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Posts Tagged ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

“I find it hard to focus looking forward. So I look backward.”*…

In 1995, “the Godfather of Punk,” Iggy Pop published a review in the scholarly journal Classics Ireland

In 1982, horrified by the meanness, tedium and depravity of my existence as I toured the American South playing rock and roll music and going crazy in public, I purchased an abridged copy of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Dero Saunders, Penguin). The grandeur of the subject appealed to me, as did the cameo illustration of Edward Gibbon, the author, on the front cover. He looked like a heavy dude. Being in a political business, I had long made a habit of reading biographies of wilful characters — Hitler, Churchill, MacArthur, Brando — with large profiles, and I also enjoyed books on war and political intrigue, as I could relate the action to my own situation in the music business, which is not about music at all, but is a kind of religion-rental.

I would read with pleasure around 4 am, with my drugs and whisky in cheap motels, savouring the clash of beliefs, personalities and values, played out on antiquity’s stage by crowds of the vulgar, led by huge archetypal characters. And that was the end of that. Or so I thought.

Eleven years later I stood in a dilapidated but elegant room in a rotting mansion in New Orleans, and listened as a piece of music strange to my ears pulled me back to ancient Rome and called forth those ghosts to merge in hilarious, bilious pretense with the Schwartzkopfs, Schwartzeneggers and Sheratons of modern American money and muscle myth. Out of me poured information I had no idea I ever knew, let alone retained, in an extemporaneous soliloquy I called ‘Caesar’.

When I listened back, it made me laugh my ass off because it was so true. America is Rome. Of course, why shouldn’t it be? All of Western life and institutions today are traceable to the Romans and their world. We are all Roman children for better or worse. The best part of this experience came after the fact — my wife gave me a beautiful edition in three volumes of the magnificent original unabridged Decline and Fall, and since then the pleasure and profit have been all mine as I enjoy the wonderful language, organization and scope of this masterwork.

Here are just some of the ways I benefit:

1 I feel a great comfort and relief knowing that there were others who lived and died and thought and fought so long ago; I feel less tyrannized by the present day.

2 I learn much about the way our society really works, because the system-origins — military, religious, political, colonial, agricultural, financial — are all there to be scrutinized in their infancy. I have gained perspective.

3 The language in which the book is written is rich and complete, as the language of today is not.

4 I find out how little I know.

5 I am inspired by the will and erudition which enabled Gibbon to complete a work of twenty-odd years. The guy stuck with things. I urge anyone who wants life on earth to really come alive for them to enjoy the beautiful ancestral ancient world…

Iggy in roughly that period

Iggy Pop on the relevance of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall in particular, and of history in general: “Caesar Lives.” (Free JSTOR registration may be required.)

* Iggy Pop

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As we note, with Faulkner, that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past,” we might recall that on the pop music charts on this date in 1967, The Monkees continued into the New Year at #1 with “I’m A Believer.” “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen was second, with Aaron Neville making a push for the top with “Tell It Like It Is”.  Former #1 “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band grabbed the #4 spot, followed by Nancy Sinatra (“Sugar Town”), and Dad Frank (“That’s Life”). The rest of the Top 10:  Boise, Idaho’s Paul Revere & the Raiders with “Good Thing”, the Mamas and the Papas climbed from 19 (to #8) with “Words Of Love”, the Four Tops nearly matched that with “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” while Donovan took a turn downward with “Mellow Yellow.” On the album chart, The Monkees made it nine weeks on top with their eponymously-titled first release.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 7, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Can we all just get along?”…

 

Barcelona

Is your subway car packed like sardines? Does your city feel like a shopping mall? Is your community, well, not all it could be? Richard Sennett [see here] has some answers.

Sennett is a designer-scholar, eminent in both the built-design world and academia. Currently the Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, he’s advised the United Nations on urban issues for decades and worked as planner in New York, Washington, D.C., Delhi, and Beijing. Sennett’s writing often revolves around the interplay of work, strangers, and cooperation, but he always returns to cities: how to plan them, adapt them, and live in them. Doing that well—as either a planner or a resident—means celebrating complexity and accepting diversity: “Experience in a city, as in the bedroom or on the battlefield, is rarely seamless, it is much more often full of contradictions and jagged edges,” he writes in his new book, Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City.

The book offers microhistories of Barcelona and Paris, exegeses of Heidegger and Arendt, and tours of Medellín and Songdo. But through it all, Sennett is asking a pretty simple and pressing question: How do we live together now? How does cosmopolitanism survive in an age of both populism and urbanization—and what can we do in our streets, parks, and cities to help?…

A fascinating interview with Sennett: “Can cosmopolitanism survive in an age of populism and urbanization?

* Rodney King

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As we celebrate complexity and diversity, we might send thoroughly-researched birthday greetings to Edward Gibbon; he was born on this date in 1737.  A historian, writer and Member of Parliament, he is best remembered for his monumental (and instructively cautionary) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788 and known for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its open criticism of organized religion.

Portrait of Edward Gibbon by Sir Joshua Reynolds

source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 8, 2018 at 1:01 am

Lest one think it’s anything new…

click on image above, or here

As we remind ourselves of Mark Twain’s observation that, while history never repeats itself, it rhymes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1764 that then-twenty-seven-year-old Edward Gibbon, on a Grand Tour of Europe, was inspired by a group of chanting clerics to begin work on The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

It was at Rome, on the [fifteenth] of October[,] 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare[-]footed fryars were singing [V]espers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the [C]ity first started to my mind.
– Gibbon, Memoirs

Gibbons “Capitoline vision” (as historians now call it) expanded from Rome to the entire empire, and resulted in a magnum opus that was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788.

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Gibbon (source)

When the vinyl met the road…

From the ever-interesting folks at OOK (Observing Obscure Kulture), a tribute to the must-have auto accessory of the 50s and early 60s:

Hey, vinyl fanatics, have you ever wished you could listen to your records while cruising in your car? From the mid-50’s to the early 60’s, Chrysler made this dream a reality with two generations of in-car phonographs. The original Highway Hi-Fi hit the streets in Autumn of 1955, for model year 1956 — a factory option in the full Chrysler Corporation line of vehicles: Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, DeSoto and Imperial.

More at “Highway Hi-Fi.”

As we crank up the volume, we might devote ourselves to productive thought, following the example of Edward Gibbon, who wrote:

It was at Rome, on the 15th of October 1764, as I sat musing amid the ruins of the capitol, while the bare-footed friars were singing vespers in the temple of Jupiter (today, the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli), that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind … But my original plan was circumscribed to the decay of the City, rather than of the Empire.

Gibbon completed The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (timely reading even– perhaps especially– today) on June 27, 1787.

Gibbon, by Sir Joshua Reynolds

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