Conversation with Christopher & Sledpress on Bach, Vivaldi, Glenn Gould, the Russians. Dialectics (5a)

MoR: “…. What I mean is that we all have our obsessions, themes, leitmotivs (read the 2008/2014 original unabridged conversation]

This seems evident in people we know well – close friends, family members, colleagues. We are aware of their fixations … It can be a father (or mother) figure obsession, a pervading mental escapism that comes out in many occasions, behaviours – it can be anything.

Leitmotivs are also present in the works of writers, musicians, scientists etc., more complex to detect it being the big part of a critic’s job to probe their works in search of elements which make the stylistic imprint of an author.

Take Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. We often recognize his music because of this bizarre Arabic-scale leaning he had and that may related to some profound experience … had he Tartar ancestors? Was he desperately in love with a Muslim girl?”

Christopher: “I think I also detect jazz influences in Rachmaninov’s music. Was he, then, also once in love with an American jazz-loving girl?!!
… [Besides] these influences may also have affected other Russian composers, like Rimsky-Korsakov (Scherezade) and Tschaikovsky (4th movement, 6th symphony). I think also of Borodin …”

MoR:

I also detect jazz influences in Rachmaninov. Was he, then, also once in love with an American … girl?”

He was. And the girl was black. Which brings to mind Bach and his clear penchant for black boys (not over the age of twelve though!). It explains why his music is so ‘dancing’.

“… melancholic oriental/Arabic influences … in Rachmaninov … Rimsky-Korsakov ….Tschaikovsky”

Right, ok, Rachmaninov was simply Russian, and Russia is partly Asiatic.
You seem to like Russian music, Cristo. I do too (Shostakovich, Prokofiev) but most of the time I need Bach, Rossini or Busoni.

Sentimental music like Rachmaninov’s (his pianism though, wow!) … enough.

The Russians
‘encounter’ Bach via Gould

Russian Sokolov is my favourite Bach performer at this moment though your compatriot, Glenn Gould, has opened the path. He btw went to Moscow in the 50′s and made communist Russians ‘encounter’ Bach’s works (until then neglected as ‘religious music’.)

You might enjoy Gould’s Russian journey and its consequences on the Russians.

And, some Bach dancing by Grigory Sokolov (‘dance’ lol starts at 2:20).

Cristopher: “I watched these videos – particularly the Glenn Gould Russia one – with much interest.

Gould’s youth, pianistic brilliance, and his coming into their midst suddenly and from so far, Russians, from their awed reception of him, may have seen him as a Redeemer, the One who would lead them away, who would transport them to a Paradise, far, far removed from the drab Socialist Realism from which they could bodily never flee.

Was Gould deserving of all this reverence, not just in Russia but everywhere?

This is explored in this provocative piece written some twenty years ago by another concert pianist, a fellow Canadian, who knew Gould well.
When I read of the extremely eccentric Gould I think of the extremely eccentric Bobby Fischer – equally a genius, albeit in another skill entirely. Both appeared to reside somewhere within the continuum of Autism.

In the matter of Bach, while I appreciate his brilliance, and surmise he would be the preferred musical taste for mathematicians, I have always found him as a result, cold.
Far more my cup of tea is the warmth and sunniness of Bach’s contemporary (and your fellow countryman) Antonio Vivaldi.”

MoR: “Awesome, Christopher.

[The Russians] may have seen [Gould] as a Redeemer, the One who would … transport them to a Paradise, far, far removed from the drab Socialist Realism from which they could bodily never flee.

I agree. Generally, a good knowledge of Bach is important, as far as my music comprehension, to any professional musician and possibly to the Russians of that time even more.

“Russian art: sensuous, intuitive,
mystically powerful”

An English philosopher (Last and First Men, 3, rephrased) wrote:

The Russian mode of art is blended with a passion of iconoclasm, sensuousness and a remarkable, mystical, intuitive power that can profit a lot from German discipline and rational mind

Adapted to Gould’s trip tp Russia, they need(ed) Bach like bread (who doesn’t need bits of German discipline btw? We do.]

Metaphorically – I’m getting confused – Bach is like a gym where one works out up to sheer power – made more (mystically) vigorous by doses of Ashtanga (excruciating lol) Yoga. Although, playing Bach well can be learned via toil.

Classical music: pureness,
clarity, proportion

Italian music plus Mozart, Haydn, Schubert etc instead – since you’ve mentioned Vivaldi- reaches beauty through the alternative paths of pureness, clarity and proportion – things from a certain heritage (Classical Antiquity), not easily learned.

I may dig Bach more than Rossini or Italian opera, although yes, it takes some training to appreciate Bach’s music (I studied it at the Conservatory.)

An exotic thing, probably, like when German radio stations are so full of Italian Bel Canto (try NDR Kultur Belcanto.)

I read your article.

Indeed, an Elvis-type cult has grown up around Glenn Gould. But I don’t quite agree with the article points. Gould operated two miracles imo: 1) made a large number of people appreciate Bach (no small feat) and 2) he taught pianists to squeeze Bach beauty out of a piano. Now much-better-than-Gould Bach pianists exist imo (Sokolov etc) but it was Gould who opened a path. Sokolov himself said he was heavily influenced by GG.

So Canadian Gould was in my view a genius.

Sledpress: “My Transgender Ex, back in high school days, played Bach obsessively — the Goldberg Variations and the Well Tempered Klavier. He (I guess it is now she though I am not sure of the stage of progression) could neck seamlessly while playing the Inventions. A person of Russian Jewish provenance as it happens. It left me with a lifelong impression of Bach’s keyboard work as an almost violent synthesis of erotic and cerebral energy.

I always sensed it, nonetheless, as a sort of Tantric energy that never actually grounded itself. The classical idioms, Mozart and Schubert cases in point, touch the earth in a way that reaches my heart.

Did Protestant Bach, with his two wives and twenty children, represent a kind of creative energy that had to keep climbing to heaven because the ground seemed like the wrong place to be? Not cold, but ruthlessly contained, scooped up at every level and taken to a higher one. It says Come Find Me If You Have The Chops. Schubert’s lieder or the Mozart Clarinet Quintet hold out a gift instead.

As for Vivaldi, I fear I cannot bear him. My late and ex once spoke sighingly to me of “deedle music,” meaning Vivaldi and his ilk, and it was one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

Repeated minor seconds or octaves in OCD splendor. Auditory equivalent of a handwashing fetish.

Both that and Bach would speak to an autistic type of exponent. I’m glad that Gould pumped for Bach.”

ψ

Awesome Sledpress too.

More with Dialectcs 5b where some incandescence will glow too within a discussion on how to reach creativity outside any obsession (by following the Romano-Greek golden mean).

See you soon then.

Giorgio

Conosci te stesso, Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Nosce te ipsum. Pitagora, Apollo (e Hegel)

Flavia Diva Sanctissima

Flavia at the House of the Vestal Virgins. Photo by MoR. Given to the people

[hard to understand - also for he who is writing - and a notebook draft in both style and content]

Ψ

πρῶτον μὲν εὐχῇ τῇδε πρεσβεύω θεῶν τὴν πρωτόμαντιν Γαῖαν

Flavia è laureata in filosofia della scienza. Visione un po’ matriarcale la sua, un po’ patriarcale la mia, cozziamo spesso ma alla fine ne usciamo diversi.

Dice Flavia ieri:

“Ma tu che dici, ma che dici, ma che diici! Stai sempre a pensare a te stesso!”

Ψ

Dopo aver discusso insieme il post su Radhakrishan ripostato ieri (The most unique is the most universal) ne è venuto fuori questo:

 

“In fondo conoscere noi stessi – nel senso dell’oracolo di Delfi, in senso socratico, nel senso anche di Montaigne: noi stessi, dice il francese, siamo la cavia ‘umana’ che possiamo osservare più da vicino – ci porta ad aprirci anche agli altri”.

“Questo lo vediamo nei grandi classici, come dice Radhakrishan. Kalidasa, Radhakrishan osserva, esattamente come Sofocle, Shakespeare, Platone ecc., è legato alla realtà locale indiana ma più si è profondamente dentro noi stessi (come Montaigne, come Saffo), legati cioè al mondo culturale proprio, sia individuale-locale che collettivo-locale, PIU’ CIOE’ SIAMO NOI COME UNICUM essenzializzato (essenza umana della specie Homo, direbbe Olaf Stapledon; Geist o Mind, direbbe Hegel) E PIU’ SIAMO UNIVERSALI”

“Perché a questo punto il messaggio humanus risuona, son come corde pitagoriche sparse per il mondo che cominciano a vibrare, e vibrano vibrano vibrano vibrano e si crea come una sinfonia, e questo è il superuomo pitagorico collettivo, l’entità collettiva di Olaf Stapledon.

Anche il Leonardo da Vinci di massa di Antonio Gramsci; solo che con Stapledon (Odd John, Star Maker ecc.) e con Pitagora si traversano i cosmi grazie alle reincarnazioni”

Dunque, chiarendo meglio, i vari superuomini si connettono attraversando ere e universi e gli infiniti mondi (di Giordano Bruno anche? Check) … e allora abbiamo, in un caso più ristretto (o forse no?) Pitagora, Orfeo (il grande Musico), Apollo (riprendere quel bel brano di Shakespeare su Orfeo; rileggere Diogene Laerzio – Διογένης Λαέρτιος – dove parla delle reincarnazioni di Pitagora) che a livello di telepatia, di vibrazioni mistiche, si fondono come in un turbine.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Wikipedia. Click for credits and to enlarge

Del resto Hegel lo dice con sinteticità prolissa (Update. Con sinteticità. E’ prolissa la traduzione di William Wallace, Oxford 1894) :

[Philosophie des Geistes (Η φιλοσοφία του πνεύματος) or, Philosophy of Mind (Hegel's introduction, § 377)

 

The knowledge of mind is the highest and hardest,
right for its being the most “concrete” of sciences.

[Die Erkenntnis des Geistes ist die konkreteste, darum höchste und schwerste]

[Ndr. Infatti per i Vorsokratic Eleatici, per Platone, Hegel etc. conta solo l'essenza, l'essere, le idee-mente-Geist, a complex notion and onthology (link1, link2) that goes on and on - getting too wide-ranging, I know - up to Heidegger's Dasein (there-being,) to Quine and to William James]

The significance of that absolute commandment,
Know Thyself,
(whether we look at it in itself, or,
under the historical circumstances of its first utterance)
is not to promote mere self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities,
character, propensities, and foibles of the single self.

[Erkenne dich selbst, dies absolute Gebot
hat weder an sich noch da, wo es geschichtlich als ausgesprochen vorkommt,
die Bedeutung nur einer Selbsterkenntnis nach den partikulären Fähigkeiten,
Charakter, Neigungen und Schwächen des Individuums
]

The knowledge it commands means that the man’s genuine reality
(of what is essentially and ultimately true and real)
is Mind as the true and essential being.

[from Ancient Roman mens, English Wiki; see wider entry mens in German Wiki; O.Stapledon's novels, incidentally, narrate the bringing into being of the Homo's Mind across the Universe(s): for such splendid narration Darwin is of course there to help him]

[sondern die Bedeutung der Erkenntnis des Wahrhaften des Menschen
wie des Wahrhaften an und für sich, - des Wesens selbst als Geistes
]

Equally little is it the purport of mental philosophy
to teach what is called knowledge of men,
the knowledge whose aim is to detect the peculiarities,
passions, and foibles of other men,
And lay bare what are called the recesses of the human heart.

Information of this kind is, for one thing, meaningless,
Unless on the assumption the we know the universal:
man as man, and, that always must be, as mind.

And for another, being only engaged with casual,
insignificant and untrue aspects of mental life,
It fails to reach the underling essence of them all:
THE MIND ITSELF.

[corsivi e maiuscoli non di Hegel]

 

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

Even the German Women were terrific fighters

Even the German Women were terrific fighters

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

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

ψ

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

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

ψ

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

Why cherry on the pie?

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

She has a VERY BAD temper ;-)

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

Why We Love The Germans

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

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

In the meanwhile: Carla Shodde.

Impiety Among Philosophers

Found In Antiquity Carla Shodde

Carla thus presents her work and studies:

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

 

Uncial sample

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This being fussily said o_O  …

 

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

I)

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

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

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

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

A Master Shows

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

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

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

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

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

 

Interlingua at Austin, Texas

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

II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro. Click for credits and source file

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

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

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

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

[Getting Big Deal Man, I know ^^'  ]

Interlingua: Many Languages
at the Same Time

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

 ψ

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

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

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

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

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

“Christianity was not
a mystery religion”

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

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

“Pagan Theology: Overlooked”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus carrying the cross. Click for credits

Jesus carrying the cross. Click for credits

Regards from Rome.

Giovanni

Sex and the city (of Rome) – or (of Albion?). Season II. 2

Stonehenge

[Draft, incomprehensible perhaps, havin' just fun writing ]

 

Massimo: “Master, am I ready now?”

Giorgio: “Not yet”

Massimo [read about him when much younger Giorgio 'discovered' him (διδάσκαλος btw always hid his capabilities by looking naive: one among many tricks he had / has. Or was / is he really naive?] :

“One thing διδάσκαλε. Why have you skipped the ‘secret of the secrets post’? Will you mean that readers can rest also on Saturday?”

Giorgio, an inscrutable look in his eyes: “This is not important. Do you know who I really am μαθητής?”

In Britannia, oceani insula
cui Albion nomen est …

Manius like a numen from another universe was piercing the scene through the mist of his mind. Much to his surprise he became capable of ‘sensing’ the pupil (μαθητής) giving his Master (διδάσκαλος, Didaskalos) an ancient look that made Britannicus of the Papirii – seasoned soldier of Rome – shudder.

He could also perceive Massimo kneeling on one knee and uttering, gravely:

“O ancient-wisdom philosopher, o supreme mathematician & guide of my troubled life. I am so confused διδάσκαλε. It suddenly turned that …. (he looked kind of embarrassed now) it turned that I was unbeatable, Master, yesterday morning, on the A.S. Roma‘s soccer field. What the hell is going on διδάσκαλε? Doesn’t that reveal I a-m ready???”

 

Massimo being strong willed was no match at all for Giorgio, who ignored him, unemotional, expressionless.

It looked as if he had forgotten his pupil, absorbed as he was in his constant daily writing on his notebooks (he had a full collection of them …)

 A soldier quakes

In another time, another place a strong and iron-willed soldier lost his sight and began to quake as if possessed by demons [καὶ λέγουσιν Δαιμόνιον ἔχει ...] His head was exploding.

With an immense effort – due to the brutal training typical of any Roman army of any time – helped just a little bit by his three timid-but-perfectly-fit slaves (they were strictly forbidden to help: a black man, two female slave musicians) – the soldier of Rome succeeded di stendersi a terra, aspettare che il dolore finisse e poi lentamente, sollevando la testa verso la luna piena, recitare debolmente, ma fermamente, la seguente preghiera, che lo portò alla calma … all’amore divino …

Full moon rising from the ocean. Click for credits

Full moon rising from the ocean. Click for credits

 

Tu Luna,
luce feminea conlustrans cuncta terrarum,
iam nunc extremis subsiste,
et pausam pacem, Regina, tribue.

You Moon,
Who with your female light illuminate all lands,
Please help me in this time of adversity
And grant me, Queen, dulcis peace, and rest.

 

Ancora dolore e poi di nuovo calma e un senso di amore nuovamente a pervaderlo, che però in questa fase buia durava in effetti poco e quindi pregava spesso e ancora più spesso beveva (l’orrenda, densa birra dei barbari anglosassoni).

La vita era schifosa e bella, allegra e triste, lancinante e vibrante. E poi arrivavano quelle visioni, come in una nebbia, che oltre ad ossessionarlo gli facevano letteralmente scoppiare l’encefalo.

Dopo che Cinzia, l’unico vero amore della sua vita (Manius dei Papirii era monogamo, costume forse succhiato dalla poccia materna – parola etrusca – cioè dalla madre, nativa di Roma, madre romana dall’Urbs del mondo intero), da quando cioè Cinzia, beh, il dolore era stato talmente forte che – come Orazio, Virgilio Catullo (i sacri autori) e come soprattutto Cesare, il padre di tutto e facitore della potenza romana – da quando in sostanza Cinzia preferì un semplice retore a un filosofo pitagorico (lui) Manius si era dato agli amori facili con schiave e schiavi.

Altro precetto, oltre la tendenza alla monogamia, di sua madre – donna forte e santa che si concedeva pochi vizi (qualche droga bizantina, qualche massaggio persiano alle terme) – era che la ‘familia’ andava meglio se il paterfamilias era come – e qui giù con espressione ineffabile e Rasna – era come dire un tronco (raffinato termine dal double entendre, altra espressione, questa, dal patois gallico). Un tronco, cioè il pater, che teneva solo la casa eretta in piedi dando gioia a lei (double entendre) e a tutta la maison.

E l’amata sposa, virtuosa e traendo dal tronco forza, ci costruiva – si ripeté per farsi coraggio pensando a Iside – ci costruiva attorno la casa, come aveva fatto Ulisse, un Ulisse femmina (o androgino ermafrodito: concetto complesso esoterico, dai risvolti misticamente vibranti).

Infine, cherry on the pie (stava imparando l’anglosassone?) e altro precetto e aforisma (ne sentirete parecchi) di quella santa donna, tipicamente romano nella sua praticità e eticità al contempo, era che gli schiavi qualunque fosse il loro sesso dovevano innamorarsi del Pater (anzi “andavano acquistati – diceva la donna mentre pregava i Lari – proprio con questa tendenza nel loro Geist (Aenglish?), tendenza d’amore servile ma amore non the less verso il capo sommo e sacerdote supremo familiare.

“Tutto sarebbe andato meglio, better still (Aenglisc ancora dannazione!), veramente meglio” gli aveva ripetuto più volte in un latino quasi ciceroniano (era poliglotta Mutti, parlava una decina di lingue usate in giro per l’impero ivi compresi 3 dialetti gallici appresi ad Augusta Taurinorum prima del divorzio con il provinciale montanaro (suo padre, ma di prische virtù che a Roma, diciamolo pure – pensò Manius – si cercavano con la torcetta).

Precetto, diceva la dolce bella madre ricamando sonoramente sull’idea (aveva la passione della lira e della poesia, e a Torino aveva appreso l’arpa celtica da una schiava gallica con cui amava celebrare, assieme ad altre donne, il culto santo della Dea Bona: Bona, diciamolo, nozione sacra e veramente misterica (oltre che romana) per cui una donna bella a Roma era detta Bona), precetto poi che assicurava (se ne era accorto anche a Roma con il nuovo Pater di sua madre) che le casa funzionasse liscia come l’olio spalmato sul corpo bello, possente e attraente dei gladiatori.

 

ψ

Questo Manius pensava pregando di nuovo in ginocchio la Juno della madre.

Poi scuoteva la testa e pensava:

Ma che ‘familia’ è la mia ormai? Vivo qui, intrappolato in una torre, giocattolo di questi lerci tedeschi di cui si sente il puzzo già a quattro milia passum (e che disprezzo dal profondo dell’inner Geist.)

Perché non lo uccidevano per Bacco? Ne avrebbe portato almeno una ventina con sé nell’Ade (Manius era addestrato come il pitagorico Milone) ma almeno poi avrebbe finito la sua vita fallita e svilita per gemere tra le ombre sotterranee (ancora più infelice, non importa … ma – si chiese angosciato – c’era solo l’Ade o qualcos’altro? Scacciò il pensiero con rabbia, il Magister non lo voleva ricordare poiché anche Cinzia era stata sua allieva e nel giardino della bella domus subalpina di *** si erano dati il primo, dolcissimo, profondo, bacio d’amore.”

Scese dal piano di avvistamento all’aria aperta a quelli inferiori, protetti da occhi indiscreti.

Perfetti, nel corpo e nello spirito

I suoi schiavi erano perfetti, nel corpo e nello spirito, allenati da lui come lui a sua volta era stato allenato (e iniziato) dal Magister, provinciale forse ma di una certa fama ad Augusta Taurinorum, dove viveva ancora suo padre risposatosi con una ricca vedova, di razza celtico ligure (il padre) – un romano provinciale d’altri tempi che gli aveva trasmesso valori d’altri tempi, discendete di quei galli togati del Nord ovest, al confine con la Gallia Grande e un tempo comata (ma ora totalmente romanizzata che però si ostinava scioccamente ad adorare non si sa cosa di mistico in quel bel vulcano del massiccio centrale, il Puy de Dôme, nel territorio degli Arverni, il popolo del valoroso Vercingetorix.

ψ

Depressso, Manius Lentulus chiamato Britannicus scese i rozzi gradini con spiritualmente spossata lentezza.

Voleva una notte d’amore con uno dei servi. Gli altri due sarebbero rimasti in piedi in funzione cubicolare, attorno cioè al giaciglio (se serviva qualche bevanda, un massaggio, se serviva protezione da un attacco improvviso, giaciglio (spartano) dove il paterfamilias – con potere di vita e morte come ai bei tempi della Roma bella sacra santa – cavalcava (o veniva cavalcato, cives ormai allo sbando e senza dignitas), cavalcava, e veniva cavalcato, per tutta le santae ore della notte. Stava lasciandosi andare, lo sapeva, ma non certo gli faceva difetto il vigore, di razza romanao pura, da parte Mutti, e montanara taurina (più tosta, i romani de Roma inesorabilmente decadevano) da parte di Pater.

Ne vigore mancava ai suoi servi, atleti perfetti, come lui …

Manius era in realtà – pensò (ma qualcuno osservandolo inosservabile non era d’accordo) una nullità. Privo ormai della Venus urania si dava come logica conseguenza, quasi teorema spirituale, alla Venus carnalis.

Essere amato teneramente, rifletté con tristezza, era meglio di niente.

Anche se va da sé che non poteva amare degli animali parlanti, ma averne affetto come per un pet o puer, oh questo sì, oh veramente sì, lui lo poteva, eccome se lo poteva, perché era questa la sua familia, non un gran che – i suoi compagni di scuola, pensò, un riso amaro sulle labbra, avrebbero sghignazzato frasi scurrili (compagni in realtà sublimi, ma il sublime e lo scurrile non si fondevano forse in unità superiore, neo platonicamente?)

Platonicamente ma alla romana si intende (questa cosa dello scurrile e del sublime).

Sebbene in crisi profonda Manius Papirius Lentulus era ancora un soldato: amava la cultura greca ma solo se filtrata dall’urbs.

“Perché – l’encefalo esplodendogli, e si trovava misteriosamente, e fisicamente, di fronte ad un uditorio di Augusta – l’atto sublime dell’osanna – disse calcando la voce, la gente lo guardava attonita – alle pompae triumphales dei bei tempi, verso quei condottieri  vincitori osannati e elevati quasi a dio su terra,  andava controbilanciato, per arrivare alla mediocritas – qui la voce si fece sghignazzo possente mistico -  con i l-a-z-z-i della soldatesca!!”

Il pubblico sobrio della città di Torino era esterrefatto.

ψ

Sublime e scurrile, ripeté debolmente.

Giunto nella stanza principale prese la mano di uno dei suoi schiavi.

Il buio del locale appena illuminato da una torcia non fece distinguere se la mano presa con tenerezza (la stessa che provava per i i cani e gli esseri inferiori della natura) fosse di pelle bianca o nera ….

ψ

 

 

Related posts (see also links above) :

Sex and the city (of Rome). Season II. 1

You may like Sex and The city (of Rome.) Season I:

Sex and the City (of Rome). 1
Sex and the city (of Rome) 2

Sex and the city (of Rome) 3
Sex and the city (of Rome) 4
Sex and the city (of Rome). A Conclusion

Also:

Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

Silvestri, Berlusconi and the Emperor Tiberius

Mother Goose’s “Monday’s child is fair of face” (the Number 7)

The real Mother Goose?

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace;
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go;
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

[Mother Goose rhymes]

ψ

Tomorrow Number Seven will not teach us that:

There are 7 colours in the rainbow
7 Kings (or Hills) in Rome,
7 sages of Greece (οἱ ἑπτὰ σοφοί, hoi hepta sophoi)
7 sages in India (Saptarishi)
7 wise Medieval Masters
[see a great list here.]

However it will be so inspiring as to make us understand that we can learn, via 7 steps, Ancient Greek (in 7 days.)

Antonio The Samnite
(from Οὐέναφρον)

Samnite soldiers, from a tomb frieze in Paestum, Lucania, 4th century BCE

Samnite soldiers, from a tomb frieze in Paestum, Lucania, 4th century BCE. Click to enlarge

“You must be kidding”
“I am not”

 ψ

Motivated people will acquire decorous-enough wings that will progressively and placidly take them way up high to Greek Old and New Testament, Aesop’s Fables, Strabo and so forth up to many Greek poems and Aristotle (Plato is hard, albeit the apex.)

Stay tuned.

The ‘Black Book’ Of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Campaign. Harsher Criticism on Caesar(ism) (4)

19th-century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet)

19th-century statue of Vercingétorix (by Aimé Millet) near the village of Alise-Sainte-Reine, Burgundy, France. Wikipedia. Click for source and larger view

Caesar‘s contemporaries were not overly happy about his Gallic campaign – Luciano Canfora observes.

[Luciano Canfora, Giulio Cesare, Mondadori 2010, XV, p. 132; English translation]

“This must be taken into account – he argues – when assessing the long-term effects of the conquest of Gaul, whose ‘inevitability’ is often teleologically overestimated. There is doubtless a risk of adopting a colonialist view.”

“A campaign unprovoked, with no real menace lurking, led to the destruction of the previous civilisation gradually supplanted by Romanisation, a genocide of monstrous proportions according to the convergent testimonies of Pliny the Elder and of Plutarch.”

Sources of a genocide

Let us then have a look at Pliny’s and Plutarch’s words.

Pliny the Elder: [Naturalis Historia; English: 7, 25; Latin: 7,92]

“For, outside (praeter) his victories in the Civil Wars [therefore in his Gallic wars only, MoR] Caesar slew in battle 1,192,000 of his enemies; but this, for my own part, I hold no special glory of his (non equidem in gloria posuerim), considering the great injury so inflicted on Humankind (coactam humani generis iniuriam): and this crime, indeed, he hath himself confessed, by avoiding to set down (non prodendo) the slaughter that occurred during the Civil Wars.”

Pliny’s moral indignation is unambiguous. His accusation, that Caesar hid his figures, harsh (Canfora.)

From the frontispiece of Plutarch's Lives by John Langhorne and William Langhorne. Baltimore: W. & J. Neal, 1836

From the frontispiece of Plutarch’s Lives by John Langhorne and William Langhorne. Baltimore: W. & J. Neal, 1836

Plutarch, Parallel Lives:

“Although it was not full ten years that he waged war in Gaul, Caesar took by storm more than 800 cities, subdued 300 nations, and fought pitched battles at different times with 3 million men, of whom he slew 1 million in hand to hand fighting and took as many more prisoners. (Life of Caesar 15, 5; English; Greek)

In the Life of Cato the younger (51, 1; English; Greek) Plutarch reveals the number of Germani slaughtered by Caesar by treachery and Cato’s proposal ‘to surrender Caesar to those whom he had wronged’:

“When it was believed that Caesar had attacked the Germans even during a truce (σπονδή) and slain 300,000 of them, there was a general demand at Rome that the people should offer sacrifices of good tidings (εὐαγγέλια θύειν; supplicatio, in Latin), but Cato urged them to surrender Caesar to those whom he had wronged (ἐκδιδόναι τὸν Καίσαρα τοῖς παρανομηθεῖσι), and not to turn upon themselves, or allow to fall upon their city (εἰς τὴν πόλιν), the pollution of his crime (τὸ ἄγος).”

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th-century portrait

Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19th-century portrait. Wikipedia

Pessimism of Aristocrats
defeated by Caesarism

Pliny the Elder was a member of those senatorial aristocrats nostalgic for the Republic and set aside by the new ‘monarchy‘ favoured by Caesar’s course.

Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall…, vol. I, Chap 3, part 2) seems sympathetic to their ideals:

“The education of Helvidius and Thrasea, of Tacitus and Pliny, was the same as that of Cato and Cicero. From Grecian philosophy, they had imbibed the justest and most liberal notions of the dignity of human nature, and the origin of civil society. The history of their own country had taught them to revere a free, a virtuous, and a victorious commonwealth; to abhor the successful crimes of Caesar and Augustus; and inwardly to despise those tyrants whom they adored with the most abject flattery.”

Which were these ideals?

Ettore Paratore (1907 - 2000) in his studyroom. One of the major scholars of Latin literature

Ettore Paratore (1907 – 2000) in his study-room. He was one of the major scholars of Latin literature after World War II. Courtesy of RAI

According to Ettore Paratore such ideals had been well expressed centuries earlier by the Scipionic circle (Cornelia, Caius Laelius Sapiens, Scipio Aemilianus, Polybius, Panaetius, Lucilius, Terence etc.): a group of eminent people [whose 'structured circle' some scholars now call into question, MoR] open to Greek philosophy and Roman humanitas where power was transfigured as a message of civilization and fraternity, whose spiritual reasons had been sung by Virgil.

[E. Paratore, Profilo della Letteratura Latina, Sansoni, 1964, p. 351.]

According to Tacitus (who “internalized the senatorial ethic as only a newcomer can”: livius.org) the first Roman emperors had not lived up to these ideals because of Tyranny and its gloomy trail of crimes, blood, empty feelings (Paratore.)

[From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, from the American and French Revolutions to 19th-century romanticism –any 'yearning for liberty' will condemn Caesarism & the Roman Empire and will see in Tacitus - see image below - their historian; MoR]

Tacitus. A modern statue outside the Austrian Parliament Building. Wikipedia. Click for source

Tacitus. A modern statue outside the Austrian Parliament Building. Wikipedia. Click for source

Vercingetorix, national hero
of Gaul (and of France)

Mario: “You got carried away and forgot about Caesar’s conquest of Gaul”.
MoR: “Well, many French will also see in Vercingetorix their national hero, and in Camille Jullian (1859 – 1933) their bard.”

ψ

Camille Jullian is a great historian and a great writer. I very much enjoyed his Vercingétorix (1902), available in French as Gutenberg text.

A coin depicting an idealised Vercingetorix

A coin depicting an idealised Vercingetorix

Here is a patchwork from Jullian’s book (assembled and translated by MoR):

“The Celts had a sense of moral unity and this feeling survived their rivalries. Among them traditions had formed and legends, a spiritual heritage. There were poets, bards, who sang the deeds of the kings and the vast empire they once possessed. Their priests, the Druids, taught that all Gauls were descended from the same god.”

“The Arverni were the people designated to profit from these aspirations. Their land was the ‘navel’ of the Celtic world: the Puy de Dôme, where the powerful god Teutates lived, was at an equal distance from the main frontiers of Gaul. The Arverni were the bravest and the most numerous, they had the richest lands and they obeyed to the god who could speak from the highest peak.

Puy de Dôme, a volcanoe in the region of Massif Central in south-central France Auvergne)

Puy de Dôme, a volcano in the region of Massif Central in south-central France (Auvergne). It served for centuries as an assembly place for spiritual ceremonies. Click for source

We almost see these Arvernian kings thanks to Posidonius, a Greek philosopher who traveled about the country soon after their passing. He was dazzled by the spectacle offered by the person and by the procession of the most powerful king of the West, surprised to find in Gaul the pompous custom of the military monarchies of the East. Luern distributed down from his chariot gold and silver to the crowd. He held for many days banquets of stupendous luxury. The Arverni had a taste for the colossal, Puy de Dôme inspired them to greatness.”

“Even shinier was the vision of the Arvernian king at war, advancing in the halo of his necklace and golden bracelets, on a chariot plated in silver, followed by the bronze boars of the tribes. Not far, the formidable pack of his hunting dogs. Beside him, finally, the poet, a lyre in his hand, singing the glorious feats of arms of the king and his nation. And the men, their senses impregnated with the royal glory, the eyes affected by the gold, the ears by the clamour, the thinking by the verses, they imagined that perhaps they had just seen a god.”

“The Arvernian empire resembled no regular state, made as it was by a league of tribes. The Arverni of Bituit fairly correspond in the history of Gaul to the Romans of Servius Tullius and his Latin league in the history of Rome. But the advantage is all on the side of the Gauls: their gold, light and bright coins were infinitely more precious than this square bronze, dark and massive coin which is the Roman as of the early times, and I don’t think that at the court of Servius one was delighted by the long chansons de geste dear to our ancestors. Gaul debuted merrily into civilized life, and partly according to the Greek rite.”

Coins from Gaul

Coins from ancient Gaul. Coinage had started in Gaul a few centuries BC. Courtesy of ‘Le blog de Lutèce’ (www.e-stoire.net), a good site about the French celts (in French)

[The Arverni were defeated by the Romans in 121 BC and Roman Gallia Narbonensis was established. Called 'Provincia', it later evolved into Provence, MoR.]

A new Arvernian chieftain

“Nearly a century later, Caesar having appeared on the Rhone, it seemed natural that, after numerous bloody battles, a new Arvernian chieftain unified the scattered tribes into a single command. This man was Vercingetorix.”

“The Gallic fatherland, as Vercingetorix imagined it, I believe, was the practice of this community of blood, of this original identity that the Druids had taught.”

“Vercingetorix identified his life with that of the Gallic homeland and with the liberty of its people to the extent that, the day the gods condemned his dream, he thought only to disappear.”

“He had been defeated not only by a man but by the gods. Having begun the war with human sacrifices, he would end it much in the same way, resolved to offer himself as an expiatory victim.”

A Gallic human sacrifice

A Gallic human sacrifice. Courtesy of ‘Le blog de Lutèce’ (www.e-stoire.net)

Ceremony of surrender

“The Romans were admirable directors. They always staged the shows which struck the imagination of both the allied and the vanquished, which at times served as much as a victory to ensure their command. Julius Caesar, the day after his victory, presented to the gods of his country the same king and leader of those he had defeated.”

“Before the camp, within the lines of defense, the high platform of the proconsul had been erected, isolated and preceded by steps, like a sanctuary. On top, Caesar sat on the imperial seat, wearing his purple robe. Around him, the eagles of the legions and the cohorts’ emblems as symbols of the protective deities of the Roman army. In front of him, the mountain that crowned the ramparts of Alesia, its flanks covered with corpses. Spectators of the show, 40,000 legionaries, standing on the terraces and towers that surrounded Caesar as an armed crown. On the horizon, the immense frame of the hills.”

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar by Henri Paul Motte

Vercingetorix before Caesar (by Henri Paul Motte, 1886)

“Alone, on horseback, Vercingetorix was the first to exit the gates of the city, no herald preceding his coming. He came down the mountain trails and appeared suddenly before Caesar.”

“He wore his finest weapons, his gold phalerae gleaming on his chest. Straightening his tall figure he got near the platform with the attitude of the proud winner going to triumph. Fierce expression, superb stature, his body sparkling with gold and silver, he must have looked bigger than a human being, and as august as a hero.”

ψ

[The above patchwork in French]

ψ

Previous installments:

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)
Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)
“Caesar was like the wind. Can we condemn the wind? And yet what scourge can it bring forth!” (3)

See also:

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

Conquest Of Gaul. Debate On Julius Caesar’s Conduct, Motives, Achievements (2)

Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar by Henri Paul Motte

Vercingetorix before Caesar (by Henri Paul Motte, 1886)

As regards Julius Caesars conquest of Gaul (and other actions of his) we will here just scratch the surface of a debate (among admirers mostly) on Caesar’s conduct, motives and achievements.

The debate among Caesar’s detractors will be the subject of the two upcoming posts (a list of all installments is at the foot of the page.)

Imperialism by ‘historical necessity’

We are dealing here with imperialism, it is clear, justified by some as ‘historical necessity’ (not the time now to get into philosophy of history.)

Luciano Canfora‘s judgement on Caesar is in truth multifaceted (Giulio Cesare, il dittatore democratico, Mondadori 2010, XV, pp. 137-8; English translation):

“Gaul was thus inserted by violence and genocide into the circuit of the Roman ‘civilization’ … Naturally, the romanization of Gaul is a phenomenon of such a historical amplitude as to impose the question of whether the accounting of the dead proposed with extreme clarity by Pliny the Elder (together with the harsh accusation that Caesar hid his figures) should not however give way, on the plane of historical assessment, to what can be considered the crucial event in the formation of medieval and later modern Europe.”

Gaul at the time of Caesar

Gaul at the time of Caesar. Click for attribution

Mere ambition
or conquest with a big vision?

As for “whether Caesar’s conquest was motivated by mere ambition” rather than by the design of opening a ‘new frontier’, Canfora observes:

“As if the two things could really be distinguished in the work of a great statesman.”

Theodor Mommsen too had argued (History of Rome, V,7. The Subjugation of the West):

“It is more than an error, it is an outrage upon the sacred spirit dominant in history, to regard Gaul solely as the parade ground on which Caesar exercised himself and his legions for the impending civil war.”

“Though the subjugation of the West was for Caesar so far a means to an end that he laid the foundations of his later height of power in the Transalpine wars, it is the especial privilege of a statesman of genius that his means themselves are ends in their turn. Caesar needed no doubt for his party aims a military power, but he did not conquer Gaul as a partisan.”

“There was a direct political necessity for Rome to meet the perpetually threatened invasion of the Germans thus early beyond the Alps, and to construct a rampart there which should secure the peace of the Roman world.”

Hermann Heights Monument erected in New Ulm, Minnesota

Hermann Monument erected in New Ulm (Minnesota), a town founded by German immigrants in 1854. Wikimedia

Were German migrations
Rome’s big problem?

According to 19th century Mommsen, one of Caesar’s main merits was that of understanding who the big enemy of Rome actually was:

“Inasmuch as [Caesar] with sure glance perceived in the German tribes the rival antagonists of the Romano-Greek world;
inasmuch as with firm hand he established the new system of aggressive defense down even to its details, and taught men to protect the frontiers of the empire by rivers or artificial ramparts, to colonize the nearest barbarian tribes along the frontier with the view of warding off the more remote, and to recruit the Roman army by enlistment from the enemy’s country;
he gained for the Hellenico-Italian culture the interval necessary to civilize the West …”

Hermann, Armin or Arminius, chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci

Hermann chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci. His victory over a Roman army in the Teutoburg forest (9 AD) made him a symbol of German patriotism

Today’s views by historians are more complex. A number of factors (not only German mass migrations, seen mostly as gradual integration) are seen as causes of Rome’s fall (see a list of theories about why Rome fell).

Furthermore, Germania at the time of Caesar (1rst cent. BC; or of Augustus and Hermann, 1rst cent. AD) was backward compared to Germania in the 4th-5th centuries AD.

As Peter Heather put it (The Fall of the Roman Empire. A new History. I,2. Pan Books 2005):

“It could hardily be clearer that 19th-century visions of an ancient German nation were way off target … the inhabitants of first century Germania [Germans, Celts and another unidentified group, according to Heather] had no capacity to formulate and put into practice a sustained and unifying political agenda (p.55.)”

It was therefore not German military prowess – Heather continues, p.58 – to scare the Romans off Germania, but its poverty [different was the case of richer Gaul, MoR.]

The issue of Parthia

The Parthian (Persian) empire soon after Caesar time

The Parthian (Persian) empire a few years after Caesar’s time. According to many historians Persia was Rome’s main antagonist. Wikipedia

Getting back to Caesar’s motives for conquering Gaul, he was surely aware of the German danger (L. Canfora). That he wrote this in the Commentarii as justification for his wars doesn’t though prove much.

Caesar’s literary work was political. Caesar’s bloody conquest had outraged many of his adversaries. The roman general needed to indicate his conquest as preemptive.

The Cimbri‘s and Teutones‘ dreadful raids in Gaul and Italy – occurred 50 years earlier – could have nonetheless brought serious problems to Rome had Gaius Marius, Caesar’s uncle, not stopped them.

Caesar was therefore aware of the danger even before facing Ariovistus. That Germani were considered by him Rome’s big problem is doubtful though. It is more likely that the Romans, in the various phases of their empire, feared more the much stronger and civilized power of the Parthians in the East [Heather, p.48 et. al.; see also Roman-Parthian wars.]

Parthian horseman. Palazzo Madama, Torino, Italy.

Parthian horseman. Palazzo Madama, Torino, Italy. Wikipedia

Some evidence shows this may have also been Caesar’s view.

Crassus, Caesar’s amicus, had been defeated in 55 BC at Carrhae by the Parthians of his time (Crassus had been killed and 7 legions annihilated). All this had happened during Caesar’s Gallic wars.

So Caesar, as Mommsen wrote, “taught men to protect the frontiers of the empire” toward Germania but did not plan any conquest of Germania beyond the Rhine. In the last period of his life he was instead preparing a military expedition against the Parthians which he could not carry out because he was murdered in 44 BC.

[the two paragraphs above reflect MoR's opinion]

“Reorganization of the State,
more than Gaul, was crucial”

The weakness of the declining Roman aristocracy, according to Mommsen, meant danger to Rome.

“It hardly admits of a doubt – he argued – that if the rule of the senate had prolonged its semblance of life … the Italian civilization would not have become naturalized either in Gaul, or on the Danube, or in Africa and Spain.”

Irish Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar in 'Rome',  an HBO BBC TV series

Irish Ciarán Hinds as Julius Caesar in ‘Rome’, a British-American-Italian historical drama TV series

The British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889 – 1975; Julius Caesar current Britannica’s entry) downplays the importance of the conquest of Gaul by Caesar. To him the reorganization of the state and the removal of an oligarchy no longer à la hauteur was more crucial. 

“Great though this achievement was, its relative importance in Caesar’s career and in Roman history has been overestimated … In Caesar’s mind his conquest of Gaul was probably carried out only as a means to his ultimate end. He was acquiring the military manpower, the plunder, and the prestige that he needed to secure a free hand for the prosecution of the task of reorganizing the Roman state and the rest of the Greco-Roman world. This final achievement of Caesar’s looms much larger than his conquest of Gaul, when it is viewed in the wider setting of world history.”

Caesar vs Shih Huang Ti

A.J. Toynbee here sings praises to Caesar’s overall achievements.

Caesar“This cool-headed man of genius with an erratic vein of sexual exuberance undoubtedly changed the course of history at the Western end of the Old World.”

“By liquidating the scandalous and bankrupt rule of the Roman nobility, he gave the Roman state —and with it the Greco-Roman civilization— a reprieve that lasted for more than 600 years in the East and for more than 400 years in the relatively backward West. [...] The prolongation of the life of the Greco-Roman civilization had important historical effects.”

Qinshihuang“Caesar’s political achievement was limited. Its effects were confined to the Western end of the Old World and were comparatively short-lived by Chinese or ancient Egyptian standards. The Chinese state founded by Shih Huang Ti in the 3rd century BC still stands, and its future may be still greater than its past.

Yet, even if Caesar were to prove to have been of lesser stature than this Chinese colossus, he would still remain a giant by comparison with the common run of human beings.”

ψ

Other installments:

Julius Caesar’s Conquest Of Gaul. When North-West Europe & The Mediterranean ‘Embraced’ (1)
“Caesar was like the wind. Can we condemn the wind? And yet what scourge can it bring forth!” (3)
The ‘Black Book’ Of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Campaign (4)

See also:

France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome
Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow

Sopravvivenze della dea romana Fortuna

Resti del tempio della Fortuna Primigenia a Palestrina (l’antica Preaneste)

English original

Abbiamo parlato di sopravvivenze della religione romana. Della dea romana Fortuna sopravvivono oggi vari elementi, tra cui i più significativi ci sembrano:

1) la ricorrente personificazione della fortuna nel linguaggio comune;
2) alcuni aspetti della funzione oracolare della dea, legati alla predizione del futuro;
3) uno degli emblemi della Fortuna, la ruota, che se originariamente forse indicava il disco solare venne poi man mano a significare la mutabilità della vita umana.

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1) Personificazione. Quando pronunciamo frasi come “invocarono la fortuna” o “gli scherzi della fortuna” siamo di fronte alla personificazione di qualcosa di capriccioso che è radicato nella nostra mente e che si può far risalire all’antica divinità romana Fortuna.

2) Predizione del futuro. Non lontano da Roma, ad Anzio e a Praeneste (l’odierna Palestrina), si trovavano due famosi santuari della dea Fortuna. I romani vi si recavano per conoscere il futuro, tra le altre cose. L’oracolo a Praeneste era connesso all’impressionante santuario (vedi l’immagine sopra e il link qui a sinistra) della Fortuna Primigenia (la Fortuna del primogenito) dove un giovinetto estraeva per i visitatori le sortes (delle barre di legno di quercia) che recavano inciso il futuro.

Allo stesso modo oggi ci rechiamo da chi ci predice la ‘fortuna’ ovvero il futuro. Se le due parole – fortuna e futuro (“vuoi conoscere la tua fortuna?”) – sono sinonimi in tale contesto, ciò lo si deve all’antico ruolo oracolare della divinità romana Fortuna.

Ruota della fortuna

3) La ruota della Fortuna. Credo che pochissimi spettatori della Ruota della Fortuna, una delle trasmissioni televisive più famose in tutto il mondo, si rendano conto di trovarsi di fronte a un fossile culturale dell’antica Roma (sopra l’immagine della Ruota della Fortuna di Singapore).

La dea Fortuna era infatti spesso rappresentata vicino ad una ruota e in piedi su una sfera (che altro non è che la ruota a tre dimensioni oltre che metafora del mondo). Ciò stava ad indicare come il nostro futuro sia incerto, proprio come i giri casuali di una ruota o sfera.

La dea poteva anche tenere una cornucopia, che simboleggia l’abbondanza, e un timone, che indicava come essa regolasse il destino dell’uomo.

Illustrazione dall’Assedio di Troia di John Lydgate (1370 – 1450) con la ruota della fortuna fatta girare dalla ‘Regina’ Fortuna (dal sito TheDEN)

Ma solo la ruota è sopravvissuta nell’immaginario moderno e ciò probabilmente è dovuto, tra le altre cose, all’influenza di un testo, La consolazione della filosofia di Boezio (nel II libro dell’opera si parla della Fortuna), un filosofo discendente da una famiglia romana da cui erano venuti imperatori e consoli.

Cicerone aveva già parlato della ruota ma è stato il testo di Boezio a rendere la dea Fortuna e la sua ruota popolarissime in tutto il medioevo. Ecco un brano sulla Fortuna e la sua ruota tratto dal libro II:

“So quanto la fortuna sia sempre amichevole e allettante con chi cerca di ingannare, finché non lo travolge con un dolore al di là di ogni sopportazione, abbandonando chi meno se l’aspetta … lei gira la ruota della sorte con mano altezzosa … è questo il suo sport, in tal modo dà prova di ciò di cui è capace, quando nella stessa ora solleva un uomo alla felicità, e poi l’abbatte nella disperazione: è così che mostra tutta la sua potenza”.

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Concluderemo accennando ad alcune poesie medievali (228) rinvenute nel 1803 nel monastero bavarese di Benediktbeuern. Composte intorno al 1230 in gran parte in latino e conosciute oggi con il nome di  Carmina Burana, esse satireggiano la Chiesa e i tempi e furono scritte da studenti universitari in un momento in cui il latino era la lingua franca d’Europa. Alcune poesie sono dedicate alla Fortuna e alla sua ruota.

Nel 1937 il compositore tedesco Carl Orff mise in musica alcune di queste poesie.

Il brano più famoso è tra l’altro “O Fortuna” (il primo del filmato qui sopra) che apre e chiude la composizione (seguendo il penultimo link è possibile leggere il testo originale di tutti i Carmina Burana. Potete ascoltare il primo brano musicale di Orff e seguirne il testo latino riportato qui sotto).

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O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
egestatem,
potestatem
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
obumbrata
et velata
mihi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
mihi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.

Hac in hora
sine mora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

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