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Where is Europe going? Andreas Kluth from the Economist & others (Richard, Christopher, Andy, Cyberquill etc.) Discussion gets heated (and LONG.) 3

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Andreas Kluth, Berlin Bureau Chief, The Economist & Author of Hannibal and Me.

Andreas Kluth – Berlin Bureau Chief plus Germany Correspondent for the Economist – is author of ‘Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure.’ See A.Kluth’s Twitter account & blog


[Work in progress, it’ll take the whole day since I’m busy; you can read and comment the continuously edited text in the meanwhile]

[Now – 18: 00 European central time – I have to play some J.S. Bach in a band made of friends; links and other comments will be inserted tonite or tomorrow (Cyberquill, Thomas etc. u gotta wait) ]


Here’s a selection of comments arrived in floods in response to Professor Piero Boitani’s “open” letter to David Cameron [unabridged discussion.]

A reflection on Europe vs the UK – or on Europe vs the US or vs the Mediterranean countries etc. – has always been present in this blog. See a post that is like a prologue to the present dialogues, or another on the Arab shores of the Mediterranean vis-a-vi the North shores.

The discussion this time though got A LOT heated because Europe – just my opinion – is at a big turning point. Better still, the entire world is.


Let us therefore leave the floor to commenters.

To some of Professor Piero Boitani’s main points, first, so that we can better interpret responses from our slice of the blogosphere, eg by Richard, Andy, Christopher, Potsoc, T. E. Stazyk, Cyberquill, Sledpress etc. and by Berlin Bureau Chief for The Economist Andreas Kluth (see caption above) we all have the pleasure (and honour) to dialogue with since many years.

[Andreas Kluth is Germany Correspondent for the Economist & author of “Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure” (A. Kluth’s blog.) ALL links in this post are mine, MoR]

Source and clip

Source and clip

Piero Boitani:

“Dear PM,

[original text; Richard’s 1rst comment, below, quotes it all; I cut it just a bit]

I have followed the recent developments in your attitude to the EU with a growing sense of concern and irritation.

Since the age of 10, I have been a strong anglophile.  I have studied in England, have taught and published there. […]  Quite frankly, I do not understand your opposition to Juncker, which has left Britain isolated in Europe with Orban’s Hungary (sic!).

Juncker is by no means the ideal President of the European Commission, but he is no worse than, say, Barroso. Was your opposition dictated by the fact that Junker is supposed to be a ´federalist´ and that he was indicated by the European Parliament rather than the governments? […]

Britain ought to examine herself very deeply on the matter of Europe. The cultural roots of Britain are European, from the 1st century AD to the present. […]

What is there in ‘Europe’ that annoys the UK? Its bureaucratic structure? […] Or is it that Britain does not want a supranational European state, something many (not all) Europeans want so that Europe may count more in a globalized world?

But Britain already is out of that state. It has ‘opted out’ of so many things. But to think that it can stop the others from having a tighter union if they so wish, wouldn´t that be considered presumptuous in any human relationship? […]

If Britain, at the end of such self-examination process, decides it wants to leave the EU, I shall be sad, but will face the situation serenely – and will give up my strong anglophilia […].

Piero Boitani, Rome


Andreas Kluth [complete comment] :

“Britain’s place within (or without) the EU is one big topic. Whether Juncker was the right person for commish is another big topic. How the EU develops as a whole (with or without Britain) is a third, and the biggest.

Nobody is excited about Juncker, not even Merkel.

He will be the next commission president because of the weird head-game his rival, Martin Schulz (German, SPD), played with the concept of Spitzenkandidaten.

Somehow the German SPD convinced all Germans and most Europeans that it is more democratic if each party nominates a top candidate and the one from the strongest party then automatically becomes commissioner. They were hoping it would be Schulz, but now it is Juncker.

That Spitzenkandidaten method, however, is barely known outside Germany and alien to many Europeans. It is also not enshrined in any EU treaty. Cameron was right to question the method and insist on the prerogative of the Council to nominate a commissioner which the parliament then confirms. He was wrong only to persist in his blocking after it became clear that he left himself isolated.

Merkel and other members of the German elite want Britain to stay in the EU. They view the UK, with Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Austria and Poland as a liberal bloc with interests in less state-centric economic models. Britain’s exit (a BREXIT, it’s called) would hurt the EU in many ways. The main one may be that the EU could go in a wrong direction, the sort that France is associated with.

But the big question is where next for the EU as a structure, with or without the UK.

For most of my life, the direction was “ever closer union”, with ever more integration. The result of the May election is that people no longer want this. So we may have to switch from a “hamiltonian” model to a “holy roman empire” model [you might like this post by A. Kluth on such topics, MoR]. The former is named after Alexander Hamilton, who gave the loose confederation of the United States a stronger federal constitution. Here the EU in effect becomes a country. The latter is named after the 300+-member Holy Roman Empire as it came to be after the Thirty Years War. Here sovereignty stays with the member states in all but a few areas, under the principle of subsidiarity.

In the euro zone, a “looser union” will be more difficult, of course, because with the currency we are now attached at the hip. Hence “banking union”, as it is now coming to pass and other attempts to integrate and align these different economies.

Sooner or later, however, we will discover in the EU that we need each other. Putin may provide the impetus in the east. American may provide it in the west, because it will gradually retreat from the continent, leaving us to look after our security ourselves. And we can only do that together.


Richard [original comment] : “[…] For ease of reference, I reproduce [P. Boitani’s] paragraphs and deal with them seriatim.

1 :
“I have followed the recent developments in your attitude to the EU with a growing sense of concern and irritation […] I do not understand your opposition to Juncker […] Was your opposition dictated by the fact that Junker is supposed to be a ´federalist´ and that he was indicated by the European Parliament rather than the governments? That is actually a more democratic method […] “

Indication by the majority party in the European Parliament for appointment to the Presidency of the Commission does not necessarily make the process a more democratic one, for a number of reasons. A) There is no requirement for the appointee to stand for election to the post B) the appointee may never have stood for any election to a representative body of the EU C) he is not a member of the Parliament and is not answerable to it D) Analogy to the British Parliament, which is sovereign, fails on all these counts and in particular the House of Commons has the power, in practical terms, to dismiss the Prime Minister: in form the Prime Minister has constitutionally to command the support of a majority if the House of Commons and if he fails to do so he is obliged to tender his resignation to the Queen, who is obliged to accept it.

“In short, your opposition seems to me purely instrumental – […] Unless at the back of it all be an unconfessed attempt at going with the presumed British feeling of annoyance with the EU. Threatening the other EU members with ‘The UK will leave the EU if Juncker is nominated’, or ‘Anti-European feelings in Britain will grow to the point that the 2017 referendum will turn out to be against Britain staying in the UK’, is quite inappropriate, and useless, blackmail.”

This series of opinions does not take into account the will of the British people as expressed in the elections, which is not prompted by a sense of annoyance alone but also by a reasoned concern for the failure of the EU A) to accommodate and absorb a differing legal system and to note how Scotland, though within the UK, has preserved its own legal system for 300 years B) to meet established democratic expectations C) to recognise the perceived shortcomings in the rule of law and in the unfair distribution of the burdens and benefits of membership D) to satisfy an audit of income and expenditure. D) to accept the will of the people as expressed in democratic elections E) to make its deliberations public or to report intentions faithfully.

“Britain ought to examine herself […] on the matter of Europe. [There is first] a question of [Britan’s] roots and culture [which are] European, from the 1st century AD to the present. Yes, there is also a different strain, wider and tied to the British expansion on the sea, and narrower because of its feeling of insularism and isolation from the Continent. But at the critical moments in history, Britain has always made a decidedly European choice, witness the Napoleonic wars and First and Second WW.”


The British are restless under authority and it is not practical to tell them to examine themselves deeply on the question of Europe. Their democracy is an old one, they are politically sophisticated, they are likely to have made, and will continue to make, such examination of their own accord, and their governments are used to accepting the democratic will. Part of that sophistication is a willingness by the individual to accept a government that holds opinions diametrically opposed to her own and a corresponding understanding by government of the need to take into account the wishes of minorities.

It is not altogether correct that British cultural roots are European. There was a relatively advanced social system and culture in place on the arrival of Claudius in 43AD. He came principally for the rich mineral deposits and the Roman occupation was not initially taken easily. The indigenous kings were quick, however, to acknowledge the many benefits of an advanced civilisation and the occupiers were, in their turn, willing to absorb them into their system. It was the Roman way to crack down on rebellion with an iron fist, otherwise more of the existing system would have been left in place. Britain readily acknowledges the irrepayable debt it owes to Rome in so many ways, but its long presence here is as much to do with willing Romanisation as with force – a lesson in itself for the EU.

King Alfred, the only one of the Saxon kings to be called Great, the founder of the navy, the giver of laws, the translator of the bible into the vernacular, the conqueror of the vikings, the creator of England, was profoundly inspired and influenced by his visit to Rome as a child.

Britain has a tradition of classical scholarship and has been deeply influenced by it.

All this does not mean that England remained like Europe. With its roots in Saxon custom, the Common Law began under Henry II in the 12th Century and the first Parliament was called in the 13th Century, the century of Magna Carta. These roots are not shared with Europe.

It is not clear how resisting European threats in the Napoleonic and First and Second World Wars can be represented as a “decidedly European choice”.

“Secondly, there are political and economic reasons. Would the UK be better off outside the EU? Or, has Britain been worse off since it joined the then EEC? To say so would be a gross error. Has Britain been less ‘free’ since joining the EEC? You drive on the left and use miles, pounds, and pints. You have kept the pound sterling. You are out of Schengen. Is someone forcing you to eat taramasalata or sauerkraut? Or to learn ‘foreign’ languages? Or to surrender your navy to the Germans?

It is impossible to prove one way or another whether membership of the EU has been to British advantage. Its fortunes and those of Europe are naturally linked but that does not mean that it has to be part of the EU and the advantages of continued membership are, at the very least, controversial. Similar arguments were made prior to the UK referendum in 1975.

There is a sense that Britain is less free to determine its own affairs because of the EU. Apart from the pound sterling, the other influences mentioned are trivial.

“What is there in ‘Europe’ that annoys the UK? Its bureaucratic structure? I admit it could be simplified and made more efficient, but you must yourself admit that a democratic administration for nearly thirty countries is not easy to achieve without a bureaucracy, and that the mandate of this bureaucracy is to uniform and unify, not keep the thousand tiny differences that exist within Europe. If you want free circulation of people and goods among those 30 countries, you will need laws – uniform laws all over – to protect that circulation. Didn´t the British Empire do exactly this, impose the same laws all over?

There is annoyance, but it derives from the reasoned judgments set out in the set out above and the refusal to debate them.

Rome governed the whole of its empire with a tiny bureaucracy. There is in principle no reason why a modern democracy should not aim to do the same.

It is the mandate that Britain takes issue with. If European unity is truly desired, that mandate need not prevail.

The need for laws is not disputed. It is the nature of those laws, how they are created and how they are observed that count. As to uniformity, please see the case of Scottish Law within the UK cited in 2 above.

“Or is it that Britain does not want a supranational European state, something many (not all) Europeans want so that Europe may count more in a globalized world? But Britain already is out of that state. It has ‘opted out’ of so many things. But to think that it can stop the others from having a tighter union if they so wish, wouldn´t that be considered presumptuous in any human relationship?

Yes. All these matters are legitimate areas for debate.

“Yet the British public is annoyed by Europe (you will of course understand that the rest of Europe might be slightly annoyed with Britain). I suggest that the British public serenely and rationally examine themselves about Europe and decide once and for all whether they want to stay in or quit. Should they decide to leave, they should realize that they will give up, together with what they consider the disadvantages of being in the EU, also the advantages.

It is better to draw conclusions after debate not prior to it. It is possible for Britain and the EU to separate, but not Britain and Europe.

“One no longer is a member of a family, or a club, if one decides to leave it. They shall have to pay duty on their wines from Europe and grow resigned to selling less whisky in Europe because we will have to pay more duty on it. But at least they will stop having headaches about being or not being European, being or not being in the EU.

Again it is premature to reach conclusions on these matters prior to a debate on the larger issues. Will the EU debate them?

“I confess that I feel upset when I have to show my passport upon entering Britain. I am particularly annoyed at having to change euros into sterling (something from which only banks profit) and having to buy plug adaptors for every electrical appliance I acquire either on the Continent or in Britain (something from which only the makers of such adaptors profit).

Unfortunately, annoyances are an inevitable part of life. A proper debate on the longer term issues may lead to an alleviation of some annoyances, but not all.

“If Britain, at the end of such self-examination process, decides it wants to leave the EU, I shall be sad, but will face the situation serenely – and will give up my strong anglophilia without any further headache.

Britain will of its own accord continue its self-examination before and after a referendum, whether in or out of the EU. Many in the EU will conduct their own self-examination.

It would be a sad failure of the EU if anyone were to reject the call of one of its constituent states with all its diversity, different allegiances and varied opinions all on account of the prejudices of a fledgling institution and at the first major sign of dissent. It is not encouraging for the comity of nations.


Andy [Englishman & long time blog pal; I met him face to face; titles by MoR] :

Democracy. To whom is this letter addressed […] To Cameron when, in fact, it’s not for Cameron but for the British public. This letter is to chastise Cameron for his opposition to Juncker. And yet, the letter appears in the Independent. This probably excludes 80% of the population. […]

He talks about democracy when, in fact, the people of Britain (and, to some extent, of Europe as a whole) don’t feel there is much that is democratic about the EU. Most people don’t even know who these people are! The problem with the EU controlling powers and people is that they are such a long way from the ordinary person who lives in Europe. I live in Italy where, for some time now, we have been run by someone who isn’t elected by the people, so here it is accepted. But, in Britain where, as Richard rightly says, a PM without a mandate is required to tender his resignation to the Queen and fight (if he/she wishes) a new election, it is not acceptable. The problem is that, even if there is democracy in the EU, it is not seen as democratic.

Lack of understanding. […] I don’t think that Cameron’s reaction was so much a result of Farage’s victory as in what that victory emphasises with regard to the feelings of the British people. And Cameron’s future as PM is dictated by the will of the (near-)majority of Britons – namely the next general election. He needs to be re-elected. He will do what he thinks it will take to BE elected. THAT’s the reason for it. He’s trying to emulate Thatcher (at least in the eyes of the electorate.)

Culture. I’m with Richard 100% of the way regarding culture. British culture is completely different from Europe. Our influences have come not only from Europe but from the Empire. […]

The fact that Britain managed to retain some things does not mean that some things have not been “lost” to Europe. Petrol is now sold in litres, sugar in kilograms. He simply has no idea how the changes we made to accommodate the “European way” affected us! (I speak on a personal note as I was at school at the time)

As Richard rightly says, it is the mandate that annoys us. And, to be honest, the thousand tiny differences are really important. Trying to change most aspects of a person’s life and habits in such a short time is counterproductive. People (and, certainly British people) tend to push back the more someone pushes against us. Stop it! Brussels should be the light hand, guiding countries towards unity. Not introducing laws to make Europe homogeneous which, after all these years, we are not.

Tighter union. The desire for a tighter union was the reason for Britain becoming involved in the wars in Europe. He’s right in one way, we are scared of a supranational state right on our doorstep – in the same way that we were scared of Hitler’s desire for a homogenous Europe. And I’m really not sure that the majority of European citizens would be in total agreement with him. But has he even asked?

I too get annoyed about having to show my passport when I return to the UK – and mine is a British passport! I too wish that Britain had the Euro – it would make my life so much easier. But I fully understand the reasoning. I joke with my fellow Italians that the reason Britain hasn’t adopted the Euro is simply because Europe won’t let us have the Queen’s head on the Euro notes and coins. But is it really a joke? After all, underlying this is the fact that someone is telling us what to do. If someone asks me nicely and it doesn’t make me feel bad or harm me or mine, then they will probably get what they want. If they try to tell me what to do or make me do something, I tend to, at best, ignore it.

And if, at the end of this, he can happily “give up my strong anglophilia without any further headache” should Britain leave the EU, then I think he’s misunderstood the meaning of anglophile. My love for Italy and for things Italian is not affected by the bad things about Italy or the bad things that Italy may do. I love Italy in spite of these things. Perhaps he might want to reconsider how strong his anglophilia is, if, in fact, it exists? You can’t just love the country and the people because they do everything you want, you know?


MoR: “WOW, Andy, I understand your point(s). You make the annoyance of Britain VERY clear (also with splendid writing incidentally.)

Although, in my view – as I’ve expressed it below, annoyance (yours, ours, no matter who’s) is just a tempest in a glass.

A BIG TSUNAMI with waves unheard-of is about to crush us all (us Europeans, at least, if not tighter united: we are cornered I guess).

That you don’t see this tsunami arriving makes your insulation, well, dangerous. Or, worse, you see it and you don’t give a damn because you think it won’t reach you.

Andy: “MoR, thank you for your kind words. I have to add that this is my view of how Britons see Europe and my response to the letter where the author clearly didn’t understand the British thinking. […] I am intrigued as to what this tsunami might be? […] What on earth do you envisage coming next?”

MoR: “[P. Boitani] clearly didn’t understand the British thinking .

From what I know of him, he probably knows the English better than you, also for the fact that he can see them from the outside, a big advantage, my friend.

I am intrigued as to what this tsunami might be? What on earth do you envisage coming next?

The fact that you are asking is not only evidence, as small as it may be, that I may be right (little matters) but of the fact that you people beyond the Channel are blind.


You are still the shepherds in many things for many folks (Australia etc., the US to a lesser degree, but you have imprinted them) and for us too (we need you & and we are fascinated by you – not only the MoR lol – since you are our exact opposite.)

Well, where will the sheep go if the shepherds got lost in the mist?

This is the widespread impression ‘on the Continent’ (as sensed by the MoR)

MoR [too many quotes of the MoR but other commenters are arriving, they need the entire picure. Mario: “The way you see it? Gosh” MoR: “It is *my* cafe, shut up]

[*MoR is woken up by a chirp chirp from his phone at 2 am in the morning. He unfortunately gets m-a-d*]

My dear Richard, you English people are as hard as a rock behind a polish of polite manners, so let’s see who’s harder since we have the rocks of the Alps here.

I DON’T GIVE A DAMN about my premises (and you too but will never admit it) [my reasoning was good imo but I had made the darn premises mistake]

We Continental People – Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Holland etc etc – need a *tighter* unification to survive before the huge challenges ahead worldwide so we will get it, and a tiny rainy island like yours – blinded by a past of only 12 generations and lost in an opiate dream that she can still count something – cannot stop it.

Evidence my words are not a-blowing in the wind is the absolute defeat of Mr. David Cameron.

I am not different from Professor Piero Boitani, we’re both true Romans, ardent and good-natured, but when it comes to fighting for a cause we believe in, we Romans (and Italians) have guts superior to yours, believe me (not to mention the contribution to world culture by the Italians and by the Continentals that is overwhelmingly superior to England’s, du point de vue cumulatif mais pas seulement cumulatif, les Italiens suffice.)

Besides, the fact that I love Britain, I love you and Andy, the English IT student I had a rimpatriata with today, Solid Gold and the US Wasps etc etc but also love the French, the Germans, the Austrians, the Spanish, the Russians the Chinese, the Indians (and I know decently enough 7 languages) is evidence of the fact that I am cosmopolitan in space and time, non parochial, while you people beyond the Channel … I’ll stop, I don’t want to be too rude to friends.

[I didn’t by the way mention Professor Piero Boitani since he’s immensely more cosmopolitan than me]

Thus said, next Sunday I will cheer Germany, not Argentina despite the blood bonds with this country and my love for Pope Francis. The upcoming match is already called here the ‘match of the two popes’.

As you can see, Roma, not Londinium, is at the centre of everything


14 Pictures that will remind you of the real people of Egypt

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14 brilliant pictures “that will remind you of the real people of Egypt.”
[By Mohamed Hakem]

14 Places in Egypt You Must Visit in 2014

14 Places in Egypt You Must Visit in 2014

Man of Roma:

Il Cairo. From Ansa. Fair use

Il Cairo. From Ansa. Fair use

[Needs some pruning perhaps and related posts and links at the end. After this blog’s new graphical clothing is up and running. Too many WordPress pages tangled with posts: custom menus  may be the solution]


An excellent blog about Egypt. I will hunt for others.

Mario: “Why Egypt?”

MoR: “Everybody liking Antiquity must have Egypt in his / her mind.”

Fulvia: “I thought Greece and Rome shaped what became later the ‘proud West’ that conquered the world”

Extropian: “C’mon, Fulvia, that I can’t take my eyes away from your bazookas doesn’t mean you haven’t said ‘na stronzata!”
*they all laughing & winking at her*

The Tobacconist: “Allow me, Fulvia, friends. That the Greco-Romans of any time went, for their Grand Tour, to Egypt and to other Semitic lands – and beyond, with links to Mesopotamia & India – is a historical fact.”


A conversation actually occurring at an outdoors cafe in Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, clouds looming all over.

Campo dei Fiori a Roma. Cielo nuvoloso

Campo de’ Fiori a Roma. Cielo nuvoloso. Source. Courtesy of Click on last link for great pictures of Rome

Clodia standing not far and overhearing our conversatioin, sits at our table in a flash.

A high-brow seductive slut of 45, Clodia. Some of us call her Lesbia, Catullus’ lascivious-refined lover).

“My dear friends – she breaks the ice – this conversation has captured my attention (and that female friend was so boring I much prefer here”
*Looking at the men furtively, her Scarlett-Johansson-like body invisibly vibrating*

“Should I remind you that in any philosophy manual for schools accurate scholars argue that philosophy and science were born in Greece? That other races, considered well not lower – on peut pas dire cela – toutefois incapable …”


Everyone ignores her words, rejected in a quasi-careless way due to their absurdity, although, thing being, we are also – men and women alike – absolutely mesmerized by Clodia’s sensual magic.

It pervades the air round us since she sat down. Spring, despite the lousy weather, not helping much either.


“A sensuality that could rival that of Cleopatra (had Cleopatra been less intelligent)” was the thought of a few of us.

Wrong, Clodia is refined and cultivated, but Cleopatra (Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ,) who seduced both Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius and (which counts much more) the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt c’mon.

Cleopatra VII in hieroglyphs

Cleopatra VII (69 BCE – 30 BCE), last Pharaoh of Egypt, in hieroglyphs. Click for source. Wikipedia

Vénus de l'Esquilin or Venus Esquilina

Esquiline Venus, found in 1874 on the Esquiline Hill in Rome (from the Horti Lamiani possibly). Capitoline Museums, Rome. To some scholar the model for this statue was Cleopatra herself

The Samnite, 30, his brand-new Sony smartphone in his left hand, saves us all:

“Let me see … yes. In A.L. Basham introduction to Oxford’s A cultural History of India one reads:

“The four main cradles of civilizations …. moving from east to west … [were] China, the Indian subcontinent, the Fertile Crescent, and the Mediterranean, especially Greece and Italy.”

Extropian: “That the Greco-Romans (and, later, proud conquering West) were considered the high races and the Semitic and other folks the lower races (incapable of real philosophy and science – you find it in almost all European manuals of the first half of the 1900, not just those by a certain type of German historians in the 1930’s.”

The Samnite: “Which means justifying colonialism with ideology and history (of philosophy, science etc.)”

MoR: “Despite the fact that history is never neutral, yes, this is the idea.”

Egyptian jewel

Egyptian jewel


Enjoy Egypt’s Antiquity, readers, much more ancient than the Greeks (and deeper in wisdom & philosophy, what do you think?)

Originally posted on Egyptian Streets:

Credit: Mohamed Hakem The White Desert Credit: Mohamed Hakem

While Egypt may be facing political and social turmoil, Egypt’s exotic, mysterious and historic locations continue to stand, receiving adventurers and explorers. If you are thinking of exploring Egypt in 2014, then here are 14 must-visit places in Egypt, along with others that you should already have planned to see!

(Note: Many of these photographs are thanks to Mohamed Hakem. Check out his blog

1. The White Desert

1 Credit: Mohamed Hakem

While it may look like the moon, this photograph was taken at the White Desert near Bahareya Oasis. The white surfaced desert which resembles an alien planet has been used to film Sci-Fi movies, including Vin Diesel’s Riddick. The desert is renowned for its rock formations, safari trips, and over night camping.

2. Sultan Qalawun Mosque in Old Cairo

Sultan Qalawun Mosque in Old Cairo Credit: Mohamed Hakem

8 Credit: Mohamed Hakem

While Old Cairo is filled…

View original 986 more words

A Berber from the Monti rione makes (today) jewels. The Berber Augustine (2000 years ago) shook Antiquity & Rome. Both changed (never to change)

_public_media_croci tuareg

Italian original

[Draft. We’ll stop posting for a few days, this blog crying badly for graphical renovation]

A Berber jeweler,
in today’s Subura

Not far from our house and from Rome’s ancient Subura there’s a little shop where a Berber Tuareg – a tall, dark-skinned man of a majestic beauty – makes splendid jewels that perpetuate a multimillenial tradition – married, inter alia, with an equally beautiful woman from Northern Italy.


The Samnite: “An ‘acquired’ Roman, one might say.”
The Tobacconist *nodding, with a radiant smile*

A Berber metaphysician
2,000 years ago

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica by Ary Scheffer (1846)

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, his mother. 1846 painting by French Ary Scheffer (Wikipedia, click for credits and larger image)

Another ‘acquired’ Roman – born almost 2000 years earlier (and Berber too from his mother’s side) was Augustine of Hippo.

More precisely, Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis (354 – 430 CE,) his family having been legally Roman for more than a century.

Augustinus didn’t make jewels but he almost certainly wore some very similar to those made in the small shop of the Monti rione.

The African sage ruminated, instead, his vast soul tormented.

Augustine praying in his study, by Sandro Botticelli, 1480, Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy. Credits

Augustine praying in his study, by Sandro Botticelli, 1480 (detail.) Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy. Credits and entire painting

From such torment stemmed The Confessions and most of all The City of God – two visionary works that only a Berber-Punic Algerian could conceive.

An explosion of visions, ideas, and mysticism.


The pagan gods were shaken (but adapted themselves).

The myth of Rome was nearly destroyed – the City of God, metaphysically celestial, going way beyond the Urbs beacon of the Orb (though Rome adapted and survived, licking her wounds.)

Tomba di S. Agostino nella Basilica di San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro a Pavia

Tomba di S. Agostino nella Basilica di San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro a Pavia, Italia. Source (bigger picture)


Governess of a billion souls (of nations no more), with a Pontifex Maximus, Francesco, shepherd at last and close to the poor (like Augustine), Rome the eternal looks today at the greatest intellectual of the first millennium CE (on this side of the planet.)

With deep love and profound respect.



We, in our lowest pochezza, nurture the same feelings.

Without forgetting, allow us, that our roots are, and remain, pagan.


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

Nota. L’idea mistico terrena di Roma, cemento ideologico dell’Impero Romano, venne indebolita, e l’impero con essa, dall’esplosione creativa di Agostino.

Ma l’idea non morì (e mai morirà).


Si pensi solo che gli ultimi due imperi del continente europeo dissoltisi con la prima guerra mondiale erano guidati da uno Zar, russo, e da un Kaiser, tedesco. Sia Zar che Kaiser significano Cesare, ovvero:

Gaius Julius Caesar, Pontifex Maximus e iniziatore dell’impero romano.

[Se uno credesse ai segni … ma non ci crediamo]




Un berbero di Monti (oggi) fabbrica gioielli. Il berbero Agostino (due millenni fa) scuote l’antichità e Roma. Che cambiano (per non cambiare mai)

_public_media_croci tuareg

English translation

[We’ll stop posting for a few days, this blog crying badly for graphical renovation]

Gioiellere berbero,
nella Suburra, oggi

Non lontano da casa nostra e dalla Suburra c’è un negozietto dove un berbero Tuareg – uomo alto, dalla pelle scura e di maestosa bellezza – fa gioielli meravigliosi che continuano una tradizione plurimillenaria (tra l’altro essendosi unito a una donna anch’essa molto bella, del Nord Italia).


The Samnite: “Un romano ‘acquisito’, si potrebbe dire”.
The Tobacconist *annuendo, un sorriso luminoso*

Pensatore Berbero,
2000 anni fa

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica by Ary Scheffer (1846)

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, his mother. 1846 painting by French Ary Scheffer (Wikipedia, click for credits and larger image)

‘Acquisito’ lo fu un altro romano di quasi 2000 anni fa, berbero anch’egli da parte di madre, Agostino d’Ippona.  Per la precisione, Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis (354 – 430 d.C), di famiglia legalmente romana, appunto, da più di un secolo.

Augustinus non faceva gioielli (ne avrà solo indossati di simili a quelli del Tuareg di Monti).

Augustinus in verità pensava. E si travagliava.

Augustine praying in his study, by Sandro Botticelli, 1480, Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy. Credits

Augustine praying in his study, by Sandro Botticelli, 1480 (detail.) Chiesa di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy. Credits and entire painting

Da tale travaglio nacquero Le Confessioni e soprattutto La Città di Dio, due libri geniali che solo un punico berbero algerino poteva scrivere.

Un’esplosione di visioni, idee e misticismo.


Gli dei pagani ne furono scossi (ma si adattarono).

ll mito di Roma ne fu quasi distrutto – la Città di Dio metafisicamente celeste andava oltre l’urbe faro terreno dell’orbe (ma Roma si adattò e sopravvisse, leccandosi le ferite).

Tomba di S. Agostino nella Basilica di San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro a Pavia

Tomba di S. Agostino nella Basilica di San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro a Pavia, Italia. Source (bigger picture)


Governatrice di un miliardo di anime (non più di popoli), con un Pontifex Maximus, Francesco, finalmente pastore e vicino alla povera gente (come Augustinus), Roma l’eterna guarda oggi al più grande intellettuale del primo millennio d.C.

Con amore profondo, e con rispetto.


Noi, nella nostra infima pochezza, proviamo gli stessi sentimenti.

Pur non dimenticando, ci sia concesso, che le nostre radici sono e restano pagane.

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

Nota. L’idea mistico terrena di Roma, cemento ideologico dell’Impero Romano, venne indebolita, e l’impero con essa, dall’esplosione creativa di Agostino.

Ma l’idea non morì (e mai morirà).


Si pensi solo che gli ultimi due imperi del continente europeo dissoltisi con la prima guerra mondiale erano guidati da uno Zar, russo, e da un Kaiser, tedesco. Sia Zar che Kaiser significano Cesare:

Giulio Cesare, Pontifex Maximus e iniziatore dell’impero.

[Se uno credesse ai segni … ma non ci crediamo]




20th Acea Rome’s Marathon. Double Victory for Ethiopian Hailu and Lemma

The woman winner, Ayelu Lemma Geda, from Ethiopia: "With the prize money I want to buy me a car." Click for credits and larger file

The woman winner, 27-year-old Ayelu Lemma Geda, from Ethiopia: “With the prize money I want to buy me a car.” Click for credits and for source

Rome’s Marathon is just over. Too bad a little rain at the end.


“42 kilometers of passion” prepared by three days prior to the Rome Marathon (March 20 until March 22) when several events have taken place: meetings, shows, displays of sports events as well as music performances, animations for children etc., eg more than 50 different games organized to entertain various age groups.

Where? At the Marathon village created for 80,000 visiting runners inside the Palazzo dei Congressi dell’EUR – 150,000 square meters covering 120 stands.

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

Ok. End of it. Enjoy the pictures.

Maratona a Roma

I forgot. Last year’s woman winner? Click for credits and many other pics (a commercial web site? This blog being though NOT commercial)


[Texts (modified) plus images taken from here and here. Click on the links for credits]

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

Posted on

Refugees from North Africa are flooding Lampedusa, Sicily

[read the previous chapter]

Libya, a Critical Situation

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

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

Lampedusa, between Sicily and Tunisia

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

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

Libyan uprising main cities. Via Wikipedia. Click to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Lost in their Opiate Dream

Women of Algiers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Braudel observed:
“Sicile-Afrique? Fondamentale”

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

Fernand Braudel:

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

This centrality favoured the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arab 2011 Revolution.
Are all MED BIG MEN resonating?

1) Berlusconi began to wobble …

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

[Some mysterious harmony vibrating in the Mediterranean …]

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Now THIS changed things entirely.

The Land of Pharaohs Wakes Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Filippo Ceccarelli’s comment on the Roman daily Repubblica:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Related posts:

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

The Southern Shores of the Mediterranean

Mare Nostrum, Patriarchy, Omertà. 1

Mare Nostrum, Patriarchy, Omertà. 2

Permanences. Rome and Carthage

Love Words from Egypt

Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 1

Echoes from the Mediterranean. Part 2

Folks of the Mediterranean Sea


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