Tag Archives: Rome

Every one soon or late comes round by Rome… Robert Browning

The vision of Rome in late Renaissance France  Margaret M. McGowan  New Haven : Yale University Press, c 2000  Hardcover. First edition. xiii, 461 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 425-450) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The extraordinary richness of ancient Rome was a recurring inspiration to writers, artists, scholars, and architects in sixteenth-century France. This book explores the ways in which the perception of Rome as a physical and symbolic entity stimulated intellectual endeavor across the disciplines.

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Examining work by writers such as Du Bellay, Grévin, Montaigne, and Garnier, and by architects and artists such as Philibert de L’Orme and Jean Cousin, Margaret McGowan shows how they drew upon classical ruins and upon their reconstruction not only to reenact past meanings and achievements but also, more dynamically, to interpret the present.

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She describes how Renaissance Rome, enhanced by the presence of so many signs of ancient grandeur, provided a fertile source of intellectual and artistic creativity. Study of the fragments of the past tempted writers to an imaginative reconstruction of whole forms, while the new structures they created in France revealed the artistic potency of the incomplete and the fragmentary.

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McGowan carries the underlying themes of the book – perception, impediments to seeing, and artistic transformation – to the end of the sixteenth century, when, she claims, they culminated in the transfer to France of the grandeur that was Rome.

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Quaerendo invenietis…

In my freshman year our first course in  history began with the fall of Rome in the fifth century and ended with the death of Bach in the eighteenth. While I had some understanding of the selection of the first date and gained an increasing awareness of how what was actually the Age of Faith was in no way a Dark Age it took me a good deal longer to understand how Bach was the appropriate milestone for the end of this age and how the Enlightenment was actually the beginning of the truly Dark Ages.

In the History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, Samuel Johnson has the astronomer tell Imlac, I have possessed for five years the regulation of weather, and the distribution of the seasons: the sun has listened to my dictates, and passed from tropick to tropick by my direction; the clouds, at my call, have poured their waters, and the Nile has overflowed at my command; I have restrained the rage of the dog-star, and mitigated the fervours of the crab. The winds alone, of all the elemental powers, have hitherto refused my authority, and multitudes have perished by equinoctial tempests which I found myself unable to prohibit or restrain. I have administered this great office with exact justice, and made to the different nations of the earth an impartial dividend of rain and sunshine. What must have been the misery of half the globe, if I had limited the clouds to particular regions, or confined the sun to either side of the equator?

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We know of no better summation of the so-called enlightenment and the wisdom [sic] that its scientific successors have visited upon mankind.   Imlac’s response that, to mock the heaviest of human afflictions is neither charitable nor wise. Few can attain this man’s knowledge, and few practise his virtues; but all may suffer his calamity…  Such, says Imlac, are the effects of visionary schemes: when we first form them we know them to be absurd, but familiarise them by degrees, and in time lose sight of their folly…

The Age of Faith required, just as a life of Faith today requires, that the location of true happiness is not the immediate gratification gained by the application of knowledge of our physical universe – AND that we be willing to admit the limits of our knowledge, our actions and our authority. The attempt to create Heaven on earth has created more little Hells than anything else in the history of mankind. While Fredrick was busy building the rational state that would end in Hitler’s ovens Bach, even in his last years, was composing harmonies that echoed the Sermon on the Mount. Gaines book is a wonderful realization of that difference.

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Evening in the Palace of Reason : Bach meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment  James Gaines  London ; New York : Fourth Estate, 2005  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 336 p. ; 21 cm. Includes bibliographical references, discography, and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In one corner, a godless young warrior, Voltaire’s heralded ‘philosopher-king’, the It Boy of the Enlightenment. In the other, a devout if bad-tempered old composer of ‘outdated’ music, a scorned genius in his last years. The sparks from their brief conflict illuminate a turbulent age.

Behind the pomp and flash, Prussia’s Frederick the Great was a tormented man, son of an abusive king who forced him to watch as his best friend  was beheaded. In what may have been one of history’s crueler practical jokes, Frederick challenged ‘old Bach’ to a musical duel, asking him to improvise a six-part fugue based on an impossibly intricate theme (possibly devised for him by Bach’s own son).

Bach left the court fuming, but in a fever of composition, he used the  language of counterpoint to write ‘A Musical Offering’ in response. A stirring declaration of faith, it represented ‘as stark a rebuke of his beliefs and world view as an absolute monarch has ever received,’ Gaines writes. It is also one of the great works of art in the history of music.

Set at the tipping point between the ancient and the modern world, the triumphant story of Bach’s victory expands to take in the tumult of the eighteenth century: the legacy of the Reformation, wars and conquest, the birth of the so called Enlightenment. Brimming with originality and wit, ‘Evening in the Palace of Reason’ is history of the best kind – intimate in scale and broad in its vision.

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Out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, private records and evidences, fragments of stories, passages of books, and the like, we do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time… Francis Bacon

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Palladio’s Rome : a translation of Andrea  Palladio’s two guidebooks to Rome  Andrea Palladio  by Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks  New Haven : Yale  University Press, c 2006  Softcover. lxiii, 285 p.  : ill., maps ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical  references (p. [264]-274) and index. Clean, tight  and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or  marginalia in text. VG

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Andrea Palladio (1508­–1580), one of the most famous architects of all time, published two enormously popular guides to the churches and antiquities of Rome in 1554. Striving to be both scholarly and popular, Palladio invited his Renaissance readers to discover the charm of Rome’s ancient and medieval wonders, and to follow pilgrimage routes leading from one church to the next. He also described ancient Roman rituals of birth, marriage, and death. Here translated into English and joined in a single volume for the first time, Palladio’s guidebooks allow modern visitors to enjoy Rome exactly as their predecessors did 450 years ago.

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Like the originals, this new edition is pocket-sized and therefore easily read on site. Enhanced with illustrations and commentary, the book also includes the first full English translation of Raphael’s famous letter to Pope Leo X on the monuments of ancient Rome. For architectural historians, tourists, and armchair travelers, this book offers fresh and surprising insights into the antiquarian and ecclesiastical preoccupations of one of the greatest of the Renaissance architectural masters.

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The more perfect a thing is, the more susceptible to good and bad treatment it is… Dante Alighieri

Dante in love : the world’s greatest poem and how it made history  Harriet Rubin  New York : Simon & Schuster, c 2004  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xii, 274 p. ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 239-258) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG 

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Dante in Love is the story of a famous journey in literature. Dante Alighieri, exiled from his home in Florence, a fugitive from justice, followed a road in 1302 that took him first to the labyrinths of hell then up the healing mountain of purgatory, and finally to paradise. He found a vision and a language that made him immortal.

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Author Harriet Rubin follows Dante’s path along the old Jubilee routes that linked monasteries and all roads to Rome. After the poet fled Rome for Siena he walked along the upper Arno, past La Verna, to Bibiena, to Cesena, and to the Po plain. During his nineteen-year journey Dante wrote his “unfathomable heart song,” as Thomas Carlyle called The Divine Comedy, a poem that explores the three states of the psyche. Eliot, a lifelong student of the Comedy, said, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them, there is no third.”

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Dante in Love tells the story of the High Middle Ages, a time during which the artist Giotto was the first to paint the sky blue, Francis of Assisi discovered knowledge in humility and the great doctors of the church mapped the soul and stood back to admire their cathedrals. Dante’s medieval world gave birth to the foundation of modern art, faith and commerce.

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Dante and his fellow artists were trying to decode God’s art and in so doing unravel the double helix of creativity. We meet the painters, church builders and pilgrims from Florence to Rome to Venice and Verona who made the roads the center of the medieval world.

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We will either find a way, or make one… Hannibal

The ghosts of Cannae : Hannibal and the darkest hour of the Roman republic  Robert L. O’Connell  New York : Random House, c 2010  Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xvii, 310 p. : maps, plans ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The Battle of Canae (216 BC is regarded as one of the greatest battles of military history. Hannibal’s stratagem has become a model of the perfectly fought battle and is studied in detail at military academies around the world. At Cannae the Romans confronted Hannibal with an army of 80,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry. Hannibal faced them with 40,000 foot and 10,000 horse. The engagement that followed was a masterpiece of battlefield control. By the end of the conflict the Romans had lost 47,500 infantry and 2,700 cavalry killed and a further 19,300 captured.

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For millennia, Carthage’s triumph over Rome at Cannae in 216 B.C. has inspired reverence and awe. No general since has matched Hannibal’s most unexpected, innovative, and brutal military victory. O’Connell describes Hannibal’s strategy of blinding his opponents with sun and dust, enveloping them in a deadly embrace and sealing their escape, before launching a massive knife fight that would kill 48,000 men in close contact.

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O’Connell brilliantly conveys how Rome amassed a giant army to punish Carthage’s masterful commander, how Hannibal outwitted enemies that outnumbered him, and how this disastrous pivot point in Rome’s history ultimately led to the republic’s resurgence and the creation of its empire.

Piecing together decayed shreds of ancient reportage, the author paints powerful portraits of the leading players, from Hannibal — resolutely sane and uncannily strategic — to Piecing together decayed shreds of ancient reportage, the author paints powerful portraits of the leading players: Hannibal, resolutely sane and uncannily strategic; Varro, Rome’s co-consul who was so scapegoated for the loss; and Scipio Africanus, the surviving (and self-promoting) Roman military tribune who would one day pay back Hannibal at Zama in North Africa.  Finally, O’Connell reveals how Cannae’s legend has inspired and haunted military leaders ever since, and the lessons it teaches for our own wars.

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