The journal of an average reader – Day 2 (The scholars help us know He has risen and Vergil’s political propaganda)

If yesterday started with a strong, thrilling passage, today was the calm after the storm. Do you know that moment when you think that everything is lost, but then you discover that it’s quite the contrary? John 20: He has risen ! Yesterday He was beaten up, crucified and left to die, now he disappeared from his tomb and showed Himself a couple of times to people He knew. Once again, the scene when Peter and the other disciple found out that He was not anymore in the tomb and started running like crazy was so alive in Greek thanks to the repeated καὶ juxtaposition, that created a state inside me which made me start reading faster like I was running with them. I imagine them rushing and arriving to the place where Jesus was buried without breath.

Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.”

     So many emotions are involved in the 31 verses of this chapter, especially in the 16th verse when Maria realized whom she was talking with, exclaiming “Rabboni”, then the time when Jesus shows Himself to Thomas. Every time I finish reading this episode I fully live strong emotions with a peaceful apogee.

    Next on the list was once again Scribes and Scholars. I started with a small chapter dedicated to the process of transition from the roll to the codex, the period from the second century to the fourth AD. It is a pretty impressive chapter talking about a very mesmerizing task that actually caused the loss of a lot of literature, which we would’ve lost anyways due to the deterioration of the papyrus. I was also well pleased in the next chapter with the erudition of the first Christians who, contrary to what the modern thinker would believe, did not destroy the pagan literature, but took what was applicable for their own beliefs and used it in their writings.

“Just as Ambrose in his De officiis ministrorum was able to produce an influential manual of Christian ethics by reworking the basically Stoic content of Cicero’s De officiis, so Augustine, writing at a time when he was least sympathetic to secular letters, in his De doctrina Christiana successfully adapted classical Roman rhetoric and in particular the theory of the three styles as elaborated by Cicero in the Orator to the needs of the Christian preacher. “

L.D. Reynolds (1968), p.38

     A thing I love about this book is that when it comes to those things that need a visual support, i.e. the critical signs, scripts, etc. at the end of the book there are pictures of different plates that gives you an example; e.g. this plate with an example of Rustic Capital script. Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 22.51.52

     Next book to read was Vergil’s Eclogae or Bucolics, in a Catalan translation from 1956 made by Miquel Dolç, of course, Bernat Metge editorial. The introduction to this version is around 100 pages long, but it helps you understand very much what Virgil intended with these ten short poems. I have to recognize that I struggled a bit with the translation, though, but since Vergil is not the easiest author to read and translate it’s totally fine (I guess). It was a delightful read and I enjoyed some parts more than the others. The 1st, 3rd, 4th,and 6th were my favorites. I don’t want to start commenting now every little aspect of this masterpiece since already flowed rivers of ink related to the subject. I do want to point two things that called my attention especially. My Romanian readers will definitely relate to the first one. In the first Ecloga there are a couple of times when Virgil uses his writings to worship the Roman emperor Augustus, calling him “god” . In the first lines we find:

Meliboeus:

…you, Tityrus, idling in the shade,

teach the woods to echo ‘lovely Amaryllis’.

Tityrus:

O Meliboeus, a god has created this leisure for us.

Since he’ll always be a god to me, a gentle lamb

from our fold, will often drench his altar.”

     What a great propaganda system the poets were! This makes me travel two thousand years in time and remembers Ceaușescu’s propaganda poets in the communist Romania. One of them, Vadim Tudor, at the 20th anniversary of Ceaușescu’s declaration as general secretary declared:

“We delight in the providential existence of this man, so profoundly attached to our ancient land; we should all rejoice in his neverending youth, we should all be grateful for we live in his times and thank him for all these. Only due to his will we are now truly masters in our souls’ home.”

Tismăneanu (2014), p. 256

     The second point that called my attention is the tremendous parallel between the Cumean prophecies from the fourth Ecloga and the prophecies of the Judeo-Christian religion. Also the parallel between the child who was to bring the new race. All these made Christian authors like Augustine or Lactantius think that Vergil was inspired by the Christian God.

“Now the last age of the Cumaean prophecy begins:

the great roll-call of the centuries is born anew:

now Virgin Justice returns, and Saturn’s reign:

now a new race descends from the heavens above.

Only favor the child who’s born, pure Lucina, under whom

the first race of iron shall end, and a golden race

rise up throughout the world”

     Today was a bit more intense than yesterday because of how deep everything I read was. Whenever I approach this kind of literature I take my time and read 3 or 4 times the same passage to be sure I get it. Especially Vergil’s Eclogae took a lot of time due to their density (a lot of things happen in approx. thousand verses).

See you tomorrow,

Denis

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