Friday, January 22, 2010
Robert Harris's Lustrum opens with the body of a young child has been found. It appears to have been ritually slaughtered and drained of blood. My first reaction on reading this was to groan. I had seen the Wikipedia entry on Catiline where it was said of him that, as an initiation ceremony for his co-conspirators, they had killed a child and drained its blood and drank it. This was attributed to Sallust. As of today, that entry has been amended.
I knew this was wrong because I had just read Bellum Catilinae and, although he mentioned that there was rumor about drinking blood, there was no mention about where the blood came from and he stated that it was a rumor. So, how did Robert Harris get the idea to put a murdered child in his historical novel? Somebody must have written something about that at one time.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, since he got a great deal of political mileage from frightening people about a conspiracy that was plotting the violent overthrow of the government, to burn Rome, and kill hundreds of citizens, if there was any suggestion that there had been anything like taking oaths by drinking blood going on at the meetings of the conspirators, would have been all over it. It would not even have to be true, just a whiff of a hint would have sufficed. But, he said nothing about this in his speeches in the Senate against Catiline or in his letters.
Approximately twenty years later, when Sallust was writing his history, he mentioned the rumor. Plutarch, writing 100 to 150 years later in Greece, wrote in his biography of Cicero that Catiline's men had murdered a man and drank his blood. Dio Cassius, writing 200 years after the events, related in his history, Book 37, section 30, that Catiline killed a boy. The tale grew in the telling, like the game of telephone.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
A tribute to Alan Parsons Project. Eric Woolfson died last month.
Si est difficilius factu in dies aspicere,
Noli sinere id retegi,
Quavis est difficilius factu quod dicunt audire,
Sine id transire solum, sine id transire solum.
Et si te doleat ubi me nominent,
Dic me non cognosces,
Et si te iuvat ubi in culpa sum dicunt,
Dic me non tenes.
Etiam si viam expeditum foris capeat,
Serva intra te,
Noli ullum eis dicere,
Noli sinere id retegi.
Etiam si scias alienum dicere est,
Dic non cures, dic non cures,
Etsi velis credere viam est,
Ibi non ero, ibi non ero,
Sed se tutemet subrideas ubi me nominent,
Numquam te cognoscent,
Et si tutemet rideas ubi in culpa sum dicunt,
Numquam te tenent.
Etiam si sentis tutemet nihil celare habes,
Serva intra te,
Noli ullum eis dicere,
Noli id sinere,
Noli id sinere retegi.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I like reading bathroom readers. They are full of interesting and unusual facts. Some of them are well researched and some of them are not so well researched. Yes, Wikipedia has all kinds of misinformation but so do many books.
As you may have guessed, I am going to refer to something that I read in a bathroom reader and it is the origins of the name Gotham City, the home of Batman. I do have a reliable guide to names in the U.K - Brewer's Britain and Ireland - so I can go and check these things. Indeed there is a connection between King John ( the fellow who signed the Magna Carta) and Batman, the caped crusader.
Batman lives in Gotham City, which was a 'byname' for New York City in Washington Irving's Salmagundi. Bob Kane decided to use this name for the city in his comic book which is meant to be New York City. Irving took the name from history as there is a village in Nottinghamshire (where Robin Hood and the notorious Sheriff lived) called Gotham. The name comes from the Old English and means an enclosure where goats are kept.
Gotham has this reputation for village idiots; not just one idiot but the entire village is supposed to be made up of idiots. The story is that King John made plans to visit the village because he wanted to establish a hunting lodge there. The villagers, not wanting to be stuck with the cost of supporting the court (which often would include large amounts of land becoming Royal hunting grounds and off limits to all), whenever the Royal messengers were passing through, did stupid things to convince the messengers that it was not a good place to set up a hunting lodge. King John, when he heard about all the lunatics in the area, abandoned his plan. Is the story true? Who knows but this is how name of Gotham became associated with craziness.
What does this say for Batman? I have not read Salmagundi so I cannot say but I will end it with this nursery rhyme:
Three wise men of Gotham,
They went to sea in a bowl,
And if the bowl had been stronger,
My song had been longer.
This is a Joni Mitchell song sung by Judy Collins. I thought it would be fun to try but it was challenging too.
Sicut nodos et flumenibus crinum angelorum et castella gelidorum cremorum in aethere,
Et convallebus plumis ubique.
Nimbos is hoc modo contemplata sum.
Sed nunc solum solem opplent,
Pluit et ningit in quemque.
Tantum res fecissem sed nimbi me obstruxissent.
Utrimque nunc nimbos contemplata sum,
Ab supera et infera et etiam quomodocumque
Est vana nimborum memini,
Verum scio nimbos haud.
Sicut Lunas et Junium et delectamenta, modo saltando vertiginoso quod sentis,
Sicut omnia fabula vera fit, amorem in hoc modo contemplata sum,
Sed nunc alium spectaculum est. Eos ridentes relinques ubi ages,
Et si cures, noli cognoscere licere, noli tutemet prodere.
Utrimque nunc amorem contemplata sum,
Ab donando et sumendo et quomodocumque,
Est vana amoris memini,
Verum scio amorem haud.
Sicut lacrimae et timores et sentiens superbiam ut "te amo" conclamam,
Somniis et consiliis et turbis circorum, vitam in hoc modo contemplata sum.
Sed nunc amici veti se peregrinos agent, ei capitum quatiunt, mutata sim dicant,
Aliquid percat sed aliquid mutetur in vivente per diem.
Utrimque nunc vitam contemplata sum
Ex victo et amisso et etiam quomodocumque
Est vana vitae memini
Verum scio vitam haud.