Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Rome Journal XV: The Tiber
"Fluvio Tiberius" by Hallie Cohen
The Tiber runs through Rome, the Seine through Paris and the
Thames, famously through London.“Sweet
Thames, run softly, till I end my song,” wrote Edmund Spenser in his
“Prothalamion.” The river’s name probably derived from the same pre-Roman
sources as Tiberius, which was a common name for those of both
aristocratic and common estate. Romulus and Remus of course were left to sink
or swim in the Tiber and thus began Rome and the phrase “crossing the Tiber”
has taken on a religious significance to the extent that it connotes a
kind of conversion to Catholicism and a recognition of the Papacy, as a
representative of God on earth. The Tiber had a history of flooding up until 1876
when the city attempted to control the waters with stone breakwaters and
streets called lungoteveri. The Tiber divides Rome. For
instance if you are visiting the Colosseum or the Circus Maximus, which are
part of the Rome you may know from postcards, you cross the Tiber at the Ponte
Suplicio to enter Trastevere, which is a more bohemian part of the city full of
winding ancient where artists studios compete with churches for the visitors
attention. We associate the Seine with lovers, the Thames with royalty and the Tiber with empire. You might not talk about the Tiber like you do the
Seine or the Thames and its not the subject of musical works like the Danube, but it’s where Rome was founded and as you
pass over it, you feel it’s the elemental silent force out of which a civilization was
created. As Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon he makes the fatal choicebetween politics and power, his desire to be
a hero or a politician, famously intoning "the die is cast." And we know where that landed him. "I see war, horrible wars, and the Tiber foaming with much blood," said Virgil in The Aeneid.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.