Sabbath Day – Veni, Vidi, Vici
For over a month now I have let my Sabbath Day function as the center around which I have organized a week of reading different national literatures. I spent two week reading French Modernists, and a week with nineteenth century Russians. I then spent a week reading 19th and 20th century Irish writing, and a week immersed in early Irish myths, legends and the formation of Celtic Christianity.
So far I have let whimsy organize these reading weeks, and will continue to as long as it lasts.
Last week my son brought home from school a copy of Who Was Julius Caesar by Nico Medina, illustrated by Tim Foley. (The Who Was… series is great for elementary school kids). I was struck by the irony, as we headed into Holy Week, of reading about the dictator-for-life who oversaw the death of the Late Roman Republic; yet as my son and I talked about the several dozen pirates Caesar crucified after he was kidnapped and ransomed, and the six thousand he had crucified after quelling the slave rebellion led by Spartacus, I warmed to it. I pulled off my own shelf Robin Lane Fox’s The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian and read several chapters on the Late Republic to supplement my conversations with my son, and my sabbath topic was chosen.
Since primary sources are always the name of the game, we read aloud as bedtime stories this week selections from Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, particularly passages on the conquest of Gaul and his nemesis Vercingetorix. Caesar was quite a writer, and some of these passages were riveting. (It was, after all, P.R. for his public back in Rome). The strategy was admirable. The accomplishments impressive. All of which made Holy Week more poignant, as we contemplated the death of but one among many, many, many thousands crucified by Rome.
As an aside, my son has started to study Latin, so it was extra fun to read a writer who thought, spoke, and thought in Latin. Someday we will translate these same passages.
To lighten things up a bit, I threw in a selection of poems by Catullus (c. 84 – c. 54 BC), including these lines (out of context) which seem apt for Easter:
What more can life offer
than the longed for unlooked for event when it happens…
Last observation: as I was reading about Gaius Julius Caesar this week I realized that I had in mind Karl Urban’s portrayal of Caesar in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess. His portrayal of self-centered charismatic arrogance perfectly captures for me this period in time.
Until next week, for those who are observant: a blessed Holy Week, Passover, or Easter. To all: sabbath rest in some form at some time.