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 Nietzsche: Greek or Roman?

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PostSubject: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:59 pm

"We all know that Nietzsche thought long and hard about the ancient Greeks. But what about the Romans? As a classical scholar he received extensive training in the literature and history of both cultures. And in his early public lectures, "On the Future of our Educational Institutions," he regularly speaks in the same breath of Greeks and Romans, apparently taking for granted that study of both cultures belongs together (KSA 1, pp. 682, 689, 702, 704, 741, 743, 748). But to what extent do the Romans play a role in Nietzsche's own thought and writing?

A standard image of the Romans has them as much less imaginative or creative than the Greeks; whatever notable cultural or artistic achievements may be credited to the Romans are, according to this common view, heavily derivative from Greek models and in no way fundamentally original. And if one viewed the Romans in this light, one might expect that Nietzsche would not find them of any great interest. However, in one striking passage of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche speaks of "two types of genius: one which above all begets and wants to beget, and another which prefers being fertilized and giving birth" (BGE 248).1 He goes on to propose that "peoples of genius" can be distinguished in the same way, one type as "the causes of new orders of life" and the other as adept at nurturing and developing what they have appropriated from some other source. And contrary to what one might expect on the basis of the standard image just [End Page 7] mentioned, it is the Romans who are said to belong among the creative type, while the Greeks are classified as a people of the other type. The thought is not developed, and it does not appear to be echoed elsewhere in Nietzsche's work. But it is enough to suggest that we should not simply rest content with the picture just sketched of his likely attitude to the Romans.

An obvious place to begin, if one wants to try to get one's bearings on this topic, is the final main chapter of Twilight of the Idols, "What I Owe to the Ancients," a series of explicitly autobiographical reflections about Nietzsche's relations to classical antiquity. Here again one finds some comparative remarks about the Romans and the Greeks that are at first sight very surprising. In the first section of the chapter Nietzsche speaks of having been influenced above all by "the Roman style" in writing, a style characterized as "noble par excellence." He begins the second section by saying, "To the Greeks I owe no impressions that are comparably strong." Although the context is that of writing style, and Nietzsche returns to this shortly afterward, this particular sentence appears to have a wholly general scope—which makes it a truly extraordinary remark, coming from the author of The Birth of Tragedy, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, or for that matter "The Problem of Socrates" earlier in this very book. For one of the things that makes these texts unusual (or even, in some eyes, disqualifies them) as contributions to scholarship is the degree to which they reflect a personal engagement with the ancient Greek world, a sense that the Greeks still have profound lessons from which the contemporary world can learn. Here, by contrast, Nietzsche seems to dismiss them as an alien race about whom it is impossible to care to any significant degree and to single out the Romans instead as a people by whom we can and should be inspired. At least, that is, with regard to literary style; but even if that is all the passage is about explicitly, style (literary or otherwise) for Nietzsche is no mere matter of superficial decoration but may reach to the heart of who one is.

Nietzsche drops the subject of the Romans almost immediately. Having closed the short first paragraph of §2 with the broadside, "Who would ever have learned to write from a Greek! Who would ever have learned it without the Romans!" he raises, and rejects, the possible counterexample of Plato, dismissing him by contrast not with some Roman author but with another Greek, Thucydides; the passage is of great interest for several reasons, but the Romans are never mentioned. And the same is true of the remaining three sections of this chapter, which concentrate entirely on the Greeks and Nietzsche's own previous reflections about them. One might be forgiven for forgetting, by the end, that the chapter had started with what appeared to be an expression of strong preference for Roman over Greek culture. But the remarks about the Romans, however quickly left behind, bear closer examination. What is it that, in Nietzsche's estimation, makes their writing so admirable?

Nietzsche mentions just two Latin authors, Sallust and Horace. Sallust's writing he describes as "concise, severe, founded on as much substance as possible," [End Page 8] while Horace's Odes are similarly described as having a "minimum in the range and number of signs" and a "maximum in the energy of the signs which is thus achieved" (TI "What I Owe to the Ancients" 1). All this is further referred to by the description Horace himself uses to sum up his achievement in the first three books (that is, the first edition) of the Odes: 'aere perennius,' "more lasting than bronze" (III 30). Nietzsche says that he has himself strived for this style, even in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra; but it may be no accident that the kind of concision and economy he celebrates in these Roman authors is on particularly clear display in TI itself, perhaps more than in any other of Nietzsche's works. Now, as a characterization of these two authors in particular, his descriptions seem appropriate enough; but whether they are applicable to ancient Roman writing in general is far more questionable. One thinks immediately of prose authors, such as Cicero or Livy, whose style is anything but "concise" and "severe"; it is also doubtful whether Virgil, generally regarded as the greatest Roman poet, fits the description. So the question arises whether Nietzsche's professed admiration for Roman style, and by implication Roman culture more generally, is in fact an admiration for certain features of specific Roman authors or other historical figures.

Surprisingly, Sallust is barely again mentioned in the Nietzsche corpus. The TI passage speaks of Sallust as a model for Nietzsche himself—a somewhat unusual one—as he studied Latin prose composition. Ecce Homo mentions him again in the same context (EH "Clever" 1). Apart from two passages of the Nachlass that are clearly prototypes of these two published passages (KSA 13:24[1].1, 13:24[1].7), these are the only occurrences of his name; apparently, late in his working life, Nietzsche has recalled an episode from his school days, but the strong endorsement in the TI passage has no counterpart elsewhere in his work. Horace is another matter; he is mentioned in a number of other places, and Nietzsche's attitude toward him, when an attitude can be discerned, seems to be almost always positive. However, as we shall see, the same cannot be said of most other Roman authors. As for historical figures outside the literary arena, the only Roman in whom Nietzsche shows any consistent interest—again of a very positive kind—is Julius Caesar.2 So it does seem as if his focus on the Romans is intermittent and selective. Still, this does not prevent him from making a number of remarks about the Romans in general. As we sift through this material, a key question will naturally be how his attitudes to the Romans, or to certain specific Romans, are related to his broader philosophical preoccupations.

Nietzsche's first published mention of Rome is toward the end of The Birth of Tragedy, where the Roman Empire is described as the "most magnificent but also most terrifying expression" of a purely political and purely secular mind-set, also characterized by "staunch perseverance" (BT 21). Rome is thus presented [End Page 9] as the polar opposite of an antipolitical, nihilistic mind-set epitomized by Indian Buddhism; and the Greeks are then said to have devised a third way between these two extremes that manages to incorporate elements of both. The picture is part and parcel of this work's peculiar, Schopenhauer-influenced conception of the Apollinian, the Dionysian, and the Greeks' unique way of combining them. But the conception of the Roman Empire as strong, single-minded, and enduring is one that persists in Nietzsche's writings. What is not exactly replicated elsewhere is the distinctive combination of admiration and alarm that here accompanies it.

In a note from the Nachlass of early 1875, as part of a series of key points relevant to an assessment of classical antiquity, Nietzsche lists a project of contrasting Greek and Roman culture (KSA 8:3[74].5). And both his unpublished scholarly writings and the Nachlass from this early period more generally contain a number of comparative remarks that give us some idea of what such a contrast would have looked like. As against Greece, Rome is characterized as "der typische Barbarenstaat" (KSA 7:7[37]); in another note of the same period (KSA 7:7[44]), the Roman Empire is called "nothing exalted" in comparison with Athens. Again, Roman religion is described as a "peasant religion," a primitive outlook concerned only with warding off evil spirits, as compared with the celebratory and self-affirming religion of the Greeks (KSA 8:5[150]). Roman culture is said to depend on a borrowing and reworking of materials from others, as opposed to being a natural growth like that of the Greeks (KSA 7:24[11], cf. 8:5[64]). By contrast to Greek attitudes, the gravitas prized by the Romans is referred to as "arid solemnity" (KSA 8:5[77]); and the Romans are twice said to think of the Greeks as engaged in nothing but "trifling" (nugari, a word borrowed from Horace; KSA 8:3[72], 8:5[82])—a reaction that Nietzsche clearly sees as indicating their own lack of imagination. Finally, in two unpublished scholarly works, "The Dionysian Worldview" and "The Birth of Tragic Thought," the Romans are characterized, in virtually identical wording, as an unambiguous, one-sided people, by contrast with the Greeks, who are usually, but wrongly, viewed in this way (KSA 1, pp. 561, 590).

None of this contradicts the picture of the Romans as strong and single-minded, suggested by the passage of BT referred to at the start of this section. But the attitudes of admiration and alarm apparent there seem not to be present in any of these unpublished texts; instead of either, we seem to have a devaluing of Roman culture in comparison with Greek, and for just the kinds of reasons suggested by the standard view mentioned in the previous section—the view that seemed to be repudiated by the passage I cited there (BGE 248). Yet the BT passage is not alone in the early period in including a positive, or partly positive, attitude toward the Romans. At the opening of Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks (KSA 1, p. 804) Nietzsche says that some peoples do not need philosophy in order to be healthy and adds, "[T]his is how the Romans lived [End Page 10] in their best period without philosophy." Clearly we are still dealing with a conception of the Romans as uncomplicated; but here they seem to be viewed as a people of some considerable achievement (albeit by standards that are not spelled out), at least in some part of their history. And in the second Untimely Meditation, "On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life," Nietzsche alleges that "modern man suffers from a weakened personality" and several times contrasts this weakness unfavorably with the strength of the Romans, at least prior to their own decline (HL 5)—a strength from which Christianity is also said to have drawn (HL 9).

In Nietzsche's mature writings, this more sympathetic attitude to the Romans seems to be consolidated, and the tendency to dismissiveness shown in the early scholarly writings disappears; the texts cited in the previous section are obvious examples of this, but there is more. This shift seems to go hand in hand with a generally decreased interest in Greco-Roman comparisons, still less in comparative rankings of the two cultures, and with an increasing concern with the relation between Roman and Judeo-Christian values, an issue barely mentioned in the early writings.3 Already in Human, All Too Human, the decline of Roman culture is blamed on "the spread of Christianity" as "its principal cause," and the result is said to be "a general uglification of man" (HH 247). In Daybreak, Roman morality appears as a prime example of what Nietzsche calls "morality of custom," and Christianity is opposed to it as a specimen of the kind of morality ("following in the footsteps of Socrates") that offers salvation or happiness to the individual—a morality whose advocates can only appear to adherents of the other perspective as "in the profoundest sense evil" (D 9). Elsewhere in the same work Christianity is described as an expression of a "centuries-long speechless hatred for Rome on the part of its wearied spectators" (D 71); again the phrase 'aere perennius' appears in the discussion, this time referring to Rome's own ambition to permanence in its institutions (which, to those opposed to it, it seemed all too successfully to have achieved). Neither passage offers a clear value judgment in favor of either party; but Rome is at any rate not devalued, and the idea is clearly developing of a fundamental face-off between Rome and Christianity. The same might be said of the reference in The Gay Science to Jesus and Paul and their mission "to overcome the world (that is, Rome and upper classes throughout the Empire)" (GS 353). But in Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morality the notion of Christianity as a slave morality revenging itself on Rome is fully developed; and along with this goes Nietzsche's characteristic contempt for pure slave morality, together with a much more overt and more favorable judgment of Rome.

At BGE 46 Christian faith is described as "enslavement and self-mockery, self-mutilation," and the notion of god on the cross as "a revaluation of all the values of antiquity." In opposition to this stands "Rome and its noble and frivolous tolerance," which is the object of Christianity's revenge; it is that Roman [End Page 11] "freedom from faith, that [...] smiling unconcern with the seriousness of faith," that is said to have "enraged slaves in their masters—against their masters." Even apart from the "sickness" of which he accuses the Christian outlook, there is no doubt here as to which side Nietzsche is on. We shall see some other cases later where frivolity is regarded as a positive attribute; here as elsewhere, it is of course important what one is frivolous about.

Similarly, in GM the Romans are the first on the list of noble races of which "the splendid blond beast" (I:11) serves as a potent symbol, whereas the "bearers of the [...] retaliation-craving instincts, the descendants of all European and non-European slavery [...] —they represent the regression of humankind!" Later in the same essay, the fundamental opposition between the good/bad and the good/evil systems of valuation is captured by the slogan "Rome against Judea, Judea against Rome," the Romans being characterized as "the strong and noble ones" of whom "everything that remains [...] every inscription thrills," and the Jews (who in this context, though certainly not in others, include the Christians) as "that priestly people of ressentiment par excellence" (GM I:16). Now, as often in Nietzsche, things are not as one-sided as they may at first seem. The description of the Jews continues, "in whom there dwelt a popular-moral genius without parallel"; there is at least an element of grudging praise here, as subsequent comparison with the Chinese and the Germans (who do much less well by the same standards) makes clear. Besides, the most "decisive mark of the 'higher nature,' of the more spiritual nature," Nietzsche claims, is to experience the conflict between these two forms of valuation within oneself; this is in keeping with his recurring tendency, in the mature works, to celebrate psychological complexity and, especially, the successful disciplining or channeling of strong but competing psychological impulses.4 The Romans' uncomplicated master morality is not, then, the highest thing one could aim for, and Nietzsche is not recommending that we try to return to it.5 However, if one asks which he prefers, the Romans' values or the Christians', there is no doubt that the answer is the former; his disappointment, later in the same section, at the snuffing out of the Renaissance—which he interprets as a resurgence of Roman values—by the "thoroughly mobbish [...] ressentiment movement called the Reformation," is just one of many indications of this (GM I:16).
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PostSubject: Re: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:00 pm

The celebration of Rome and the antipathy toward Christianity are strongest of all at the end of Nietzsche's career, in The Antichrist;6 there is also no sign here of the kind of nuance or qualification that I just drew attention to in GM. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, is named as the one figure in the New Testament deserving of any respect (A 46). And the Roman Empire is praised in fulsome terms over several sections (A 58-61), again for the enduring character of its institutions (there is yet another appearance of the term 'aere perennius' at A 58) but also for the favorable conditions that those institutions created for cultural and intellectual achievements over a long period. It was [End Page 12] "the most grandiose form of organization under difficult conditions which has hitherto been achieved"; it was the "most admirable of all works of art in the grand style," and "its structure was calculated to prove itself by millennia"; the prospect was that "the revenue of reason from long ages of experimentation and uncertainty was to be employed for the benefit of the most distant future and the biggest, richest, most complete harvest possible brought home" (A 58). But instead, all of this was quickly destroyed by the venomous hatred directed against it by Christianity; only now, Nietzsche suggests, after a detour of almost two thousand years, are we returning to the position to which the Greeks and Romans—but, in terms of stable structures allowing for future development, especially the Romans—had already taken humanity. For this stopping of human progress in its tracks, Nietzsche's attitude toward Christianity is one of unmitigated contempt and disgust. Of course, one might think that a movement uniquely capable of undoing something of such extraordinary power and longevity (as Nietzsche sees the Roman Empire) would itself warrant a certain admiration for its strength, its ingeniousness, or something of the kind. But here Nietzsche is in no mood for any such concessions;7 Christianity is distinguished by jealousy, vindictiveness, small-mindedness, and related features, and its ability to win out against ancient Rome gets no respect from him whatever—quite the opposite. Equally, there is no suggestion that Christianity deserves credit for introducing complexity into the human psyche or that Rome's values are no longer suitable for today. Instead, the picture seems wholly black and white: Rome good, Christianity bad. But this is just one respect in which A is perhaps Nietzsche's most uncompromising work (and therefore, arguably, not his most interesting).

The Nachlass of the 1880s yields numerous other remarks about the Romans in general, but none seems to add significantly to the picture already suggested by the published works. The following lines from the Nachlass perhaps sum up Nietzsche's typical picture of the Romans, whom they should be contrasted with, and how: "The Jews lived only in order to expect the true God; the Greeks deified nature and bequeathed to the world their religion, namely philosophy and art. Rome deified the people in the state" (KSA 13:11[347]). What these sentences do not offer is any of the comparative evaluations that, as we have seen, fill out this picture in most of the places where Rome is mentioned—evaluations that increasingly come to be bound up with Nietzsche's central thoughts on competing value systems.

We have seen that Nietzsche speaks relatively often, and in relatively consistent terms, of Rome in general and especially the Roman Empire. When it comes to specific figures from Roman history, however, there are far fewer references than [End Page 13] this might lead one to expect. It is not that Nietzsche was simply uninterested in the details of Roman history. The entry "Doehler, Hadrian etc. (Halle)" appears in a list of "books to read" in a note from July 1879 (KSA 8:39[8]). Eduard Doehler was a classicist of the period, although the work in question seems to be not one by Doehler himself but a translation into German by him of Franz Champagny's Les Antonins, ans de J.C. 69-180, the second volume of which begins with Hadrian.8 Whether Nietzsche actually read this is not clear. But he is eager to obtain it in correspondence with his sister from December 1878 (and she eventually sent it to him); in the same correspondence he mentions also having a four-volume history of the Roman emperors (also translated by Doehler) by Charles-Ernest Beulé.9 All of this might seem to suggest a serious scholarly interest in the period. But when one looks for references to actual emperors or other historical figures in either the published or the unpublished work, there is generally not much to be found.

Except for the occurrence of his name in the book list just referred to, the emperor Hadrian is never mentioned; nor are the emperors Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, or Trajan or any of the following important Romans from the pre-imperial period: Pompey, Crassus, Marius, Sulla, Cassius, or the Gracchi. The emperors Caligula, Antoninus Pius, and Caracalla, together with Mark Antony, each receive a single passing mention in the Nachlass (KSA 9:6[283], 8:29[17], 11:25[344], and 7:23[37], respectively). Brutus, Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero are each mentioned in the published works; but here, too, there is very little to build on. The only extended discussion of Brutus has to do exclusively with his portrayal by Shakespeare (GS 98). Aside from that, he is mentioned in Schopenhauer as Educator as an example in support of the claim that philosophy means more in turbulent ages than in calm ones (SE Cool; and he appears in an unpublished note in a list of people (with no further explanation) whose true legacy is only now becoming apparent in the person of Nietzsche himself (KSA 9:15[17]); and that is all.

Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero appear together in a section of GS that compares how they each died (36); Augustus is said to have revealed himself, in his last remarks, to have been an actor (like Nero), whereas Tiberius died silently and was no actor. As Walter Kaufmann points out in his note to GS 36, this inverts certain stereotypes about Augustus and Tiberius; one would normally expect Tiberius, not Augustus, to be grouped with the monster Nero. Augustus is also described, except in his uncharacteristic dropping of the mask at death, as "that terrible man who had as much self-control and could be as silent as any wise Socrates." In both respects the passage seems to invite speculation about politics and about values more generally. But the remarks are too brief and undeveloped to allow any clear sense of where Nietzsche might have hoped such speculation would lead; they also have no obvious connection with any [End Page 14] of his general comments on the Romans. Tiberius also appears as an example of knowing something more deeply when one has a strong personal stake in that thing (D 460); his reflections on Augustus and his system of government, Nietzsche says, were far more profound than that of any historian of the period. The point is well taken but again affords us no particular insight into these characters or anything else about the Romans.

Augustus appears just two other times in the Nachlass, once in a story from Suetonius about his having ordered frogs to be quiet (KSA 7:31[6]) and once in a reference to the classicism of his era (KSA 9:8[14]). The only other published reference to Nero is D 63, where Christians in his time are reported by Tacitus to have been "'convicted' of odium generis humani [hatred of the human race]"; this at least connects with some of the themes introduced in the previous section, but it does not make any further contribution to our understanding of them. Tiberius and Nero also appear as stereotypical tyrants, in an unpublished note making fun of the notion of a God who demands love from humans and has hell ready for them if they refuse: "like Tiberius and Nero!" Nietzsche adds (KSA 9:8[27]). And Nero is grouped with Caracalla as prime examples of emperors who gave rise to the paradox that the lowest man is more valuable than the highest—leading to further dangerous notions such as God on the cross (KSA 11:25[344]). Tiberius receives one further purely incidental mention in BT (11; cf. KSA 1, p. 603). In addition, a story of his having conducted human sacrifice on Capri appears as an example of those who "sacrificed human beings to one's god, perhaps precisely those whom one loved most," which is one of several rungs on a "ladder of religious cruelty" (BGE 55). Nietzsche appears to have learned of the story during a visit to Capri in March 1877, and an unpublished note of the following spring (KSA 8:28[25]), which is the only other reference to Tiberius, seems to be a further allusion to it.10 The notion of cruelty as part of the lifeblood of religion clearly connects with several important themes in Nietzsche's thought. But the Tiberius anecdote is, again, insignificant to it and, although referred to as the "most gruesome of all Roman anachronisms," gives us no further indication as to his thinking about the Romans.

Nietzsche's interest in the Romans in general does not, then, seem in most cases to be matched by any sustained interest in individual figures from Roman history. The one conspicuous exception, as noted earlier, is Julius Caesar, who is repeatedly referred to in both the published and the unpublished writings. Now, in some of these places he serves merely in an exemplary role, as when the murder of Caesar occurs as a hypothetical instance of an event recurring in the cosmos (HL 2; cf. KSA 7:29[61]);11 or it is Shakespeare's portrayal of Caesar rather than Caesar himself who is at issue (GS 98; EH "Clever" 4); or it is not Julius Caesar individually who is referred to but, rather, the succession of "Caesars"—that is, emperors (Z: IV "Conversation" 1; KSA 11:27[60]). Even [End Page 15] if one discounts all such references, however, Julius Caesar is still mentioned considerably more often than any other Roman outside the literary realm. But more important than frequency are the exceptionally elevated terms in which he is discussed.

In D 549 he appears in a list of "four of the most active men of all time" who were also epileptics. The section as a whole deals with "men given to intellectual spasms," who are said to crave some kind of "flight from oneself" that will relieve the extraordinary internal pressures from which they suffer; and the attacks of epilepsy suffered by these four in particular seem to be understood as a species of this "flight." Caesar is in some very select company—everyone named in this section is a literary, military, or religious leader—and the "intellectual spasms" referred to are clearly taken to be symptoms of greatness. In TI Nietzsche is more explicit. Again we are told of a tendency to sickness in Caesar—though epilepsy is not specifically mentioned—and again relentless activity is singled out as the means by which Caesar avoided its ill effects. But all of this is then described as just one instance of "the general preservative regulations that protect one from the extreme vulnerability of that subtle machine, working under the highest pressure, known as genius" (TI "Raids" 31). Caesar is again called a genius in a later section of the same chapter (TI "Raids" 45), which explores a connection between "the criminal type" and greatness. The general idea is that criminality is a debased variant of greatness that occurs when conditions are not right for its development. But a further permutation of this idea is that "almost all geniuses" experience the criminal mentality "as one of their developmental stages," and this is summed up with the phrase "Catiline—the form of every Caesar's preexistence." Polt and Strong in their note in the Hackett edition suggest that this refers to Caesar's possible involvement in the Catilinarian conspiracy of 63 bc, prior to what is usually seen as the period of his greatness.12 But the point seems to be much more general than that; Nietzsche is suggesting that any budding genius goes through a stage that he calls "the Catilinarian existence."

Can we say more about the character of Caesar's genius, as Nietzsche envisages it? The connection with criminality continues to be relevant in answering this question. An unpublished note (KSA 12:9[157]) speaks of the "immorality" of the great—Caesar, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, and Leonardo da Vinci among them.13 Nietzsche is disputing the idea that belief is a distinguishing feature of great human beings; on the contrary, he says, typical characteristics of the great are "thoughtlessness, skepticism, the permission to be able to shed a belief." This is reminiscent of the "frivolity" or lack of faith that, in the previous section, we saw Nietzsche attribute to the Romans in general; but here this is associated specifically with freedom from the constraints of morality. The word 'Unmoralität' appears, however, in quotation marks in the original, suggesting that such people do not fit the usual image of those who fail to [End Page 16] live up to moral standards; rather than being petty delinquents, they achieve their greatness precisely through not being bound by such standards. Another unpublished note speaks of Caesar as having depth (KSA 11:34[148]); again Leonardo is grouped with Caesar, as well as another emperor Frederick, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and (though for rather different reasons) Socrates and Pascal.14 Both these features—depth and lack of servitude to morality—seem to be important to the more detailed portraits that appear in two published passages.

Another section of TI speaks of the presence of danger as a necessary condition for becoming strong ("Raids" 38); one does not become strong unless the circumstances force one to do so. This has a political dimension—liberal regimes are not a breeding ground for valuable human beings—but it can also be understood in psychological terms. A truly free human being (freedom, in this sense, being a key component of greatness) is one who has experienced, and overcome, the most severe internal dangers: one in whom there dwell "inexorable and terrible instincts that demand to be countered with the maximum of authority and self-discipline."15 And Julius Caesar is cited as "the most beautiful type" of this kind of self-overcoming. A similar picture appears in a section of BGE's "Natural History of Morals," where Nietzsche speaks of people who have multiple warring drives within themselves (BGE 200). Most such people, he says, are weak; their internal conflict, "the war that they are," enervates them and leads them to crave tranquility. But occasionally, he goes on, this internal conflict constitutes "one more charm and incentive of life," and a person's "powerful and irreconcilable drives" are accompanied by "a real mastery and subtlety in waging war against oneself, in other words, self-control, self-outwitting." The result is a "magical, incomprehensible, and unfathomable" personality; and Caesar is given as an example, along with, once more, Leonardo and Frederick II, together with Alcibiades. And again Caesar is described (this time alongside the others) as the "most beautiful expression" of this phenomenon. This aesthetic form of appraisal, as well as the inclusion of Alcibiades on the list, seems designed to distance the point from any kind of moral assessment; these are the most admirable human beings, and morality quite obviously has nothing to do with this. And what Nietzsche deems worthy of such admiration seems to be the powerful unity created out of such potentially destructive complexity, the harnessing and fruitful exploitation of competing drives that might easily have led to psychological exhaustion or collapse. This, then, is how Caesar and a very few others are "deep": there is so much going on inside them, so many psychic tendencies in opposition to one another, that it is difficult to see how they could make use of and even thrive on them, rather than being destroyed by them—and yet they do.

This is in keeping with the point discussed earlier from GM I:16, that the higher type of human being is characterized by the simultaneous presence of [End Page 17] both the good/bad and the good/evil forms of valuation—and therefore, an unending conflict between psychological opposites. Nietzsche nowhere suggests that Julius Caesar had inclinations toward both of these value systems. But a key component of his portrait of Caesar is that he does embody powerful psychological conflict, even if it did not take that form in particular. And it follows that Julius Caesar is, at least in that respect, not a typical Roman, given Nietzsche's usual way of thinking of the Romans. For, as we saw in the previous section, the Romans appear as an exemplar of master morality untinged by slave morality; they are not internally conflicted but single-minded or even one-dimensional. Strength is certainly one of their characteristics, and they earn Nietzsche's admiration for this; but it is a strength that is not a product of complexity. In the passage from TI discussed in the previous paragraph, Nietzsche does refer to "aristocratic communities such as Rome and Venice" as examples of "the strongest sort of human being there has ever been." But here he is talking about strength (or its absence) as a function of political institutions; he does not mean to suggest that individual Romans in general had the kind of depth and overcoming of internal conflict that he attributes to Caesar. There are, one might say, different kinds of human strength, and strength is not simply equivalent to greatness or genius; as the repetitiveness of his examples seems to underline, the kind of greatness achieved by Caesar is restricted to a very few individuals, who are bound, therefore, to be atypical. Indeed, an unpublished note (KSA 13:14[133]) emphasizes this very point; Nietzsche speaks of "the short duration of beauty, genius, Caesar," calling it sui generis and a "stroke of luck"—and therefore, unlike "the type," not reproducible. While Nietzsche is of his time in his reflexive racial stereotyping, he is clear that truly great human beings transcend their time and culture, and he sometimes seems to speak of them as if they form a kind of exclusive supercommunity not bound by time or culture. The most bizarre example of this comes in EH, where Nietzsche flirts with the idea that he himself is one of the great. In EH "Wise" 3, he speaks of "higher natures" as building on the depths of their ancestry. Summing up this idea at the end of the section, he says, "Great individuals are the oldest," and adds, "I don't understand it, but Julius Caesar could have been my father—or Alexander."16

A remark like this clearly has nothing to do with Nietzsche's view of the Romans. But this is just an extreme instance of the fact that Julius Caesar is, in his eyes, a very special case. His admiration for Caesar belongs to an important strand of his thought about human greatness; but it is in most respects unrelated to his predominant attitude of admiration toward the Romans in general. And that attitude tends to be restricted to considering the Romans as a group; as we have seen, he seems to show little interest in individual Romans other than the special case of Julius Caesar. [End Page 18]

This, at least, is the case for Romans whose reputation is in the political or military arenas. What of Roman literature? We saw that despite Nietzsche's praise of, and expression of indebtedness to, the writings of Sallust in the passage from TI with which we began, Sallust made essentially no further appearance in his writings. Numerous other major Roman authors receive equally sparse mentions. Virgil and Livy are each mentioned just three times, Catullus twice, and Ovid once, all in brief and seemingly insignificant notes in the Nachlass. Several of these passages consist of brief quotations of the author's work or learned citations of some point of detail in that work (Virgil, KSA 13:11[19]; Livy, KSA 8:29[26]; Catullus, KSA 7:7[11]). The depth of Nietzsche's scholarship in Latin literature is not in doubt; and yet these writers seem to engage his attention only in the most fleeting way. Juvenal is mentioned only twice, although this time in the published works (AOM 224; WS 225). In both passages the central point has to do with his portrait of the society around him, a society that is then contrasted with some other society or way of thinking—Christianity in the first case, Athens in the second.17 The first passage refers to him as "that poison-toad with the eyes of Venus," and this is all that Nietzsche says about him directly. The description is cryptic, although it appears highly specific; it looks as if Nietzsche has a definite opinion about him but, as with the other authors just mentioned, no great interest.

Of somewhat more interest to him, it seems, is the historian Tacitus; he gets four mentions in the published works and numerous others in the Nachlass.18 And one might well expect Tacitus to appeal to him, given Nietzsche's praise of Roman style in TI. As we saw in section I, the style he sees exemplified in Horace and Sallust is one in which as much as possible is achieved with as few resources as possible. I suggested that this description, despite what Nietzsche implies, does not by any means seem to fit Roman literature as a whole; but Tacitus is an author to whom it surely does apply at least as well as to his two prime exhibits. "Condensed, rapid and incisive" is one good description of Tacitus's style;19 these words not only are strongly reminiscent of Nietzsche's descriptions of Sallust and Horace but also nicely capture the sort of style that, in the same passage, Nietzsche claims himself to have emulated—and which, as I remarked earlier, he achieves in TI as much as anywhere. So it would be no surprise if Tacitus were to figure among the Roman authors Nietzsche particularly admires.

This impression is confirmed up to a point by what Nietzsche actually says about Tacitus; and yet he does not quite reach the level of enthusiasm that we might have expected. In The Wanderer and His Shadow he groups together Tacitus and Thucydides as having achieved "the style of immortality" (WS 144). [End Page 19] Both aimed for their works to last forever, and this could have been guessed (though it does not need to be) from their style alone, even though they went about it in different ways. Tacitus, according to Nietzsche, "believed he could bestow durability [...] though boiling and preserving," and he was right. While the metaphor of boiling and preserving could perhaps be read in several ways, it clearly lends itself to the kind of concise or condensed style that Nietzsche celebrates in the TI passage. Moreover, it is notable that Tacitus is paired here with Thucydides, given that, as we saw, Thucydides figures shortly afterward in the TI passage as Nietzsche's antidote to Plato—and that Plato, in turn, is introduced there as an alleged (but in Nietzsche's view unconvincing) counterexample to his dismissal of Greek style by comparison with Roman style.20 All this seems to support our expectations regarding Nietzsche's high estimation of Tacitus and the reasons for it.

But this is as far as his explicit attention to Tacitus's style extends—except for a note in the Nachlass (KSA 9:6[44]) calling him "an accomplished writer, but rarely a statesman." Nietzsche's other remarks on Tacitus are generally directed to the content of his writings.21 As we saw in the previous section, D 63 mentions how, according to Tacitus's report, Christians were treated under Nero.22 The only other published references to Tacitus are GS 330, which quotes with clear approval a remark of his about the reluctance (or as Nietzsche plausibly interprets him, the downright refusal) of the wise to give up their desire for fame, and BGE 195, which cites him as holding (along with the rest of the ancient world) that the Jews are "a people 'born for slavery.'" Of the unpublished remarks on Tacitus not already mentioned, three again involve his views on Jews and Christians (KSA 9:6[283], 9:6[285], 9:6[311]); and one, in what looks like a sketch of material that eventually led to A, says that one's reaction to the New Testament is a test of whether one has any classical taste whatever—if it is not revulsion, one has none—and simply adds parenthetically "cf. Tacitus" (KSA 12:10[181]). But most have to do with his account of the Germans in the monograph Germania, including several on what he has to say about German women.23 Clearly Tacitus is an author whom Nietzsche respects considerably, as a reliable source, as a shrewd thinker, and as a writer. However, he is by no means a frequent presence in Nietzsche's writings, and he is not among the few figures, literary or otherwise, singled out for exuberant praise; in this respect even Sallust seems to score higher, simply on the basis of the TI passage with which we began.

When it comes to the Stoic authors living and working in Rome—Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius—Nietzsche's attitude is mixed. Given his picture of the Stoics in general as radically self-deceived about what it would mean to live "according to nature," as they recommend (see BGE 9), it would hardly be expected that any Stoic writer would figure among Nietzsche's heroes. Still, in HH (282) he laments that a number of "great moralists," Seneca and Epictetus [End Page 20] included, are little read in the hectic pace of modern life. Seneca and Epictetus figure again in GS (122). Nietzsche initially seems to be dismissing them and other ancient authors of moral treatises as simplistic; Christianity, he says, has taught us "moral skepticism"—that is, a suspicion about people's hidden motives and about anyone's claim to have achieved complete virtue—and this allows us to feel superior to any thinker who takes moral perfectibility seriously.24 But then he turns the tables, arguing that the same skepticism, though in part a product of Christianity itself, can equally be directed against a whole array of religious concepts. The result is that "we now have the same sense of subtle superiority and insight when we read any Christian book." This does not, of course, erase the initial impression of the ancient moralists as unsophisticated; but it at least suggests that they should not, after all, be judged inferior in this respect to adherents of a Christian outlook. Elsewhere in D, Epictetus is ranked above the Christians. One passage contains a subtle and elaborate comparison of Epictetus's ideal human being and Christian aspirations (D 546); while the passage would repay detailed examination, the central reason why Epictetus's ranks higher is its self-sufficiency, its lack of dependence on, or fear of, the outside world or any higher power. "There is very much of the humanity of antiquity in this ideal!" Nietzsche exclaims; by contrast, "Christianity was made for [...] those weak in will and mind." Another passage refers to Epictetus as one of "the great men of antique morality" (D 131), in particular for his focus on the betterment of the individual, by comparison with "the now normal glorification of thinking of others, of living for others"; the next section then singles out Christianity as responsible for this (in his view) regrettable modern attitude.25 In Assorted Opinions and Maxims he is actually described, along with Epicurus, as "wisdom in bodily form" (224).26

But this generally approving attitude is by no means sustained throughout Nietzsche's writings. In the published works, Seneca elsewhere only ever figures as the butt of sarcasm (GS, opening verse 34; TI "Raids" 1). And in an unpublished note from early 1884 he is described as "a culmination of ancient moral hypocrisy" (KSA 11:25[347]). Another note from later in the same year pairs him with Machiavelli in a series of contrasts concerning the usage of "true"; presumably the underlying point is similar, given that Nietzsche sees Machiavelli as a paragon of clear-eyed realism.27 Part of what is happening here, I think, is that Nietzsche's attitude toward moralists becomes more jaundiced in the later writings. In HH he could use the phrase "great moralists" in all seriousness. But in his later writings, anyone who might reasonably qualify as a moralist, of whatever tradition, tends to get assimilated to Christianity and to receive the ever more withering contempt that he reserves for anything associated with Christianity. And thus, in a note from 1887, Seneca, Epictetus, and also Marcus Aurelius get grouped with Plato as ancient representatives in a list of "moralists" to whom the label "great" is applied, but now with anything but a straight [End Page 21] face; for Nietzsche immediately adds: "Morality as downfall of philosophers so far" (KSA 12:9[11], cf. 12:10[120]). Elsewhere Nietzsche says that Marcus's Meditations is for him a comic book (KSA 11:25[511]) and mocks him for his "folksy" (volkstümlichen) ideals (KSA 12:7[12]), most of which turn out to be central concepts in Stoic ethics. Finally, a note from 1884 includes the comment, "Nothing is more repulsive to me than the didactic selling of philosophy, as in Seneca or Cicero" (KSA 11:26[452]).

Of the three Stoic authors we have been considering, Epictetus comes out the best, and Marcus, the least well.28 But this seems to be at least partly due to the fact that Nietzsche's references to Marcus are almost all in the late period of his working life, when "moralism" of any kind was to him highly suspect—whereas Epictetus caught his interest (as did Seneca to a lesser extent) in an earlier period when this was not the case. Now, is the positive side of his reaction to Epictetus related to his generally positive attitude to the Romans in general?29 In both cases there is a tendency to draw a contrast with Christianity, with Christianity coming out the loser. But this is a rather limited point of similarity, seeing that Nietzsche's view of Christianity is much less clearly focused, and also much milder, in the published works that mention Epictetus than in the late works where the Rome versus Christianity contrast is especially prominent.

If his attitude to the Stoics is ambivalent, his attitude to the Epicurean Lucretius is much more positive. Lucretius appears in two published texts (D 72 and A 58) as the faithful and reliable exponent of Epicureanism. Nietzsche's conception of Epicurus is a fascinating and somewhat neglected subject;30 but it is clear that he strongly approves of the Epicureans, including Lucretius, for combating, even before Christianity came on the scene, the fear-infested type of religious outlook of which he sees Christianity as the epitome.31 In the A passage this point occurs in the course of Nietzsche's eulogy of Rome as the polar opposite of Christianity; it is even claimed that "every mind of any account in the Roman empire was an Epicurean" (A 58). Elsewhere Lucretius figures in a comparison with Montaigne (KSA 11:26[435]); Montaigne is praised for the "admirable vivacity and peculiar energy of his language," and the compliment is sealed with the added comment that in his respect he resembles Lucretius. So Nietzsche clearly sees a good deal to applaud in Lucretius, and this connects rather more closely than in the case we just considered, that of Epictetus, with his broader pro-Roman attitudes. But as with so many other Roman authors, his interest in Lucretius seems to be highly intermittent; these are the only substantive remarks about him in the entire corpus.32
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PostSubject: Re: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:01 pm

I just mentioned a swipe at Cicero, alongside Seneca, for "the didactic selling of philosophy." But Nietzsche's mentions of Cicero, which are not frequent, do not otherwise have to do with his philosophical side; nor are they by any means consistently negative. The only substantial published remarks on Cicero have [End Page 22] to do with oral and written style.33 In WS, Nietzsche says that Cicero's speeches should have been revised for reading—as, he claims, Demosthenes's were; "at present," he says, "there is much more Roman forum in them than the reader can take" (WS 110). But in BGE, speaking of antiquity as opposed to the present, he says that "the laws of written style were then the same as those for spoken style" and applauds both Demosthenes and Cicero for their perfection, within these laws, of "the great period"—something denied to moderns, who are "in every sense short of breath" (BGE 247). The terms in which ancient oratory and its grand periods are celebrated here seem very different from his praise in TI of the Roman style exemplified by Sallust and Horace, with its terse economy; yet Cicero in this passage seems to rank as highly as a stylist as they do in the later one. Quite apart from the apparent reversal on the question of oral versus written style, this seems to represent at least a partial shift of opinion from Nietzsche's earlier period, where Cicero is characterized in much more guarded language. A series of unpublished remarks from late 1873 and early 1874 refer to the "decorative" tendencies in both Cicero's writing and Roman writing more generally (KSA 7:30[11], 7:32[2], 7:32[14]) and, in what seems to be a connected point, the Roman separation of form from content, to the detriment of content (KSA 7: 754); in the case of Cicero, indeed, the pejorative epithet 'decorative' extends beyond just his writing, to his political activity and everything else about him (KSA 7:32[2]). This is somewhat mitigated when Nietzsche says of Cicero that "the strength and honesty of his character shows him as an artist"; but he immediately continues, "[T]he purity of his taste is not so great that he was capable of emulating Demosthenes," even though he strived mightily to do so (and to compete with the Greeks generally). The problem is that "what pleases him is mostly not the best, but the Asiatic"—which is typically Roman, he adds. And again, as one would expect in Nietzsche, these literary or aesthetic questions do not belong to some self-contained realm; earlier in the same fragment we are told that "Cicero's moral failing explains his aesthetic failing" (KSA 7:32[2]).

As we saw in section II, Nietzsche's early writings not uncommonly include expressions of the standard conception of the Romans as derivative and second-rate compared with the Greeks; and this critique of Cicero seems to be a further instance of the same tendency. The rehabilitation of Cicero in BGE as a consummate writer seems, then, to go hand in hand with Nietzsche's greater admiration for the Romans in general in the later works, even if the grounds for his new admiration of Cicero are peculiar to his case. But even in the earlier period Nietzsche is capable of calling Cicero "one of the greatest benefactors of mankind" (KSA 8:5[99], Spring-Summer 1875). This is admittedly because of his role in preserving the genius of Greek culture (rather than permanently destroying it, as the Romans could easily have done) and thus in a sense confirms the picture of the Romans as derivative; but it credits him with a sensitivity to Greek culture that Nietzsche's early writings often do not attribute to the Romans [End Page 23] in general. In sum, Nietzsche's attitude to Cicero, like the Stoic authors, is mixed. Even though he is mostly much more favorable to the Romans in his later period, this does not prevent him, as we saw, from criticizing Cicero's philosophical writings; thus there are both positive and negative sides to the story in both the early and the later periods, and his attitude to Cicero by no means entirely tracks his broader attitude to the Romans.

This last remark could perhaps serve to sum up the whole of this section so far. Nietzsche's comments on the individual Roman authors we have considered do not seem to suggest either great interest or great admiration; and they show only a few connections with the account I gave in section II of his developing conception of the Romans in general. I move now to Horace, of whom he speaks so highly in TI. Is this passage matched by other things he says about Horace? And does his picture of Horace connect in any significant way with his overall view of Rome?

We saw earlier that Nietzsche borrows from Horace the word 'nugari' [trifling] to characterize the Romans' dismissive attitude toward the Greeks (KSA 8:3[72], 8:5[82]), an attitude that he sees as casting the Romans themselves in a bad light. In the first of these passages Nietzsche begins by quoting from Horace's Ars Poetica the words "Graiis [...] praeter laudem nullius avaris" (323-24)—"Greeks, greedy for nothing except praise"—and continues, "He [Horace] calls their main activity nugari, typical of the Romans." The word 'nugari' comes from Horace's Epistles (2.1.93) and does indeed occur in a context critical of the Greeks for paying attention to trivial things. But the words quoted from Ars Poetica are lifted somewhat out of their context. The Greeks are said to be greedy only for praise, whereas the Romans are greedy in a much cruder, moneygrubbing sense; there is no particular criticism of the striving for glory that Nietzsche takes to be a central Greek activity. In this case, then, Nietzsche does link Horace with a broader Roman characteristic, one that he dislikes; and in the other passage (KSA 8:5[82]) 'nugari' is extended to refer to a Roman scorn of all things Greek. But his approach is one that is not entirely fair to Horace.

Be that as it may, Nietzsche is in general favorably disposed to Horace, and not only in the later period when his attitude to the Romans as a people becomes far more positive. In an unpublished note only a few months after the ones we have just discussed, headed "against lyric poetry for the Germans," Horace stands out, even above Pindar, among successful lyric poets for the mosaic-like way in which he arranges his words and thoughts (KSA 8:8[2]); already this looks forward to Nietzsche's praise of Horace's style in TI, where the metaphor of a mosaic reappears. Another note from the same period (summer 1875) praises the relief or restfulness he finds from Horace and the gentleness of his writing (KSA 8:11[38]); a similar thought appears in HH 109, where [End Page 24] the "solemn frivolity" of Horace is said to be the best possible antidote to a characteristically modern sorrow—the sorrow deriving from the recognition that there is no comforting deity and that no other, equally comforting story about the world is going to be convincing to rigorous modern thinkers such as Nietzsche expects his readers to be. A further unpublished note, more or less contemporary with the publication of HH (summer 1878), alludes to Horace's aspirations toward eternal things (KSA 8:3[180]); presumably Nietzsche has in mind the aere perennius passage, though the words are not quoted, and the purpose is to contrast Horace (favorably, we may assume) with the focus on the short term that he detects in his contemporaries. Elsewhere in the Nachlass, earlier than any of the comments just mentioned, he compares the "eudämonologische Lehre [happiness-related teachings]" of Schopenhauer (at this period one of his major inspirations) with those of Horace, saying that both are "for experienced men" (KSA 7:28[6]).

Nietzsche's published remarks on Horace, beyond those already mentioned, are relatively few, but they continue this tone and, to some extent, these themes. In AOM 49 he is praised for his psychological shrewdness in recognizing that a hardheaded business orientation and love of the countryside are not incompatible. And in WS 86 he and Montaigne (always a favorite of Nietzsche) are conceived as "forerunners and signposts to an understanding" of the best "guide to morals and reason" to be found. Rather surprisingly, this "guide" turns out to be Socrates, who is said to be far superior for this purpose to the Bible or Jesus; the denigration of Christianity is only to be expected, but Nietzsche is normally quite ambivalent about Socrates throughout his career, sometimes associating him closely with Christian attitudes. Nonetheless, there is no mistaking his high ranking of Socrates here, and Horace's role as a pointer toward Socrates is a very considerable honor.

In D 71 we find another reference to "frivolity" in Horace. Here the frivolity of his writing is said to be one possible escape from the weariness brought on by the spectacle of the seemingly eternal expansion and consolidation of the Roman Empire—a spectacle on which, as we saw earlier, Nietzsche sees Christianity as eventually taking revenge. As I mentioned, the Horatian phrase 'aere perennius' is used in this passage to characterize the empire; it is somewhat ironic, then, that Horace himself is introduced as providing a form of relief from the empire's relentless progress. It follows, too, that the frivolity here attributed to Horace is different from the "frivolous tolerance" attributed to the Romans in general toward any matters of deep faith (BGE 46); Horace's frivolity is directed toward something of central importance to Rome itself. In GS, however, Horace is closer to the Roman mainstream; his and other Romans' activity of translating—but in the process also appropriating—Greek authors is assimilated to the conquest of other countries that occurred with [End Page 25] the growth of the Roman Empire (GS 83; cf. KSA 9:10[B23]). Finally, in a fit of self-aggrandizement in EH, Nietzsche says that people should read his own books "the way good old philologists read their Horace" (EH "Books" 5); Horace is clearly being singled out as someone who deserves careful and detailed study—and this fits with the admiration that, with the one early exception we noted above, Nietzsche expresses toward both the form and the content of Horace's writing.34 As we saw, the Horatian style celebrated in the TI passage is thought of as quintessentially Roman, and that is something echoed only to a limited degree in Nietzsche's other remarks on Horace; but the approval of Horace is consistent through almost all his writings—more consistent, in fact, than his approval of Rome itself.

I mentioned in first discussing the TI passage that there was a passage in the Nachlass that clearly foreshadowed it (KSA 13:24[1].7). Here again Horace, along with Sallust, is characterized as embodying Roman style par excellence. But here, unlike in the eventual passage in TI, a third Roman author is mentioned, Petronius; Petronius is not himself described as quintessentially Roman, but he appears as a third Roman whom Nietzsche finds especially congenial. Elsewhere, too, Nietzsche mentions approvingly the combination of toughness and delicacy in both Petronius and Horace (KSA 11:34[80]). Petronius is my last case study in this section, and he is a very interesting one.

Petronius is unusual in appearing only in the last five years of Nietzsche's writings, both published and unpublished. He appears only twice in the published works. In BGE 28 he is described as "a master of presto in invention, ideas, and words" (and therefore untranslatable into German); Nietzsche adds that this swiftness in his writing "makes everything healthy by making everything run"—including "the swamps of the sick, wicked world, even the 'ancient world.'" Nietzsche is clearly thinking of the frequent scenes of debauchery in Petronius's Satyricon, and the case he constructs is clearly designed to be provocative; but the notion of a form of health in Petronius also appears in the other published passage, A 46. Here Petronius is set against the New Testament. "Every book," Nietzsche says, "becomes clean if one has just read the New Testament" (specifically Paul); and Petronius is then cited as an example. Again the assumption is clearly that this is the last author whose work one would expect to be described as clean. But again, instead of conceding something to standard expectations and arguing that compared with the New Testament even Petronius seems clean, he embraces Petronius as "that sweetest and most high-spirited of all mockers" and describes him as "immortally healthy, immortally cheerful and well-constituted."

In the unpublished writings of the same period (1884-88) Petronius appears no less than fourteen times, with a particular concentration toward the end; the tone is uniformly complimentary, and the reasons are precisely as one would expect from these two published passages. He is called the writer with the [End Page 26] fastest tempo of anyone and therefore not lüstern—I think "pornographic" or "obscene" would convey the sense; he is just too lighthearted for that (KSA 11:34[102]). His presto and lightness of touch are also connected with the absence of any God, of any sense of the eternal, or of anything "Lüstern-Heiliges" (11:26[427]). This compound coinage is hard to translate ("obscenely holy," perhaps?), but Nietzsche is obviously transferring the negative connotations of the term 'lüstern' onto the religious sensibilities he despises and declaring Petronius free of any such stigma. The idea of reading Petronius as a restorative immediately after the New Testament, especially Saint Paul, reappears several times (KSA 12:10[69], 12:10[93], 13:24[1].7); the same goes for the Church Fathers (13:15[104]). His book is called "heathen" (Nietzsche's emphasis); absolutely everything in it is sinful according to a Christian perspective. And yet, by comparison, the New Testament comes out as a symptom of declining culture and corruption, whereas it is Petronius's book that smacks of freedom, power, and a sense of the future (KSA 12:9[143]). Petronius is described as "innocent," and by comparison Christ has "once and for all" lost any claim to innocence (KSA 12:10[193]). In more contemporary comparisons, he also appears alongside Offenbach and more generally the Paris of Nietzsche's day, as well as the poet and essayist Heinrich Heine (KSA 13:18[3], 13:22[26]);35 and Baudelaire is quoted as reacting against Petronius for his "terrifiantes impuretés," to which Nietzsche caustically appends, "Nonsense: but symptomatic" (KSA 13:11[163]). Finally, he appears together with the New Testament in a chapter title (KSA 13:12[1].96), and then by himself in another chapter title in the middle of others having to do with Christianity (KSA 13:12[1].213), in a lengthy table of contents for a planned multivolume work—presumably Revaluation of All Values, the work Nietzsche projected at the end of his career but never wrote; from the other remarks we have just examined, it is not hard to guess the kind of thing that these chapters would have contained.

The level of Nietzsche's enthusiasm for Petronius seems to be unmatched; no other Roman author receives such a consistent and emphatic endorsement. No doubt this is at least partly due to the fact that his comments on Petronius are all concentrated in a narrow time period and all have to do with the same small cluster of topics. But it is still remarkable, seeing that with the exception of Horace, no other Roman author seems to excite his interest to any notable degree. It looks as if Nietzsche has discovered in Petronius a perfect foil for all that he hates about Christianity; and as that hatred becomes more and more outspoken in the late works, so his approval of Petronius becomes stronger and stronger. In view of this, one wonders why he mentions him so seldom in the published works. Perhaps, despite his love of the provocative, Nietzsche is himself not immune to the sense that Petronius is too scandalous an author to express approval of in any extended way. Or perhaps he thought, not unreasonably, that the essential [End Page 27] points in his conception of Petronius's significance were adequately made in the two published passages; perhaps, too, he was saving a more detailed discussion for his future work, Revaluation of All Values. In any case, if one were to ask who was Nietzsche's favorite Roman author, the two clear contenders would be Horace and Petronius; and if one were to restrict the question to Nietzsche's last few years of sanity, a strong case could be made for treating Petronius as the winner. As for whether his admiration for Petronius is related to his admiration in the late works for Rome in general, there is clearly some connection. Petronius is admired for the aspects of his writing that are, as Nietzsche sees it, the diametrical opposite of Christianity; and Rome itself, especially in the late works, is treated as the society that most prominently embodies an anti-Christian outlook—and which Christianity, as a historical matter, fought and eventually destroyed. More specifically, if Roman culture had a frivolous attitude toward matters of religious commitment (again see BGE 46), Petronius might well qualify as an extreme case of this kind of frivolity; to return to a point introduced a few pages ago, in this respect Petronius's frivolity is more typically Roman than Horace's. However, it is also fair to say that Petronius could hardly serve, for Nietzsche or for anyone else, as a model Roman tout court; from the point of view of empire-building, or for any activity that might aspire to earn the label 'aere perennius,' Petronius is clearly unsuitable material. While he is very much in line with general Roman mores in not taking seriously any outlook resembling Christianity, the trouble is that he does not take anything else seriously either. For the purposes for which Nietzsche introduces him this is not a problem; but it does mean that the fit between his portrait of Petronius and his portrait of Roman culture as a whole is bound to be only a partial one.

The results of this survey have been somewhat scattered. However, Nietzsche does not pretend to be a systematic thinker, and if no single consistent picture emerges from his remarks about Rome and individual Romans, that is hardly unusual for him. An account of his thoughts on this topic may still be helpful toward an understanding of his philosophy more generally, and I hope to have shown, in a number of instances at least, that this is the case. And so, even though Nietzsche's ideas about the Romans are clearly a less prominent aspect of his work than his ideas about the Greeks, they still deserve some place in a volume on Nietzsche and antiquity. [End Page 28]
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PostSubject: Re: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:24 pm

Spengler described the Romans as a Civilization and the Hellenes as a Culture.
For him a civilization was the end-stage of a culture.

Taking a cue form your comment of fertilization and begetting, I consider the Hellenes a balance, a harmony, of the masculine and the feminine spirit.
They were fertilized by many cultures around the Mediterranean basin, and they gave birth to the greatness that they were.
Here we see how the environment participates in the development of a people, as a culture is the (inter)action of a population with the environment. If it were not for the relative inhospitability of the Greek peninsula and its access to the sea, then the Hellenes would never have developed from a nomadic tribal state to what they became.

The Romans inherited this masculine/feminine past, and they flexed it in true masculine fashion.
They were the baby boy birthed by this masculine/feminine fertilization, represented by the Athenian and the Spartan ways of life.
But lacking this balance, to the extent that the source had it, it could not develop beyond its premises.
All the Romans could do was what all males do: fertilize other cultures with their inheritance, their mimetic heritage, and expand the domain of its control.

In the Hellenes we see the true spirit of masculinity.
It is not the denial or rejection of the is its dominance and its total acceptance.
To be male is to be in control over the feminine inside of you.

And what is the feminine?
Nature....increasing entropy, surrender to the attraction towards the absolute, the ordered.

γνῶθι σεαυτόν
μηδέν άγαν
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PostSubject: Re: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:27 pm


With reg. to Petronius, you miss the reference he makes comparing him to Cesare Borgia [BGE]. The bigger point being every suffering, infliction of cruelty, everything evil and heavy is made light by the satyrist; to dominate as the Romans did, means dominating effortlessly - almost like play - possessing all the "seriousness of a child". No heaving, no struggle.

Nietzsche was a Greek. He affirmed the Greek Tragic View as the core of his own nature and philosophy. Romanism was putting the Greek into practise. Retying the "Alexandrian knot" [BOT] and all that post-Socratism.

With Romanism, one recovered the meaning of "Virtus"; what it means to be Man and Master - putting Greek aesthetics into action.

I recommend you read pg. 50 in the link below; this book as a whole is wonderful:
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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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PostSubject: Re: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Sun Nov 16, 2014 3:11 pm

perpetualburn wrote:
Quote :
Quote :
It was, says Nietzsche, ‘the people of the tragic mysteries’ who fought the Persians and then needed tragedy to recover. But the Persians were opposed by other Greeks besides, including the allegedly ultra-Apolline Spartans, who, without benefit of regular doses of ‘tragic mysteries’ nevertheless performed on the field of battle with equal distinction and recovered with no less ease.

- "Nietzsche on Tragedy" - By M. S. Silk

Why didn't the Spartans need tragedy like other Greeks? Is it a matter of extreme physical conditioning from an early age and a community that is perpetually reinforcing warrior values that makes tragedy less necessary for "healing."... Were their festivals enough for this?

Also is Nietzsche really indifferent to Sparta?

“As a whole their state [the Spartan – THB] is a caricature of a city-state and the ruin of Hellas. The bringing forth of the complete Spartan – but what sort of greatness does he represent when it requires such a brutal state to create him!”

“To be a philhellene means to be the enemy of raw power and muddled thinking. Sparta was the ruin of Hellas in the sense that it forced Athens into a league of city-states and to concern itself exclusively with politics” - Quotes of Nietzsche found in "Nietzsche, Power and Politics: Rethinking Nietzsche's Legacy for Political Thought"

The following article doesn't answer my questions but examines the different takes on cruelty between Hellas and Rome.

Quote :

Romans, Greeks, and Barbarians

At various points in his narrative, Dionysius draws on the dichotomy of Hellenes and barbarians which has been crucial in shaping Greek ethnography, historiography, and indeed Greek discourse on the Other in general. To describe Roman culture, however, traditional Greek barbarology fails to provide an apt framework. This failure, to my mind, is instructive of Dionysius’ conception of Hellenism and Romanness. I will use a fragment of the fourteenth book of his Roman Antiquities (14.6) as a test case to show how complex a system of differences and similarities Dionysius sets up between Rome and Hellas, and how he thereby transcends traditional Greek conceptions of the Own and the Other.

The short text of 14.6 forms part of the last books of the Antiquities , which are extant only in late excerpts.[5] Consequently, it is difficult to reconstruct its precise context. The general outline of books 13 to 15 is as follows: Dionysius gives his account of the turmoils of the Latin Wars, the threat to the Romans posed by the Gallic invasion, and eventually their humiliation when Rome is sacked.

In the now-lost context leading up to chapter 14.6, Dionysius must have related that the fortunes of war have changed in favor of the Roman army. When the first battles are won, the Romans find Tusculan troops among their prisoners of war.[6] As Tusculum at the time was a Roman ally, the question arises of how the treachery of the Tusculans is to be avenged. At this point in the narrative, our text begins: Dionysius relates with amazement that the Roman Senate, in spite of the offense, not only decides to grant amnesty, but decrees that all Tusculans shall be given full Roman citizenship. He seeks to explain this remarkable conduct of Rome’s senate.

Τhe chapter is transmitted in the section “On vice and virtue” ( Περὶ ἀρετῆς καὶ κακίας ) of a historiographical encyclopaedia assembled in tenth-century Byzantium.[7] The Byzantine editor introduces Dionysius’ text as a prime example of the Romans’ magnanimity ( Ὅτι οἱ Ῥωμαῖοι μεγαλοπρεπεῖς ). And indeed, for Dionysius it is their noble character that prevents the Romans from indulging in short-sighted anger and impulsive decisions. Rather, they pardon short-lived offenses by former friends and allies.

In his reflection Dionysius reworks a major topic of book 13: the attitude of the victorious party towards the defeated. When occupying the city of Rome, the Gauls offered to withdraw if a ransom was paid. When the Romans agreed to the payment, the Gauls manipulated the scales. When a Roman official complains, he is derided by the Gallic chieftain with the words “woe to the defeated!” ( Antiquitates 13.9.2: ὀδύνη τοῖς κεκρατημένοις ). This arrogance, of course, does not become the Gauls, who are soon to be crushed by the Romans.
The contrast between the Romans’ gallant behaviour and the crude arrogance of the Gauls adds to Dionysius’ negative depiction of the latter. His account of their nature is a proper barbarology.[8] In 14.8, for instance, Dionysius indulges in a veritable catalogue of barbaric chracteristics: the Celts munch greedily, drink unmixed wine, sleep unduly, lay out in the shadow, become chubby and languid, and eventually effeminate.[9] These long-established stereotypes of the “alien” and “barbarian” form the background against which Dionysius portrays the Roman behaviour. Unlike the self-assured Gauls, the Romans show mercy towards the defeated enemy.
t is, however, noteworthy that with the assertion of the Senate’s clemency in 14.6, Dionysius sets off a chain of comparisons. In a first step, he states that the Senate’s high morality is unparalleled:

“For, whereas nearly all others ( τῶν γὰρ ἄλλων ὀλίγου δεῖν πάντων ) … change their feelings according to the latest developments, … the Romans thought they ought to do just the opposite ( τοὐναντίον ) in the case of their friends and out of gratitude for ancient benefits to give up their resentment over recent causes for complaint.”

Antiquitates Romanae 14.6.1, my emphasis

Nearly all other peoples, we are told, give way to their momentary rage, and thereby act exactly the opposite of the Romans.

In a second step, Dionysius compares Romans and Greeks. Here again, the difference between them is expressed:

“Thereby they took a very different view ( οὐ τὴν αὐτὴν διάνοιαν λαβόντες ) from that held by those who laid claim to the leadership of Greece, whether Athenians or Lacedaemonians—what need is there to mention the other Greeks?”

Antiquitates Romanae 14.6.3–4; my emphasis

Dionysius gives two examples to demonstrate what cruel measures the Greek hegemonial powers, Sparta and Athens, have taken against their enemies: the punitive expedition of Athens against the Samians and the suppression of the Messenian uprising by the Spartans. The massive violence and cruelty of these events prompts a third comparison:

“They treated them with such cruelty and brutality as to equal even the most savage of barbarians ( τοῖς ἀγριωτάτοις τῶν βαρβάρων ) in their mistreatment of peopl e of kindred stock.”

Antiquitates Romanae 14.6.4

Athenians and Spartans are in no way superior even to barbarians. Furthermore, Dionysius emphatically states that these events were by no means exceptional. A thousand other examples ( μυρία τοιαῦτα ), he says, could be quoted.

Dionysius draws on the dichotomy between Hellenes and barbarians, whose topoi and clichés he employs in books 13 and 14, and—and then demolishes it: he abandons the opposition of Greeks and barbarians. What ought to be an exclusive disjunction (you are either Greek or barbarian) is now conceptualised as a spectrum with different degrees and nuances:

“For I would distinguish Greeks from barbarians, not by their name nor on the basis of their speech, but by their intelligence and their predilection for decent behaviour, and particularly by their indulging in no inhuman treatment of one another. All in whose nature these qualities predominated I believe ought to be called Greeks, but those of whom the opposite was true, barbarians.”

Antiquitates Romanae 14.6.5)

This subtle reworking of the traditional dichotomy allows Dionysius to disassociate the notions of the “barbarian” and the “alien.” You are no longer a barbarian just because you are not a Greek. The “noble savage,” so to speak, has found his way into the ethnographical thought of Dionysius—an alien who is different but morally superior.

Still, Dionysius’ conceptual sophistry leaves us in doubt: if the notion of “barbarian” does not denote anything but inhumane behaviour—why, then, does Dionysius in his depiction of the Celts dwell on classical topoi of the barbaric, [10] and not refrain from mentioning, for instance, their inordinate height [11] or their repulsive body odour?[12] More importantly still, the singularity of the Roman behaviour Dionysius initially reports can hardly be reconciled with the thought that they owe their magnanimity to Hellenic civilization. Furthermore, it is remarkable that in the very moment that Dionysius attributes Greek values to Rome, he withdraws the same values from the Greeks themselves. Romans become Greeks, Greeks become barbarians.

Hybrid identities

In a recent study on Polybius, Craige Champion explores the Greek historiographer’s presentation of Roman identity and his attitude towards the Romans.[13] He finds that Polybius’ stance is not constant, but determined by friendliness and affirmation at some times, by distance and rejection at others. Champion challenges the view that this variation can be explained in terms of Polybius’ personal development in the course of his lifetime. On the contrary, Champion understands it as a phenomenon arising from the historical and political circumstances:

“The advanced and accomplished cultures of Greece had to come to terms with the raw fact of political subjection to Rome, while the militaristic Romans … struggled with the appropriate response to Hellenism.… From a Greek perspective, the problem was a politico-cultural one of refashioning the concept of Hellenism to accomodate Roman predominance.”

Champion 2004:3

In Polybius’ case, Champion says, this tension leads to an attitude of “cultural indeterminacy” [14] towards Rome.On the one hand, Polybius embeds the Romans in Greek culture and depicts them as quasi-“honorary Greeks” [15] (“cultural assimilation”); on the other hand, he chastises them as alien and barbaric (“cultural alienation”).

Although the historical and political contexts of Dionysius’ work fundamentally differ from Polybius’, Champion’s notions of assimilation and alienation are apt for the portrayal of Rome in the Roman Antiquities . Dionysius, too, detects insurmountable differences between Rome and Hellas, but struggles to integrate Rome into a Greek set of values. The project of “refashioning the concept of Hellenism” is thus continued.

In chapter 14.6 the Romans are depicted as singular and, indeed, different from all others. Accordingly, they are alienated from Hellas. In the course of the chapter, however, they are drawn near an ideal Hellenism and are, ultimately, assimilated as a prime example of true Hellenic virtue.[16] The Romans are thereby given a position that cannot be described within the dichotomous framework of Hellenism and barbarism. The Romans differ from the Greeks just as much as they differ from the barbarians. Their special position in the discourse of the “Own” and the “Other” is already implicit in the proem of Antiquitates Romanae : in two instances, Dionysius highlights the uniqueness of the Romans by opposing them to the rest of the world. The rest of the world, according to the traditional dichotomy, consists of a Greek and a barbarian half.[17] Tertium datur : Rome is the Other in another way.[18]

To my mind, the indeterminacy at the core of Dionysius’ conceptualisation of Romanness and Hellenism finds an explanation in the specific historical and political context of his writing. This becomes evident if we rephrase our observations within the theoretical framework of postcolonial studies . These analyse the literature and culture of the former colonies of modern European empires, assuming that the colonial powers have not only exerted military and political power on the conquered indigenous peoples but have—far more efficiently and persistently—influenced indigenous culture. Even long after the end of colonial rule, the culture of the former colony is necessarily established and defined through an ongoing confrontation with the erstwhile imperial center. Adoption of and defense against the previously dominant culture conditions the way postcolonial culture and, ultimately, postcolonial identity are defined.[19] In consequence, syncretism and hybridity determine the discourse of identity.

Dionysius’ implicit conceptions of Greco-Roman relations bear similarities to the hybrid-identity discourse in postcolonial societies. However, it is open to dispute to what extent the rule of ancient Rome can be compared to modern-day imperialism.[20] In antiquity, political and military power are not accompanied by cultural supremacy: rather, the Roman state politically subdues a culturally superior adversary. As Horace puts it, both Greece and Rome emerge victorious from their conflict: Graecia capta ferum uictorem cepit ( Epodes 2.1.157).[21] If, however, in antiquity power relations between Greece and Rome are not as clear cut as in the case of modern-day imperialism, postcolonial theory’s insistence on the negotiability of cultural identities is relevant to our understanding of Greek self-assertion. The notion of “hybridity,” central to postcolonial theory, describes the interaction of two cultural systems, and thus denotes the same challenge to binary oppositions which seems to be effective in Dionysius’ text:

Hybridity can become a term not for the mixing of once separate and self-contained cultural traditions, but rather for the recognition of the fact that all culture is an arena of struggle, where the self is played off against the purportedly other , and in which the attempts of the dominant culture to close and patrol its hegemonic account are threatened by the return of minority stories and histories, and by strategies of appropriation and revaluation.”

Further negotiations

Returning to our point of departure, chapter 14.6, I would like to suggest that here Greek and Roman identities are negotiated on yet another level: significantly, the question of Romanness and Hellenism arises when Dionysius discusses leniency towards the vanquished enemy. In Augustan Rome, the concept of clemency came to be of major importance and was promoted as a central Roman virtue.[22] Julius Caesar’s clemency towards former enemies and adversaries was already proverbial. Coins bearing the words clementia Caesaris were minted, and a temple for Caesar and the personified Clementia was, if not actually built and dedicated, at the least planned and discussed.[23] His son and successor Octavian was given the honorary name of Augustus for his merits in putting an end to a century of civil wars. At the same time, Augustus was granted an honorary shield. As he says ex persona propria , his four main virtues were inscribed on it: valour, justice, piety, and clemency:

“A golden shield was set up in the Julian senate house; through an inscription on this shield the fact was declared that the Roman senate and people were giving it to me because of my valour, clemency ( clementia ), justice, and piety.”

Augustus Deeds 34 n.24

In Virgil’s Aeneid , arguably the most influential text advocating the new Augustan Romanness, clementia again takes center stage. Aeneas descends to the underworld, where his father Anchises prophesies to him the future of his people. At the same time, he puts into words the political mission of the Roman people (interestingly, he does so by differentiating it from the cultural achievements of Hellas):

“Others will hammer out bronzes that breathe in more lifelike and gentler
Ways, I suspect, create truer expressions of life out of marble,
Make better speeches, or plot, with the sweep of their compass, the heaven’s
Movements, predict the ascent of the sky’s constellations. Well, let them!
You, who are Roman, recall how to govern mankind with your power.
These will be your special “Arts”: the enforcement of peace as a habit,
Mercy for those cast down and relentless war upon proud men.…
Aeneid 6.847-853; my emphasis n.25”

In Dionysius’ account of the Gallic invasion, the Romans do just that: the vanquished are spared, but the superb enemy is ardently fought, and ultimately defeated. Dionysius therefore picks up a central ideologeme of Augustan Rome and reformulates it as a Hellenic virtue.[26]

Dionysius’ depiction of Rome is more complex than one would expect from the seemingly simple assertion of Rome’s Greek origins. Rather, the Roman Antiquities can be read as a document revealing how both Roman and Greek culture engage in constant self-assertion and an ongoing struggle to redefine themselves and their mutual relations.[27] The Greek historiographer experiences Rome as “das nächste Fremde,” [28] an alien culture in which he recognises—and seeks to recognise—his own.

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PostSubject: Re: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Thu May 28, 2015 10:25 pm

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In another posthumously published fragment, he deplores a lost historical opportunity: “It would have been much more fortunate had the Persians become masters (Herr) of the Greeks, rather than have the Romans of all people [gerade die Römer] assume that role” (Sämtliche Werke, VIII, p. 65).

Quote :
Nietzsche made several references to “Zoroaster” in his early writings. This familiar name in European languages, of Greek origin, was used in his notebooks of 1870-71, about a decade before writing Also Sprach Zarathustra. There he speaks with great admiration of Zoroaster and his religion and, in a short note, as elsewhere (see above), implicitly expresses his sympathy for the historically not improbable possibility that Zoroastrianism could have well triumphed in ancient Greece: “Zoroaster’s religion would have prevailed in Greece, if Darius had not been defeated.” (Sämtliche Werke, VII, p. 106). Also in his posthumously published work of the same period, Die Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen (Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks), he refers to the probable influence of Zoroaster on Heraclitus (Sämtliche Werke, I, p. 806; English tr. P. 29)

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PostSubject: Re: Nietzsche: Greek or Roman? Thu Jul 16, 2015 2:34 pm

He had a "tolerant taste" for both, but was partial to Roman style, while he was reverent of Greek:

Nietzsche wrote:
To the Greeks I do not by any means owe similarly strong impressions; and--to come right out with it--they cannot mean as much to us as the Romans. One does not learn from the Greeks--their manner is too foreign, and too fluid, to have an imperative, a "classical" effect. Who could ever have learned to write from a Greek? Who could ever have learned it without the Romans?
[TI, What I Owe to the Ancients]
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