Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Differences between Aphrodite and Venus – Part I – The Beginning

Aphrodite and Venus... the only good excuse Renaissance artists had for depicting naked females. But I must say, not my favorite goddesses from the bunch – I'll tell you why some other time. For now, let me get to the differences between Aphrodite and Venus – a long overdue piece.

Before Aphrodite and before Venus there was an Etruscan goddess called Turan – a young girl with wings, believed to be Venus' great-grandmother, because she was a common decoration for mirrors, and because she was surrounded by swans and doves. And geese. Geese are the birds of love too, you know.

Before landing the job of ultimate swimsuit top-model, Venus started out as the goddess of gardens and vegetation. And before moving to the capital of fashion, love, good food and, well, capital of the entire world at the time, Venus resided in the small town of Ardea, where we find the oldest temple dedicated to the goddess (in 293 BC, on the 15 of August – if you want to be that specific, though you shouldn't ask a goddess how old she is). This aspect of Venus was perhaps prolonged later on, after her association with Aphrodite, when she was considered to be the mother of Priapus, also a god of gardens, vegetation, and, well, other things.

Venus de Milo Louvre Ma399

It's quite possible that this young Venus was seen as an intermediary for prayers, and, as original goddess of beauty, she probably presided over all aspects of beauty, not just that of women (naked, mostly). Even in this primitive form, Venus made her debut in Rome rather late, and sometime during the second Punic War the famous Sibylline oracle had to ask the Romans to import a foreign Venus to their city.

Similar to all Roman gods, Venus doesn't have any stories of her own, and overlaps with Aphrodite in literature and arts. (Which is ok, since Aphrodite had enough adventures and affairs to fill several volumes and an entire television series.)

With the town of Rome itself, Venus would have a rather special relationship. As Aphrodite, she started the Trojan war, lost it, and managed to save only her son, Aeneas. As Venus, she now protected the town of Aeneas, Rome. Things will get even more personal, as Caesar, and the entire Julian family, claimed to be direct descendents of Aeneas, and thus close family to Venus. Considering what we know of Caesar's life, the goddess of love favored him more than other mortals, so maybe there is some truth to this story, no matter how outrageous it may seem today.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Steven Saylor - A Murder on the Appian Way - Review

I'm quite good at starting the review of a series with the most illogical item. So, keeping up with a good tradition, A Murder on the Appian Way is the fifth volume in Steven Saylor's “Roma Sub Rosa” series.

I've been meaning to write about the Roma Sub Rosa series for some time now, as it stands out from the dozens of whodunits placed against a historical background due to the impressive research work and accurate re-creation of the Roman world in the troubled moments when the republic was about to become an empire.

Argh, who am I kidding? If you like the historical mysteries genre, you'll like them all, and you must try Saylor's series.

The main character, Gordianus the Finder, is more realistic than his detective counterparts from similar books – wiser, kinder, more mature. Since he's not part of the nobility, his family, his home and his habits provide a believable reconstruction of the daily life of the regular people, in contrast with the unavoidable descriptions of the properties of the rich and famous.

That being said, I'm not sure I like Gordianus. He's old, happily married with children, which is not at all my idea of a mysterious, sexy, adventurous private eye. (Yes, it's a cliché. Go read Dostoevsky if cliches bother you that much.)

The murder on the Appian Way is that of Clodius, and Saylor takes the opportunity to recreate in detail the most famous of the famous Roman roads. This is one of the highlights of the novel, along with the delicate study of mob control techniques – not that different back then from what they are now. I also enjoyed the portrayal of Cicero, very close to how I imagined him, and not so much that of Clodia – but this is mostly my problem, Clodia keeps popping up in every book I've been reading recently, and she's so not worth all the hype.

If the historical part of the book is brilliant, I can't say the same for the mystery part, which was a bit disappointing. The action drags along at times, and the murderer is... well, go read it and judge for yourselves. A Murder on the Appian Way did not make it in my personal top ten, but it was definitely worth my time.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I write like...

I write like
William Shakespeare

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

This was the third attempt to have my writing analyzed on this site, but well worth it. The sample text, in case you're wondering, was taken from this blog. Go me.

And in case you missed me... I'll be back in a couple of days with more Shakespearean writing samples, apologies for a couple of dry months and crude ancient jokes.