Permanenze dell’antichità. Il Vesuvio ci esplode addosso? “E c’amma a fa. Se è destino …”

ll Vesuvio visto da Pompei, distrutta nell’eruzione del 79 d.C
ll Vesuvio visto da Pompei, distrutta nell’eruzione del 79 d.C. Foto di Morn the Gorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7919520

Scrivevo nel post (H)omo de Roma: “Ammettiamolo. In aree centrali e soprattutto meridionali del nostro paese persistono abitudini, mentalità […] i cui svantaggi nei confronti della modernità sono evidenti. Sono solo svantaggi?”.

Vogliamo avere un esempio lampante della permanenza dell’antico, e solo nei suoi svantaggi? Eccolo: il modo di prepararsi alle eruzioni dei pur meravigliosi napoletani.

disastro annunciato

Il disastro è annunciato: i Campi Flegrei con la loro grande caldera (un vulcano, in sostanza) si sollevano, l’eruzione del Vesuvio (un altro vulcano) potrebbe colpire da un momento all’altro, i vulcanologi di tutto il mondo nonché la protezione civile campana (cfr. Cities on Volcanoes 10 tenutosi il 2-7 settembre 2018 a Napoli) parlano della NECESSITA’ ASSOLUTA di costruire meglio e soprattutto fare tante esercitazioni in vista di un esodo (per i paesi vesuviani e flegrei) calcolabile in ben 700.000 persone (50% della popolazione!).

Vesuivio_Eruzione_26.04.1872
Eruzione del Vesuvio del 1872, con distruzione dei paesi di Massa e San Sebastiano al Vesuvio. Giorgio Sommer – Scansione personale, Pubblico dominio. Wikimedia, click on picture for credits. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=737284

 

Una domanda percorre il pianeta


Bene, cosa fanno i raffinati (e dei romani più intelligenti ) napoletani??

Visi e volti, nell’Italia e nel mondo, si scrutano preoccupati e s’interrogano:

   Che diavolo fanno i Napoletani???

Le risposte dei partenopei, spesso bisbigliate nei bar e pub romani, giungono in ordine sparso:

“E c'amma fa' ..." "E' esercitazioni portane male!" "A cche serve u pparlà? E' già tutto scritte! (1)”

E accarezzano il corno.

Nota 1. A parte il corno, che così rosso secondo molti studiosi è il membro eretto del dio Priapo (lo si accarezza per fortuna, forza, fecondità), “è già tutto scritto” lo si dice spesso. E in effetti a volte pensiamo:

“Se la mia amica non mi avesse telefonato non sarei andata/o in quel bar; non avrei conosciuto il ragazzo (o la ragazza) con cui poi mi sono sposata/o; non avrei generato figli e nipoti i quali a loro volta non genereranno ecc. Eppoi se la mia amica non mi chiamava magari era perché era indisposta: per condizioni atmosferiche sfavorevoli (o astrali, vai a capire) che avrebbero potuto farla ammalare e impedirgli di fare appunto la “fatidica” telefonata di invito”.

Fatidico deriva dal latino fatum (da fari=dire). Il Fato infatti è “ciò che è detto e che non può essere mutato”, il più delle volte nemmeno dagli dei.

Ecco le radici culturali nostre (vedi sotto nota 2), le “permanenze dell’antichità” nei nostri cervelli! Ecco il senso di quel “è già tutto scritto”.

Vediamo meglio.

Romani e Greci essendo collegati, le Moire erano le dee greche del destino o fato, che i Romani chiamavano ParcaeFata, appunto. Le parche greche per Esiodo erano 3 (per Omero una) tra cui Κλωθώ o Cloto (=la filatrice). Essa è particolarmente significativa per il nostro discorso in quanto gestiva i fili, cioè l’intrecciarsi delle cause che collegano tutto, i mille fili dunque con cui si crea la trama che ci condiziona e si connette (ed è connessa) all’intero universo.

Il neoplatonico Plutarco (o pseudo, non mi interessa qui) nel suo breve testo sul Fato, è chiaro, e super poetico.

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Riporto invece Marco Aurelio, imperatore romano e filosofo stoico (neoplatonici e stoici avevano una visione simile del fato; Epicuro no: non c’è destino né fine nell’universo, che è aggregato pazzesco di atomi) che in greco scrisse delle meravigliose meditazioni (bestseller oggi!) – testo greco: Τὰεἰς ἑαυτόν; testo italiano:

III, 6. “Il destino dato a ognuno è trascinato nel movimento globale e a sua volta trascina”. IV, 4. “Qualcosa ti è accaduto? Bene: tutto ciò che ti accade fin dall’inizio era stato ordito, in tutto l’universo, per esserti dato e allacciato alla tua vita”. IV, 34. “Abbandonati spontaneamente a Cloto, lasciando che ti tessa con qualsiasi evento voglia”.

Più chiaro di così.

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Giorgio: “E le altre due Moire o Parche?”

MoR:Lachesi, che decide la sorte di ognuno. E Atropo, terribile, che taglia il filo della nostra vita quando le pare e piace”.

Giorgio: “E siamo spacciati”.

MoR: “Così pare”.

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Nota 2. Il fato germanico. Per l’Europa, quanto al Destino, esiste non solo il retaggio greco-romano ma anche quello germanico: secondo la mitologia norrena (scandinava, vichinga) esistono le Norne, fanciulle che tessono i fili del destino ai piedi del grande frassino (tasso? quercia?) detto Yggdrasill.

Beh, avendo due generi, uno sannita e uno anglo-vichingo (Isola di Man) devo tener conto di entrambi, no? 😉

Eluana, or Man’s Ultimate Freedom. Ending One’s Life. 2

Lucretia stabs herself after rape. Joos van Cleve, Flemish artist, 1485 - 1540. Click for credits

Rape and death of Roman Lucretia

To her husband’s question, “Is all well?,” Lucretia replied:

“Far from it; for what can be well with a woman when she has lost her honour?
The print of a strange man is in your bed. Yet my body only has been violated;
my heart is guiltless, as death shall be my witness.” …

Taking a knife which she had concealed beneath her dress, she plunged it into her heart,
and sinking forward upon the wound, died as she fell.

(Livy Book I. 57-60)

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A discussion about the acceptable reasons for ending one’s life (see our previous post) can profit from the opinion of our forefathers, the Ancients, and from that of the Renaissance men, who channelled ancient thought into modernity.

This post is not a paean to suicide. I am sure Eluana Englaro and Terry Schiavo loved life: was theirs an acceptable life though?

Most of the quotes are taken from the French Renaissance writer Montaigne (II:3), whose Gutenberg English text is available in the translation of Charles Cotton (1630 – 1687). See also the original French text.

Note to readers

To many, old writings are a terrible bore.
They are wrong in my view.
Ancient writings, actual time machines connecting the past to the present, are mind expanding and one of the pleasures of life.

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

“The wise man lives as long as he should, not as long as he can” said Seneca, who nobly committed suicide when accused of an attempt on emperor Nero’s life. And Cicero said that while “life depended upon the will of others, death depended upon our own.”

Greco-Roman writers like Plutarch expressed great appreciation for anyone who showed this kind of ultimate dignity.

Tacitus admires Boiocalus, a German chief, “who said to the Romans that he and his tribe might lack enough land to live upon, but land sufficient to die upon could never be wanting.”

Plutarch tells us of this Spartan boy “sold as a slave and by his master commanded to some abject employment, who said: ‘You shall see whom you have bought; it would be a shame for me to serve, when freedom is at reach,’ and having so said, threw himself from the top of the house.”

Ancient thought didn’t always condone suicide. Plato didn’t accept it and the Roman poet Virgil (Aeneid, IV, 434-437) destined those who committed suicide to a region of the afterlife where they were overwhelmed by sadness (tenent maesti loca).

But the prevalent Roman ideal was that of the stoic sage who counted on reason and self-control and who was not afraid of pain or misfortune (see our post ‘On solitude‘). Should life become unbearable, or should one face great dishonour, the Romans of both sexes were not hesitant to commit suicide.

Death was considered an act of ultimate freedom and this was deeply ingrained in the Roman tradition. “Nature has ordained only one entrance to life – said Cicero – but a hundred thousand exits.”

Death was less important than the way of death, which had to be decent, full of dignity, rational (and sometimes theatrical,) while to the Christian mind, self-killing being a sin, suicide is often a desperate, irrational action fruit of depression.

Among famous examples of suicide are Lucretia, Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony (and Cleopatra,) Cato the younger (see picture below), Seneca, Lucan, Petronius Arbiter etc. plus a good number of emperors, Nero, Maximian, Otho, Quintillus etc.

Common people as well considered dignity more important than life in many cases.

Cato of Utica reading the Phedo before comitting suicide. Jean-Baptiste Romand & François Rude (1832). Photo by M. Romero SchmidkteRoman stoicism deeply influenced the West despite the victory of Christianity. “For much of modern Western history, Stoic ideas of moral virtue have been second to none in influence” (Ecole Initiative, Early Church On-Line Encyclopedia.)

We see examples of noble death in Shakespeare, who, like all his contemporaries from Renaissance, felt the influence of ancient thought. The imagination of the Victorian British was captured by Cato’s death (see image on the right), «clawing out his own entrails to avoid Caesar’s despotism — as a courageous and noble death.”

Montaigne, imbued with Roman stoicism, refers how “Alexander laying siege to a city in India, those within, finding themselves very hardly set, put on a vigorous resolution to deprive him of the pleasure of his victory, and accordingly burned themselves together with their city, despite his humanity.” He seems to praise that the Indians preferred a death with honour rather than a life without it.

Montaigne adds a moving example:

“Nothing can be added to the beauty of the death of the wife of Fulvius, a good friend of Augustus. Augustus having discovered that his friend had vented an important secret he had entrusted him withal, one morning that he came to make his court, received him very coldly and looked frowningly upon him. Fulvius returned home full of despair, where he sorrowfully told his wife that, having fallen into this misfortune, he was resolved to kill himself.
To whom she frankly replied, ‘Tis right, seeing that having so often experienced the indiscipline of my tongue, you could not take warning: but let me kill myself first,’ and without more ado she ran herself through the body with a sword.”

Montaigne, quoting Pliny the elder, observes that the mythical Hyperboreans, “when weary and satiated with living, had the custom, at a very old age, after having made good cheer, to precipitate themselves into the sea from the top of a certain rock, assigned for that service” (see our series on the Hyperboreans.)

“Unbearable pain and the fear of a worse death seem to me the most excusable incitements for suicide” is Montaigne’s conclusion.

He was a sincere Christian. But he found inspiration and solace in the teachings of antiquity.

Roman Limes. Between Two Worlds

In some posts we tried to identify the cultural traits common to the people whose ancestors were subjects of the Roman Empire. One of the themes of this blog is in fact any possible remnant of the Ancient Roman world still surviving today.

The borderline or Limes of the Roman empire meant also the separation between what was Roman and what was non Roman. Particularly interesting is the central European Limes along the Rhine and the Danube, a sort of natural frontier of the empire since 7 C.E. onwards.

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 C.E. “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?” Really a good point, not many doubts about it.

Protestants and Catholics Split along the Limes

Luther in 1529 by Lucas Cranach.jpg

In 1517 the Protestant Reformation began with Luther nailing his 95 theses that will split West Christianity into Protestants and Catholics. “From 1545 (Wikipedia) the Counter-Reformation began in Germany ….Central and north-eastern Germany were by this time almost wholly Protestant, whereas western and southern Germany remained predominantly Catholic”.

This has to do with the Roman Empire border: namely the descendants of the romanized Germans mostly stayed with the Roman Catholics, which is amazing, while the descendants of the non romanized ones, plus other northern folks, left. From this fracture sprouted Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, Presbyterian, Calvinists, Puritans etc.

Above you can see Luther in 1529 portrayed by the German painter Lucas Cranach.

The Ultimate Roman Border.
Attachment to a Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage LIMES logo

Some land reconnaissance now. First a nice map of the Roman Empire and its provinces. Then Wikipedia infos on the German Limes (Wikipedia is always a good initial info source, but nothing more). Also this map of the Roman provinces of Raetia and Germania Superior is not bad. And finally some info on the German Roman Limes, ultimate protection against the external Germanic tribes (Limes is Latin for Limit, border). A web site that now is no more was kept by those German federal states that actually were/are inside the Roman Empire. In it we did read:

“The Upper German-Raetian Limes (“Obergermanisch – Raetischer Limes” = ORL = Limes of the Roman provinces of Raetia and Germania Superior: see a map) marked the ultimate Roman border line in the north of the Roman Empire. It was erected against the Germanic people who were a constant threat to the antique world. Over a length of 550 km from the river Rhine in the northwest to the river Danube in the south-east the Limes extends across the four German federal states Rheinland-Palatinate, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.”

Kastell Welzheim, near the Limes, Porta Praetoria

These people are greatly attached to this heritage and have succeeded in getting a certain number of UNESCO-world heritage recognitions, like Regensburg (Ratisbona), and even the Projekt Weltkulturerbe Limes (project for the world heritage recognition of the German Limes) seems to have been accepted.

In the web site of the Deutsche Limes-Strasse Verein (the German Alliance For the Limes Roads) we read:

“the outer Upper Germanic-Rhaetian boundary wall (“Limes”) is one of the most outstanding archaeological monuments in Central Europe and has recently been put on the world cultural heritage list of the UNESCO. Many of the installations associated with the wall were unearthed as the result of excavations recently carried out by the different Regional Offices for the Protection of Ancient Monuments and have been conserved because of their excellent state of preservation.”

“They include forts, baths and towers together with parts of the fortifications themselves such as ramparts, ditches, walls and palisades. Also taken into consideration are museum-like facilities such as protective structures covering Roman ruins which are explained by plans, photographs and finds as well as archaeological parks located in the neighbourhood of boundary wall structures with reconstructed or restored exhibitions. Many of these areas are called “archaeological reserves” ….

“The German Limes Road runs close to the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes from the Rhine to the Danube. Most of the forts were founded at the beginning or middle of the 2nd century and existed until the end of the Roman occupation 260/270 A.D.. The “Limes” runs from Rhein-brohl to Regensburg ……We hope that you will get …a better understanding of the Roman past of this country and have a relaxing holiday …on the former borders of the Roman Empire.”

The Initial Battle of the Gladiator

For Roman-movies fiends (I am one of them) the Roman fortress Castra Regina (thence Regensburg) was founded in 179 A. D. for the Third Italic Legion during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (we are in the ancient Roman province of Raetia). Marcus Aurelius fought battles along the Limes against German (and non German) tribes.

Sounds like The Gladiator initial astounding battle scene doesn’t it? Well, that scene probably referred to the Marcomannic wars fought during the reign of Marcus Aurelius with battles mostly fought further north and beyond the Danube.

It doesn’t matter though since the area well corresponds to that film battle and its marvellously recreated atmosphere (see Regensburg in this map of Raetia and Germania Superior).

Pilgrimage

We are mentioning Raetia because we were there last August on a sort of pilgrimage along the Limes, and found out that Castra Regina is more or less the core of Regensburg‘s Old City or Altstadt. Thischarming city is located in north-eastern Bavaria, Oberpfalz.

Pfalz is German for Latin Palatium, which refers to the Palatine Hill in Rome (Latin Mons Palatinus). It is the hill where Rome started (according to legend and now also archaeology: first huts, then the town, on this and other hills) and where the Roman Emperors much later lived (the English palace, indicating an important building, comes from there).

From Palatinus derives Palatinate (Latin: Palatinatus), the area of the later German Holy Roman Empire, a sort of Middle Ages continuation of the Roman Empire. So it all fits together, as one can see.

The Last Italian City

Regensburg (Latin and Italian Ratisbona)

In Regensburg – right at the extreme (German) line of all this, the Limes going well beyond Germany – the population will later become Protestant, even though it has inherited this sort of Italian merry character, with people sitting in open-air cafés etc., like us in Rome.

“We are the last Italian city”, they say, which sort of angered some Munich friends of ours who said they were the real last Italians, not only because of the Catholic faith but also because of their even merrier festas with people dancing on tables in Oktober Fest.

They certainly said this to please us, but there is some truth, I believe: their elegance, their incredible love for Opera (more than us today alas) and good wine (like us) etc.

More on Regensburg arriving, which is a good observation point, and more of course on Bavaria and all, so to say, romanized Germany.

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Marcus Junkelman clad as a RomanPS. We cannot leave this topic without mentioning an incredible person:
Dr. Marcus Junkelmann from Munich (*), world-famous pioneer of experimental archaeology, living in a castle and speaking fluently Latin, we heard. Historian of Roman Legions and Army, he has reconstructed Roman weapons, infantry & cavalry techniques.

We see his picture on the left, this is his web site and Dr. Wilfried Stroh is one of his colleagues and possibly friend. People like them are getting numerous also in parts of the UK, who is also becoming very pro-Roman (also the organisation Nova Roma, “dedicated to the restoration of classical Roman religion, culture and virtues”, shows how Roman mania can be both weird and fascinating).

References. The Braudel quote is from La Mediterranée, Fernard Braudel, Flammarion 1985. Translation by Man of Roma. Fernard Braudel is one of the greatest French intellectuals. Here a few links, just to give an idea of his work:
A nice synthesis on Braudel in English, plus the Fernand Braudel Center, at Binghamton University, State University of New York (“founded in September 1976 to engage in the analysis of large-scale social change over long periods of historical time”).

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Other related posts:

Music, Politics and History
From the two Sides of the Roman Limes

Permanences. Rome and Carthage

Kastell Welzheim, near the Limes, Porta Praetoria

Civilisations are not Mortal.
Rome and Carthage

The French historian Fernand Braudel argues in “La Mediterranée” (see note below):

“That Rome has deeply marked Europe it is evident, but nevertheless there is room for some amazing continuities. Is it by chance that, when Christianity breaks in two during the XVI century, the separation of the fields occurs exactly along the axis of the Rhine and the Danube, the double frontier of the Roman Empire?

And is it also by chance that the astonishing conquest of Islam was easily accepted by both the Near East and the two areas formerly dominated by Carthage, i.e. Northern Africa and a portion of Spain? [see map below]

We have said it before: the Phoenician world was more inclined, deep inside, to welcome the Islamic civilization than it was to assimilate the Roman law, for the reason that the Islamic civilization didn’t only represent a contribution, it represented a continuity as well.”

[Extensive note to text]

Carthage’s zone of influence in the III B.C.

Italian version

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See also the above note later become a post:

Roman Limes. Between Two Worlds