Some info about the novel via brainstorming. Documentation has been a big challenge. As I said to Marina Caserta, writer and blogger, “I too find documentation fundamental. My task was complicated by the fact that I set my novel in at least three different ages:
Although in the first volume of the trilogy (ie The three sides of the coin) I have developed only age 2) and 3). Let us see.
510 AD (and around). An extremely interesting period “when the ancient world – quoted from the novel – disintegrated into a unique catastrophic event, with the bubonic plague spread at the time of Justinian and Theodora [see Plague of Justinian, ndr], with the Late Antique Little Ice Age that created drought in the steppes and pushed the Huns on the Goths and the Goths on the Romans. To this, the arrival of Islam in the Mediterranean will soon be added, with these and other elements of destruction-innovation “.
Religion and philosophy are intertwined in this age of anxiety (interesting how ancient pagan philosophy, at its birth among the Greeks, was tinged with religion; then it went away from it by gradually reaching an atheistic rationalism – more or less (see Epicurus) – and eventually, in the above said age (well, much before that in truth), merging with religion again. Neopythagoreanism and Neoplatonism were interwoven (see later), with reincarnation and all that (reincarnation is at the core of the novel).
What we have here is that the theologian philosophers of the time mixed and polished the whole pagan paraphernalia (a fascinating mixture of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics etc.) in order to fight against Christianity which was about to triumph (in 510 AD the process was since long concluded although there were pockets of resistance).
I always thought that in order to recreate or describe the ancient world we should insert elements of the mentality of that time, among which religion plays a big part. For example, historians imho often explain (therefore do not explain) why a certain army did not attack the enemy (even if in a favorable position / moment) with a ‘scientific’ or modern approach that has nothing to do with the real motivations of those ancient people. Julius Caesar, the most shining example of Roman rationality, perhaps, (to whom btw the Roman Jews who were favoured by him still carry wreaths at the foot of his bronze statue, in Via dei Fori Imperiali), Julius Caesar, I was saying, did sometimes very incautious, even crazy, things. Why? Was he an idiot? Well, wouldn’t say that lol. He simply believed he was blessed (baciato, kissed, in Italian) by goddess Fortune, not though as we say today but literally. An example, among many.
Human souls, heroes, demons, angels, gods, God (the hierarchy of powers or essences) etc. Inserting religion in my plot obviously meant inserting also beings ‘beyond man’ (man’s soul included since a divine spark is present in everyone’s soul) related to Good but also to Evil, heinous, absolute Evil. I had to sit through (but more often with great pleasure) various passages by Plutarch, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, the Stoics (very little Aristotle, apart from Thomas Aquinas who reverts to him) and what remains of the Pythagoreans – Pythagoras, like Socrates, having unfortunately written nothing.
Interesting how Christian philosophy, from Augustine onwards, follows pagan Neoplatonists (while during the Middle Ages it will concentrate on Aristotle, mainly). I also, as I said, refer to Thomas Aquinas a lot (1225 AD – 1274: very influential, before Reformation, throughout Europe) and to the way he depicts evil demons (there are good daimon’s too of course) in his Summa Theologica (which you can here read in the original, a reasonably easy Latin ) and which I have preferably read in the modernized, beautiful version by Walter Farrel OP & Martin J. Healy, My Way Of Life.
[Giorgio: “You are a bookworm, always with your nose on dusty pages”. Giovanni: “Shut the hell 🤬 up”]
Today, 2010 and 2018. I will talk about this age later. Here I conclude with a passage, more or less at the middle of the novel, in which Lilith, a female demon (Adam’s first repudiated wife, see Gen. 1:27), walks about today’s Rome (yes, essences beyond man, like the gods, and God, are timeless, and I was delighted while writing about that stuff. Here is also a bit of Thomas Aquinas’ vision, a sumptuous one).
NOVEL’S EXCERPT – LILITH
[A quick draft]
“Faces of Rome parading in the night, faces of men, women and children. Ancient & modern faces, naive cynical tough innocuous (and foreboding?). When one thinks of Rome (Goethe wrote) “two thousand years old and beyond, reflecting that it is the same soil, the same hills and often even the same columns and walls – and as for the people we spot traces of the ancient character – one feels intertwined with the great decrees of destiny”.
Destiny, with the movable facial expressions of Roman women bearing witness to it. Since women, in Rome, are important, very important. Federico Fellini, the Rimini director, said that there are male and female cities, and Rome is female, is a woman.
And, speaking of women, ancient women (those that interest us), we think not only of mothers grandmothers or women with or without a partner but also of whores who Federico Fellini loved so much, those around the Archaeological Walk, to be clear, around the Baths of Caracalla (via Antoniniana and viale Guido Baccelli, for instance).
Among these street women, or lupae, as our ancestors called them, one apparently looks tired, tonight, while she walks along the roads indicated above. The ruins of Caracalla are illuminated and the city’s humours ascend to the moonless sky . The woman’s face is the most ancient of them all since it is timeless and the torn black dress & the bag that dangles and almost rubs against the pavement does not improve her appearance. Pitch-black hair fall on her shoulders in a thick mass woven with thin braids. Her oval face is dominated by elongated eyes of a pale blue that, were it not for the darkness that hides them, would appear for what they are, dreadful.
The prostitute notices a motorcycle with two blondish young males and turns her head to the other side.
– Hey, did you see that one? – says the one driving –. Kinda pathetic but look at her body …
– She might stink though – says the second.
– Let’s have a look at her face.
The two are twenty-year-old, more or less. The one at the front says:
– Hey mora [ie brunette, ed], show us your face. How much? You gotta car?
She turned around a bit, her face still hidden. Then, with an intolerable, shattering voice, froze them:
– GET LOST! – as if they were worms (or insects) –. I don’t sell my body tonight. Wanna just enjoy the cool night breeze.
Like mad moths the two youngsters shoot away zigzagging and by a hair’s breadth miss the trunk of an Roman umbrella pine tree.
Leyla Lilith Domna is full of contempt when the two humans, who she consider rubbish, disappear into the night. She then turns her gaze towards the Caelium hill, to Monti and to the Esquiline hill [the rioni where the action from today’s Rome takes place, ed], her look full of hatred, resentment. Finally as if by magic, a gloomy magic, she too disappears into the dark”.
[to be continued]