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Colegu’ lui Dorel și scurta noastră prietenie

Vineri seara. Probabil obosit. Cel mai probabil obosită. Săptămână lungă la servici sau școală, dar faci un efort ca să mai ieși și tu din rutină și mergi cu băieții la un fotbal sau cu fetele la croșetat (sau ce-o face fetele când se-ntâlnesc numai ele) – who knows -.

Ajungi la teren cu mingea. Ajungi acasă la Gheorghina cu acele și lânuța. Vin toți. Vin toate. DAR, surpriză! Apare o persoană nouă pe care nu ai vazut-o până atunci. Un coleg de-a lui Dorel. Ești cu el în echipă și joacă destul de bine baiatu’, chiar dă câteva pase pe care le bagi frumos în poarta adversarului. Vorbiți așa, protocolar și din politețe. N-ai tu vreme și chef de făcut noi prieteni. Se sfârșește seara și toată lumea se-ntoarce acasă.

Trece weekendul. Înapoi la rutină. Pauza de masă. Intri instinctiv pe Facebook. Te uiți la notificări și vezi că ai un Friend Request. Nu s-a mai întâmplat de ceva timp. Pffff, colegu’ lui Dorel! Ce să fac: dau accept, mă fac că plouă? Dacă îl ignor și vineri ne vedem iar la fotbal și se uită ciudat la mine și se bagă în seamă? Offf, n-am chef să vorbesc cu el. Mai bine-i dau accept și așa evit orice contact incomod.

Trece săptămâna. Pauză de masă. Intri instinctiv pe Facebook și vezi un articol în care se face mișto de niște liberali care au călcat pe bec iarași cu ideile lor progresive. Dai elegant un share să râdă și vecinu’. DAR, surpriză! Notificare: colegu’ lui Dorel dă un react cu o față nervoasă. Huh, ciudat! După un timp, altă notificare! Comentariu de data asta: “bine k santeti voi destepti mai cu ideile voastre din evul mediu mai bine ai tacea”.

Colegu’ lui Dorel a făcut o greșeala și va plăti pentru scump ea cu un unfriend și un block.

În primul rând, nu suntem prieteni, prietene! Întotdeauna mi s-au părut ciudați oamenii care, fără să te cunoască, se bagă în seamă încercând a demonstra lumii întregi cât sunt ei de rotunzi și avansați față de tine. Pe lângă asta, mai sunt și obraznici și cochetează cu insulta directă la persoana-ți. Not nice, not nice!

Pe urmă, dacă aștepți un răspuns la un comentariu spus pe tonul acesta, poți să aștepți ad kalendas graecas. Nu-ți voi oferi timpul meu prețios pe care trebuie să-l investesc în tura asta de tetris, activitate foarte fructiferă.

În ultimul rând, unfriend-ul și block-ul sunt doar o exprimare diafană a regimului dictatorial impus de mine pe profilul MEU. Aici eu sunt legea. Dura lex, sed lex! 

Ne vedem vineri la fotbal!

 

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Învierea blogului

Cu aproximativ o lună în urmă m-am întâlnit cu o cunoștință pe care nu o mai văzusem de ceva vreme. După două trei cuvinte, mă întreabă: „Cum mai merge blogul?” Raspunsul meu ajunse foarte concis și la subiect: „Care blog?”

Cam așa stă treaba cu mine și scrisul pe blog: îl iubesc așa de mult că am și uitat că există. Oficial, a trecut mai bine de un an jumate de când nu l-am mai vizitat. Acum, cu sosirea noului an, când toate lucrurile se fac noi, am decis să reînnoiesc jurămintele și să-i dau mai multă atenție. Sper să mă țină mai mult de două postări, așa rare cum or fi ele. Printre muncă, dizertații, proiecte, teste, corectări, podcast-uri, pregătiri de adulthood și alte treburi,voi încerca să scriu câteva idei ce-mi stau pe cap de ceva vreme și cred că merită împărtășite cu lumea-ntreagă. Pe de altă parte încerc să-mi spăl rușinea postărilor scrise pe aceeași blog cu câțiva ani în urmă. Rușine, ne-rușine, parcă-i totuși interesant să vezi evoluția ta ca om printr-un blog abandonat cu anii. În fine, hai că mă-nticcc3c7e6b911b2b03453be_5fc_c-postnd și voi ați venit aici pentru chestii mai interesante, precum evoluția vocalelor din latina clasică la limbile romanice.

Ne vedem data viitoare. Poate. Dacă nu mi-e prea lene să scriu și singura postare rămâne asta cu învierea. Poate-i defapt o-nmormântare. Vom vedea.

Denis

 

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Câteva probleme ale generației mele

     Ca oricare generație care a existat și va exista, generația mea, a noastră – the millennials – are probleme. Citind zilele trecute “Jurnal de scriitor” de Dostoievski am rămas impresionat de forma în care autorul analiza diferitele generații rusești pe care le-a văzut în apogeu și în decădere de-a lungul vieții lui, fiecare cu problemele ei. Precum el, deși fără nici o intenție de-a mă compara cu gigantul rus, am simțit o oarecare responsabilitate de-a face o autocritică a generației din care fac parte încercând totodată să înșir pe scurt câteva dintre problemele cele mai clare pe care le avem. Mulți ar putea să-mi reproșeze o poziție de om în vârstă care nu încetează să ne aducă aminte că “pe vremea mea…” și “tinerii din ziua de astăzi…”. Îi invit să o facă, dar în același timp să reflecte asupra ideilor pe care le voi prezenta.

     Nimeni nu poate nega faptul că suntem prima generație din istoria umanității care are acces la o cantitate așa mare de informație într-un timp atât de scurt: un click, un e-mail la un specialist, o vizită la biblioteca publică de peste drum, etc. Aceasta e peste tot, dar mai ales pe internet, unde găsim ziare, cărți și chiar manuscrise scanate, colecții gratuite de cărți, etc. Problema pe care o avem este chiar aceasta! Din așa mult belșug nici nu știm de unde să alegem și am intrat parcă într-un fel de confuzie bolnăvicioasă. Acest fapt deschide nenumărate porți indivizilor cu o aviditate de manipulare dezgustătoare, care nu întârzie să profite de situație. Ne informăm direct de pe Facebook cu idei gata gândite de alții, majoritatea de proastă calitate și false, de pe site-uri cu nume și origini dubioase (e.g. Extratereștrii Printre Noi, conspiratii.ro) care ne fac să mușcăm momeala click-bait-urilor și ne dau o senzație de pseudo-intelectualitate. Ne batem cu pumnul în piept că nu ne vaccinăm copiii, devenind automat doctori, până ce ne mor pruncii de difterie și meningită; suntem capabili să discutăm la nesfârșit că limba română nu e de origine latină, ci limba latină e o limbă românească, devenind lingviști, istorici și filologi după un articol citit și un filmuleț văzut.  – Ce lux! Nu mai avem nevoie de facultăți și masterate! – “Păi stai puțin,” ar spune unii “și celelalte generații au fost manipulate la fel!” Nimic mai adevărat! Dar între contextul în care au trăit ei și cel în care trăim noi există o diferență de la cer la pământ! Felul în care putem verifica informația și sursa ei: câteva click-uri în locul potrivit, nu se poate compara cu eforturile magnifice care trebuiau făcute înainte. Pe lângă culpa proprie, nu pot să nu privesc și spre sistemul de învățământ, care parcă se luptă tot mai mult să scoată materiile de profil uman și să ne îndrepte tot mai mult spre științific, în loc să caute un echilibru a celor două. Filosofia și celelalte materii care ne învață să gândim și să cunoaștem obiectivitatea și subiectivitatea se fac doar ca să fie făcute, iar noi ne luăm ideile de tip fast-food de la alții. Tindem spre reducționism, iar sentimente precum plăcerea, ura, dragostea le reducem la un set de reacții chimice care se produc înăuntrul nostru. Îmi place enorm de mult o replică a lui Robin Williams din filmul “Dead Poets Society”: “…And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

       Nu ne-a învâțat nimeni să gândim, iar de la asta pornesc toate problemele.

     În 2015 se deschidea în București librăria Cărturești, una din cele mai spectaculoase pe care le-am văzut. M-am bucurat să văd că în România noastră se deschide un loc cultural atât de frumos. Puțin mi-a durat bucuria când am aflat că librăria își câștigă existența din vinderea de ceaiuri, căni și alte cadouri. Apoi am primit și explicația: România este țara care citește cel mai puțin din toată Europa!

     Nu ne place să citim, ne plictisește, ne adoarme. Câteodata mai facem un efort și ne spălăm vina cu autori pseudo-intelectuali, sofiști care ne spun ce vrem să auzim, idei goale, repetitive, care sună frumos, mângâietoare de urechi, de pus pe Facebook, iar apoi lăsăm literatura, în orice formă ar fi ea, pe raft la mila prafului.

     Începem o facultate, fiecare pe profilul lui: medicină, artă, drept, litere, inginerie… Și în loc să ne deschidem mai mult mințile, parcă tot mai mult ni le închidem, de data aceasta concentrându-ne doar pe ceea ce ne interesează. O problemă pe care o observ tot mai des este desconsiderarea unor profile față de celelalte. Majoritatea celor din domeniul științific și stiințific-social, deodată cu intrarea la facultate nutresc un anumit dispreț către cei din domeniul artistic și uman, considerând dedicația lor mai nobilă decât a acelora care își dedică timpul “lucrurilor inutile”. Cei din tabăra ofensată răspund cu aceeași monedă de multe ori, iar aceasta produce o ruptură și un dispreț reciproc. Celor din prima tabără le recomand să citească mai multe clasice literare, iar celorlalți, înainte să zâmbească răzbunător, le readuc aminte că la intrarea Academiei lui Platon scria “ἀγεωμέτρητος μὴ εἰσίτω” (să nu intre cine nu știe geometrie!).

     Să spui că ești ateu e foarte cool, majoritatea o să te placă și rareori va trebui să dai vreo explicație despre convingerile tale ateiste. Problema în această situație este că majoritatea sunt pseudo-atei, ignoranți ai religiei, îmbrăcați în haina ateismului pentru a fi lăsați în pace. Iar atunci când sunt invitați să participe într-o dezbatere cu tematică religioasă, în caz că li se aduce un argument pe care nu-l pot contraataca din cauza necunoașterii lor, cel mai comfortabil este să-l batjocorească pe oponent, pentru că știu că majoritatea, la fel de ignorantă ca ei, va râde și va uita că nu au știut să aducă un argument valid. Teoria Big-Bang-ului, Evoluția Darwinistă și alte subiecte de temă științifică sunt argumente aduse mereu împotriva teiștilor. Problema nu este asta, ci faptul că un număr foarte mic dintre atei sunt capabili să le explice în profunzime. Pe lângă asta se adaugă și lectura minimă sau inexistentă a cărților de căpătâi a celor mai mari religii ale lumii. Fapt ce face orice dezbatere de temă religioasă ridicolă: nu poți afirma că Biblia, Coranul, Torah, etc. greșesc daca nu ai citit textele lor. Lipsa de cunoaștere a ateilor este de multe ori mai profundă decât a credincioșilor, cărora li se cred superiori. Aceasta o putem vedea în numărul ridicat de atei care cred mituri precum distrugerea cauzată de creștini a documentelor și a bibliotecii din Alexandria, care ar fi presupus o avansare de cel puțin 500 de ani in știință,  inexistența istorică a lui Isus Hristos și alte subiecte prin care încearcă să-i facă pe creștini să se simtă incomod. Împotriva acestor idei false promovate în cercurile ateiste recomand blogul History for Atheistscreat de un ateu care încearcă să corecteze activismul ateist de proastă calitate.

     Cu aproximativ patru luni în urmă, după o oră de greacă cu clasa a11-a în liceul unde predam atunci, la ieșirea din școală mă întâmpină secretara, o doamnă simpatică în jur de 60 de ani, care îmi readucea aminte cât de mult se bucură să vadă tineri încă interesați de limbile clasice, atât de respectate pe vremea când încă mergea ea la școală. După câteva momente incomode începu să-mi spună că ce o deranjează cel mai mult este faptul că nu se mai face religie cum trebuie în scoală, recunoscând în același timp că ea nu este credincioasă. Surprins fiind de această remarcă, întrucât cunosc ateismul profund al catalanilor, am devenit curios dintr-o dată. “Tinerii ăștia merg într-un muzeu și nu înțeleg 90% din arta pe care o văd. În maxim 30 de ani muzeele o să fie goale. De ce să meargă lumea dacă nu înțelege nimic? Nu-i interesează faptul că Europa, continentul unde trăim are bazele puse pe creștinism. Toată ziua doar pe telefon și pe internet stau…”. În parte avea dreptate. Sunt curios câți suntem capabili să vedem David a lui Michelangelo și să ne ducă gândul la istoria din spatele sculpturii.

     Ne credem cei mai înțelepți, credem că le știm pe toate fără să știm nimic. “Stai că-ți spun eu cum e defapt!” Ceea ce l-a făcut pe Socrate să accepte profeția oracolului care spunea că este cel mai înțelept dintre toți oameni a fost faptul că, spre diferența celorlalți, era singurul care recunoștea că nu știa nimic. Ce mare deosebire între el și noi, care ne dăm cu opinia despre politică, sport, știință și multe altele când defapt avem cunoștințe minime. Revin din nou la ideea cititului. Dacă am citi mai mult ne-am da seama, precum Socrate, că tot ce știm este echivalent cu nimic și fiecare carte citită ne apropie mai mult de această idee.

     Bunicii noștri, al2-lea război mondial și comunismul lui Gherghiu-Dej; părinții noștri, comunismul lui Ceușescu și revoluția. Puțini dintre noi am apucat ultimele momente ale comunismului și poate chiar și atunci eram mici și nu înțelegeam ce se întâmplă. De ce nu mă îndoiesc este de faptul că generația noastră are în ea sânge de protestatar, nu ne e frică să ieșim în stradă. Poate la asta contribuie și faptul că riscul pe care ni-l asumăm  este minim, nu vom ajunge în închisoare, în camere de tortură. Dar totuși și alte nații sunt în aceeași situație și nu profită de această libertate. În ceea ce privește protestele nu cred că ni se poate reproșa ceva și am demonstrat-o în diferite ocazii, ajungând pe primele pagini a celor mai mari ziare ale lumii. Problema nu este aceasta, ci faptul că de multe ori, din prea mult zel ne unim unor mișcări sociale pervertindu-le prin însuși prezența noastră în ele, ajungând de multe ori, atât noi cât și acestea la limita absurdului și chiar al prostiei, tot datorită ignoranței. Printre acestea se enumeră anumite mișcări feministe, LGBTQ+, pro-life, pro-choice, etc. În cele mai multe cazuri ne găsim plăcerea într-o victimizare dusă la extrem, atât în ce ne privește pe noi cât și colectivul pe care-l protejăm. E de ajuns o singură remarcă la adresa femeilor, oricât de nevinovată ar fi ea, încât să fii numit misogin (un exemplu trist); dacă îi spui prost cuiva care face parte din colectivul LGBTQ+ ești automat numit homofob; când poate persoana aceea este chiar proastă, indiferent dacă face parte din LGBTQ+ sau nu. Cel mai trist exemplu mi se pare stagiul în care a ajuns feminismul, mai nou numit feminazism, mișcare ce se îndepărtează total de punctul de plecare al feminismului autentic.

 

     Acestea sunt câteva dintre problemele pe care am observat că generația noastră le are la nivel general. Asta nu înseamnă că nu sunt printre noi cititori și oameni care se informează din surse sigure, nici că nu avem studenți care se respectă reciproc, nici că nu avem atei și creștini cu carte care știu să aibă o dezbatere pacifică și respectuoasă, nici că nu avem tineri cu un nivel de smerenie la fel de înalt ca cel al cunoașterii lor și nici faptul că sunt oameni care indiferent de grupul pe care-l îl apără, aduc o lumină acolo unde se află.

     Cu toții avem greșeli și probleme. Depinde de noi cât de mult ne zbatem să le corectăm.

 

Denis

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The journal of an average reader – Epilogue

     It’s been four days since I ended my “reading week”, and even if I wanted to write the epilogue right after it finished, in the end, I preferred to let some days pass and see the effects that it had on me, and I have to say that a week of reading can change many things. In these seven days, I went through a big variation of books written in very different historical and political situations that somehow came together as one. We talked about war, love, disappointment, greed, tragedy, etc. This week only helped me to make a big step further in something that I understand every day more. It’s exactly what Socrates said: ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα – I know that I know nothing. The more I read, the more I realize how limited my knowledge can be, and that I know nothing. I find interesting how in the past years I thought that I knew something and that I didn’t need to read that much, but when I decided”OK, let’s read and know more”, all that myth fell down: I knew nothing and every read page is a step closer to the Socratic idea.

    The benefits of this special reading week could be felt right away. Without even realizing I created a reading routine in my everyday life, which I consider so healthy, especially now at the beginning of the summer, when the everyday routine is heavily altered and sometimes takes long weeks to put together. I feel the need to read more and more, and this need cuts some hours of my sleep as during the day I am working hard on a Romanian translation of the first book of Herodotus (my first work as a classical philologist), which I hope that in the near future I will publish. I also became more eager to write here on my blog, which in the following days and weeks I will do as often as I can. I have some interesting subjects to talk about. What I found really interesting and helpful was the fact of writing at the end of every day a short summary of what I read. This really made me pay more attention at what I was reading, taking notes every now and then of things I found interesting to talk about.

     Do I recommend a week of reading? Absolutely yes, if you have the time to do it.

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All the books I had in my hands this week

 

 

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The journal of an average reader – Day 7 (Gallia is slowly conquered)

     The past days I developed a strange passion for Caesar, the writer, and the general. I can not, but be amazed by his wisdom to handle all the situations that he faces. That’s why I read the second book of the De Bello Gallico and once again I found interesting things related to the author, the general, and the war history of Rome.

    Digging right in, we see from the beginning the fear that Roman troops caused among the Gallia’s people.

While Caesar was in winter quarters in Hither Gaul, as we have shown above, frequent reports were brought to him, and he was also informed by letters from Labienus, that all the Belgae, who we have said are a third part of Gaul, were entering into a confederacy against the Roman people, and giving hostages to one another; that the reasons of the confederacy were these-first, because they feared that, after all [Celtic] Gaul was subdued, our army would be led against them; secondly, because they were instigated by several of the Gauls; some of whom as [on the one hand] they had been unwilling that the Germans should remain any longer in Gaul, so [on the other] they were dissatisfied that the army of the Roman people should pass the winter in it, and settle there;”

     Next thing I find interesting and almost funny is that the Belgae were not as much Belgae as we might think.

“When Caesar inquired of them what states were in arms, how powerful they were, and what they could do, in war, he received the following information: that the greater part of the Belgae were sprung, from the Germans, and that having crossed the Rhine at an early period, they had settled there, on account of the fertility of the country, and had driven out the Gauls who inhabited those regions;”

     It was the Germans… It’s always the Germans! It’s like it the destiny always was sending Caesar to fight against them, wherever he stepped. At this moment, a map would not hurt.

map_gallia_tribes_towns

 

The Belgae are the people who lived in Belgica, in the north. You can see how close they were to Germania and it’s no wonder why it was one of the territories that an empire like the Germans conquered.

 

The fact that the Romans were so advanced in the art of war and in the engineering, sometimes, only by showing their skills made the enemy surrender and try to make the peace with them.

 

“Having attempted to take it by storm on his march, because he heard that it was destitute of [sufficient] defenders, he was not able to carry it by assault, on account of the breadth of the ditch and the height of the wall, though few were defending it. Therefore, having fortified the camp, he began to bring up the vineae, and to provide whatever things were necessary for the storm. In the mean time the whole body of the Suessiones, after their flight, came the next night into the town. The vineae having been quickly brought up against the town, a mound thrown up, and towers built, the Gauls, amazed by the greatness of the works, such as they had neither seen nor heard of before, and struck also by the dispatch of the Romans, send embassadors to Caesar respecting a surrender, and succeed in consequence of the Remi requesting that they [the Suessiones] might be spared.”

 

The same thing we see a few chapters later:

“When, vineae having been brought up and a mound raised, they observed that a tower also was being built at a distance, they at first began to mock the Romans from their wall, and to taunt them with the following speeches. “For what purpose was so vast a machine constructed at so great a distance? With what hands,” or “with what strength did they, especially [as they were] men of such very small stature” (for our shortness of stature, in comparison to the great size of their bodies, is generally a subject of much contempt to the men of Gaul) “trust to place against their walls a tower of such great weight.

But when they saw that it was being moved, and was approaching their walls, startled by the new and unaccustomed sight, they sent embassadors to Caesar [to treat] about peace; who spoke in the following manner: “That they did not believe the Romans waged war without divine aid, since they were able to move forward machines of such a height with so great speed, and thus fight from close quarters; that they resigned themselves and all their possessions to [Caesar’s] disposal.”

     The vineae were a kind of moving towers that the Romans used to get their soldiers up on the walls of a city they were sieging.

     Next, the Romans were about to meet one of the most courageous people from Gallia: the Nervii. 

“When these were delivered, and all the arms in the town collected, he went from that place into the territories of the Ambiani, who, without delay, surrendered themselves and all their possessions. Upon their territories bordered the Nervii, concerning whose character and customs when Caesar inquired he received the following information:-That there was no access for merchants to them; that they suffered no wine and other things tending to luxury to be imported; because, they thought that by their use the mind is enervated and the courage-impaired: that they were a savage people and of great bravery: that they upbraided and condemned the rest of the Belgae who had surrendered themselves to the Roman people and thrown aside their national courage: that they openly declared they would neither send ambassadors, nor accept any condition of peace.”

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Right in the center

 

 

Caesar goes against them with six legions and found himself fighting against enemies much stronger than what he believed, who would not think twice before attacking. So were they doing and put the Roman general in a crisis of time:

 

“Caesar had everything to do at one time: the standard to be displayed, which was the sign when it was necessary to run to arms; the signal to be given by the trumpet; the soldiers to be called off from the works; those who had proceeded some distance for the purpose of seeking materials for the rampart, to be summoned; the order of battle to be formed; the soldiers to be encouraged; the watchword to be given. A great part of these arrangements was prevented by the shortness of time and the sudden approach and charge of the enemy.” 

     Even if they were in trouble, they were in the end The Romans and had to work it out somehow.

Under these difficulties two things proved of advantage; [first] the skill and experience of the soldiers, because, having been trained by former engagements, they could suggest to themselves what ought to be done, as conveniently as receive information from others; and [secondly] that Caesar had forbidden his several lieutenants to depart from the works and their respective legions, before the camp was fortified. These, on account of the near approach and the speed of the enemy, did not then wait for any command from Caesar, but of themselves executed whatever appeared proper.

 

A thing that I observed during my study as a classicist is that every time there was a war somewhere, when the soldiers were well encouraged they get a strength that they didn’t know they have. Caesar was really good encouraging his soldiers. Here we have an example:

 “Caesar, having given the necessary orders, hastened to and fro into whatever quarter fortune carried him, to animate the troops, and came to the tenth legion. Having encouraged the soldiers with no further speech than that “they should keep up the remembrance of their wonted valor, and not be confused in mind, but valiantly sustain the assault of the enemy ;” as the latter were not further from them than the distance to which a dart could be cast, he gave the signal for commencing battle.”

     After a lot of losses on both sides, the Romans, thanks to the lieutenant Labienus put themselves together and won the battle. Caesar admires his enemy beyond measure and refers to them as good fighters.

“But the enemy, even in the last hope of safety, displayed such great courage, that when the foremost of them had fallen, the next stood upon them prostrate, and fought from their bodies; when these were overthrown, and their corpses heaped up together, those who survived cast their weapons against our men [thence], as from a mound, and returned our darts which had fallen short between [the armies]; so that it ought not to be concluded, that men of such great courage had injudiciously dared to pass a very broad river, ascend very high banks, and come up to a very disadvantageous place; since their greatness of spirit had rendered these actions easy, although in themselves very difficult.”

      Another face of Caesar that we haven’t yet seen was that of a cold-hearted tyrant. In many occasions, we see that he forgives his enemies and lets them live, but in other situations, he treats the people he killed or sold as slaves just as a simple number, who doesn’t matter more than a speck of dust.

“…About 4,000 of the men having been slain, the rest were forced back into the town. The day after, Caesar, after breaking open the gates, which there was no one then to defend, and sending in our soldiers, sold the whole spoil of that town. The number of 53,000 persons was reported to him by those who had bought them.”

“At the same time he was informed by P. Crassus, whom he had sent with one legion against the Veneti, the Unelli, the Osismii, the Curiosolitae, the Sesuvii, the Aulerci, and the Rhedones, which are maritime states, and touch upon the [Atlantic] ocean, that all these nations were brought under the dominion and power of the Roman people.”
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North-West of modern day France

     This, friends, is the last post about my reading days. I hope you enjoyed and found some of my reviews helpful.
     Tomorrow I will come with an epilogue.
Denis

 

 

 

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The journal of an average reader – Day 6 (The Trojans ignore the omens and Dubrovsky’s revenge)

      Two days ago, while reading Caesar, an ex-classmate of mine asked me: So, what’s up, you’re finally enjoying the Classical Philology after you graduated? And that was exactly what was going on. During my studies, I was always so focused to just get the job done that I forgot to enjoy what I was there for. That’s why these days I read the ancient world’s classics and I’m having a blast.

      Today’s reading started with the 12th song of the Iliad. The people who read it, they might remember these scene. The Trojans advance towards the Greeks and they finally get through the wall that the last ones built around their ships. It’s a heavy chapter, full of battle descriptions, that might get confusing in some situations, because of so many names. At some points, it feels like you don’t know who killed whom. Was he Trojan or Greek? This seems the introduction to the 13th though which I strongly believe that is going to be really bloody since they break the wall and start fighting by the ships. Let’s see some fragments from today’s chapter:

“Then the son of Peirithous, mighty Polypoetes, cast with his spear and smote Damasus through the helmet with cheek pieces of bronze;  and the bronze helm stayed not the spear, but the point of bronze brake clean through the bone, and all the brain was spattered about within; so stayed he him in his fury. And thereafter he slew Pylon and Ormenus. And Leonteus, scion of Ares, smote Hippomachus, son of Antimachus, with a cast of his spear, striking him upon the girdle.  And again he drew from its sheath his sharp sword and darting upon him through the throng smote Antiphates first in close fight, so that he was hurled backward upon the ground; and thereafter Menon, and Iamenus, and Orestes, all of these one after the other he brought down to the bounteous earth.”

 

     As I said before, there are a lot of names that you have to follow carefully so you won’t get lost.
     Both the Trojans and the Greeks were very superstitious people. They interpreted and read the gods’ will in many ways; e.g. watching the way the birds flew (ornithomancy), reading the sacrificed animals’ entrails (haruspicy), and so many others. The same happens here:
“While they were stripping from these their shining arms, meanwhile the youths that followed with Polydamas and Hector, even they that were most in number and bravest, and that most were fain to break through the wall and burn the ships with fire, these still tarried in doubt, as they stood by the trench. For a bird had come upon them, as they were eager to cross over, an eagle of lofty flight, skirting the host on the left, and in its talons it bore a blood-red, monstrous snake, still alive as if struggling, nor was it yet forgetful of combat, it writhed backward, and smote him that held it on the breast beside the neck, till the eagle, stung with pain, cast it from him to the ground, and let it fall in the midst of the throng, and himself with a loud cry sped away down the blasts of the wind. And the Trojans shuddered when they saw the writhing snake lying in the midst of them, a portent of Zeus that beareth the aegis.”
      That was very bad news for the Trojans, and that’s why Polydamas went straight to Hector and told him to call off the attack, giving the following arguments:

“Let us not go forward to fight with the Danaans for the ships. For thus, methinks, will the issue be, seeing that in sooth this bird has come upon the Trojans, as they were eager to cross over, an eagle of lofty flight, skirting the host on the left, bearing in his talons a blood-red, monstrous snake, still living, yet straightway let it fall before he reached his own nest, neither finished he his course, to bring and give it to his little ones—even so shall we, though we break the gates and the wall of the Achaeans by our great might, and the Achaeans give way, come back over the selfsame road from the ships in disarray; for many of the Trojans shall we leave behind, whom the Achaeans shall slay with the bronze in defense of the ships. On this wise would a soothsayer interpret, one that in his mind had clear knowledge of omens, and to whom the folk gave ear.”
     Surprisingly, Hector refuses to listen and even rebukes him for trying to make the others stop the attack, that seemed to go so good for them. The result of not listening to this omen will be seen in the next song.
       When they finally break the wall and can advance through, we are presented a picture of Hector like never before. That’s the Trojan hero in all his glory.
“And glorious Hector leapt within, his face like sudden night; and he shone in terrible bronze wherewith his body was clothed about, and in his hands he held two spears. None that met him could have held him back, none save the gods, when once he leapt within the gates; and his two eyes blazed with fire.”
      Later on, I felt like I needed some Russian literature and I went straight to the author that my favorite, Dostoievski, appreciated and was strongly influenced by: Aleksandr Pushkin. I happened to read what by the end became one of my favorites narratives I’ve ever read: Dubrovsky. First, I’d like to talk about the edition and translation. I used a Spanish translation made by Amaya Lacasa published by Alba Minus in a collection called Narraciones Completas. If this edition would be a hardcover, it would probably be one of my favorites editions of a book I own. I love everything about it. The font, the distance between the lines, the margin. It’s so easy and comfortable to read.
      Let’s go straight to the argument. It starts with the story of an arrogant Russian aristocrat, who lives in his mansion and doesn’t like to have meetings with anybody. That’s the reason why a lot of people take that as a challenge, and if anybody finally gets in his presence it’s known as “the man who met Troyekurov”. There’s an exception, Dubrovsky, an old comrade from his time in the army, whose luck decreased lately and wasn’t that rich anymore. Even if Kirila Petrovich Troyekurov was a proud man, he enjoyed every moment with his old friend and wouldn’t care if spending time with him would damage his image in the society.
“… and Kirila Petrovich, who didn’t use to honor anybody with his company, went to the modest home of his old friend without even thinking. They were both the same age, belonged to the same class and had a similar education, which explained  some character resemblances and inclinations. 
[…] Everybody envied the concord that reigned between the arrogant Troyekurov and his indigent neighbor, and admired the courage of the last one, who, sitting at Kirila Petrovich’s table, expressed freely his opinion without worrying if he’d contradict the master of the house. “
     Everything changed when in the presence of other people Dubrovsky had the freedom to say something that bothered his friend, and the last one insulted him in front of everybody. Dubrovsky wanted an apology, and Troyekurov wanted his apology too. We’re in front of two proud Russian aristocrats. It’s no doubt that the fun is about to start. One thing leads to another and they are both in front of a judge, with Troyekurov claiming all his (not anymore) friend’s properties, after he created some fake documents and witnesses. When the judge says the sentence and Troyekurov is the winner we have the following reaction of Dubrovsky:
“Dubrovski stayed there in silence… Out of the sudden he raised his head, with sparkling eyes, hit the floor with a foot, pushed the secretary with so many force that he fell, took the inkwell and went straight to the assessor. Everybody was horrified.
– What! You don’t respect the church of God! Out, villains! And turning to Kirila Petrovich continued – Have you seen yourself, sir? Huntsmen taking dogs to the church of the Lord. Dogs running through the church. You will see…”
     After some time, Dubrovsky got sick and called his long-gone son, who was studying away, to come home. In the end (sorry for the spoiler) he dies and the real story starts. It’s all about the younger Dubrovsky now, who promises to revenge his father’s dead.
     I love how calm he is in some nerve-wrecking situations; e.g. when the peasants want to kill the men who come to take and use Troyekurov’s new property, the young Dubrovsky stops them:
“-Stop – shouted Dubrovsky. Are you crazy? You’re going to find your own ruin, and mine too. Everybody go at their homes and leave me alone. Do not be afraid, the tsar is merciful, I will ask him for you and he will not leave you; we’re all his. But, how would you want me to defend you if you do all these crazy things?” 
     I will stop right here and encourage you to take and read the narrative by yourself. It’s not very long; around 80 pages. You will enjoy it, no doubt. It has everything: a good argument, it’s well written, funny, entertaining, without useless details, etc.

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The journal of an average reader – Day 5 (The Israelis’ hybris and Orestes’ vengeance)

     For some time now I wanted to go again through King David’s story and, since yesterday I finished John I thought that today might be a nice moment to do so. I started from the beginning, 1 Samuel, before David was even born. Let’s dig right it.

      Right in the first chapter I noticed once again, the great humility of Hannah. She was the second wife of Elkanah and couldn’t have kids. So the other wife Peninnah mocked her every time she had the occasion, but we’re not told that she’d ever answer back. She kept it for herself and told her pain to her God.

“6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because theLord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

     Once again, I got confused and angry . I sometimes find so incredible how the Israelis, who claimed to have the real God, whose hand saw so many time working for them, so easily abandon their beliefs and lose control of themselves.

“12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. 13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.” 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.”

     Now, everybody who knows a bit of the ancient world is aware that YOU JUST DON’T MESS WITH THE SACRIFICE. You can’t, you just can’t. Doing that was an act of hybris and bore God’s or the Gods’ wrath upon you, which is exactly what we’re told that happened:

10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”

     We’re being told that the Israelis got lost once again and started serving other gods once again. They repented in the end and went back to their God.

“3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.”

     As you read through the Old Testament you see so many scenarios like these up and downs and you start wondering what was in their heads…

    Now let’s get to something completely different.

   One of my biggest weaknesses in this world is the Greek tragedy. Whenever it comes to this subject I’m always all ears. Due to its impact back in Ancient Greece’s society, the scholars realised how complex and deep it is and tried to make it as clear as possible for everybody. I deeply recommend Nothing to Do with Dionysos?: Athenian Drama in Its Social Context. It’s a book that made so many things clear to me.

     Today’s reading was Euripides’ Electra. If you plan to read this one, I suggest to walk the extra mile and read the Aeschylus’ Oresteia as well. It will complete the story for you and clarify some things. Some might say that I should add a “spoiler alert” banner or something here for what I’m going to say next, BUT since the Greeks knew all those “spoilers” and nothing was that new to them, let’s try to imitate them and be a proper tragedy audience. I read a Spanish translation by Alberto Medina González and I have to say that I was pretty impressed by the accuracy and clarity of it. What I didn’t like so much was the edition of the book, which is part of the collection “Grandes Genios de la Literatura Universal” basically for one reason: the lines are not marked, so if you want to cite a passage you have to take another edition that has them, which is pretty inconvenient.

     After a long time, Orestes comes back to Argos to take vengeance on his father’s assassination. His father was Agamemnon, the Greek general who fought in Troy and died by the hand of his wife and her lover, Egistus. His sister, Electra was given as wife by Egistus to a weak peasant, so she won’t bear to the world strong children who would eventually take revenge on their grandfather death.

     Earlier I said that Greek tragedy had a big impact on the Greece’s society. We already saw before when I talked about Antigone that some of the passages we find in it should have a big impact in us as well, because the things said are true and totally make sense.

“Peasant

When it is day, I will drive the oxen to my lands and sow the fields. For no idler, though he has the gods’ names always on his lips, can gather a livelihood without hard work.”

     What a beautiful and strong anti-laziness passage. I love how there is no imperative call to work, but a self-example. I loved the way Euripides shaped the Peasant role during the entire play and I’m going to focus a bit on him.

     Next, Orestes, arrived in his homeland visits his sister who doesn’t recognize him, and acts like he’s a stranger trying to get as much information as he can from her, before letting her know who he really is. Another passage about the peasant:

“Electra
I am married, stranger; a deadly match.

Orestes
I pity your brother. Is your husband a Mycenaean?

Electra
Not one to whom my father ever hoped to give me.

Orestes
 Tell me so that I may hear and inform your brother.

Electra
I live in his house, at a distance from the city.

Orestes
A ditch-digger or a herdsman is worthy of the house.

Electra
He is a man poor but noble, and respectful to me.

Orestes
What is this respect that your husband has?

Electra
He has never dared to touch me in bed.

Orestes
Does he hold some form of religious chastity, or does he think you unworthy?

Electra
He did not think himself worthy to insult my family.

Orestes
And how was he not delighted to make such a marriage?

Electra
He thinks the person who gave me did not have that right, stranger.

Orestes
I understand; he fears that he may someday be punished by Orestes.

Electra
He does fear that, but he is also a virtuous man.”

     Another reflection of his:

“It is in such cases, whenever I fail in my intentions, that I see how wealth has great power, to give to strangers, and to expend in curing the body when it falls sick; but money for our daily food comes to little; for every man when full, rich or poor, gets an equal amount”

     One of my favorite moments from this play is the very emotional scene when Electra realises that the stranger whom she was talking to is actually her long-gone brother. I won’t write here the entire scene because I wouldn’t like to destroy it for you so you’ll enjoy it while reading the entire play.

“Old man
Where are the guests? I want to see them and question them about your brother. As he speaks, Orestes and Pylades come out of the hut.

Electra
There they are, coming quickly out of the house.

Old man
They are well-born, but that may ring false; for many of the well-born are base. However; I give the guests welcome.

Orestes
Welcome, old man! To which of your friends, Electra, does this ancient remnant of a man belong?

Electra
This is the one who brought up my father, stranger.

Orestes
What are you saying? Is this the one who stole away your brother?

Electra
This is the one who saved him, if indeed he is still alive.

Orestes
Oh! Why does he look at me, as if he were examining the clear mark impressed on a silver coin? Is he comparing me to someone?

Electra
Perhaps he is glad to see in you a companion of Orestes.

Orestes
A beloved man, yes. But why is he circling all around me?

Electra
I too am amazed, looking at this, stranger.

Old man
O mistress, daughter Electra, pray to the gods.”

547-563

     I hope you find all these helpful and give you a taste of the books mentioned here. If you need any suggestion concerning the translation, the edition or anything else, I’d be more than happy to answer.

Bonus: Picture of me at the theater of Epidaurus. 10995449_10204289264172304_2801385959396752511_n

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