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Niccoló Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian political thinker and historical figure he is best remembered for his masterpiece, The Prince (written in 1513, but published posthumously in 1532). Main theme is that all means may be used in order to maintain authority. Naturally a superficial mind can conclude from reading the book that maintenance of authority must necessarily base upon pragmatism and in following it to its conclusion would necessarily mean exercise of bad faith or duplicity and cunning hidden away by a veneer of civility. Political realism has a clear mandate based on a geographical entity like Florence or Milan, whereas political idealism can only be consigned to an Utopia, whether it is of More or of VI Lenin. Political realism of Joseph Stalin managed to secure his own survival at the cost of Worker’s Paradise envisaged by Lenin. By delinking the political realism of Machiavelli from his times, and use it as a general principle is as erroneous as judging him by the book. One only needs to read another work of his say Mandrangola (1518) to understand my point.


The Prince was held responsible for French political corruption and for widespread contribution to any number of political and moral vices. Gentillet’s interpretation of The Prince as advocating statecraft by ruthlessness and amoral duplicity was disseminated throughout Britain through the works of such popular, highly influential dramatists as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. In the Prologue to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta (1589?), Machevilli addresses the audience at length, at one point encapsulating the Elizabethan perception of Machiavelli by saying, “I count religion but a childish toy, / And hold there is no sin but ignorance.” Here and in the works of Marlowe’s contemporaries, Machiavelli was depicted as an agent of all that Protestant England despised in Catholic, High- Renaissance Italy. Ironically The Prince was condemned by the Pope for its clear eyed look at the political jockeying that went on in Florence at that time. Hostile English interpreters so effectively typified Machiavelli as an amalgam of various evils, which they described with the still-used term ” Machiavellian,” that fact and fabrication still coexist today.
Seldom has a single work generated such divergent and fierce commentary from such a wide assortment of writers. Commenting on Machiavelli’s colorful critical heritage, T. S. Eliot has remarked that no great man has been so completely misunderstood.
Niccolo Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469, in Florence, Italy. His father, Bernardo belonged to an impoverished branch of an influential old Florentine family. Bernardo was a lawyer and he had a small personal library that included books by Greek and Roman philosophers and volumes of Italian history. Bernardo died in 1500, Machiavelli’s mother, Bartolomea de’ Nelli, had died in 1496.
As a thinker Machiavelli belonged to an entire school of Florentine intellectuals concerned with an examination of political and historical problems. His important writings were composed after 1512 when he was accused of conspiracy in 1513. The Medici family had returned to power and had ended the Florentine Republic. Lorenzo de’ Medici fired Machiavelli who had held the office of Secretary under the previous government. He was suspected of plotting against the Medici, jailed, even tortured, and exiled. Machiavelli found himself unemployed after years of patriotic service, and spent most of his remaining years in producing his major works. He achieved some fame as a historian and playwright, but with The Prince he hoped to regain political favor. It tells how to gain, maintain, and centralize power.
In 1519 Machiavelli was partly reconciled with the Medici and he was given various duties, including writing a history of Florence. When the Medici was deposed in 1527 Machiavelli hoped for a new government post. However, now the republican government distrusted him for his previous association with the Medici.
Machiavelli’s political writings became more widely known in the second half of the 16th century. When considered dangerous, they were placed in 1564 on the Church Index of officially banned books. Machiavelli’s best known works are Discorsi Sopra La Prima Deca Di Tito Livio (1531, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius) The Mandrake(1528) a satirical play and From 1521 to 1525, Machiavelli was employed as a historiographer. Niccolo Machiavelli died in Florence on June 21, 1527.
benny

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Captain Francesco Schettino went to the sea having heard the call ‘join the Navy and see the world.’ He did not bargain for perils at sea or the duties of the host at whose table he had to perform the role of a hardbitten sea dog,- for women love anything in uniform and he was larger than life outdrinking all. During any sea voyage passengers will feel pride to be invited to the Captain’s table and eat. The captain made them all wonder at his stomach for drink and tall tales. Only when he was asked to perform a simple task of steering past the rocks trouble erupted. Like Conrad’s Lord Jim he failed his peers, crew, passengers and himself. In a way I pity him. Even if he escapes prison he will have hell of a job to make good of this single act of behaving like a poltroon.
It is hell of an act to top the other and live at peace with himself for the rest of his life.
Italy as recent events would show is seen like an opera buffa to which Sylvio Berlusconi will be seen in history as the godfather. Captain Francesco Schettino is a natural heir to his legacy.
benny

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Dante Alighieri. (Florence 1265 – Ravenna 1321).

In the Pen Portrait series posted here the practise has been to give the year of birth and death. But in this case I have supplied the place names to indicate the turbulent times this sublime poet lived. It was his lot to wander from place to place and die in an altogether city than his place of birth.
Dante was not a troublesome meddler but a man of passion and his single work Divine Comedy holds much more merit than all those petty political ideas the Italian factions of the medieval period dabbled in. Dante is one of the greatest poets in the Italian language; with the comic story-teller Boccaccio and the poet Petrarch, he forms the classic trio of Italian authors. Dante Alighieri was born in the city-state Florence in 1265.
However, only little is known about his life.

While in Bologna in 1285 he produced his first important work, “La vita nuova” (“New Life”), which is the finest example of Dolce Stil Nuovo, a contemporary Florentine poetic style written in Volgare, the colloquial dialect. Due to the force of his language and his lyrical intensity, it is an important example of European poetry. 
From 1285 until 1301, Dante is documented to have held various political offices in his hometown of Florence, though he was banned in 1302. He spent the rest of his life in exile. Around 1307, Dante began work on his epic masterpiece “La divina Commedia” (“The Divine Comedy”), which he finished in 1321, shortly before his death. With images of high density, the poem describes the journey of the first person narrator through hell (L’inferno), purgatory (Il purgatorio), and paradise (Il paradiso), during which he meets the souls of long dead mythological and historical figures.
This amazing work, which can only be read and understood with extensive knowledge of the political, scientific, and philosophical discours of Dante’s time, can be interpreted in accordance with the medieval teaching of the fourfold exegesis, the literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogic (mystical allusions to heaven and the afterlife.)
Notably, he was one of the first authors to write in the vernacular Tuscan, rather than Latin, and thus had a defining effect on what Italian is today: before his work, Italian was usually only spoken, and hence was divided into many different dialects, without a coherent literary language. Dante used the melodic vowel word-endings of many Italian words in the rhyme scheme “terza rime,” in which first and the third lines of each triplet end in the same vowel sound.
His Poetic Muse
Petrarch had his inspiration in Laura and Dante owed much of his creative dynamics to Beatrice in the il Paradiso.
He first saw the woman, or rather the child, who was to become the poetic love of his life when he was almost nine years old and she was some months younger. In fact, Beatrice married another man, Simone di’ Bardi, and died when Dante was 25, so their relationship existed almost entirely in Dante’s imagination, but she nonetheless plays an extremely important role in his poetry. Dante attributed all the heavenly virtues to her soul and imagined, in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, that she was his guardian angel who alternately berated and encouraged him on his search for salvation.
Italian Politics.
Politics as well as love deeply influenced Dante’s literary and emotional life. Renaissance Florence was a thriving, but not a peaceful city: different opposing factions continually struggled for dominance there. The Guelfs and the Ghibellines were the two major factions, and in fact that division was important in all of Italy and other countries as well. The Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor were political rivals for much of this time period, and in general the Guelfs were in favor of the Pope, while the Ghibellines supported Imperial power. By 1289 in the battle of Campaldino the Ghibellines largely disappeared from Florence. Peace, however, did not ensue. Instead, the Guelf party divided between the Whites and the Blacks (Dante was a White Guelf). The Whites were more opposed to Papal power than the Blacks, and tended to favor the emperor, so in fact the preoccupations of the White Guelfs were much like those of the defeated Ghibellines. In this divisive atmosphere Dante rose to a position of leadership. in 1302, while he was in Rome on a diplomatic mission to the Pope, the Blacks in Florence seized power with the help of the French (and pro-Pope) Charles of Valois. The Blacks exiled Dante, confiscating his goods and condemning him to be burned if he should return to Florence.(Ack: http://www.alighieri-dante.com, www.http://www.gradesaver.com/author/dante-alighieri)
benny

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The Porta San Paolo is one of the southern gates in the 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy. (ack:wikipedia)

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Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988)
Motor car manufacturer

Racing Ferraris are bright red synonymous with indifference to death. Born in Modena ,Ferrari was able to ride by the time he was 13, grew up to have a more profound effect on sporty glamoros high performance automobiles than any of his contemporaries.During the WWI he shod horses for the cavalry and later became a racing driver. In the early he moved to the famous Alfa Romeo where took over the running of the racing. In 1929 Alfa Romeo withdrew from the sport. Ferrari formed his legendary ‘feuderia Ferarri’ as a small autonomous division of Alfa Romeo. The prancing horse symbol carried proudly since 29 in all Ferrari cars, was presented to him by the parents of Francesco Baracca, Italy’s WWI ace pilot. After the WWII he moved his factory to Maranello and produced the first in the line of his world class cars. Ferrari, the Napoleon of of the sport became enigmatic recluse as he came to be known to the world, after the death of his son His single minded obsession with cars and energies put into his car synonymous with sport and class makes him a legend to the racing car enthusiasts.
benny
benny

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