I just can’t write one of my usual posts. My mind is blurred.
Because my sanctuary, the only place where I can find peace and concentration (my study room,) is a mess.
I am getting crazy, lunatico.
As I said these more-than-100 retrieved tomes which belonged to grandpa (a blessing and a suffering) have generated chaos in my life. 1/5 of them are permanently damaged by water – together with precious family pictures & documents.
[See below my father and my mother in 1946, the day of their marriage. Two other pictures of their marriage are gone (!!!).
My mother btw cried all the time during the ceremony. Her father, hit by a bus one month earlier, had just passed away. They married nonetheless. The war had just ended and people were eager to live, which is why we are the boomer generation, it is well known]
Trying so hard to rearrange my den I’ve fought against my nature and have gone to Ikea.
Ikea, to me, is biggest pain in the … neck ever. I have bought two big bookcases and have assembled them at home yesterday. Oh it takes a real engineer to do it, not a computer systems engineer, a ridiculous creature who deals with immaterial rationality and invisible bits.
Ikea being such a pain I decided to treat myself like a royalty before going.
1) I bought aanother New Testament both in Greek and in Latin;
2) Bought Dante’s Comedy translated to English by Allen Mandelbaum;
3) I called Marina, my medicine.
“Hey Marina, come have lunch with me, will you?”
“Ciao professore. Sì evviva! Villa Borghese va bene?” [Hi teacher. Wow yes! Villa Borghese ok?]
Brown hair, brown eyes, very outspoken, Marina is a beaming Italian beauty and the Sabrina Ferilli type of Roman woman (see the Roman actress on the left.)
But what most counts to me is that she’s been one of the best, most devoted, most sympathetic IT pupils I’ve ever had in the course of the last 15 years. There’s tons of affection & respect between us.
The two are similar and, if my wife is a bit closer to Minerva and Juno, Marina has among the rest this special quality my wife hasn’t:
She laughs the Roman laughter, one of the best specimen I’ve ever heard, no kidding.
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.
[my mother laughed in the same way btw]
During a sunlit lunch at Villa Borghese, with umbrella pine trees majestically surrounding us (see Villa Borghese at the page head,) in front of a sumptuous tray of mixed antipasti – fusilli, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmisan etc., washed down with full bodied Chianti – we kept on chatting cheerfully while both vino and ver sacrum (sacred spring) were intoxicating the air bit by bit.
When the right time arrived I took my cell phone out of my jacket and started to play the moron (I’m good at that, you know.)
And then it happened.
Especially, she laughed.
Well, not one of her best laughs – she saw I was there with my cell phone – yet a sound, sympathetic Roman laughter which is revealing a bit of our city’s culture with all its pros and cons (any laughter being revealing of any culture, ça va sans dire.)
The film INVICTUS should be watched by the young and the less young.
It is an inspiring message on the inner bravery we can find in ourselves in order to endure any deep sorrow or big problem life can hurl at us.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, INVICTUS is based on John Carlin‘s book ‘Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. Invictus‘.
The film is a tribute to Nelson Mandela and to the South African people – blacks and whites alike – and it reveals the complex fragments of the souls of 3 men.
The Victorians, Mandela, the Afrikaans
1) A Victorian poet – William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) we never see in the film – who bravely faced life deprived of his left leg since the age of 12 and who wrote INVICTUS (see below,) an inspired poem on endurance.
2) Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years imprisoned in a quasi cubicle and who was resilient enough to survive and fight also because inspired by the poem INVICTUS.
3) The South African (Afrikaan) captain of the Springboks‘ – the country’s rugby union team – who, inspired by Mandela in his turn and by that same poem, brings the Springboks to victory, in the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa, by defeating the All Blacks 15-12 in the final.
An event that possibly helped the South African black and white people to better understand each other along the hard path towards a society where racial hate and mistrust may be progressively banned.
Morgan Freeman‘s (starring Mandela, and Mandela’s friend btw); Clint Eastwood; the solid plot-script – these in my opinion the elements that make the film compelling.
I forgot someone. Nelson Mandela.
OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
“My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race.” [read more ]
Henley’s position is also that of the Renaissance and of humanism, when Western man – a truly reborn dantesque Ulysses – found the guts to build his own destiny again (and regrettably to conquer the rest of the planet destroying other cultures etc.)
“Man can find all the force he needs within his own human soul and reason, within his character and will,” said many Greek and Roman wise men plus several humanists, no god really helping, no religion really helping.
[The italic text in INVICTUS is mine. It is where I believe the poet mostly expresses the said classic attitude.]
Now, what do readers think aboutall this? Can we live without religion, without a help from ‘someone’ up there?
Can we too – the simple men in the street – be the ‘captains of our soul’? Or is it only possible to the master, to the ‘real tough’?
So in the end:
Is religion basically a question of lack of balls? Or is there more than that?
As I said in the previous post (1) we are having some rest although (2) we are obliged to take care of our company a bit plus (3) I’m having fun musing upon ancient texts I try to read in the original.
Moreover (4) my walk paths about Rome will also follow a tentative list of archaeological places I want to visit much more attentively than I ever did before.
[It is known freedmen or liberti – also called libertini, nothing to do with libertines – took the family name or their own master’s name though we’ll see Roman naming conventions another day]
The Pilgrimage Road where Gay Street is now
Today’s basilica was built during the High Middle Ages (12th cent. AD) and despite some baroque maquillage it is still romanesque in its main structure. It is located on the ‘via di San Giovanni in Laterano’ pilgrimage road that led (and still leads) to San Giovanni in Laterano, the Roman Popes’ former residence until they moved to St. Peter at the Vatican.
The last 325-yard area of this road just in front of the Colosseum is today called Gay street. I think gays & lesbians feel protected right in the heart of pagan Rome, with (see the Google map above) the Oppian hill and Nero’s Domus to the right, the Coliseum in front, and just under their feet the Ludus Magnus, the greatest school of gladiators of the Empire (see a model of it.)
Popes or Pontiffs – can’t stop digressing – come from the Pontifices, singular Pontifex, a member of ancient Rome’s highest-ranking state priests’ Collegium (college), whose chief was the pontifex maximus. Well, the Pope’s title is Pontifex Maximus too, therefore implying not only the actual Bishop of Rome butthe survival (possibly) of such ancient magistratus. Majestic Julius Caesar was a Pontifex Maximus as well. I like the idea so much allow me.
Four Strata of History
High time now to tell the story of San Clemente, a tale made of 4 strata.
1) In the first century AD the area was occupied by insulae – apartment buildings for the indigent plebs – some plebeians were tho rich and belonged to the upper class -and for the Equites, middle class of knights (equestrians.)
These houses were burnt in the famous Nero’s fire of Rome in 64 AD. Nero was only too happy to embody the area into his Domus Aurea (infos here too,) a marvellous portico villa with rooms sumptuously decorated and of various geometrical shapes, whose gardens covered parts of the Palatine, Esquiline and Caelian hills (so it possibly included the location of my house too: possibly the whole Google map above was Domus Aurea.)
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, equestrian and historian, called it a rus in urbe or ‘countryside in the city’ for its imaginative (and eccentric) man-made landscapes such as a luxurious (luxuriosus) pond where the future Colosseum will be built.
2) After Nero’s damnatio memoriae the gutted buildings were again utilized as foundation for further houses (1rst-2nd cent. AD,) at a level roughly corresponding to the Coliseum’s floor.
3) The third level – 4rth century, see image below – displays 2 buildings, communicating via a a narrow passage: one (on the right in the picture) is an apartment in whose courtyard we admire a Mithraeum (see the other picture under the first one); the other (on the left) is a magnificent rectangular area built on large tufa blocks supporting brick walls clad with light yellow travertine, the house possibly of Titus Flavius Clemens, even larger than the nave of the actual Basilica.
4) The fourth level is the 12th cent. AD basilica which later had the baroque maquillage. We mentioned the pilgrimage road. Those were the times of the crusades and of the conflict with the Muslims, much more advanced than Europeans.
Mithra, Šamaš, Μίθρας.
The Indo-European Bullshit
First of all let’s get rid of the Indo-European bullshit.
Mithra was the main god of polytheistic Iranians who were mainly Indo-Europeans, true, but the god stemmed from a complex process which includes at least 2 fusions (syncretisms.)
A. One started in Babylon, Mesopotamia [Μεσοποταμία, ie (land) ‘between the rivers’, today’s Iraq,] which was and is Semitic. Out there the Babylonian sun god Šamaš was the common Akkadian name of the sun god in both Babylonia and Assyria.
[the everlasting relationship between Persia and Mesopotamia, ie Iran and Iraq, continues today with both exchanges and wars we all know …]
B. Such process reached a second larger syncretism in Asia Minor [Μικρά Ασία or Aνατολή: today’s Turkey] when the Persian empire collapsed under the conquest by Alexander the Great – Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος – in 330 BC. From that moment Mithraism became hellenized and especially romanized in terms of Platonic philosophy (the Greeks had suffered too much because of the Persian wars to fully embrace Mithraism.)
Mithra – see picture below – who slays the cosmic bull to generate life: from its blood sprang grain and grape, from its sperm the animals etc. With Hellenism he became the Platonic rational creator (demiurge) of the universe as we can read in Plato’s Timaeus – something to peruse to better grasp.
We’ll see all this in the next post. I’ll try to find inspiring passages, we need inspiration to understand.
Any Survivals of the Sun God?
While walking back home, while seeing roads in this city, statues, churches, inscriptions I’m starting to decipher a little bit better, I am asking myself:
Has this god of light & sun [θεός του φωτός και του Ήλιου] left traces or is he totally disappeared?
Well, you’ll be amazed bythe list of survivals concerning the Western and Eastern mind I’ve prepared for you.
Just wait to delve a bit into the fascinating mythology, cosmology and worship of Mithraism!