mussolini indeed – had also the merit to create the unity of Italians, re-attained only 150 years ago!

The Roman legion was a perfect and disciplined war machine. Click to zoom in

Do We Know the ‘Average’ Roman?

One source of great insight into American history is the correspondence between its citizens. These are the thoughts of the average citizen, not merely the hopes and dreams of the elite.

True, but pls, allow me, we know something (I’d say a lot) about the average Roman too (who btw exchanged letters – the middle class – but we have lost most of them). Comedies were for the common people as well, or they would have been unsuccessful – there were no cinema or TV, thence theatre was terribly important – plus we have thousands of graffiti – whole sentences, poems etc. – written by the upper middle and lower classes: you probably under estimate the complexity of ancient society, no less structured than ours. Yes, the lower classes could be literate too, although, ok, the rate of illiteracy was higher, but, since religion touched the middle and the lower milieus especially, and we knowing A LOT about it (by Roman religion I mean ALL the cults present in Rome, Christianity included) I can infer that:

We know a lot about the poor people as well. The whole (monumentally documented) history of the progressive success of Christianity tells tons of things about the lower classes of the whole empire from the times of early Christians onwards. Just think of the letters by Paul of Tarsus: he had to persuade the non Pagan populace of the Empire – slaves included: see image below – but most of all he had to inspire & guide the faith of the already Christian elements – his message hence being directed to ALL social classes, it goes without saying.

Places visited by Paul. His letters tell about the life of the common people of the empire

I mean, we even know – due to the translations of the Bible – the Greek & Latin language actually spoken by the populace: for the reasons you mention the language of the poor and of the rich differed in sophistication.

As for simple-to-the-masses Latin the first translations of the Bible – Jerome’s not by chance is called ‘vulgata’, from vulgus, populace – appeared in the 4th century CE if I’m not wrong. They were written in non literary, ‘vulgar’ Latin, – eg that everyone could understand – to the extent that today’s Italians with a high-school diploma can more or less read them, vulgar Latin and Italian being closely related (whatever you Phil may think about it lol :-) ).

I have to stop this, Douglas. Thanks for obliging this lazy old man to work.

Douglas:

That you mentally associate the emperors of Rome with Hitler & Mussolini, is interesting. There’s not much linking to be made imo, apart from the masquerade etc. I explain it with the great tradition of democracy in your country, which, we Latin people on the whole, do envy.

Actually, it is both of those men who made the association. Not unusual for more modern despots to see themselves in the same light as men whom history has portrayed as great.
(Gen. Patton saw himself as a reincarnation of soldiers of the past and, I suspect, great generals and military leaders)

Julius took control of the political structure of Rome and turned it away from being a true republic of the times. He had himself declared dictator. He took total control of both the political and military structures. And was assassinated for it. But he laid the groundwork for Augustus to become Emperor. In some ways, he created the Roman Empire. First, by expanding the territory under its control and, second, by changing its political structure and laying the groundwork for dictatorial rule.

As I understand it, the literacy rate of Rome was ~15%. This would be the elite ruling class and the “middle class”. The “middle class” would be better described as the merchant class. This would be where the graffiti came from, as well as the letters.

When I spoke of the correspondence of American citizens, it began with the literate classes. But later it expanded into the general public as education expanded. We were fortunate that we began as a country after the invention of the printing press and at the beginning of the expansion of literacy. It is more the good fortune of our time period than anything else.

Try to understand, I am not denigrating Rome’s history. I am trying to explain my scepticism of history in general before the advent of the spread of literacy.

ψ

Read part 1 of this conversation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers