Sep 292016
 

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Today is widely assumed to be the birthday (1547) of Miguel Cervantes, or Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra,  author of Don Quixote, who was born in Alcalá de Henares, a Castilian city about 35 kilometers (22 mi) northeast ofMadrid, probably on 29 September. The probable date of his birth was determined from records in the church register, given the tradition of naming a child after the feast day of his birth. He was baptized in Alcalá de Henares on 9 October 1547 at the parish church of Santa María la Mayor. The register of baptisms records the following:

On Sunday, the ninth day of the month of October, the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred forty and seven, Miguel, son of Rodrigo Cervantes and his wife Leonor, was baptized; his godfathers were Juan Pardo; he was baptized by the Reverend Bachelor Bartolomé Serrano, Priest of Our Lady. Witnesses, Baltasar Vázquez, Sexton, and I, who baptized him and signed this in my name. Bachelor Serrano.

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Miguel at birth was not surnamed Cervantes Saavedra. He adopted the “Saavedra” name as an adult. By Spanish naming conventions his second surname was from his maternal line.

Miguel’s father, Rodrigo, was a barber-surgeon from Córdoba, who set bones, performed bloodlettings, and attended “lesser medical needs.” At that time, it was common for barbers to do surgery, as well. His paternal grandfather, Juan de Cervantes, was an influential lawyer who held several administrative positions. His uncle was mayor of Cabra for many years.

His mother, Leonor de Cortinas, was a native of Arganda del Rey and the third daughter of a nobleman, who lost his fortune and so sold his daughter into matrimony in 1543. This led to a very awkward marriage and several affairs by Rodrigo. Leonor died on 19 October 1593.

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Little is known of Cervantes’ early years. It seems he spent much of his childhood moving from town to town with his family. During this time, he met a young barmaid named Josefina Catalina de Parez. The couple fell madly in love and plotted to run away together. Her father discovered their plans and forbade Josefina from ever seeing Cervantes again, perhaps because of the young man’s poor prospects of ever rising from poverty—Miguel’s own father was embargoed for debt. The court records of the proceedings show a very poor household. While some of his biographers argue that he studied at the University of Salamanca, there is no solid evidence for supposing that he did so. There has also been speculation also that Cervantes studied with the Jesuits in Córdoba or Seville.

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The reasons that forced Cervantes to leave Spain remain uncertain. Whether he was a “student” of the same name, a “sword-wielding fugitive from justice”, or fleeing from a royal warrant of arrest, for having wounded a certain Antonio de Sigura in a duel, is unclear. Like many young Spanish men who wanted to further their careers, Cervantes left for Italy: in Rome he focused his attention on Renaissance art, architecture, and poetry and knowledge of Italian literature is discernible in his work.

By 1570, Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a regiment of the Spanish Navy Marines, Infantería de Marina, stationed in Naples, then a possession of the Spanish crown. He was there for about a year before he saw active service. In September 1571 Cervantes sailed on board the Marquesa, part of the galley fleet of the Holy League (a coalition of Pope Pius V, Spain, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller based in Malta, and others, under the command of Philip II of Spain’s illegitimate half brother, John of Austria) that defeated the Ottoman fleet on October 7 in the Battle of Lepanto, in the Gulf of Patras. Though taken down with fever, Cervantes refused to stay below, and asked to be allowed to take part in the battle, saying he would rather die for his God and his king than keep under cover. He fought on board a vessel, and received three gunshot wounds – two in the chest and one which rendered his left arm useless. In Journey to Parnassus he wrote that he “had lost the movement of the left hand for the glory of the right” (he was thinking of the success of the first part of Don Quixote). Cervantes looked back on his conduct in the battle with pride: he believed he had taken part in an event that shaped the course of European history.

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After the Battle of Lepanto, Cervantes remained in hospital in Messina, Italy, for about six months, before his wounds were sufficiently healed to allow his joining the colors again. From 1572 to 1575, based mainly in Naples, he continued his soldier’s life: he participated in expeditions to Corfu and Navarino, and saw the fall of Tunis and La Goulette to the Turks in 1574.

On September 6 or 7, 1575 Cervantes set sail on the galley Sol from Naples to Barcelona, with letters of commendation to the king from the Duke of Sessa. On the morning of September 26, as the Sol approached the Catalan coast, it was attacked by Ottoman pirates and he was taken to Algiers, which had become one of the main and most cosmopolitan cities of the Ottoman Empire, and was kept here in captivity between the years of 1575 and 1580.  After five years spent as a slave in Algiers, and four unsuccessful escape attempts, he was ransomed by his parents and the Trinitarians and returned to his family in Madrid. Not surprisingly, this traumatic period of Cervantes’ life supplied subject matter for several of his literary works, notably the captive’s tale in Don Quixote and the two plays set in Algiers – El trato de Argel (Life in Algiers) and Los baños de Argel (The Dungeons of Algiers) – as well as episodes in a number of other writings, although never in straight autobiographical form.

Cervantes led a middle-class life after his return to Spain. Like almost all authors of his day, he was unable to support himself through his writings. Two periods of his life that are very well documented are his years of work in Andalucía as a purchasing agent for the Spanish navy (i.e., the King). This led to his imprisonment for a few months in Seville after a banker with whom he had deposited Crown funds went bankrupt. (Since Cervantes says that Don Quixote was “engendered” in a prison, that is presumably a reference to this episode.) Also he worked as a tax collector, traveling from town to town collecting back taxes due the crown. He applied unsuccessfully for “one of four vacant positions in the New World”, one of them as an accountant for the port of Cartagena.

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At the time he was living in Valladolid, then briefly the capital (1601–1606), and finishing Don Quixote Part One, he was presumably working in the banking industry, or a related occupation where his accounting skills could be put to use. He was turned down for a position as secretary to Pedro Fernández de Castro y Andrade, the Count of Lemos, although he did receive some type of pension from him, which permitted him to write full-time during his final years (about 1610 to 1616). His last known written words – the dedication to Persiles y Sigismunda – were written, he tells us, after having received Extreme Unction. He died in 1616 of type II diabetes. His burial place in Madrid was reportedly rediscovered in March 2015, but his unpublished manuscripts were mostly lost.

While April 23, 1616 was recorded as the date of his death in some references, and is the date on which his death is widely commemorated (along with that of William Shakespeare), Cervantes in fact died in Madrid the previous day, April 22. He was buried on 23 April. The cause of his death, according to Antonio López Alonso, a modern physician who has examined the surviving documentation, was type-2 diabetes, a result of a cirrhosis of the liver.

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In accordance with Cervantes’ will, he was buried in the neighboring Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, in central Madrid. His bones went missing in 1673 when building work was done at the convent, and were known to have been taken to a different convent and returned later. A project promoted and led by Fernando de Prado began in 2014 to rediscover his remains.

In January 2015, it was reported that researchers searching for Cervantes’ remains had found part of a casket bearing his initials, MC, at the convent. Francisco Etxeberria, the forensic anthropologist leading the search, said: “Remains of caskets were found, wood, rocks, some bone fragments, and indeed one of the fragments of a board of one of the caskets had the letters ‘M.C.’ formed in tacks.” The first significant search for Cervantes’ remains had been launched in May 2014 and had involved the use of infrared cameras, 3D scanners and ground-penetrating radar. The team had identified 33 alcoves where bones could be stored.

On 17 March 2015, it was reported that Cervantes’ remains had been discovered, along with those of his wife and others, at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians. Through documentary research, archaeologists stated that they had identified the remains as those of Cervantes. Clues from Cervantes’ life, such as the loss of the use of his left hand at age 24 and the fact that he had taken at least one bullet to the chest, were hoped to help in the identification. Historian Fernando de Prado had spent more than four years trying to find funding before Madrid City Council had agreed to pay and DNA testing was carried out to confirm the findings.

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On 11 June 2015, Cervantes was given a formal burial at a Madrid convent, containing a monument holding bone fragments that were believed to have been the author’s.

I don’t feel the need to give a fulsome appraisal of Don Quixote. You’ve either read it or you haven’t. At the very least you know that it is considered a great classic of literature and probably know the famous bits. In Spanish-speaking schools it’s required reading.  For Latin Americans it’s tough work because it’s in a dialect that is alien, let alone being old-fashioned Spanish. I put it in the pile of long rambling tales from long ago, such as Moby Dick, and Robinson Crusoe, that clearly have a solid, powerful core, but are desperately in need of a ruthless editor.

Although burlesque on the surface, the novel, especially in its second half, has served as an important thematic source not only in literature but also in much of art and music, inspiring works by Pablo Picasso and Richard Strauss. The contrasts between the tall, thin, fancy-struck and idealistic Quixote and the fat, squat, world-weary Panza is a motif echoed ever since the book’s publication, and Don Quixote’s imaginings are the butt of outrageous and cruel practical jokes in the novel.

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Even faithful and simple Sancho is forced to deceive him at certain points. The novel is considered a satire of orthodoxy, veracity and even nationalism. In exploring the individualism of his characters, Cervantes helped move beyond the narrow literary conventions of the chivalric romance literature that he spoofed, which consists of straightforward retelling of a series of acts that redound to the knightly virtues of the hero. The character of Don Quixote became so well known in its time that the word quixotic was quickly adopted by many languages. Characters such as Sancho Panza and Don Quixote’s steed, Rocinante, are emblems of Western literary culture. The phrase “tilting at windmills” to describe an act of attacking imaginary enemies, derives from an iconic scene in the book.

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It stands in a unique position between medieval chivalric romance and the modern novel. The former consist of disconnected stories featuring the same characters and settings with little exploration of the inner life of even the main character. The latter are usually focused on the psychological evolution of their characters. In Part I, Quixote imposes himself on his environment. By Part II, people know about him through “having read his adventures,” and so he needs to do less to maintain his image. By his deathbed, he has regained his sanity, and is once more “Alonso Quixano the Good.”

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Finding a recipe for Quixote is simple. The book famously opens:

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing.

Then we get the less famous:

 An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays.

The “olla” (cooking pot) is the standard stock pot, constantly on the simmer, with meats and vegetables coming and going over the course of the week. Friday was meatless, Saturday the olla was finished and cleaned, and Sunday was for special treats. Very basic fare all round.  The recipe of the day must be duelos y quebrantos (mourning and losses) which is a classic dish from La Mancha mentioned in Don Quixote. At heart it is a dish of scrambled egg with fried bread and meat of some sort, flavored with paprika. Brains were once a common ingredient but now Spanish chorizo is more usual. If you can find lamb’s brains or kidneys you might want to try them, although I suspect the brains are impossible to find in the West these days because of BSE. Kidneys are easy enough to get, but you’ll find ox kidneys more commonly than lamb’s (which are delicious).

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Duelos y Quebrantos

Ingredients

225 g picante (hot/spicy) cooking chorizo, thickly sliced (or mix of lamb’s brains and kidneys, dressed and cut in chunks)
2 tablespoons lard (or butter)
1 slice stale bread, diced
8 eggs, beaten
red chile flakes, to taste (optional)
paprika to taste (optional)
salt and pepper

Instructions

Heat the lard (or butter) in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the meat of your choice until it starts to brown. If you are not using chorizo add some paprika to taste.

Add the bread cubes and toss them in the fat until they are crisp.

Lower the heat a little and stir in the eggs slowly and season with chile, salt, and pepper to taste.

Scramble the eggs as you would normally do. I prefer them to be a little moist, but in Spain tastes vary.

Serve immediately with some fresh crusty bread.

Serves 2 – 4 (depending on appetite)

 

Jan 152016
 

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The British Museum first opened to the public on this date in 1759 in Montagu House in Bloomsbury, on the site of the current museum building. It is a museum dedicated to human history, art, and culture. Its permanent collection, numbering about 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present.

The museum’s expansion over two and a half centuries was largely a result of an expanding British colonial footprint and has resulted in the creation of several branch institutions, the first being the British Museum (Natural History) in South Kensington in 1881. In 1997, the British Library (previously centered on the Round Reading Room and known as the British Museum Library) moved to a new site. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and as with all other national museums in the United Kingdom it charges no admission fee, except for loan exhibitions.

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Although today principally a museum of cultural objects and antiquities, the British Museum was founded as a “universal museum”. Its foundations lie in the will of the Irish-born British physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). During the course of his lifetime Sloane gathered an enviable collection of curiosities and, not wishing to see his collection broken up after death, he bequeathed it to King George II, for the nation.

At that time, Sloane’s collection consisted of around 71,000 objects of all kinds including around 40,000 printed books, 7,000 manuscripts, extensive natural history specimens including 337 volumes of dried plants, prints and drawings including those by Albrecht Dürer and antiquities from Sudan, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Ancient Near and Far East and the Americas. On 7 June 1753, King George II gave his formal assent to the Act of Parliament which established the British Museum. The British Museum Act 1753 also added two other libraries to the Sloane collection, namely the Cottonian Library, assembled by Sir Robert Cotton, dated back to Elizabethan times, and the Harleian library, the collection of the Earls of Oxford. They were joined in 1757 by the Royal Library, assembled by various British monarchs. Together these four “foundation collections” included many of the most treasured books now in the British Library including the Lindisfarne Gospels and the sole surviving copy of Beowulf.

The British Museum was the first of a new kind of museum: a national museum, belonging to neither the church nor the king, freely open to the public and aiming to collect EVERYTHING – very British !! Sloane’s collection, while including a vast miscellany of objects, tended to reflect his scientific interests. The addition of the Cotton and Harley manuscripts introduced a literary and antiquarian element and meant that the British Museum now became both national museum and library.

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The body of trustees decided on a converted 17th-century mansion, Montagu House, as a location for the museum, which it bought from the Montagu family for £20,000. The Trustees rejected Buckingham House, on the site now occupied by Buckingham Palace, on the grounds of cost and the unsuitability of its location. With the acquisition of Montagu House the first exhibition galleries and reading room for scholars opened on 15 January 1759. In 1757 King George II gave the Old Royal Library and with it the right to a copy of every book published in the country, thereby ensuring that the Museum’s library would expand indefinitely. During the few years after its foundation the British Museum received several further gifts, including the Thomason Collection of Civil War Tracts and David Garrick’s library of 1,000 printed plays. The predominance of natural history, books and manuscripts began to lessen when in 1772 the Museum acquired for £8,400 its first significant antiquities in Sir William Hamilton’s collection of Greek vases.

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From 1778 a display of objects from the South Seas brought back from the round-the-world voyages of Captain James Cook and the travels of other explorers fascinated visitors with a glimpse of previously unknown lands. The bequest of a collection of books, engraved gems, coins, prints and drawings by Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode in 1800 did much to raise the museum’s reputation; but Montagu House became increasingly crowded and decrepit and it was apparent that it would be unable to cope with further expansion.

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The museum’s first notable addition towards its collection of antiquities, since its foundation, was by Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803), British Ambassador to Naples, who sold his collection of Greek and Roman artifacts to the museum in 1784 together with a number of other antiquities and natural history specimens. A list of donations to the Museum, dated 31 January 1784 refers to the Hamilton bequest of a “Colossal Foot of an Apollo in Marble,” one of two antiquities of Hamilton’s collection drawn for him by Francesco Progenie, a pupil of Pietro Fabris, who also contributed a number of drawings of Mount Vesuvius sent by Hamilton to the Royal Society in London.

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Ever since that time the museum has grown and grown to the point that it is one of the largest collections of antiquities in the world with ever-expanding facilities. I have very mixed feelings about the whole affair. On the whole, I’m not too troubled by art collections. I’d rather have works of art on display for the general public than tucked away in private homes. As far as I am concerned, art should be available to all. Cultural artifacts are a different matter. Here I have two concerns. First, when I see functional objects on display, I am troubled. They have been pulled out of context. How would you feel if someone raided your kitchen and put all your pots and pans in an exhibit? Yes, I understand that the British Museum’s exhibits are OLD. So what? They are still devoid of CONTEXT. Take American quilts as a prime example. I’ve been to one or two museum exhibits of quilts in my time. There are all these beautiful objects hung on walls. They were not made to be hung on walls; they were designed for beds. So . . . if you must exhibit them, put them on beds where you can see them as they were meant to be seen.

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Second, the British Museum stands, in my humble opinion, as a testament to British colonialism, which I find despicable. Discoverers and colonists journeyed the world taking what they valued and, if it was portable, bringing it back home as “treasure” (never mind the fact that many of the lands they traveled to they decided to “keep,” even though they were already owned by other people). It is a point of general controversy whether museums should be allowed to possess artifacts taken from other countries, and the British Museum is a notable target for criticism. The Elgin Marbles, Benin Bronzes and the Rosetta Stone are among the most disputed objects in its collections, and organizations have been formed demanding the return of these artifacts to their native countries of Greece, Nigeria and Egypt respectively. The Parthenon marbles claimed by Greece were also designated by UNESCO among others for restitution. From 1801 to 1812, Elgin’s agents took about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum.

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In recent years, controversies pertaining to reparation of looted artifacts taken from the Old Summer Palace in China during the Anglo-French invasion in 1860 have also begun to surface. The ransacking and destruction of Chinese palaces in the 19th century has lead to deep resentment in China. The British Museum has been asked repeatedly since 2009 to open their collections for examination by a team of Chinese investigators as a part of an international mission to document lost national treasures.

There have been fears that the United Kingdom may be asked to return various treasures. Most controversial are:

The Elgin Marbles – claimed by Greece and backed by UNESCO, among others, for restitution.

The Benin Bronzes – claimed by Nigeria.

The Ethiopian Tabots – claimed by Ethiopia.

Achaemenid empire gold and silver artifacts from the Oxus Treasure – claimed by Tajikistan.

The Rosetta Stone – claimed by Egypt.

Over 24,000 scrolls, manuscripts, paintings, scriptures, and relics from the Mogao Caves, including the Diamond Sutra – claimed by the People’s Republic of China.

The Anahit goddess statue – claimed by Armenia.

The British Museum has refused to return these artifacts, stating that the “restitutionist premise, that whatever was made in a country must return to an original geographical site, would empty both the British Museum and the other great museums of the world.”  And ???? The Museum has also argued that the British Museum Act of 1963 legally prevents any object from leaving its collection once it has entered it. Nevertheless, it has returned items such as the Tasmanian Ashes (human remains) after a 20-year-long battle with Australia. The British Museum continues to assert that it is an appropriate custodian and has an inalienable right to its disputed artifacts under British law. Very convenient. This is typical colonial thinking – “I took it, so it is mine. And to prove it I passed a law asserting it is mine.”

The whole issue is complicated, of course. There is a good argument to be made that some artifacts were fairly purchased. No dispute on my part. But, many were not. It’s also true that some of the Chinese antiquities, for example, might have been destroyed if they were in Chinese hands during the Cultural Revolution. Here things get murky. There have been many instances in the recent past of the destruction of antiquities by religious and political zealots. Would they have been better off in the hands of paternalistic, but outsider, conservators? There’s no easy answer here, although many Westerners think there is. To the dubious claim, “I stole it, so it is mine,” can be added “I can take care of it better than you can.” There’s also, “I took it because you were not using it at the time.” I tend to favor giving things back to their rightful owners.

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Given the scope of the collections in the British Museum it’s hard to settle on ONE recipe from one time period. So, I have decided to be a bit randomly quirky (no surprise !!) The Deipnosophistae professes to be an account given by an individual named Athenaeus to his friend Timocrates of a banquet held at the house of Larensius (Λαρήνσιος; in Latin: Larensis), a wealthy book-collector and patron of the arts. It is thus a dialogue within a dialogue, after the manner of Plato, but the conversation extends to enormous length. The topics for discussion generally arise from the course of the dinner itself, but extend to literary and historical matters of every description, including abstruse points of grammar. The guests supposedly quote from memory. The actual sources of the material preserved in the Deipnosophistae remain obscure, but much of it probably comes second-hand from early scholars.

The twenty-four named guests include individuals called Galen and Ulpian, but they are all probably fictitious personages, and the majority take no part in the conversation. If the character Ulpian is identical with the famous Roman jurist, the Deipnosophistae may have been written after his death in 223 CE; but the jurist was murdered by the Praetorian Guard, whereas Ulpian in Athenaeus dies a natural death. A nearly complete version of the text is preserved in only one manuscript. Here’s an extract from Book IX in translation:

Lachares stripped Athene naked, who caused him no inconvenience; but I will now strip you who are inconveniencing me, said Aemilianus, unless you show me what you have got with you. And he said at last, rather unwillingly, I call this dish the Dish of Roses. And it is prepared in such a way, that you may not only have the ornament of a garland on your head, but also in yourself, and so feast your whole body with a luxurious banquet. Having pounded a quantity of the most fragrant roses in a mortar, I put in the brains of birds and pigs boiled and thoroughly cleansed of all the sinews, and also the yolks of eggs, and with them oil, and pickle-juice, and pepper, and wine. And having pounded all these things carefully together, I put them into a new dish, applying a gentle and steady fire to them. And while saying this, he uncovered the dish, and diffused such a sweet perfume over the whole party, that one of the guests present said with great truth [quoting Homer]:

The winds perfumed the balmy gale convey

Through heaven, through earth, and all the aerial way;

So excessive was the fragrance which was diffused from the roses.

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I don’t know if you’d want to make this dish. It seems very simple. Grind up pig’s (and bird’s) brains with egg yolk, oil, vinegar, wine, and pepper, plus essence of rose petals. Then bake in a moderate oven. You’d get a kind of soft meatloaf with a pungent rose aroma. I’m not averse to such a dish in principle; I have cooked brains many times. My mum used to make fried lamb’s brains on toast once in a while when I was a kid for a quick Saturday evening meal. They’re a bit like grey scrambled eggs. Nowadays I prefer to mix the brains with some other meat to firm up the texture, because I’m not a huge fan of squishy things. On the other hand, this dish is reminiscent of eggs and brains which was at one time popular in Portugal, Germany, and the Philippines (and diasporic ethnic communities in the American Mid-West). Add a dose of rosewater and a little wine, and I’d say you’d have a fair replica of the Roman original.

Jan 032016
 

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Today is the birthday of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order (lower than patricians, but not plebeians), and is widely considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

His influence on the Latin language was so immense that the subsequent history of prose in not only Latin but European languages up to the 19th century was said to be either a reaction against or a return to his style. According to Michael Grant, “the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language.” Big words. Cicero introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary (with neologisms such as humanitas, qualitas, quantitas, and essentia) distinguishing himself as a linguist, translator, and philosopher.

When I was studying for the Advanced-Level exam in Latin in the sixth form in England I was required to write a Latin prose piece every week (which I hated), and it always had to be in the style of Cicero. Emulation of Cicero was so exacting that if I needed to use a new word, I had to look it up in an historical Latin dictionary and could use it ONLY if Cicero had (an ideal dating back to the humanist scholars of the Renaissance). All Latin, both before and after Cicero, was considered inferior by my teachers and the examiners. To tell the truth, I found Cicero dull and pedantic, and still do. I was happier with the likes of Virgil and Juvenal, because they dealt with battles and farming and feasting, not politics and rhetoric. I was even happier with Greek poetry and literature which just seemed to have more flow than their Latin counterparts. But I’ll give Cicero his due. He took an extremely workaday language and added some sparkles to enliven it – in the end, a lost cause in my humble and ignorant opinion.

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Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited with initiating the 14th-century Renaissance in public affairs, humanism, and classical Roman culture. Polish historian Tadeusz Zieliński wrote, “Renaissance was above all things a revival of Cicero, and only after him and through him of the rest of Classical antiquity.” We need to be measured here, though. The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle were of much greater importance than that of Cicero, but Cicero opened the window through which his betters could be viewed. The peak of Cicero’s authority and prestige came during the 18th century, and his impact on leading Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, David Hume, and Montesquieu was substantial. His works rank among the most influential in European culture, and today still constitute one of the most important bodies of primary material for Roman history, especially the last days of the Roman Republic.

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Though he was an accomplished orator and successful lawyer, Cicero believed his political career was his most important achievement. It was during his consulship that Catiline (Lucius Sergius Catilina) and his co-conspirators attempted to overthrow the government through an attack on the city by outside forces. Cicero suppressed the revolt by executing five conspirators without due process (commonplace in Rome).

During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century BCE, marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to traditional republican government. Following Julius Caesar’s death Cicero became an enemy of Mark Antony in the ensuing power struggle, attacking him in a series of speeches. He was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and consequently executed by soldiers operating on their behalf in 43 BCE after having been intercepted during attempted flight from the Italian peninsula. His severed hands and head were then, as a final act of revenge by Mark Antony, displayed in the Roman Forum. Octavian, Caesar’s heir and later the first emperor, Augustus, is believed to have argued vehemently against the proscription, but ultimately conceded to Mark Antony’s wishes. However when Octavian subsequently turned on, and defeated, Mark Antony, he showed deep remorse for his part in Cicero’s death, and tried to make amends by protecting and supporting his son (Marcus Minor) despite the latter’s ever-changing political views.

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My assessment here of Cicero’s legacy, while derivative, is fair, I believe, although perhaps tainted slightly by the years I spent laboring over his speeches as a teenager. Cicero has been traditionally considered the master of Latin prose, with Quintilian declaring that Cicero was “not the name of a man, but of eloquence itself.” Julius Caesar praised Cicero’s achievement by saying “it is more important to have greatly extended the frontiers of the Roman spirit (ingenium) than the frontiers of the Roman empire.” According to John William Mackail, “Cicero’s unique and imperishable glory is that he created the language of the civilized world, and used that language to create a style which nineteen centuries have not replaced, and in some respects have hardly altered.”

Cicero wrote a great deal on a variety of subjects. His writing was readily available and widely used in schools in classical antiquity, and, because of its fame, survived into the modern world with a relatively small percentage lost. A graffito found at Pompeii states, “You will like Cicero, or you will be whipped” – work of a disgruntled student, no doubt. Cicero was greatly admired by influential Church Fathers such as Augustine of Hippo, who credited Cicero’s lost Hortensius for his eventual conversion to Christianity, and St. Jerome, who had a feverish vision in which he was accused of being “follower of Cicero and not of Christ” before the judgment seat. This influence further increased after the Early Middle Ages in Europe, which more of his writings survived than any other Latin author. Medieval philosophers were influenced by Cicero’s writings on natural law and innate rights. Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters provided impetus for searches for ancient Greek and Latin writings scattered throughout European monasteries, and the subsequent rediscovery of Classical Antiquity led, in part, to the Renaissance.

His voluminous correspondence, much of it addressed to his friend Atticus, has been especially influential, introducing the art of refined letter writing to European culture. Cornelius Nepos, the 1st century BCE biographer of Atticus, remarked that Cicero’s letters contained such a wealth of detail “concerning the inclinations of leading men, the faults of the generals, and the revolutions in the government” that their reader had little need for a history of the period. Following the invention of the printing press, De Officiis was the second book to be printed, after the Gutenberg Bible. Historians also note Cicero’s influence on the rebirth of religious toleration in the 17th century.

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While Cicero the humanist deeply influenced the culture of the Renaissance, Cicero the republican inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States and the revolutionaries of the French Revolution. John Adams said of him “As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight.” Jefferson names Cicero as one of a handful of major figures who contributed to a tradition “of public right” that informed his draft of the Declaration of Independence and shaped American understandings of “the common sense” basis for the right of revolution. Camille Desmoulins said of the French republicans in 1789 that they were “mostly young people who, nourished by the reading of Cicero at school, had become passionate enthusiasts for liberty.”

On the other hand, no other ancient personality has inspired as much venomous dislike as Cicero, especially in more modern times. His commitment to the values of the Republic accommodated a hatred of the poor and persistent opposition to the advocates and mechanisms of popular representation. Friedrich Engels referred to him as “the most contemptible scoundrel in history” for upholding republican “democracy” while at the same time denouncing land and class reforms. Cicero has faced criticism for exaggerating the democratic qualities of republican Rome, and for defending the Roman oligarchy against the popular reforms of Caesar. Michael Parenti admits Cicero’s abilities as an orator, but finds him a vain, pompous and hypocritical personality who, when it suited him, could show public support for popular causes that he privately despised. Parenti presents Cicero’s prosecution of the Catiline conspiracy as legally flawed at the very least, and possibly unlawful. I have no trouble seeing Cicero as vain, arrogant and self serving. The First Catiline Oration is a model of pompous self-aggrandizement. He suffered the fate that all politicians deserve who switch allegiance based on self interest rather than principle. No doubt his defenders will disagree.

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By default I turn, as always, to Apicius’ De re coquinaria for a Roman recipe. No doubt Cicero would shudder at the Latin in this cookbook written several centuries after his death in what is basically street Latin of the 4th or 5th century. You can get the gist without much trouble (assuming you read Latin), but there are obscure words in the text, and the precise nature of some ingredients is obscure. Here are a couple of recipes for sausages that could easily fit into the modern Italian kitchen. Modern cooks use SE Asian fermented fish sauce as a substitute for liquamen. Laser is an unknown ingredient although it is conjectured that it was asafoetida. From Apicius we know that laser was extremely expensive, but prized in cooking. I’d go with asafoetida as a substitute. My translations here are not terribly literal, but I hope they get the point across. Sausage making has not changed a whole lot in two millenia.

First is a recipe for brain sausage. Brains continue to be used for stuffed pastas in Italy, and I have made such quite often. Using brains as a stuffing, rather than “as is,” tends to soften the outcries of the squeamish. I parboil the brains when I use them, and prefer a meat grinder or food processor to a mortar. The method of boiling then frying sausages is one I use.

Farcimina.

Ova et cerebella teres, nucleos pineos, piper, liquamen, laser modicum, et his intestinum implebis. Elixas, postea assas et inferes.

Sausages

Pound eggs and brains, pine nuts, pepper, liquamen and a little laser, and use this mix to fill your casings (intestines). Boil the sausages, then fry them and serve.

Lucanian sausages are highly seasoned and then smoked. Use of ground fatty pork as the main ingredient has to be inferred because the text is not clear. Here’s an image of one of my efforts (using a big casing).

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Lucanicae.

Lucanicas similiter ut supra scriptum est: Lucanicarum confectio teritur piper, cuminum, satureia, ruta, petroselinum, condimentum, bacae lauri, liquamen, et admiscetur pulpa bene tunsa ita ut denuo bene cum ipso subtrito fricetur. Cum liquamine admixto, pipere integro et abundanti pinguedine et nucleis inicies in intestinum perquam tenuatim perductum, et sic ad fumum suspenditur.

Lucanian sausages

Lucanian sausages are made in the same way as above: grind up pepper, cumin, savory, rue, parsley, condiment [condimentum], laurel berries and liquamen. Make sure the paste [pulpa] is thoroughly mixed and blended [with minced pork]. To this mixture add whole peppercorns and nuts, fill your casings, and hang the sausages to smoke.