The culture in its origins

 

                                                 Author:  Susana Rillo

                                                                         English version by: Isabel Rillo

 

The first communities were based on small groups which shared common customs and necessities. They should be together to be protected both from nature as from enemies; this union made them stronger for their subsistence and in the defence of their territory.

    

These first communities, were being developed, more individuals made them up, they needed a leader to be guided. With the time and according to the customs and experience, laws and codes started to be written to rule those customs and those human behaviours, in coexistence, both in times of peace as of war, when they were attacked by other communities or by isolated individuals with intentions to plunder or to damage common possessions or objects.

 

Courts and judges were also necessary to ensure that the rules are upheld, enforcing them and judging the issues fairly. Thus surged the first law: a series of codes to govern behaviour, morals and society customs, in order not to damage others neither to suffer damage.

 

From all these human relationships and from the same coexistence, the essence of man appears and is projected, his human nature, his beliefs, his divine dimension. In this way, man’s spirituality, that was primitively only a protection necessity, began to flow from him to communicate with others and, at the same time, to help and be protected. We find the epic stage of communities that now are nations, those heroes that defended them from their enemies, giving everything, even the life; Gods to worship, to receive protection and help. People were beginning to sound the mystery of immortality, the idea of time and conclusion, the pure and selfless spirit that lives for ever, the concept of eternity: the soul.

 

The elements are already given for songs and poetry; and later, with epic and heroic stories, commendation to the gods, narrations and novels are created. The letters were born, filling the necessity of men and women to communicate their spirituality, show their emotions and share them with others. This elevates their intelligence and gives them pleasure, widening communication with peoples ever more far away, in war and peace times.

 

Culture has been launched and each society leaves its traces through their different written expressions, which are going ever more complex due to the human evolution.

 

 

 

(A Babylonian kudurru is to be seen in the Spanish version:

 it is a landmark situated at the entrance to a private land, on which are written menaces to whom allows himself to pass across.)

 

 

 

 

"Poetry is the only evidence of the existence of man on the earth"

Luis Cardoza y Aragon. Colombian poet (1947)

 

 

Letters at the origin of our Christian Era

 

Pliny the Elder

In Rome, year 23 of our era, was born, in Novum Comum (now Como Italy), Gaius Plinius Secundus: Pliny the Elder. He was a Latin polygraph who died accidentally in the year 79. He studied in Rome and joined the army when he was 22 years old, to fight in Germany. Thus was how he travelled the northern countries and gathered details for his Romans’ war History, one of his first books.

 

He was Proconsul in Spain and Titus appointed him chief of the Roman fleet to watch over the western Mediterranean sea, where he witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii in the year 79.  He helped the crowd running towards the sea in panic and died drowned by the sulphurous emanations of the volcano.

 

Many of his writings have reached our days thanks to his nephew Pliny the Younger, who rescued his passion for knowledge.

 

His most important work was Historia Naturalis made up by 37 books that refer to different matters:  Geography, Cosmology, animal and vegetable,  Physiology, Medicine, History of Art, Mineralogy, etc. … It is an encyclopaedic work, written in common but rich language, in which Pliny the Old tried to gather the whole knowledge of the ancient world, being in this way, the most distant antecedent of our Era.  Although it is a work plagued of errors for the scarce scientific knowledge of the time, it was, until the Middle Age, almost the only authority in medicine.  His books also contained moral advice inducing to avoid excessive luxury and bad habits.

 

(In the Spanish version, you can see an illustration of his encyclopaedia: Historia Naturalis)

 

 

Pliny the Younger

In the year 63, also in Novum Cumum (Como, Italy), Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus was born; and known as Pliny the Younger.

 

When he was only 8 years old, he lost his parents and remained under the tutelage of a general of the Roman Army. But later, he was adopted by his uncle, Pliny the Elder, who sent him to study in Rome with professors like Quintiliano and Nicetes Sacerdos. He started studying Law when he was 19 years old. He got fame for his intelligence and was promoted to administrative, civil and military official positions in the Empire.

 

He was priest of the Emperor, in the year 81, then a civil judge; military tribune in Syria, where he met the philosophers Artemidôros and Euphratês; later, chivalry squadron chief and urban praetor between 89 and 90.  He was also a court member of the common people in 91, praetor in 93, first prefect of the Army’s finance and of the temple of Saturn;  then consul in 100.   He entered the school of Augueres by choice, was supervisor in the Tiber and ambassador in the Empire of Bithynia (Turkey); where, it is supposed, he died in the year 113.

 

In his career, it can be said, he took charge of all the public but important positions of Rome. From his letters a moderate spirit comes off, in one of them which was addressed to the Emperor Trajan, he asks him which his behaviour with the Christian people should be. Until then all those that didn't reject Christianity   had been condemned and the same happened to those who refused to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. Trajan’s answer was to be more indulgent and not to keep in mind the anonymous accusations.

 

Pliny married three times but he didn't have any children and only felt love for Calpurnia, his third wife.

 

He had many possessions and some villas in his hometown, in Italy.  He called one of them "Tragedy"; and another, "Comedy."

 

He was also known by his oratorical ability, and because he was follower of Cicero; but with a less grandiloquent prose than him.

 

He is famous for his Panegyricus to Trajan, where he defines him as the perfect emperor. This is a valuable document to know the works of Trajan and his actions in the administrative field: taxes, justice, military disciplines and trade.

 

His    letters    are    the   unique   testimony   of   ordinary

administration in the first century; his style is very different to that of the Panegyricus, some critics affirm that he is the inventor of  a new gender:  The letter written to be published.

 

In his first letters, he describes the eruption of the mount Vesuvius and his uncle's death: Pliny the Elder. To his honour, these eruptions are called “plinians”. These letters are addressed to his friend Tacitus, who was one of the big Roman historians. Others, directed to Septic Clear, are practically poems with topics of the time.

 

He cultivated an interesting and intelligent prose.

 

In his writings he left a vivid portrait of the imperial Rome. The Epistulae appeared after their death.          

 

 

(A photography of the Vesuvio taken during the eruption of 1872, is to be seen in the Spanish version)

 

   

Roman Emperor Trajan (98 – 117)

 

 

 

Poetry as a choice

 

This approach to the origins of our culture and its various expressions, led me to search also the beginnings of poetry, which is and has been my choice to express myself.

 

 

Poetry:

 

The oldest way of creation in literature.

Word derived from the Greek verb “paieo” that means to create.

 

Poetry is a deliberate deviation of the common language.

 

Meter and rhythm usually determine the different types of verses used in the poetic literature of each language.

 

The method used in poetry is unalterable if one doesn't want  to  lose  the  totality  of  the  context ;   that  is  why translation from a language to another is so difficult.  To write poems is an individual and creative act, which is based in the bottom of the poetic tradition and the language used to communicate in the different epochs.

 

Rhythm is the most important value of the verse, to which other formal elements are linked, as for example the rhyme, alliteration or repetition. These effects vary from one language to another.

 

The rhyme is a rather modern resource which arose in the Middle Age and came from the use of alliteration.

 

In the XIX century, the free verse started to be used by Walt Whitman, as it is thought.  This kind of verse is not subjected to traditional additional metric. It is a more flexible way to express what the poet is feeling, for the absence of regulations.

 

A fundamental poetry  resource is to cause weirdness; this may be achieved by the use of metaphor,  metonymy that changes the meaning of a word; and mainly the author's inspiration to express or suggest his/her intimate and personal vision. It is proved that poetry is previous to the prose, which is centred in the content.

 

In poetry, the form prevails to the essence and its main objective is to achieve beauty. It is an art more approximate   to   painting,    an   acoustic   bridge  of  the

pictorial or sculptural art. We must bear in mind that the poetry in its beginnings was sung.

 

Ancient Greeks classified the poetry into lyrical, epic and dramatic; which can still be accepted.

 

The lyrical one was sung in its origins.

 

The popular poetry is the oldest.

 

The epic poetry, which is also very old, sings the deeds of a hero or town.

 

The dramatic poetry begins with representations written in verse during a long time, inspired in human passions.

 

Lucrecio, a Roman poet from the first century before the Christian era, developed the didactic poetry: a derivation of the epic one that was used to expose beautifully, scientific, philosophical or religious matters. Besides: fables, riddles and proverbs are inside this didactic poetry.

 

We also include here the maxims of  Pliny the Younger

who was considered the first poet of the Christian Era:

 

“Serve a hundred times, deny once, and nobody will remember anything but your deny"

 

“There is not a book so bad of which you cannot take something good out"

 

“Practising is an exceptional teacher”

 

“The desire of things diminishes when they are too easy to reach”

 

“The happier the moments are, the sooner they go by”

 

“Read a lot but not too many things”

 

"Habits are the most effective teacher"

 

"Most of the human errors that man suffers come from the man himself”

                                                                                                     

Pliny the Younger

 

 

"The poetry carries our dreams"

 

 

Endless

 

Contingencies are endless for the man,

they cannot be embraced on this planet:

Technology, communications, modern times,

greater rapidity, simultaneity cannot help.

What man performs, what man does not perform.

Interests, errors, helplessness, arrogance.

Saviours and kamikazes.

Those who immolate themselves,

those who take advantage from others.

Those who negotiate, those who resign.

Those who help, those who don’t help.

Those who profit from others then disappear.

Blinds, visionaries, philosophers.

Those who do not think but speak.

Those who propose impossible aims

and are believed by careless, deceived,

crazy people from every time.

Those who dream and wait,

those who leave, those who stay.

The eternal complication, this eternal subtle waft,

would never be embraced by a human mind

unable to understand the divine plan,

that eternal stream of the universe under another sun,

 under another time, under another wait:

The humanity.

 

 

Susana Rillo