Saturday, 26 September 2015

The flea on the dog

Oh all right then, just one holiday snap.

This is Socrates - the ancient Greek philosophical equivalent of Jeremy Corbyn - he stirred things up. Corbyn is not yet my hero (it could take 2500 years before he is), but he is certainly stirring things up, albeit without the humour with which Socrates carried out the same task.

There are a few of these marble portraits around and they were all taken from a bronze which no longer exists, commissioned by the remorseful people of Athens after they forced him to drink hemlock for 'corrupting the youth'. This one is in Rome, along with a load of other Greek stuff, ripped-off by the Caesars. It is always my intention to carve another copy of it, and I have a lump of Greek marble which would suit it nicely. Whether or not I get around to it, time will tell.

I showed this picture to a friend during my emotional homecoming to the pub yesterday, and he said that if he ever met Socrates, he would punch him in the face for being so irritating. After all this time, the influence of the old, pug-nosed philosopher is still alive.

500 years before Christ, the discussions between Socrates and other people in the market place (as dictated by Plato) still seem fresh and relevant, whereas the teachings of Christ seem archaic in translation - I don't mean irrelevant before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I literally mean archaic.

Same with the Romans and the multitude of inscriptions which they left behind - it seems as though they were written yesterday, even though Latin has been a dead language for thousands of years, but Aramaic is still spoken in some parts of the world. Maybe it's all down to the translator.

I think this maybe the oldest (ancient Roman) joke that has survived in written translation:

Man goes to doctor and complains that when he gets up early in the morning, he always has a headache. Doctor says: Well get up later then. Pure Tommy Cooper.

Have you read 'The Satyricon' by Petronius? If not, you may have seen Fellini's film of the book, made 2000 years after it was written. The tail end of it had rotted away by the time it was discovered, and these are called 'The Fragments'. The end of Fellini's Satyricon is the last fragment, and it reads like poetry. I tired to find it verbatim, but have not yet. It's something like, 'I once met a man in **** who told me that in certain...', as it fades into the crumbling frescoes on a Roman wall.

The emotional homecoming to the pub yesterday was more the emotion of anger than anything else, mainly caused by a loud-mouthed bore who likes nothing better than to listen to his own voice and opinions. It made me understand how useful it can be not to understand other's languages sometimes.

Gobshite: Did you have a good time in Florence?

Me: It wasn't Florence, it was Rome.

Gobshite: I've got a book on the Ufizzi at home, given to me by my mother when she got back from Rome.

Me: The Ufizzi is in Florence, not Rome.

Gobshite: Well she must have been there too.

(Later) Gobshite: So you took the train from Pisa to Florence?

Me: I didn't go to fucking Florence, I went to Rome.

(Later) Gobshite: What was the best thing about Florence?

This carried on for longer than I want to recall.

It's a lovely weekend, drenched in sharp, Autumn sunshine - just what I was hoping for, having heard that it has been wet all the time we were away. Tomorrow I will go on a Porcini hunt in the woods...


  1. Fellini's Satyricon is best watched in Italian, it is more forgiving to the viewer not to understand it but just go with it (I am not quite sure where).

  2. I believe that Socrates was considerably more ugly than any of his surviving portraits testify. Maybe he paid them to be flattering; maybe they wanted to flatter him. Anyway, I think we can imagine him in the real.

    Good luck with Mr Penny Bun..... we had an abundant season.

    1. I had some in Italy, but they were cooked so badly - despite instructions - that I am hoping to find some myself.

      I think that portrait is about right, but conflicts badly with the Greek ideal of the day.

  3. You are winding us up now Tom ? Well I mean that the postcard that you kindly sent me indicated that you were in Florence.

    1. Florence was the name of a girl I met in Rome.

    2. P.S. I saw Marco today, who bid me hello in his famous cod Irish accent. I did not mention my tenuous connection with you for fear of starting a conversation which I would have to have terminated with a sharp punch to the head.

  4. Many thanks for that.
    He rang me looking for hospitality and we offered to meet him for a cup of tea in a hotel and never heard from
    again :) :)

    1. That's another hour added onto your lifespan then.