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Themes from Man of Roma

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The Roman Forum. Click for credits and larger image

I’d love to know
How things got to be
How they are.

[Marilyn Monroe]


Here is a first selection of themes from Man of Roma. Each link leads to pages with excerpts from our posts that illustrate the chosen themes. I couldn’t get much into the conversations kicked off by the posts for lack of time. You can have a look yourself since lots of additional materials are in the comments area of the linked posts.

This page is meant for those interested in finding their bearings in the ideas of this blog. You will notice leitmotivs that circulate and I have also chosen themes related to one another.

Another theme selection – to be published not immediately, I don’t want to lose all my readers – will regard the relationships between South and North Europe, Europe and North America, East and West, Great Britain and the Continent and much more.


The Human Mind is Like a Museum
The human mind is like a museum since it contains almost infinite traces of past conceptions, from Stone Age onwards. Words, language are an important portion of this museum, but lots of things are there that go way beyond words. In short, a huge disorganized archive we have in our heads and that we should inventory. It’s the activity of this blog, a little bit.

The Legacy of Rome
Rome is the city of the soul (as Byron and Victor Hugo put it,) of our authentic Western soul, since Europe and the West were shaped here, and Rome’s legacy is greater than we think.

Folks of the Mediterranean Sea
The Italian and Roman soul is intimately tied to the folks of the Mediterranean. We are all related. Food, plants and plenty of traditions are similar. On a long-period perspective we belong to the same historical stream, to the same area from which some of the great civilizations have germinated on this side of the planet. Of course there are differences among us, but we are not so dissimilar as someone might (or likes to) think. Many behaviours, defined for example as Islamic, actually belong to the ancient past of Mare Nostrum, the context and stage of all that made us the way we are.

Influences of the Classical World
The Greco-Roman classical civilization has moulded the world we live in today. Influences and survivals can be seen in behaviours, arts etc.

Sex and the City (of Rome)
An exploration of Greco-Roman sexuality and of what is left today of such different mores. I have dedicated a series of 5 posts (out of 105) to this theme but the series is always in the ‘top posts’ list on the right column. I wonder why.
I have tried to understand how alien Greco-Roman sex can be vis-à-vi contemporary sexuality, and why things have changed so much since then.

Dialogue Among Civilisations
Some communication has occurred with non Western people, very enriching though not always easy. Great civilizations tend to close-up a bit – noble gases, Ashish, one witty commenter of this blog, called them –  they being like complete in themselves. We had good connection with the Indians. Their good English has helped. Rediscovering one’s heritage doesn’t exclude others, quite the contrary. It means having something peculiar to transmit, in order to be able, in our turn, to receive.

“The deeper one goes into one’s own experience – argued Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan – […] the more does one’s experience have in common with the experiences of others […]. The most unique is the most universal. The dialogues of Buddha or of Plato, the dramas of Sophocles, the plays of Shakespeare are both national and universal. The more profoundly they are rooted in historical traditions, the more uniquely do they know themselves and elicit powerful responses from others.”

Survivals of Roman Religion
When talking about religion it is important to understand that history and faith, science and theology fly on different planes and shouldn’t be confused. By Roman religion we mean any cult that was followed in ancient Rome, also foreign ones. As an example, the cult of the Anatolian Kybele, the great mother-goddess, was established on the Palatine Hill in 210 BC, according to Livy. To the historian, anthropologist etc. the number of Roman religion survivals is impressive.

Crisis of Values in Affluent Countries
We all here in the West must encourage a totally new different attitude which can enable us to better face both our present crisis of values and the radical changes ahead which might cause our swift decline. In Europe especially religion is waning and people sometimes embrace weird beliefs (see below Neo-pagan underground temples in Northern Italy.) Rich countries should be full of happy people, all the requirements for happiness (or serenity) being present. Nonetheless one has the impression that often void rules and that people don’t know any more which are the right choices in everyday life.

Neo-pagan stunning temples secretly carved out below ground in Northern Italy. Click for source file (Daily Mail)

The Greco-Roman Roots of the West
Similar to the ‘Influences of the Classical World’ but seen from a different viewpoint.

Traces of Paganism in Italians
Sometimes Italians, especially from the South, are considered superstitious. Whatever we mean by this word, these superstitions seem often remnants of the Greco-Roman past. Italians were highly civilized long before Christianity arrived (9-10 centuries earlier,) while many Northern Europeans became civilised together with, and thanks to, Christianity. This couldn’t be without consequences.

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

About manofroma

Nato a Roma il 1-11-1948

33 responses »

  1. Such a production. I envy you.

  2. Congratulations on your 100th post. I like the way you organized the subject matter, easy for us to peruse and absorb.

    Now, on another note: Costo has nominated your blog for The Shining Light Award. Please drop by my blog and pick it up. You have earned it.

    • Thank you so much Rosaria!! It is a great honour. Are you really sure I deserve it? I hope I can show it on my right column here. This blog theme is very primitive graphically. Ciao e grazie ancora. See you soon.

  3. Good morning

    you have done some clearing up and rearranging at the forum…I will now be able to peruse at leisure…

    Happy days

    • Good afternoon Delwyn,
      thank you. I hope now materials are more easily reachable. I’m reading your very melodious prose and ‘tripping into’ your world (an expression of the 60s my Californian friends used often – any souvenir of that?)

      All the best
      From South West

  4. Came to know a lot of Rome which i had know from history books and forgotten… :)And some i came to know from this blog.. 🙂 keep writing 🙂

    • Ciao India! Glad you came back. I commented at your post on Goa. I was there almost 35 years ago. But I confess I was more interested in Hindu India. That was the India I was looking for. Ciao and thank you.

  5. This is nice way of summarizing your work on one post! 🙂

  6. @Poonam

    Thanks to both for dropping by and glad you liked this post. See you soon!

  7. Come on! You summarise your blog and forget to put in a single photo of Aphrodite? [Nor even a single mention of her?] I protest!!

  8. Giorgio,
    I’m reading your past posts and can’t find the history of democracy. I know you probably hit upon it here and there under other themes. It would be nice to have a linear trace from Greece on. Or, anyway you want to do it.

    This takes me back to my high-school days in Italy, when history and the classics were the foundation.

    Keep this up, please. We hunger to rediscover our roots.

    • Thank you Rosaria. Yes, roots are in our head and explain why we do this or that, which should concern us.

      Democracy. I hit upon it under other themes though I’ll think now of a draft thing, to please you. I’ll be flooding as usual 😦

      Generally I tried to concentrate on the positive side of our heritage. The Greco-Roman world was undemocratic and elitist. It’s the Ancient world, where injustice thrived. Democracy saw its birth in Athens, but even there a small minority only had civil rights, women slaves and foreigners being excluded. Globally, Greece was not democratic at all. Republican Rome had a very smart constitution in some way, a mixture of monarchy oligarchy and democracy, but 200-300 great families (gentes or clans) had actually all power and wealth in their hands. During the Empire something changed but not much, the Empire being an absolute monarchy supported by the people, a Big Man and its bureaucracy controlling all, with again a class of landowners at the top of all that mattered.

      After a long process, from Magna Carta onward, democracy was bettered, as we know it now, by the Anglo-Saxons. Now all the West is more democratic thanks to them, but, I’m asking myself, isn’t this democracy just a surface in many countries, especially the Latin ones? In the Latin countries we still bear the traces of this elitism and deficiency. So many Italians had to flee to the New World because of injustice. Call it selfishness, tradition (or stupidity.) Even literature and science here have a noble tone which reveals their aristocratic, for the happy few, nature (things are though changing.)

      As for Italy, we have the immense honour of having invented Fascism and Mussolini, and now we have Berlusconi, and the everlasting ‘old boys network’ – Patronatus, clientes being Latin words, not by chance. France is a bit better, but she needed that awful blood bath that was the French revolution. And yet, are the French totally democratic? Well, many fell in love with Hitler during the German occupation, they later fell in love with de Gaulle – this grand-grand son of Luis XIV and Napoleon. Now? Sarko.
      They are in better shape, no doubt, since Berlusca is unique. After Fascism, is what he represents a new Italian invention, power controlling ALL the media?

      On the same note, I think the Big Man is a Greek thing. It’s the Greek hero, from Homer onward (Achilles, Odysseus, Alexander etc.), the superior-to-all Man whose superlative qualities entitle him to command. These Greeks were at the base of so many things. Big Roman Men like Scipio Africanus (who defeated Hannibal,) Sulla, Caesar etc. found their models in Greek culture, since the original Roman tradition was that of self-effacement, self-subordination to the state, never of prima donna. Cato the Elder despised this Big Man thing and all that was Greek, he tried to stop Greek influence in the name of pristine tradition, but failed (and when old studied Greek.)

      Greek influence was of course a great thing. In this respect though brought additional problems to the original (undemocratic) Roman framework. Civil wars and later empire are partly derived from that.

      Just processing a few ideas. Hope it made sense. Thanks for making my juices work on associations Rosaria.

  9. True “democracy”, »demos=people» and «kratein=to command», the people rule is non-existant in our time anywhere save maybe in some tribal societies and then the elders speak for the people. True democracy may have existed several thousand years before the word was crafted in very primitive societies when cooperation was a matter of survival but it was dead when that word was born.

    • Of course Paul. But all is relative. What you have in Canada or in America is better than nothing. Even what we have in Italy is ok compared to many places. I have been to countries where Internet cafes, hospitals, public offices are full of spies that report all to the police. In Tunisia a teenager was sent to prison for 15 years or something just because he wrote ‘Jihad’ in a forum, he was no terrorist, a well know episode in Tunisia.

      Paul, don’t forget to add your full link, so you can be reached. http://potsoc/ is not complete. I’ll change it with the full address:
      Unfortunately my blog comment link is almost invisible. It appears at the head of the comment.

  10. @ Rosaria

    U have asked a difficult task to MOR.

    Becoz …U have to define “democracy ” first!!!

    Now, This time I might be blabbering a little please try to understand…. ( yeah I always write loads of craps so I know I won’t make much sense. )

    Democracy has been defined by different people, at different time and have held different meaning and characteristics.

    So what do u mean by democracy is important to seek it’s time line. Democracy in it’s current form/meaning can be traced it’s origin to Britain some where in 17th century.

    Certainly, If you are asking about democracy in broadest possible term then it’s origin may begin in the stone age where in all probability even decision abt where to hunt could have been taken by a majority. Later to be called tribal democracy.

    Again talking of Greeks’ democracy, as already told u by MOR had its origin in Athens in 508 BC. However, even a cruder form of democracy that existed earlier could be traced back to Sparta.

    I may be a little biased here but I presume that u like most of the western world believe that democracy was invented in Greece.

    Unfortunately, the claim for oldest democracy cannot go to Athens for sure. Arwad,Syria and Vaishali,India had a republic government much earlier than Athens.

    While Arwad, is surely older than Vaishali, certainly the evidence for Vaishali is more and much convincing.

    As said earlier, it is important to note the meaning of democracy before the timeline of democracy could be charted.

    For eg: can you call a country democracy, if it allows say 2 female votes = 1 male vote, or any other differentiation on based on caste, creed, religion, race etc

    • Falcon,

      Welcome back. I won’t reply for Rosaria, of course.

      Yes, definition is important. I was just brainstorming, Falcon, and I have to do research or I’ll just continue shooting simplistic stuff.

      I have checked, it is true, India had an example of government with some democracy earlier than Athens (which was a very imperfect experience.) Although at that time communication and transportation between the East and West being so slow it is unlikely (though not impossible) this Indian experience had any possible influence on the development of democracy in the West, which in my view stems from Greece in any case.

      This is a contribution I cherish Falcon. This exchange of ideas, even as coffee talk, between East and West, is most interesting. I like that now on-line encyclopaedias in English have loads of information on the culture and history of the East and of other non Western countries. Thousands of non Western people are contributing.

      I’m sure you and my daughters will live in a more integrated world than the one I have known. Italy is still provincial. My eldest daughter has started an internship in an international company in Rome. She said some of the other young people hired had a previous job experience in China or India, which was highly appreciated by the company.

  11. @Paul

    You are right. If democracy is a real and true rule of the people, it existed only in very primitive societies. One can add some of those societies went even further, they were ‘communist’ since they had no private property. Saying this doesn’t make me a communist (in case The Commentator reads it.) 🙂

    • Our First Nations people did not have the private property notion until imposed on them by the various colonial powers. Even to this day on the Reservation homes and land belong to the Nation, not the individuals…although some Band Councils have begun selling and buying land. Any move is consensual and the band is consulted in Circles of Wisdom when anyone of age can speak their mind on the subject at hand.

      • Amazing. I like many things about the natives of North America. I’m wondering – the ‘bon sauvage’ dilemma – all this complex civilization we have, was is worth it? Of course, we live longer and have many advantages etc..

        Only, a few of these nations had cruel executions and tortures, while others had not (not that classical Antiquity was mild in its punishments etc.)

        • “The bon sauvage” is a colonial invention reinforced by Rousseau.. They had all the virtues and vices of their colonial masters before the europeans came. They also overfished and hunted. When a piece of land was exhausted for farming they moved the village and started anew. However that allowed the exhausted ressources to rebound and since they more or less moved in circle on their territory they eventually came back to the original place and the cycle began anew.
          The arrival of the colonists and the land they appropriated for themselves broke that cycle and created problems and wars. The damage is still ongoing.

        • Paul,

          I didn’t want to start a debate on that.

          The ‘bon sauvage’ is a myth, I agree. Europeans began to reflect since they met other cultures in the New World. Montaigne is eloquent and modern on it, long before Rousseau. And Europeans more often thought these folks were bad, non ‘bon’, infidel and had to be converted (and exploited) in all ways.

          A state of nature, doesn’t it exist always? We all are always nature. No distinction between Man and other animals etc., we are only the most powerful species. As for stone age people, yes, the only difference being our culture is more complex.

          This I was thinking, since such complexity is *bugging* me these days.

          Italian bureaucracy: God save us!
          (Dio ce ne scampi e liberi)

  12. I’ll definitely have to check these out. I like the way you set up this post. You’ve got an outstanding blog.

    • Thank you Keith, although I didn’t have time to blend my excerpts into readable stuff. I now remember that it’s Marylin Monroe who said the words at the head of this post. Ciao

  13. MOR, Paul, &co.

    These were interesting responses. I’m not versed in eastern thought, so I have a lot to learn. Even here in the land of democracy, it might be easier to be recognized, but it is not often. People like Barack Obama are the exception, not the rule. I personally had to scratch my way to an administrative position after decades of teaching, jobs always bestowed on relatives, and personal connections.

    Democracy is an idealized concept, like sainthood. It would be nice to have representative government for all people. But elections cost money; and money buys contacts.

    The flight of Europeans to the New World was mostly economic, I think. They had nothing to lose by shipping out. What they didn’t know was the struggle awaiting them. The fact that Mexicans and even Canadians can try it across the border, and go back if things don’t work out, that fact was never an option for the poor folks from Europe.

    • Happy that you like Obama, a great hope, but I wonder if he can really do something.

      That the ‘old boys network’, as Paul once called it, exists in the USA too doesn’t surprise me, but here I’m sure it is more pervasive, being too rooted in the Italian mind, especially in the South.

      Yes, generally people (me included) idealise things too much. Like, for example, a supposed superiority of Europeans (I wonder if Falcon will read this.)

      **This superiority does not exist**

      We like to trace the origin of democracy to the Greeks, because we consider them the first Europeans – good ideas can come from anywhere, as Falcon said. Truth is Europeans and the West had big power and technology for some time. That time is almost over, whether we like it or not.

      And yes, for many poor Europeans there was no way back.

      You Rosaria, you could go back to Italy, but have decided to stay in the USA. I remember one moving comment of yours here on the psychological price you had to pay for that.

  14. Dialog Among Civilizations? Crisis of Values..? Here’s my favorite Italian import to America:


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