The Greek alphabet is hard only at first

My Latin and Greek classes are starting but I need some inspiration. Bits of the said languages will appear from now on over a gradual and mild crescendo. I might be didactic now since my mind is drained a bit.

The inscription on the Constatine’s Arch above (315 AD) I made it shorter. It is symbolic of the entire story I am about to narrate [see a big image of it]

And do not to worry if you don’t understand all the words, just carry on! I have learned languages with the natural learning method – see this post – ie through non formal practice. It’s the way babies learn. It proved effective at any age, with me and many other people.

Tomes and Sibyllae

I can hear readers crunching popcorn (one at least) which is good for a mind journey although I don’t know the direction we will take. I have so much confusion in my head for a task bigger than myself, for stress I have accumulated and for something terrible (but auspicious) that happened a few days ago:

I have finally retrieved my grandfather’s tomes, my Di Penates or Patron Gods, I could say [Di = Gods, Deus = God.]

Minerva amomg the lemons on my terrace. May the goddess (and limoncello) inspire us

It’s not the commercial worth of tomes that range in any case from the Renaissance until the 1940s. It’s their valore psicologico especially, plus their content, archaeology and humanities mostly.


I had been looking for them since years. 2-3 weeks ago I chanced to say a few words to one of my two senseless sisters I seldom see but plan to fix that, one day or another:

“Hey donna [domna, domina ] it’s AGES I don’t see them, grandpa’s books. Does anyone know where the hell have they gone for Chrissake??”

Sibyl, by Francesco Ubertini, 1525. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien

Sometimes my voice gets pretty peremptory, I’ll admit. With such powerful sibyls so hard to handle Sibyllae: the Romans had few since Σίβυλλες were Greek mostly male verbal force is a weapon I use once every 15-20 months possibly 🙂

My new family – Fatum decreed – is again a sibyllina familia composed of a wonderful wife, 2 gem daughters, an ol’ Philippine woman, a sancta about to defeat gravity I’m sure – and Lilla dulcis in fundo, our female Bolognese dog, greatest Sibyl of them all I have little doubts.


In any case as if by miracle days later while I was opening the condominium attic door I much to my horror saw the tomes all scattered in messy piles and ALL SOAKED with WATER!!

My rage starting to surge in waves – I cannot believe it, leaking water was a known problem in that room! – I began barking so loud my wife, the Philippine and two workers happened there by chance ran worried (for my health) to the place and helped me carry the tomes down to my study-room, to THAT moment a tidy, quiet place for writing and reflection.

Well, look at my refugium NOW!

(From the left) Cicero (1559) Horace & Pliny (XVIII) drying themselves on the heater

A protector deity in our home

My paternal grandfather’s tomes, I said. He is the genius of our family, in both the modern and the ancient sense (the latter at least to me, my sisters having my father instead as their genius: see a Roman genius below.)

My father’s side means the North-West Italian alpine region of Piedmont – ie part of Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Narbonensis – a totally different universe I’m ignorant of except for what was transmitted to us by dad himself – no small thing in any case.

Head of a genius (protector deity) worshipped by Roman soldiers in Vindobona, a Roman-Celtic Donau settlement, 2nd century AD

I never met grandpa. He died of leukemia 2 years before I was born. I’ll say we are somewhat black sheep (oves nigrae?) compared to him – my dad and I.

He lost the fortune he had created from scratch because he firmly believed in his country, in Mussolini (since he had saved Italy from communism), but most of all he had (together with my father) a sort of feudal adoration for the Piedmontese King Vittorio Emanuele III d’Italia, which is understandable although a bit blind since this king was no big deal plus he basically betrayed us all also by cowardly fleeing from Rome when the Nazis arrived, which resulted in extra havoc – one reason, among many, why the Savoia lost their throne and we now are a Republic.

V. Emanuele II when still a crown prince. Ca 1890/93. He looks almost decent, but he was awfully short

Fulvia [an outspoken Romana Venus with South titbits, one reason possibly she abhors anything North of Rome, even just Tuscany:]

Oh how interesting! I thought we were going to have language classes, pupus.

Extropian: Fulvia, MoR means his grandfather is like an inspiring guide to him.

MoR: My nature is shallow compared to his. I mostly like he mastered maybe 8 languages – both modern and ancient – and despite being a pioneer in aeronautics plus an hydroelectric engineer entrepreneur, the day he sold his company and retired (all his money in treasury bonds fallen to dust, pulvis, because of the war) – he dedicated his last years to the study, or studium, of the Etruscan language.

Mario: Lingua Etrusca hodie exstincta? Per Hercules, why not Roman or, better, Greek stuff? C’mon pupus meus!

MoR: Stop with this pupus you moron. According to my father who seldom spoke about grandpa he adored mysteries and, well, the Etruscans are a mystery.

Flavia: Sempre co’ sti napoletani eddagli a Mario! (always with these Neapolitans etc.)
[Naples comes
from Νεάπολη id est Νέα Πόλις id est Nea Polis id est ‘New City’]

Weren’t these Tusci a great non Indo-European folk coming from some unknown place of the valde arcanus Oriens? I love all esoterica!

Etruscan civilization map. See the 12 League cities (Arretium is among them …)

MoR: Not much esoterica here Flavia, basically a big enigma, or αίνιγμα. The Romans, it has been said, called them Etrusci or Tusci (thence Tuscany.) The Italian Greeks Τυρρήνιοι, Tyrrhenioi (thence the Tyrrhenian Sea.) But they called themselves Rasenna, or the shorter Rasna.

Their language not yet well deciphered, their civilization not yet well understood, one additional reason is Rome possibly embodied them into herself.


Pausa nunc. Non Chia vina aut Lesbia but some simple tuscum de Caere vinum (see Caisra in the map above, Cerveteri hodies), a light red Fontana Morella, good for a small snack with bits of cheese, or caseus. Lots of laughing, moronities. Pausae finis.

Why now Calabrian Κρότων (Crotone)?

MoR: Rome and all Westerners are a bit Tusci – also the British or the Swedish with their aurora borealis eh Fulvia? 😉

Fulvia: Mwaaahh! Those pale ghosts from the North pole sleeping with polar bears? Oh Oh OOHH Giorgio – she bellowed – you’re totally nuts!

[*much appropriately, she – vacca nostra – adjusted her bust, id est her gorgeous mammae she unfortunately knows how to impress men with … well, only the silly men easily to get impressed, of course*].

[To Italian readers. Vacca – Latin for ‘cow’ – if possibly evocative, it’s not derogatory]

MoR: Fulvia, ehm, you forgot the Latin alphabet the Swedish (or the Brits) took from Rome owes a lot to the Rasna alphabet. As simple as that.

Embodied … one might say Calabrian Crotone, Κρότων, disappeared in much the same way. Such a great city, Κρότων from Magna Graecia, which is coastal Southern Italy. And Crotone surely a key place in our whole story. Oh you’ll be VALDE suprised, VERY obstupefacti, I am sure.

Magna Graecia or Μεγάλη Ἑλλάς in 280 AC

Flavia: *puzzled look in her deep black eyes* [a mixture of Minerva & Juno, extremely brilliant at school; Fulvia? Well, Fulvia was and is a shameless Venus] 

I don’t know where you’re aiming at. Magna Graecia – Big Greece or Μεγάλη Ἑλλάς – didn’t possibly correspond to Southern Italy only. The Greeks perhaps meant by Μεγάλη all the Greeks scattered over the coastal Mediterranean.

Besides, Crotone and the Etruscans, which connection …

MoR: Little in fact, but I mean, Crotone, so great and influential, what was left of her today? Same fatum as with Rasna, ie few remnants. And I might agree with Magna Graecia.

Κρότων continued to live in the centuries and seamlessly became today’s Crotone. Same happened to the Rasna folk. On a much larger scale same thing happened to Graeci-Romani Gentiles, id est Pagani. They were embodied – Paul Costopoulos pointed it out well –  so we don’t see them. But … postea, later.

Extropian: Actually they are haunting us, one can feel their animae even in the new frontiers of physics! I so hope you’re taking us where I suspect you’re taking us. Ego expectans atque VALDE sperans, pupus de Roma meus 😉

Mario: Maro’, I knew we’d get back to the Greco-Romans, un bravo pupo sei. But just one thing, the gladiators: I’ve heard they came from the Etruscans.

Extropian: The Etruscans had many mores (Latin) they transmitted to Romanis, not that I am that big expert or valde expertus.

And the women or mulìeres Giorgio? Being expertus in just math and physics, can you give us one reason why Fulvia is impudens, or even impudentissima? 😉

MoR: Ah ah ah! Well, as far as I know the Roman mulìeres were freer than their Greek counterparts since the days they mixed with the Etruscans, but I should check that better.

Flavia: Oh, I’m more experta! I once read a wonderful fabula about this girl from Rome when Rome was so ancient she was zero compared to the Etruscans. She chanced to marry to this Rasna boy and went to live in Arrētium, Tuscia (see the Etruscan map above and ceramics below.) Many things happened to her but what hit me were her rasna sister-in-laws, the way they were mocking her: to their eyes she was …provincial, stupidly decorous and restrained.

Ceramics from Arretium, the biggest pottery centre ever in Etruscan and Roman times (Maecenas was possibly born there.) Piece found at Arikamedu in India (1st cent. AD), evidence of Roman trade with India through Persia during Augustan times.

MoR: Arezzo was more powerful, ancient & refined than Roma. Titus Livius wrote Arretium was one of the 12 capitals, or Capitae Etruriae, said also Dodecapolis (δώδεκα, 12, + πόλeις, cities).

Fulvia: *giving Extropian her old mischievous look * Impudentissima?? Ah adulescentulus meus, you just wait and see!
*To MoR*
THAT is in fact much less fastidiosus, less boring.

MoR. Back to our points amici mei!

*Looking at Fulvia casually* My NORDIC grandmother used to kid his husband:  “Tusci are  just a bad copy of the Greeks also in the arts.” Nothing but a jest, though when grandpa died in 1946 she – nicknamed carrarmato di piume (tank disguised with feathers) – exerted her ‘feathers’over my poor dad who had TOTA his father’s vast materials and studies collected and revised by experti.

Among them, an advanced Etruscan grammar, according to grandma. In the end tota were given Piedmont-like to Fatherland, ie handed over to Massimo Pallottino, the scholar about to become number one in world Etruscology.

Whether my grandfather’s materials were of any help I cannot say. I never heard my grandfather mentioned anywhere in any scholarly paper about the Rasna …

Mario: *Looking at my grandfather’s photograph* You have his same face, MoR, and your eldest daughter too. Amazing.

Fulvia: Let me see .. you talked earlier of India, reincarnation: had he reincarnated in you, he must have been very unethical in his life despite his achievements .. 😉

MoR: You are certainly right, and believe me, you’re damn lucky I am not in the mood of explaining what your next reincarnation will be!!


Flavia’s ancient Roman laughter is heard in the room. It is loud, slightly crass but luminous, as it should be and as I hope it will ever ever be in the future, somewhat like a sympathetic, warm BIG HUG to the world.

Everybody left, except Flavia. We went to the kitchen and had a drink.

“Listen G – she said softly – we know each other since high school. I’ve heard you don’t see many friends after your retirement and that this research is what you care for more than anything else. Is it true?”

“No Flavia – I replied – I care infinitely more for my family. Yet, true, it’s taking me away from the present and reality and, while having me plunge deeper and deeper into Orphism & the ancient religions, it’s making me lunatic a bit and progressively isolated, sort of getting dangerous for my inner balance. But please don’t worry, I have spine, but most of all, I have the love of my wife and daughters and, of some dear old friend, I hope.”

“You surely have” she said, her eyes shining a bit. After another drink in silence she left.


Related posts:

The Human Mind is Like a Museum (very much to the point)

How To Easily Learn Ancient Greek and Latin (1). Poems Assemblage

The Day Paganism Yielded To Christianity. Has India Anything To Do With It?

23 thoughts on “How To Learn Greek and Latin (2). Some Inspiration From Penates, And Here We Go!

  1. I envy you the claim to a grandfather who left behind books at all! Dry Cicero ever so carefully or my friend Zeus will have words with you. I of course always have dried chickpeas in my pantry.

    Somewhere in my sordid library is a supposed historical account of the cheerful carnality of the Etruscans. But perhaps that is typical of the projection which most peoples practice, imagining other peoples had livelier times than any of us ever have, and were more full of soulful knowledge… all regions of the world have these elflike people, the Lapps, the Picts,

    Maybe it is all a hallucination of the limoncello.


    1. Cicero! Beloved, glorious, friend of the gods, defender of all that is right (and a few clients who were so very wrong)! Let nothing happen to the precious words of Cicero! Take the pages to the hospital if you must, give them loving care, feed them chicken soup and give them plenty of rest. Save those pages!

      And Pliny! How I love Pliny the Younger. Cicero and Pliny Jr. are two of my very favorite writers. They are absolutely my favorites of the Romans. Seneca and Cesar, Virgil and Terrance, Marcus Aurelius and Tacitus are wonderful, all of them, but Cicero and Pliny are my dearest friends.

      Sledpress has, one more than one occasion, watched and listened to me borrow, steal from, quote and misquote from both Pliny and Cicero back in our days of local politicking. Since human nature never changes, neither Politics or issues before the court change very much. These two would be at home in our courts and senate chambers today.


    2. @sledpress

      Cicero is well fat and dry … I’ll tell Zeus about the rest

      … the cheerful carnality of the Etruscans …the projection …most peoples practice… imagining other peoples had livelier times … and were more full of soulful knowledge…

      I’m not saying they had livelier times, they are just part of us. I like to know how things got to be how they are, which is our ID, anybody’s, Lapps included.

      Etruscans surely had more poverty, inequalities, diseases. We have won many …battles compared to them. As for wisdom, harder to say. They surely had firmer values than we do. Seen from here (which means my brain lol) the whole West is in bad shape (or it’s me needing more Limoncello).

      Ok, u research on the fascinating Picti then we talk about it over a couple of bottles (of the magic yellow stuff), Zeus and all the rest invited naturally 🙂


      1. Oh, I wasn’t implying projection on your part specifically, my brain was just rambling randomly. It does sometimes late at night.

        The Picts and Lapps usually get credit for Mysterious Unity With The Forces Of Nature. A historical miscellany on my bookshelf has Theopompus (who seems to have been right up there with the modern Rupert Murdoch papers) quite specific about the Etruscans enjoying life at both ends, one catches a note of envy, except perhaps when he described the fondness for “Brazilian style” depilation using pitch plasters. Ouch!


        1. I didn’t want to ‘protect’ you, I just miss Limoncello, no new bottles yet.

          I tend to ramble too and will start a new blog of ramblings with no dignity of thought (not that here ….)

          Mysterious Unity With Nature? That is really interesting.

          Btw, who the hell is this Theopompus? Ah, you mean Θεόπομπος!! 😉


    3. @Zeus

      Cicero, Pliny, Vergil are all dried and in good shape.
      But the Pliny copy I mentioned, more ancient than I said tho unfortunately in Italian, is Storia Naturale by the Elder, which I have in a paperback Italian edition and yes, it is remarkable.

      Instead, of a precious three-volume Bible (Latin and Italian) one volume is totally gone :-(, Aesopus is gone, like also a wonderful History of le Roi-Soleil in many volumes, all GONE (all the info I could get on Lully for ex) I’m crying over it like a baby.

      You know, Piedmont made the Italian nation but culturally is at the outskirts of the French speaking area. Grandpa had studied engineering in French Belgium. And intact is a refined 1838 French edition of Madame Marquise de Sévigné’s 1000 and more letters, which I had always dreamed to read (and maybe a better introduction to the Sun King’s culture).

      As for my blog, I am happy almost all the Roman and Etruscan stuff is intact, the problem now is the materials flooding me.


  2. Lately, I find myself looking at my ever growing collection of books (and comic books, and some sort-of-valuable 18th century caricatures) and wondering, “what will become of them?” I’m not exactly an old guy, but eventually…

    My children haven’t the least interest. Someday, perhaps, a grandchild will want to root around in my shelves? Here’s hoping.

    What sort of aeronautical stuff did your ancestor do? And what does it mean to be a hydraulic entrepreneur? Did drill wells? Create irrigation systems?

    I thought everyone in the Piedemont was an anarchist!


    1. my ever growing collection of books …valuable 18th century caricatures … my children haven’t the least interest

      My daughters neither, but the young can evolve. I became a bit cultured only at 24.

      what sort of aeronautical stuff … what does it mean to be a hydraulic entrepreneur

      He was pioneer in dirigible flights. The second thing, he was an hydroelectric engineer – I changed the text.

      Italy’s industrialization took off between the XIX and the XX c. He fed hydropower to the growing needs. Maybe 1/5 or 1/6 was his contribution, tho information from my father was scarce. The falls utilized were in the Apuan Alps, between Tuscany and Liguria, famous btw also for the Carrara marble. My father was in fact born in Carrara.

      Anarchists were especially in Carrara!! In 1921-22, Italy about to fall to the soviets, my grandpa’s house was surrounded by night with people bearing torches. My father, 10, could never forget. Years later, when only for the period 70-71 I became a communist, it was the biggest pain ever I could give him. He was such a decent man, but I being more similar to my mother’s side, he could not understand me much, two totally different worlds.


  3. Love this post, Man of Roma.
    Retirement is the time to plunge into rediscovery. Family and friends will be fine.
    We only have so much time here; pursue academic and spiritual quests that you didn’t have time for before.

    Btw, my professor at Stanford gave an interesting lecture on the mystery religions…fascinating.


    1. Nah, too long, complicated, I had to rewrite it all. Yes, plunging into rediscovery, my calling but am not disciplined enough. And I need A LOT of physical exercise.

      my professor at Stanford gave …

      Stanford! And mystery religions. I have to peruse their good philosophical web site in search of something.

      And I bought ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ by Crane, I’ll read it as soon as I can.


      1. My son is reading the Red Badge right now, and I’ve not read it in ages. I think I’ll give it another look – I always admired his writing. It’s very short!


  4. What a disaster, with the soaked up books! No wonder you were barking…

    Lovely account and finally a photo of Man of Roma!!

    In case you’re of the pro-cornmeal faction, and need a little COMPANATICO with that Limoncello (wink) I’ve updated the Polenta series, care to taste THREE more toppings?

    E xx


    1. I read your post, yummy, Polenta is more Veneta, but we like it at home, and it is almost time for dinner. Which photo? Ah, the other post. Ciao mulìer


  5. Part history, part theatre, part philology, part anthology of our past posts, this should be a remarkable trip.
    I did not know one could copy and paste posts from one chronic to another. Always something to learn.


    1. To say that these posts have been written following our convs and reciprocal stimuli is not far from truth, even though there were many others that did contribute. But you, Paul, dear wise man, are both Greek and French. I hope I will be à la hauteur.
      This post was too long. I did a bad job and had to rewrite it many times, which I do in any case in all my writings.


  6. I love the old maps.

    I was trying to find the Rubicon in the Cisalpine Gaul map.

    And a penny dropped when I looked at the Magna Grecia map: “Sinus Tarentinus”: Bay of Tarentum. Sinus = Bay. So our word for nasal cavities actually means the “bays” inside our noses. Wonderful discovery.

    MoR: I’ll be there soon Andreas … as you well know, I wrote so much in other blogs …


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