Kastell Welzheim, near the Limes, Porta Praetoria

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

1. (…)

Ok, Roman and non Roman. Where are hence the traces of this disjunction in today’s societies?

Well, a lot of traces are there, since for example when Christianity breaks in two during the XVI century A.D ” is it by chance – argues French historian Braudel – that the separation of the fields occurs exactly along the axis of the Rhine and the Danube, the double frontier of the Roman Empire?”

(…)

“The romanized Germans mostly stayed with the Roman Catholics, which is amazing, while the non romanized ones plus other northern folks left. From this fracture sprouted Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Presbyterian, Calvinists, Puritans etc. (…)

Munich, on this side of the borderline, is an interesting example in this respect.

(…) Some Munich friends of ours said they were the last Italians, not only because of the Catholic faith but also because of their merry festas with people dancing on tables in Oktoberfest. They certainly said this to please us, but there is some truth, I believe: their elegance, their incredible love for Opera (more than us) and good wine (like us) etc. (…)

[read more in Roman Limes. Between Two Worlds ]

2. (…)

Arturo Benedetti MichelangeliItalian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s … style is classical in the sense of Classicism and in a way that is more than emblematic. Why?

Italy never totally absorbed Romanticism with its emphasis on excessive emotions, irrationality, free form etc. A sense of grace, elegant beauty and formal perfection together with a preference for simplicity over complexity have often been among the components of the Italian attitude in Arts. Michelangeli is further evidence of this anti-romanticism present in the Italian culture and due to the Italian classical heritage.”(…)

[ read more in Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s Chilly Genius ]

3. (…)

The Italians who know some history (few are left) realise how close to us these [southern German-speaking] people are. I personally feel this encounter between Roma and Germania so special and sacred.

This is why I now feel like talking about one of the most sublime outcomes of this encounter. It is a splendid musical fruit whose apparent simplicity hides a really hard-to-get beauty – since it is one of the most perfect beauties ever produced by man.

Here the words of appreciation the Austrian composer Haydn – who was composition teacher of Mozart – had addressed to Mozart’s father:

“In front of God and as an honest man, I’m telling you that your son is the greatest composer I have ever known, either personally or by name. He has taste and, what counts more, he has the deepest knowledge of composition.”

“These – Jay Grout argues – were the two essential elements: taste, instinct for what is appropriate, awareness of limits; and knowledge plus technique in order to say what one has to say in a complete, clear and persuasive manner. Generally speaking, it can be said that taste was the speciality of the Italians, while knowledge was that of the Germans; Mozart in his style combines both.” (…)

[ read more in Music, Politics and History ]

Mozart in 1780, portrayed by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Detail. Wikipedia. Public domain

4. (…)

France has obviously inherited many elements from Rome, after the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar: language, food habits, behaviours, technologies and a fundamental aestheticism, among the rest. Less obvious are interesting similarities like those between the French Foreign legion and the Roman legions as far as training, combat habits, management of terrain (construction of roads etc.) and so on.

Much more significant though is the state tradition of Rome which, according to some historians, has been preserved in the French monarchic centralism and in the state national spirit of the French people. The person who shaped this type of France and this centralism (later continued by Napoleon) was probably Louis XIV (1638 –  1715, see image above), one of the greatest kings ever. (…)

Napoleon was inspired first by the Roman Republic. Roman-like he became First Consul of the French Republic. Then, after receiving the crown by the pope, the bishop of Rome, on Dic. 2 1804, he became Emperor of the French people and encouraged a classicist Empire style in architecture, decorative arts, furniture and women’s dresses based on Ancient Hellenic attire (see below), a style soon popular in most parts of Europe and its colonies. Napoleon was reading Caesar’s writings continuously and he succeeded in becoming one of the greatest generals ever existed, together with Julius Caesar and Alexander.”(…)

[ read more in France, Italy and the Legacy of Rome ]

5. (…)

Puritanism in its broad meaning however – loving only what is not pleasurable – is to be condemned in my view even if it can push us to be extremely active and to work extremely well and hard (see some areas of the United States plus Max Weber’s theories on why these areas developed so fast, if my memory is not faltering).

As always it is a matter of right measure. The Romans achieved great things (like the Anglo-Saxons did,) so they worked very hard too but lived much more pleasantly and were (mostly) not puritanical. Thence the Latin folks who originated from them (Italy, France, Portugal, Spain etc.) tend to know how to enjoy life with refinement, taste and joy, this also incidentally being a reason why Italian and French ways of life are so attractive and represent today a school of savoir vivre for the entire West. These contemporary Latin folks are more or less taught since they are babies to cultivate Beauty and all it implies. It is so simple, as simple and beautiful as a Greek temple. Their ancestors in fact, our Ancient Romans, didn’t just eat (as many Anglo-Saxons still do, though progress is evident) but invented a highly refined culinary art; equally, they didn’t just reproduce themselves (as many Christian fanatics do) but invented forms of refined eroticism which allowed them to live a fuller life.

Is it wrong? Is it right? Should Beauty in all its forms be a main part of our life? A full answer is more complex than it seems at first, but I definitely think it is right. Yes, I conclusively think it is right, my sweet readers. Oh I really have not many doubts about that. (…)

[ read more in Sex and the City (of Rome). 3 ]

6. (…)

Bach is a son of un-romanized Germany. Rome and the classical world are not all, of course. But I am asking myself: is this diverse historical background somewhat responsible for the fact that Bach’s music lacks sometimes … measure and grace? Is it by chance that many Italians prefer his music played by classicism-oriented performers like American Murray Perahia or, even better, Italian Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli? I for example adore Bach’s Italian Concert in F major (BWV 971) played by Michelangeli (and other Bach’s works played by him.) His magic fingers add grace and equilibrium to this austere northern German music, making it sound a little bit like Mozart’s.”(…)

[ read more in From the two Sides of the Roman Limes ]

7. (…)

A. We get nourishment and peace of soul from the perfect equilibrium of Western Classical Music: Mozart, Boccherini, Clementi, Haydn and young Beethoven; or Italian Opera: Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti etc., wrongly called romantic, since they were classical deep inside (even Puccini, in some way.) It is interesting how Italians never totally absorbed Romanticism, their classical heritage and almost inborn sense of taste (and grace) being too tenacious.

B. We also get a lot of pleasure from insane Western Romantic music (older Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Scriabin etc.), maybe because of the Celtic and German blood running in our veins and possibly engendering, who knows, some tendency to excess.”

[ read more in Sex and the Search for a Post ]

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