Temple of Saturn at the Roman Forum. Click for credits and larger image

Rome is the city of the soul (as Byron and Victor Hugo put it,) of our authentic Western soul, since Europe and the West were shaped here, and Rome’s legacy is greater than we think.

1. (…)

Rome is the city of the soul (as Byron and Victor Hugo put it,) of our authentic Western soul, since Europe and the West were shaped here and these roots are sacred -to me surely, and I think and hope to most of us. These roots we have to rediscover in order to better open up to others in a new spirit of humanitas and conciliation (two chief components of the everlasting Roman mind.) We all here in the West must encourage a totally new different attitude which can enable us to better face both our present crisis of values and the radical changes ahead which might cause our swift decline.” (…)

[ read more in Man of Roma ]

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Rome has deeply marked Europe by unifying it a long time ago, first by spreading Greco-Roman culture, and later Christianity … The same concept of Europe is derived from the Roman empire, whose unifying idea, even when this empire was gone, had obsessed the Middle Ages. Constantinople was called the second Rome, Moscow the third Rome; we also had the German (and later the Austrian) Roman holy empire etc.
And today? As French Braudel put it, “today’s men who want a unified Europe of peoples and cultures, don’t they aspire, knowingly or not, to a pax romana?”

[ read more from the comments area of Isn’t the British Trojan Horse a Short-Sighted Animal? ]

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Rome’s legacy is greater than we think – “language, literature, legal codes, government, architecture, engineering, medicine, sports, arts, etc.” – and the Roman Empire has been a powerful myth in the course of the centuries. (…)

The British Victorians felt they were somewhat the spiritual successors of the Romans.

Or both the Italian patriots, who unified Italy, and later the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. They felt like the heirs of ancient Rome and the creators (again) of a “Third Rome”: after the capital of the Pagan world – they argued – and after the capital of Catholicism, Rome was now to become the capital of a totally New World. A disproportionate idea, without any doubt.

And the Americans? They also like today to find similarities between their might and the superpower of the ancient times (try to google America, new, Rome: you’ll get an interesting number of results).

(…) 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. (…)

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

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“But in Italy [during Renaissance] the revival of antiquity – Burckhardt observes – took a different form from that of the North. The wave of barbarism had scarcely subsided before the people, in whom the antique heritage was not completely effaced, and who showed a consciousness of its past and a wish to reproduce it. … In Italy the sympathies both of the learned and of the people were naturally on the side of antiquity as a whole, which stood to them as a symbol of past greatness. The Latin language too was easy to an Italian …”

A new ideal, though coming from the past, was ready to influence the future. How is it possible?

I was hit a few weeks ago by this passage on the on-line Britannica:

“For Renaissance humanists, there was nothing dated or outworn about the writings of Plato, Cicero, or Livy. Compared with the typical productions of medieval Christianity, these pagan works had a fresh, radical, almost avant-garde tonality. Indeed, recovering the classics was to humanism tantamount to recovering reality….In a manner that might seem paradoxical to more modern minds, humanists associated classicism with the future.”

Classical thought was not constrained by preconceived ideas. A new spirit of doubt and inquiry had arisen. (…)

[ read more in The Weird Story of a Beautiful Girl Whose Body Was Found Incorrupt in a Coffin ]

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Caesar had reasons for conquering Gaul that cannot be discussed here. What we can say, this tragedy giving birth to France, we admit we enthusiastically adore the final result but we cannot forget all the sorrows and the atrocious price paid: 1 million people died – probably 1 in 4 of the Gauls -, another million enslaved, 300 tribes subjugated and 800 cities destroyed (Wikipedia); last but not least, the annihilation of the Gallic culture, to which we now pay our humble tribute.” (…)

[ read more in Stress and Joy. Conquest and Sorrow ]

6. (…)

I prefer to get back to our Greco-Roman roots, which is not a barren exercise, ancient thought being totally incorporated in modern thought. As for Stoicism, human equality and brotherhood or natural law are elements of its legacy. And I wish I had a better knowledge to tell you how much of the American constitution is ‘ancient’.” (…)

[ read more in Change and Continuity in History. 1 ]

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Magister said one has to avoid going around with a lantern in search of the traces of the Roman and Italian civilization in the world. How mean! How sad it would be! – he remarked.

This brings to my mind a French guy I met at some friends’ house where he was staying for a brief vacation in Rome. He kept praising the beauty of the monuments and the historical importance of the city (“Ah, l’histoire, ici on voit vraiment l’histoire!”) but the couple of times we went out together he spent almost all his time counting the French cars in the Roman streets, and every time he saw one his pleasure was evident.

One aim of this blog is that of discussing all sorts of permanences of the ancient Greco-Roman world, in my country and elsewhere. We did some work on this already … We’d like though to make it clear we won’t do all this with that mean attitude we were talking about. We’re not here for counting cars

(are we?) (…)

[read more in Are we Counting Cars? ]

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What I know is we cannot live in disorder and we need to discipline ourselves most of the time.

But not always.

We sometimes need excess, we sometimes need fun, spring breaks, Carnivals, Saturnalia, a Roman festival where rules were broken and reversed (for example masters became slaves and slaves became masters). The Romans were great gurus in this art of living. They ruled the world with a smile, with humour on their both faces and tongue (sometimes a crass tongue, to tell you the truth), and not with mystical seriousness. They faced the most dreadful tragedies but preferred to watch comedies. (…)

Let us then have fun too. Carnivals are made for that. Look at Rio, Brasil. Look at our Spanish cousins. They are an economic success, although Madrid, their capital, has movida running all nights! (…)

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

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USA’s love for Ancient Rome. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times: “We like stories of Rome, I think, because in spite of the intervening centuries we can recognize ourselves there: a technologically superior mercantile and military superpower pressing an enormous thumb upon the Western world, its bustling cities full of bars and restaurants and hot-drink shops and theaters.” (…)

[ read more in Random Stuff ]

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A few days ago, in a pizzeria very close to the Colosseum, I met a couple from Lübeck, Germany. She was a Catholic redhead with communicative and laughing blue eyes, born in Cologne. He was a colourless Protestant, with meditative and sad eyes of a pale blue, a vague resemblance with pilot Schumacher. “It is a sort of Little Italy, Cologne, – he said – while I am the Germanic barbarian beyond the Roman border.” It is bizarre how the proximity of the Colosseum makes just any tourist talk history. We didn’t chat for a while though, each of us minding our own business, kind of reluctant to human communication.”

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

11. (…)

Puritanism in its broad meaning – 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 ]

12. (…)

We will only consider that the Ancient Romans, who acquired philosophy from the Greeks but who were much more practical and solid than their philosophy mentors, faced life with great success thanks to their iron will, their rationality and self-control. The scions of the well-to-do Roman families flocked to Greece to study the Epicurean and Stoic doctrines, two very significant schools of thought for Rome, which Rome was able to adapt to her needs – like everything Rome learned from others – and which was propagated by Rome in every region of the Empire.

Today we still admire Julius Caesar’s sovereign spirit, calm, always mastering himself even when facing the most dreadful tragedies, his writings & actions being a vivid testimony of his character. Caesar was though but a fruit – one of the greatest, maybe – of a civilization based mainly on reason.

Is a conduct based on this method still valid today? This question arises when reading this Country Philosopher so stubbornly convinced – like the Ancients were – of the thaumathurgic power of human rationality. Is it possible today, while confronting with everyday problems, to draw any benefit from the philosophies of our Ancient World?

We do believe (and we do hope) it is possible. (…)

(…) The Romans loved terrestrial life much more than ultramundane life (a world of pale ghosts to them). They loved life before death, not after death, and were not inclined to reject its pleasures. The solution for a Roman therefore doesn’t reside in renouncing to life and its pleasures. On the contrary, it resides in the correct measure in which we enjoy life, which implies moderation and non addiction, since any addiction makes us slaves of passions (pleasures), makes us non free.

A beautiful and conclusive sentence by CP: ‘A right measure prevents the genesis of vice, which incidentally is nothing but a measure not correct – i.e. excessive – which has become a habit.’  (…)

[ read more in Ethical Confusion & Ancient Teachings ]

2 thoughts on “The Legacy of Rome

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