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Category Archives: Greek Cousins

Alla faccia della Grande Bellezza (e in onore der Depardieu de Torpignattara), un pezzo di pianoforte romano-tosto (e per niente decadente)

Via Torpignattara, anni '50. Veduta del mercato e dell'incrocio con Via Casilina

“Via Torpignattara, anni ’50. Veduta del mercato e dell’incrocio con Via Casilina. Sullo sfondo Piazza della Marranella con l’abbeveratoio dei cavalli”. Cliccare per i credits, per altre immagini e accedere a un bel sito sul quartiere

Listen to this:
(by MoR, wait a few seconds)

ψ

Lello, er romanaccio Depardieu (always with us in spirit?) says:

“Un po’ contemporanea, ‘sta litania.”

Mario:

“What is this sh** …”

Experimenting (with
the Romanesco dialect)

[To the English-speaking: This post being partly written in the Romanesco dialect Google translations might be unpredictable]

[Al lettore italiano: parlare il romanesco, ok, ma scriverlo – e studiarlo come lingua – è un’altra cosa. 1° sperimento]

‘Nnamo (let’s start.)

Il Depardieu del Casilino

Gérard Depardieu al Film Festival di Brlino del 2010

Gérard Depardieu au Film Festival de Berlin (2010.)  Click for credits

Incontro Lello a un bar di Torpignattara. Sta ordinando una Ceres.

ψ

Ogni tanto ci capito, a Torpignattara, perché se hai fortuna incontri i romani veri – magari non del tempo di Tito (come gli ebrei del rione S. Angelo) – ma veri in ogni caso, di 7 generazioni.

ψ

Corpulento, sui 40 anni, i braccioni tatuati che se t’agguantano ti stritolano, Lello ha i tratti marcati e sarebbe il perfetto Gérard Depardieu del Casilino se fosse un po’ più gallico e un po’ meno scuro nei capelli e negli occhi.

Saltuariamente – al Pantheon, a piazza Navona, al centro, in definitiva – Lello compare e scompare come un fantasma suonando percussioni esotiche assieme a un contrabbassista emaciato, a un sassofonista colla panza tonda, e a un chitarrista eccezionale – il cappello calato e gli occhi quasi nascosti dalle rughe – che pare sia di Birmingham

[Lello dice che è di Birmingham e io gli credo]

Sorseggia la Ceres, guardandosi lentamente attorno. E’ il suo mondo, il suo ambiente.

Lello è un capo.

A ‘sto punto, dico, la ordino pure io, sta Danese perché è così particolare sto Lello che voglio che mi si sciolga la lingua (che me s’è come ingufita coll’età).

Sorrentino ce sta affa’ neri

La Grande Bellezza

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella in ‘La Grande Bellezza’ by Paolo Sorrentino

Dico:

“Lello, a fijo de ‘na mignotta, vviè cqua!”

Si avvicina. Sempre pronto allo scambio umano, in realtà parla pochissimo. Annuisce.

“Ahó, possin’ammazzatte – dico – co’ sta Grande Bellezza Sorrentino ce sta affa’ neri. Tutto il mondo parla di metafora: metafora qua, metafora là… mo’ pure gli Americani sur Nu York Times …”

Lello è impassibile. Un minuto, forse due.

Poi guardandosi le unghie, ‘na finissima ironia nello sguardo, comincia un bofonchio che cresce man mano e si fa cavernoso.

Capisco solo le ultime tre parole:

“[…] […] […] M-e-t-a-f-o-r-a de che”.

Una voce dall’antro. A sentirla di notte al buio. Depardieu mi fa impazzì.

Gran bucio de c… profumato

la grande bellezza

Cerco di provocarlo (sono teso, ho bisogno di fa’ casino).

Provo – un’imitazione ok – a crescere piano piano pure io per poi dargli dentro dopo 20 esatte parole:

“Beh, metafora dell’Italia – dico ‘n sordina, preciso -, d’un paese destinato al declino, con Roma – girata bellissima, per carità (sennò perché il titolo), – che poi in verità è ‘na pattumiera, è solo ‘na cloaca pure un po’ fine ma inzomma, lo vogliamo dire CAZZO, è come ‘N GRAN BEL BUCIO DE CULO TUTTO PROFUMATO – so’ cavernosissimo – co’ tanto de mignotte, ruffiani, pretacci (e nani!!) CHE CE CAMMINAMO TUTTI S-O-P-R-A !!!!”

[Ok, non sarò Augusto o Lello ecc, ma il romanesco lo mastico, mia nonna era di via Garibaldi]

The Great Beauty by

Altra pausa. Si beve. Il calore de ste Ceres comincia a impregnacce.

Lello, lo vedo, è un poco ‘allertato’.

Poi, una lievissima sfumatura di complicità (divertita?), Lello dice:

“Tutti sopra ‘sto bucio de culo”

“Tutti sopra ‘sto bucio de culo. Confermo” (mi guardo le unghie pure io)

“Che poi è profumato”
[non capisco se mi piglia per il culo; Lello è tosto, niente da dire]

“Che è profumato, riconfermo”.

C’è  qualcosa che non va. Però, provocato, sbotto come Augosto (quello a piazza de’ Renzi 15, che si incazzava continuamente – un’arrabbiatura bonaria – e Sandro il figlio – l’ho visto piccolo – è spiccicato).

“Ma dimmi un po’, a Lello, a te te piace? Vojo dì, a te te piace che Sorrentinos mostri ste zozzerie al mondo??”

Credo d’averlo beccato ‘n pieno. Errore. Ridiventa una statua.

Che soggetto, minchia, e potrebbe esse mio figlio …  :?

ψ

A ripensarci, ora che scrivo, mi salta in quel boccino (la testa) il solito carme:

[no in buzzurro ora [così tedeschi e anglosassoni erano chiamati a Roma; poi, dopo il 70, è stata la volta dei poveri piemontesi), ma carme nella lingua delle madri che la sera passeggiavano , passegg … lasciamo perdere]

Gigante immobile e paonazzo
(e sanguigno, diciamolo, come sto pezzo di …. Bacco).

ψ

Lello, dalle infinite risorse, trasfigura, la pelle gli si chiazza, l’occhio sinistro mosso da un lieve tremito.

Allora t’ho colpito, stronzo – penso. Ma … ti sarai ‘ncazzato?

Via di Tor Pignattara anni '40 circa

Via di Tor Pignattara anni ’40 circa. Courtesy di Silvestro Gentile. Cliccare per i credits

Seconda Ceres. Lo seguo a ruota. Comincia, si direbbe, a approfondirsi una certa atmosfera che è solo de ‘ste parti … discorso lungo, da non fare ora.

[Anche perché credo che ‘n ce porti a un cazzo]

Mario, homo novus
(e pallonaro)

Mario m’accompagna un bel giorno a Torpignattara.

E’ il classico chiacchierone fanfarone – niente a che vedere con gli Augusti, i Lelli -, al punto che la tragica diffusione a Roma di questo ‘tipo psicologico’ è uno dei motivi per cui molti italiani sparlano della Capitale.

Al bar, Mario mi parla di calcio, della sua vecchia Lancia vintage, delle ultime 10 partite (10!) di 4 squadre diverse. Non ci capisco molto.

Poi arriva Lello, e Mario commenta:

“Ma quello sta sempre zitto. Me sembra n’imbecille”.

[Ok, Lello-Depardieu è tranquillo – Mario non capisce un cavolo – ma già co gli occhi ti dice mille cose. Gli occhi di Mario, invece, esprimono il vuoto. Assoluto).

Dico:

“Imbecille? Errore grave, Mario mio, perché Lello, a te, te   s-e   m-a-g-n-a“.

Nonostante calchi la voce Mario se ne fotte e scrolla le spalle (co gli occhi – quasi punizione divina – riflettenti il nulla dell’anima sua).

[Che è l’anima? Non lo so, ma che Mario l’anima non ce l’abbia è l’unica cosa scientifica della storia della teologia]

Lello, antico,
laconico (e non cazzaro)

Lello invece è intelligentissimo, e, a differenza di Mario il cazzaro, ha un retroterra.

Sterminato.

Per darvi un’idea.

ψ

Da 20 anni frequenta il centro storico (“la mia famiglia è de llì: coi genitori, i nonni, i bisnonni e i trisnonni via cantando – arrivi fino a Adamo”).

Detto come una cantilena – difficile da spiegare – che è ritmata dalla ‘o’ di nonni.

ψ

Lo vedo una volta al mese, anche meno, oramai, ma so che c’è (e mi basta).

Lello è un capo, ripeto.

Mi dà la fiducia di pensare che qui in Italia tanta gente nonostante la crisi (qualcuno sta al palo purtroppo) se la cava, ai vari livelli della gradinata sociale.

Nell’arte della sopravvivenza, romani e italiani, sono professionisti, la storia è lì a dirlo.

E Lello, che il frescone Mario non capisce, Lello in realtà fa.

Un piccolo
ma fiorente commercio

Depardieu lavora, s’ingegna.

Buon marito e buon padre di due figli (non so le scappatelle), ha raggiunto la sua modesta prosperità con il commercio a costo bassissimo di cellulari e tablet, che la gente compra perché non gira più una lira.

Da qualche anno s’è fatto 2 o 3 esercizietti (stanzine, in definitiva) che visita più volte al giorno, la faccia del boss autorevole ma pensoso, quasi pensasse ad altro (e però tutto nota, tutto sa).

Esercizietti che gli so’ gestiti da 3 marocchini svegli che gli fanno da bassa manco tanto bassa manovalanza, che lo rispettano  – e che soprattutto gli vogliono bene.

Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia. Gnu Free documentation License

Il Mediterraneo è una casa comune. Al commercio, si sa, non gli n’è mai fregato gnente dee fedi diverse.

Lello dunque incede nel quartiere, coi tatuaggioni il nasone la faccia (e la stazza) del Depardieu zigano.

Una figura caratteristica come non ce ne saranno più in futuro (oppure no?) Ho sentito in giro a Roma giovanissimi di altri paesi che già parlano romanesco meglio di me.

Il tradizionale tuffo di Capodanno nel Tevere dal ponte Cavour di Roma

Il tradizionale tuffo di Capodanno nel Tevere dal ponte Cavour di Roma. Tanti sono stati i personaggi famosi in questo ‘sport’, almeno dal 1870 a oggi. Click for credits

Poi insomma cazzo (la terza Ceres, inesorabile …  :twisted:  ), ma a vedé sti romani che si tuffano ancora dai ponti (no Lello), con mezza falange in meno ar medio (sì Lello cqui: na sforbiciata a 16 anni).

A vedé cioè sti tosti che s’industriano, che non aspettano tutto dallo stato – ognuno col suo stile, qui e in altre regioni del paese, spina dorsale che impedisce al corpaccione italiano d’afflosciarsi.

In altre parole, a vedé una Roma e un’Italia positive nonostante le sofferenze, che non s’avvoltolano nella nevrosi, che non si prostituiscono, che non ballano nelle terrazze chic vista Colosseo con le narici incipriate, che non scopano le minorenni ai Parioli e nemmeno le minorenni slave sulla Salaria … cazzo!

A vedé questi giovani che lottano, che imparano le lingue straniere,  che vanno ‘n culo al mondo dovunque ci sia uno stracciaccio de lavoro, e così facendo – poverini poverini, si dice! – non diventano più deboli ma più forti fanghala, che si aprono la mente e il futuro …  (Mario – che mi sta vicino, compagno di scuola a cui in fondo voglio bene, me dice: eh dai, famo notte).

Sorrentinoooos!

Neapolitan Paolo Sorrentino

Neapolitan Paolo Sorrentino. His success at the Academy Awards granted him a Roman honorary citizenship. Click or credits and to enlarge

Ok, ok, a Mario, ma la domanda, scusate, che spontanea sorge a ‘sto punto fangulo, è la seguente:

A’ Sorrentinoooos! Sarai pure Napoletano talentuoso (lo sei) ma la conosci veramente Roma? O se la conosci – non credo – non te sarai mica  ‘mbo’ incazzato perché l’ambiente del cinema romano – che è poi quello italiano – è ‘na Grande Zozzeria, cogli outsider che so outsider semper, tanto che Villaggio (pure Pupi Avati?) s’è addirittura inbestialiddoooo?

Dice Fantozzi, ineffabile, a Mediaset:

“Sordi è il simbolo della ‘Grande Cattiveria’, la cattiveria dei Romani ‘che sono veramente, e profondamente, cattivi’ “

[detto poi con lo sguardo cattivo … chi vuole prendere per il culo]

Dice che i Romani sono 'cattivi', e che Albertone è il simbolo della Grande Cattiveria.

Pianoforte romano

Ora, a me il film de Sorrentinos piace, ma me fa pure ‘ncazzare.

Pertanto, in onore dei Lelli semper tosti e viventi (in periferia: l’hanno cacciati cogli sventramenti), residuo piccolo e coriaceo di una forza grande e suprema (la Roma grande, oramai passata).

In loro onore, dicevo, questa musica di pianoforte dedico, da romano – più fortunato e sfortunato insieme – ad altro romano.

[Mario: “Sei un cazzone“. Giovanni: “pure tu, stronzo, ma ti voglio bene”]

Pianoforte romano

Riproposta pure qui (Mario: “per puro narcisismo, cojone” “Sei un fregnone – ma ciai ragione?” “Sì” “No” “Sta minchia”) :

Per te, e per tutti voi – (Gino, Sergio, Spartaco, Gianni e Samanta), oltre che pe sti napoletani a cui vojamo bene, no Mario, so nostri cugini (compagno di scuola di origine napoletana, Mario) – butto là sto pezzo de … pianoforte non decadente (me lo si permetta, Sorrentinos).

Lello, romanaccio Depardieu, always with us in his a spirit, exclaims:

“Un po’ contemporanea sta litania.

Certo, stronzo (no, scusa, Lello, scusa) ma nello spirito almeno, e nell’anima (che abbiamo simili), ci metterà in qualche modo d’accordo …

 

Roman Renaissance fountan

 

Ecco un clip de La Grande Bellezza, in tutta la sua struggente, in all its aching … beauty.

Dulcis in fundo, il napoletano Pino Daniele, cantautore e chitarrista di vena raffinata, che canta Anna Magnani e il cinema romano.

[Così ricomponemo er tutto e famo pace :-)

“Stronzi” “Frocioni” “So ‘frocio ma me ne vanto” “Hai proprio ragione!”
Ma il partenopeo: “ste nutizie su A Grande Bellezza nu ssierve”
Depaardieu mostra i braccioni “a fijo de ‘na mignotta, vviè cqua” ma viene travolto da ‘na stilettata partenopea colta: “ta’ soreta è latrina, e m-a-t-r-e, a te, na  pumpinare jamme jamme JAAAMME!”]

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

Resources:

Provare tutto, dove si parla della ‘cugina greca’ di Roma, Νέα Πόλις
The Roman Jews (1). Are They the Most Ancient Romans Surviving?
Le coste meridionali del Mediterraneo:
Dove si parla del legame tra sponda nord e sud (araba) del Mediterraneo
e della vocazione, oltre che universale, mediterranea, della Città Eterna.

Web site di dialetto partenopeo
[
Wiki francese: “Dans la mythologie grecque, Parthénope (en grec ancien Παρθενόπης / Parthenópês, « celle qui a un visage de jeune fille », de παρθένος / parthénos, « jeune fille », en particulier « vierge ») est une des sirènesStrabon mentionne que son temple se situait dans la ville de Néapolis (actuelle Naples), où les habitants célébraient des jeux gymniques en son honneur.]

Poi, in tema di composizioni pianistiche (di resilience e- Mario -de fanfaroni”) :

L’inno all’Euro che non cede
L’hymne à l’Euro qui ne cède pas

Is the Human Mind like a Museum?

As for the human mind, I’ve often thought about the metaphor of the museum.

Our mind, one of the functions of our brain ‘and other parts of our body’ (Sledpress’ objection I found interesting,) contains and allows that we manifest the infinite traces of our past (past conceptions, language, behaviours) from Stone Age or earlier onwards. Evolution enters the equation, but we will leave it alone for now.

Whatever world region we are from, we should be concerned about probing such repository I believe, that is our roots or cultural ID.

Language is an important portion of this ID. What a great digging tool for example etymology is, ie history of words (shown a bit in our previous post, see a good on-line tool) although lots of things are there well beyond words (see points I and IV below.)

Ψ

A few examples, to better understand.

(Italian-mind related, but they could hopefully work as a method example to different minds as well)

I. The Greek fear in gods’ envy, yet present in South Italy and Greece:

“Not long ago my friend Mario took me for a drive on his stupendous vintage 1960 Lancia Flavia (see image below.) Mario is from Naples, a South Italian city founded by the Greeks in the 8th cent. BCE.

On the way back I exclaimed merrily: ‘Diavolo, this car is a gem, it has rolled as smoothly as olive oil!’

Mario snapped with a worried look: “Hush! hush! Don’t you say that!”

I well knew what he meant:

“Oh please you shut the hell up! Do you want the car to break down or anything bad to happen to us?” as if the mere utterance of happiness would attract ill luck or the envy from someone … Well, the envy from whom?

(read more).

The ancient classical Greeks (V cent. BCE) believed their gods lived an eternal blissful life and envied men too prosperous that dared to get close to their happiness. They then humbled and punished them. That ‘too prosperous’ means it was excess and arrogance (ὕβρις) that was basically abhorred by the Olympian gods, which made people afraid of showing their happiness, or of being arrogant. It was like a socio-religious regulation valve, plus a factor without a doubt of the mostly upper-class (tho not exclusively) marvellous ‘5th cent. BC’ Greek perfect equilibrium.

Polycrates tyrant of Samos (where Pythagoras was born by the way) led a too prosperous and arrogant life. Horrible was then his death, Herodotus notes

Now, 2400 years later (!) people in Southern Italy and Greece are still afraid of expressing satisfaction when things are going WELL, lest ‘something’ might spot them and whack them.

Such a great item in their museum mind allow me to say!!

(read more)


II.
Phrases and the Wheel related to the Roman Goddess Fortuna:

  • A personification of Goddess Fortuna (“they invoked their fortune”) seen as something capricious (“the tricks of fortune”) is deeply impressed in modern Western minds and language;
  • The wheel of fortune also used in many popular TV shows is a survival of the goddess, often represented with a wheel at her side (read more)

Spectacular remnants of the Sanctuary to the goddess Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina (ancient Praeneste), located just a few miles from Rome

III. When we say ‘deep in my heartor ‘she / he broke my heart’ we refer to a scientific superseded idea that the heart, and not the brain, is the seat of emotions. The Stoics saw in the heart the seat of the soul, Aristotle the seat of reason and emotion, the Roman physician Galenus the seat of emotions etc.


IV.
The Roman laughter

“Flavia’s ancient Roman laughter is heard in the room. It is loud, slightly crass, as it should be and as I hope it will ever ever be in the future, somewhat like a sympathetic, warm BIG HUG to the world.”
(from How To Learn Greek and Latin (2). Some Inspiration From Penates etc)

Another great mind item this laughter – I must record it some day – that belongs to the modern Roman mind, certainly not to the Greek one, modern or non modern.

Update
. Here is a sample of such laughter. Click on these words to listen to it: Marina’s (and MoR’s) laughter.

In short, before more details if you will

The γνῶθι σεαυτόν aphorism adapted to our 'museum' concept

There’s like a huge messy archive in our head so stuffed with things that just beg to be organized a bit and come to light.

Let’s get it all out dear readers. With meditation, concentration and fertile idea-exchanging let us make that inventory my good old Mentor used to mention us when we were so young.

As for my own cultural ID, I am trying to dig a bit with the present blog.

Ψ

[see in-depth details from our posts. Skip the first section – similar to the above writing – and start reading from Socrates’ T-shirt big face onwards – like the one above]

Related posts:

Fighting with Grandpa’s tomes. My Parents’ Marriage & the Roman Laughter

The Weird Story of a Beautiful Girl Whose Body Was Found Incorrupt in a Coffin

The Appian Way, the Queen of the Roads. Click for credits and larger picture

Found In The Appian Way

Rome, April 19, 1485. The corpse of a very young woman is found in a sarcophagus along the Appian Way [see image above,] face and body beautiful, teeth white and perfect, hair blonde and arranged on top of her head in the ancient way. The body seems as fresh as that of a girl of fifteen buried a few moments – and not 15 centuries – earlier.

From Antonio di Vaseli’s diary:

“Today the news came into Rome … The said body is intact. The hair is long and thick; the eyelashes, eyes, nose, and ears are spotless, as well as the nails. … her head is covered with a light cap of woven gold thread, very beautiful … the flesh and the tongue retain their natural colour.”

Messer Daniele da San Sebastiano, in a letter dated 1485:

Marbe statue of a young Roman woman. Click for credits and larger size“In the course of excavations which were made on the Appian Way … three marble tombs have been discovered … One of them contained a young girl, intact in all her members, covered from head to foot with a coating of aromatic paste, one inch thick. On the removal of this coating which we believe to be composed of myrrh, frankincense, aloe, and other priceless drugs, a face appeared, so lovely, so pleasing, so attractive, that, although the girl had certainly been dead fifteen hundred years, she appeared to have been laid to rest that very day. The thick masses of hair … seemed to have been combed then and there … the whole of Rome, men and women, to the number of twenty thousand, visited the marvel ..that day.”

Rodolfo Lanciani (1845 – 1929) – the Italian archaeologist from whose work I took the above quotes – collects other testimonies:

“The hair was blonde, and bound by a fillet (infula) woven of gold. The colour of the flesh was absolutely lifelike. The eyes and mouth were partly open … The coffin seems to have been placed near the cistern of the Conservatori palace [on the Capitoline hill, see image below], so as to allow the crowd of visitors to move around and behold the wonder with more ease.”

Palazzo dei Conservatori with its new façade by Michelangelo

Jacob Burckhardt‘s (1818 – 1897) comment on the whole episode is remarkable:

“Among the crowd were many who came to paint her. The touching point in the story is not the fact itself, but the firm belief that an ancient body, which was now thought to be at last really before men’s eyes, must of necessity be far more beautiful than anything of modern date.

Yes, touching, and revealing.

She was more beautiful than anything modern because she came directly from ancient Rome.

Sweeping Europe With Greece And Rome

Why classical antiquity, the past, had become so attractive?

A new fervour of rediscovery coming from Italy had begun to sweep Europe: manners, architecture, eloquence, military techniques and the overall thought of Greece and Rome.

Antiquity had exerted occasional influence on Medieval Europe – argues Burckhardt – even beyond Italy. Here and there some elements had been imitated, northern monastic scholarship had absorbed extensive subject matter from the Roman writers.

“But in Italy the revival of antiquity – Burckhardt observes – took a different form from that of the North. The wave of barbarism had scarcely subsided before the people, in whom the antique heritage was not completely effaced, and who showed a consciousness of its past and a wish to reproduce it. …

In Italy the sympathies both of the learned and of the people were naturally on the side of antiquity as a whole, which stood to them as a symbol of past greatness. The Latin language too was easy to an Italian …”

A new ideal coming from the past was about to boost Europe forward.

Classicism Towards The Future

The School of Athens by Raphael, Rome, the Vatican. Click for credits

I was hit a few weeks ago by this passage from the on-line Britannica:

“For Renaissance humanists, there was nothing dated or outworn about the writings of Plato, Cicero, or Livy. Compared with the typical productions of medieval Christianity, these pagan works had a fresh, radical, almost avant-garde tonality.

Indeed, recovering the classics was to humanism tantamount to recovering reality….In a manner that might seem paradoxical to more modern minds, humanists associated classicism with the future.

The point is classical thought was not constrained by preconceived ideas. A new spirit of doubt and inquiry was arising. A new world was dawning.

Ψ

Getting back to that beautiful girl, her golden hair and cap made shiny by the sun, we now better understand the impact, the feelings, the deep inspiration she exerted on the people who flocked to see her.

She was seen as a miracle. She was like a fairy appeared by magic from the great times of ancient Rome.

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

References

Rodolfo Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York, 1892.
Accessible on-line in Bill Thayer’s Web Site LacusCurtius, a marvellous resource on Roman Antiquity. Quotes from here.

Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, translated by S. G. C. Middlemore, 1878.
Available as Gutenberg text. Quote from here.

Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. “Humanism.”  Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Mar. 2009

Note on a Calabrian Greek

There is some evidence that the Italian Renaissance was not only imitation of antiquity, but its partial resurrection. We’ll just say here that Italy had a direct, ethnic and linguistic, connection not only with the Romans but also with the Greeks. Greek dialects were spoken in Southern Italy until a few years ago. They almost disappeared during Fascism who discouraged linguistic minorities.

[See our two posts on the Grikos (1 & 2), South Italians descending from the Greeks of Magna Graecia and Byzantium]

Interesting for our writing is Barlaam the Calabrian (ca. 1290 – 1348), an Italian Greek “by ethnic descent and language.” Great scholar “he was the instructor of both Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio [the first humanists], and their writings owe much to him.” (Wikipedia)

He helped Boccaccio to translate Homer into Latin thus preparing the groundwork for Renaissance.

Italian Songs. Anna Magnani, Dean Martin, Pavarotti and the Three Tenors

Abbasso la Ricchezza, an Italian movie of 1946, with Magnani and De Sica

Reema has tagged me for a post that should present a few melodious and soulful songs in Italian and in another language of my choice. So I chose some Italian songs from Rome and Naples (sung often in their respective dialects) and some Italy-related American songs sung in English by Dean Martin, the great charmer of Italian descent. I’m sure Reema, this nice and spunky Indian lady, will vigorously protest saying some of these songs are not soulful or melodious enough. Well they are, but in their own way.

Anna Magnani, the Heart of Rome

Lupa and Vestal (a chaste priestess), aristocratic and tramp, dark and buffoonish: this is how the Italian director Federico Fellini depicted Anna Magnani. Anna was not a perfect beauty but she had more than beauty. Here she sings Quanto sei bella Roma (Rome how beautiful you are) composed in 1934 by Bixio. The film is Abbasso la ricchezza, (Down with Riches), directed by Gennaro Righelli in 1946. I adore Anna’s low pitch rich-textured voice.

I wonder if you noticed Anna’s joyful laughter. In the video next to the one below you might better perceive how mocking, tragic and a bit crass it can also be. It’s the typical (and complex) Roman laughter from a town both noble and vulgar, I know I’m blunt about it. This – please allow me – is possibly due to remnants of ancient mores and to a peculiar history: the base ways in which the Roman populace was entertained (with gladiators etc.) to be kept quiet might have left traces, for example. Sounds a bit like the world of today, with vile Tv and movies ruling, doesn’t it.

Born in the Roman slums in 1908, Anna displays this weird mixture of nobility and crudity, of impudence and extreme moral strength. She is the perfect symbol of Rome. Here she sings Scapricciatiello, a Neapolitan song by Ferdinando Albano (1894 – 1968). The film is The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) and the guy playing the guitar is Anthony Queen, her husband in the plot.

Now a stornello romano from Mamma Roma (1962), with French subtitles, starring Anna Magnani and Franco Citti. A stornello is a Roman folk song where each strophe often begins with ‘fiore di’ (flower of…), the rest being improvised, which allows the man and the two women in the video to mock one another in ways, well, typical from here.

Anna plays the role of a prostitute during the post-war period, when Italians were struggling for survival. In this scene she is very upset because her pimp (Citti, with a moustache) has married the other woman. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini the film was judged immoral by critics and the public due to swearing.

Sweet Feelings of a City

Getting closer to the sweetness of the city, the Roman folk singer Gabriella Ferri sings Roma forestiera, (Stranger Rome), 1947, a song lamenting the post-war social transformation of Rome. The original Youtube movie inserted showed scenes from the films Mamma Roma and Roma città aperta, directed by Roberto Rossellini, probably one of the best Italian films ever produced. The movie is no longer available on Youtube for copyright infringement. Here another one with the same song Roma forestiera sung by Gabriella Ferri.

Now Arrivederci Roma, a song composed by Renato Rascel and sung by Claudio Villa, my favourite Roman folk singer. Born in Trastevere Villa has a wonderful voice but languages are not his forte (he pronounces ‘goobye’ instead of ‘goodbye’). Very beautiful pictures of Rome (but much better ones in the video next to this).

Another song by Renato Rascel, Roma nun fa’ la stupida stasera (Rome please behave tonight), sung by a bunch of artists – see credits at the end – and with a set of pictures among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Here the core meaning of the song: (the man) “oh Roma, be as romantic as possible and help me to make her say yes to me;” (the woman) “oh Roma, be as unromantic as possible and help me to say NO to him!”

Italy in America. Dean Martin

And now our great Dean Martin (Dino Paul Crocetti) who sings a Neapolitan song Torna a Surriento (English title Take Me In Your Arms.) This man and ALL the songs in this post really remind me of my first youth, I’ve got to thank Reema for it. Enjoy also some nice pictures of the Sorrento area, where – allow me again – the Romans first mixed up with the Greeks.

Listen now to On an Evening in Roma (Sott’er Cielo de Roma), one of Dino’s great Italian love songs (1961). The video is full of Rome’s great pictures.

Naples and the Three Tenors

We’ll finish with two beautiful Neapolitan songs. Here is Parlami d’amore Mariu’ (Talk me of Love Mariu’) by the Neapolitan composer Bixio. It is performed by the three tenors Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras and Placido Domingo in Paris (1998).

Finally, as the cherry on the pie, Non ti scordar di me (Don’t forget me) by the Neapolitan composer Ernesto De Curtis. It is sung by Luciano Pavarotti in Budapest.

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

PS
I know, I have dedicated so much space to music on Rome, but this is the Man of Roma’s blog, after all.
I’ll though say here aloud what it is already well known: the tradition of the Neapolitan song is much greater than that of Rome.

ψ

Related posts:

Experiencing All

Pre-Christian Rome lives

Mare Nostrum, Patriarchy, Omertà. 2

Cloister of the Monreale Cathedral, Sicily

Cloister of the Monreale Cathedral, Sicily. Click for attribution

The Contribution of Islam

In the previous installment we have spoken of the Egyptian society described by Naguib Mahfouz and of the Tunisians. We have also mentioned Italian Naples and Sicily (see the splendid Monreale cloister above). We wanted to emphasize the mutual influences between the North and the South shores of the Mediterranean and at the same time show how many behaviours – defined as Islamic, such as the patriarchal control of women – belong in reality to the endless past of the civilizations.

The Muslims influenced not only Italy but Spain, Greece and other Mediterranean areas as well. In truth they influenced almost the entire world since between the VIII and the XII centuries AD Islam stretched from the Atlantic in the West (Spain) to large portions of Asia. For the very first time in history more than 3000 years of experiences were accumulated from civilizations the most various – Sumer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Syria, Persia, China and India.

Most importantly, all this was re-transmitted by them to the rest of the world: forgotten Greek texts and medicine, Indian numerals (called Arabic since that time), Chinese papermaking and thousands of other innovations. This whole wisdom and refinement was concentrated by the way (and for a long time) in the city of Baghdad, that same city whose historical treasures were looted and destroyed because of the present foolish Iraqi war.

It is hence fair (and a bit uncomfortable) to remember that Europe – which during the Middle Ages had forgotten a lot – was gradually given back by the Muslims not only large portions of its classical culture but also something that went well beyond the confines of the Greco-Roman civilization. The big leap Europe was about to make at the end of the Middle Ages was possible also because of this contribution.

More than We are Willing to Admit

North Africans and Islamic countries are linked to Europeans more than we are willing to admit. If the Turks want to enter the Euro zone it is also because they feel somewhat part of our world. Southern and Northern Italians (think of Venice), Spaniards, Greeks etc. received many elements from the Oriental cultures.

Hard-to-deny connections. This might though disturb some reader (of this devil’s advocate) ;-)

Why? Because Muslims are not well seen today. A post by Nita, an Indian journalist and blogger (and an excellent source of knowledge on India), provides statistics from the Pew Research Global that show how “while more and more Muslims are turning away from the extremists, more and more people are turning away from Muslims.”

A PewResearch table cited by Nita

In the Wikipedia’s entry on Sicily I was reading yesterday that in a “recent and thorough study the genetic contribution of Greek chromosomes to the Sicilian gene pool was estimated to be about 37% whereas the contribution of North African populations was estimated to be around 6%.”

True or not, I read between the lines – I may be wrong – like a desire to prove that Sicily and Southern Italy have little to do with North Africans. Even if so, hasn’t genetics – as far as I know – little to do with cultural transmission? One can be mostly Greco-Roman genetically though subject to multi-layered cultural influences coming from no matter where.

Ψ

We will end up this second (and last) part of our journey with two notes.

Marble head of a veiled Greek Woman

Marble head of a veiled Greek Woman. Late 4th century BC. Click for source

Veiled women. As far as the veil, to think of it as Islamic is incorrect because it was widely used by the Assyrians, Hittites, Greeks (see the picture on the left), Romans and Persians. In medieval Europe (and in Anglo-Saxon England) women were dressed more or less like Muslim women are dressed today.

In Judaism, Christianity and Islam “the concept of covering the head is or was associated with propriety. All traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, show her veiled.” (Wikipedia).
I remember my mother always wearing a veil in church. It was a common practice in Catholicism (but not only) until the 1960s.

Sexual jealousy. It seems to be present in Islamic societies and in all those patriarchal societies obsessively concerned for true paternity. In today’s Islamic forums there is a lot of discussion (and more or less condemnation) about jealousy.

It is said that Sicilians and Calabrians are usually more possessive than other Italians. Some cultural connection with Islam in this respect may be possible. It is to be noted that honour killings were easily forgiven by law in Italy, France and other Mediterranean countries until recently.

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

Related posts:

Mare Nostrum, Patriarchy, Omertà. 1
Permanences. Rome and Carthage

The Southern Shores of the Mediterranean
Love Words from Egypt
Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 1
Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 2

Mare Nostrum, Patriarchy, Omertà. 1

Sicilian old men. 2008

Secrecy & Omertà

At the end of an earlier post we had invited Naguib Mahfouz (see picture below), the Nobel-prize Egyptian writer, to help us to understand the ancient world of the Mediterranean. Let’s consider today how the charming characters in his Cairo trilogy do tons of forbidden things: they drink alcohol, they cheat and eat pork, but all is done in secret and keeping up the appearances.

Two daughters of Ahmed Abd el-Gawwad – this Egyptian patriarch par excellence and main character of the trilogy – quarrel and one of them angrily denounces her sister’s husband to her mother: “He drinks wine at home without hiding!”

Which reminds us of some Tunisian people who were drinking beer in a coffee house in Tunis and who confessed: “Nous on fait tout, mais en cachette” (we do everything, though in secret).

It is irresistible not to think about Sicily, where doing things in secret is well ingrained (Sicily was under Tunisian rule for 400 years). And what about omertà, which makes defeating Mafia so difficult?

Omertà is a code of silence that seals the lips of men even when innocent and protects mafiosi in Italian southern regions like Sicily, Calabria and Campania. We’re sure there is some connection between the said secrecy behaviour and Mafia’s omertà.

[By the way, is all this so remote from that omertà that protects Osama bin Laden in territories where everybody is so capable of keeping secrets? A weird association? Hard to say. Back to Mahfouz and to the Mediterranean]

The Power of Man on Woman

Naguib MahfouzAnother element is the power a husband exerts on his wife. That same angry sister tells her mother about the other sister’s misdemeanours: “She drinks and smokes, acting against God and with Satan.”
Her disconsolate mother replies: “What can we do? She is a married woman, and the judgement of her conduct is now in the hands of her husband…” (I am freely summing up the text).

This is Islamic society, one could say. Ok, but this patriarchal power is much older than Islam and was present both in ancient Greece and Rome (although from the late Republic onwards Roman women – especially within the upper classes – gained a wider freedom). So it is a misconception to think of all this as Islamic. Many Muslim societies (not all of them) simply stick to ancient traditions widespread in the Mediterranean and elsewhere much before Islam arrived, which doesn’t mean we like women to be submitted to man’s power, no, no. And this is certainly not Italy’s contemporary life, even though in the South something of a more ancient patriarchy still seems to survive.

The honour of the family

Speaking of patriarchy, the honour and dishonour of the family falls upon the father or husband. Ahmed Abd el-Gawwad, called by his daughter’s mother-in-law because of his daughter’s misconduct, thus reproaches her: “Nothing that was raised in my house should be stained by such behaviours! Don’t you realise that the whole evil you are doing brings dishonour to me?”.

Again it is tempting to think about Neapolitan Eduardo De Filippo‘s Natale in casa Cupiello, a delightful comedy in which Luca Cupiello (Eduardo), exasperated with is wife Concetta, cries aloud: “La nemica mia! La nemica della casa!” (This enemy of mine! This enemy of the house!), where he clearly considers himself to be THE house, in such a funny and masterly way, because Eduardo and the Neapolitans are so refined and adorable (the Greek cousins of Rome) despite all the problems now Naples is facing.

Naples. The castle and the Volcano

And again it is clear that patriarchy is prior to Islam, Naples, Sicily etc. It was previously present in Rome, Greece, Carthage etc. And it existed in Mare Nostrum and elsewhere long before these civilisations arrived. Records of it seem to be as far back as the 4th millennium BC.

We have tried to explore some Mediterranean traditions with the help of Naguib Mahfouz, and we have mused about some possible influences between the North and South shores of this sea. It seems clear to us that every study of present ways of thinking (European, Islamic, Sicilian, Neapolitan etc.) is not wholly understandable without looking at the endless past of the civilizations (see also the concept of the mind like a museum in the last section of our post Knowing Thyself).

(to be continued)

Ψ

Other related posts:

Permanences I
The Southern Shores of the Mediterranean
Love Words from Egypt
Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 1
Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 2

Knowing Thyself

This is a continuation of the previous post where we have narrated three episodes each containing an example of the Greek fear in gods’ envy.

What is this envy? Well, since the Greek gods lived an eternal and blissful life they watched with an envious eye men who were too prosperous and happy, hence they humbled and punished them, hence men were afraid to express their happiness too loud, lest some envious god might spot them and hit.

The 3 episodes also showed that in modern Greece and some parts of Italy, especially in the South, people’s minds can still contain elements of the antique Greco-Roman culture. Italians do not believe in these gods any more (well, deep inside who can say that,) but there are still people here who are afraid of expressing satisfaction when something is going very well, lest ill luck might whack them (it is to be noted that the Italian coastal South was first  colonized by the Greeks – Magna Graecia – , and only later assimilated by the Romans).

Andy, an Englishman living in Milan, thus commented: “I find it strange how Italians, for all their religion, are so superstitious. And your post shows how not much has changed in all these years.”

Well, is this fear a superstition? Probably, but superstition after all is an irrational belief, so I wouldn’t oppose religion and superstition, they appearing to me to be the same (Andy agrees: see below his comment).

Moreover, superstitious or not, it is a fact that Italians were civilized long before Christianity arrived. So they are still a bit pagan at heart even though they captained the spread of the Christian religion. Hard to understand, I know, but true in my opinion.

Greek vase from South-Italian Greeks. Wikimedia

Greek vase from South-Italian Greeks. Click to enlarge and for description

Andy, together with Indian Falcon and Ashish – two other aficionados of this blog – also found incomprehensible this attitude of the Greek gods. “Is something who is so envious worth being cared for..?” wondered Falcon.

I know this envy seems only negative – I replied. Men shouldn’t be too happy since gods only should be happy: it sounds mean, no doubt (read later about these gods’ amorality). The positive thing underlying all this, however, was that it lead to a common people’s wisdom, kind of a tendency towards a moderate life (in a good sense). For the upper classes it was also a matter of style, of behaving without ostentation or vulgarity. There was some arrogance in Polycrates’ life, so he died a terrible death: this is somewhat a lesson. When Greece began its decadence someone wrote: “modesty and virtue are now powerless, lawlessness rules and men do not strive any more against gods’ envy”.

In other words, this fear of gods’ envy was like a regulation valve. It helped, together with other elements, to develop temperance and the good style in life. Classical Greece (V cent. BC) was a civilization based on an admirable equilibrium. The golden mean. A concept we frequently get back to.

Another point is that the Greek ancient gods were amoral and whimsical. They didn’t care much about good and evil. Weirdly enough this had a good effect as well. Men didn’t think gods were morally perfect while men full of iniquity, and, since they could not count on these whimsical gods’ help, men had to make their own destiny and had to believe in their worth. Western man thinks instead that he is corrupted and a sinner from the beginning (original sin) and that only God can save him.

[The Renaissance only by developing humanism and humanitas has mitigated this belief by stressing both man’s worth and freedom. Incidentally, the Renaissance origin, Italy, and its deep meaning, the rediscovery of the classical world, are not fortuitous, how can they be, they representing like survivals of the ancient world popping up again not only as mere imitation]

Finally Greek men were not striving to be good just because they expected a reward from god(s) or feared their punishment. Given such unpredictable gods, when men were good they were such because they really wanted to, not for any other external reason.

Human Mind like a Museum

As a conclusion, we’ll expand a bit something we said about our country. There are areas of the Italian South which are still developing and which contain more than elsewhere precious elements of our ancient culture. In short, they are like a museum.

I would add that every man’s mind is like a museum, no matter where he comes from, since it contains almost infinite traces of past conceptions, from Stone Age onwards, though without an inventory. This Magister said many years ago. He said we should make such an inventory. To criticise our mind – he explained – is to make such an inventory.

Knowing thyself, a Socratic principle, seems therefore still valid today.

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