Saturday, February 27, 2010

Caesar and the World Beyond.

Recently I've had a rather interesting experience. A friend of mine is married to psychic and is able, my friend says, to commune with the dead. Now, I'm of course rather sceptical about the whole shebang, but I do trust my friend and his intellectual faculties, and so I was open to discussing it at least.

He told me how his wife had spoken to his Grandfather and in a later session Aldous Huxley, and how interesting the experience was. He suggested that perhaps, sometime, his wife may try to speak to Caesar and accordingly he asked me if I had any questions I'd like to ask him.

The first question that sprung to mind was, as you may expect, the truth about Nicomedes and if Caesar had indeed been his lover. Second was if he could explain the manner in which his Gallic War commentaries were released and to which readership he intended them for.

So, my friend's wife put these questions to Caesar and the replies were interesting. The first question put him in an egotistical rage and he was in such a sulk no progress could be made. On the face of it that may feel like a cop out, but I think it could make some sense.

Caesar was extremely touchy about the whole affair (pardon the pun) and for his whole life overreacted to it and, ironically gave credence to the rumour with his passionate denials. So, his response here seems fitting with the attitude of the living Caesar, so to speak.

I found my friends story very interesting, I must say.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Plutarch's Moralia.

As I mentioned below, I've been reading an old Penguin edition of Rex Warner's translation of Plutarch's Moralia.

So far I've just read His Advice On Marriage (I've been busy with work, plus I'm reading Camus, Orwell and a fair few books from Marines who served during the 2003 Iraq invasion), but I think they're just so incredibly interesting.

I suppose On Marriage does not suit well with modern tastes (it's very much of it's time, and could be considered, by modern standards I must stress, wholly misogynistic). That, though, is a great disservice to the work.

In it Plutarch gives advice to a newly married couple of his acquaintance and the majority of it is reassuring words on how a woman should act to keep her husband both happy and their relationship solid. Not only is it a valuable insight into Roman values, it's wonderful as a window into the "ideal" Roman marriage and the relationship between the genders.

If you consider it within the framework of the value system it was written under then it's a very touching, genuine and somewhat lovingly written piece, and it shows a really humane side to Plutarch that is very pleasant to engage with.

One thing that struck me is the expectations put upon a proper Roman wife. It was a difficult life, I have no doubt. She needed to be a master diplomat, and in many respects a servant to her husband. This, of course, may make little sense to modern (Western) readers, but I think it highlights the complex nature of a Roman woman's life and also, by implication, how well educated and able she must be to fulfil such a role - no idiot could be a proper Roman wife, it seems.

Finally, and I'm not fully qualified to comment on this, I wonder to what extent the age of Warner's translation colours how it can be interpreted. There is considerable leeway in the translating of classical texts and the translation can depend not simply on words, but on the age of the translation, the conventions of the time, the translator and many other things. It's an interesting aside.