Daily Archives: October 28, 2018

Forma Urbis: the ancient Roman’s cyclopean map

Photo 25 Jan 2013 10_56 pm

Forma Urbis

Everything about Rome – the Eternal City – was grand and majestic, including the Pantheon, Roman Coliseum, Library of Celsus and Pont du Guard, all of which represented the magnificence and loftiness of the Empire stretching from the West to the East, from the North to the South that meant to last for eternity. And the size did matter to the ancient Romans; the bigger the artifacts were, the better they got to be. Proud champions of Bigness, the ancient Romans developed a cartographic masterpiece called “Forma Urbis,” meaning a city map, only on a bigger-than-life scale like you had never seen before had you been a Roman citizen at the time.

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During the reign of Emperor Septinus Severus (193-211 AD), this behemoth map delineating a street plan of Rome mostly with symbols came into being as a cartographic statement of grandeur and power, practicality and divinity of the Empire. The map took up an entire wall of Temple of Peace measuring 60 feet wide and 43 feet high. It also depicted Rome’s urban landmarks across 5 square miles from grand temples of various warehouses of the city. This majestic map of the Eternal City bestriding the wall of the temple, however, lacked tax collection information and other bells and whistles of administrative functions. Hence, its manifest function was believed to be no more than an august ornament, a source of civic pride and awe to the spectator.

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Does this giant map still exist? The question is very much similar to whether or not a megalodon, a supposedly extinct species of shark that lived about 23 to 2.6 million years ago, is still alive as there are frequent veritable accounts of witnesses of the creature elsewhere in the world. Although the existence of Forma Urbis is verifiable based on historical contexts, the actual form of the map exists as 200 fragments to this date because throughout the succession of ages, the bits and pieces were purloined by treasure hunters, especially during the Renaissance period. Nevertheless, for what’s all worth, the ancient Roman’s intention to preserve the artifact succeeded in the legacy of the grandeur of the Empire that wasn’t built a day, and to which all roads led from the four corners of the world. This vignette about Forma Urbis from an anthropological vantage point also reveals a picture of the society that tells of the standard of beauty and the glory of the Empire as contextualized into this fragment but still perennial legacy of the Eternal City.

P.S. This miscellany is based on my reading of an article about the eponymous subject from the recent issue of National Geography History; I find the magazine an excellent source of acquainting myself with many an interesting historical fact covering from the time immemorial to this date across the Atlas, leaving no one, no country, no culture behind, all of which are finely written by erudite writers whose academically impartial viewpoints of their subjects are worthy of applause. You can never be bored with new knowledge, and your mind will never be the same ever.

Isn’t this irony?

Our post-modernist culture is nuanced with anti-establishment of anything traditional and proper, such as decorum, mores, and codes of chivalry. The result of degradation of the values under the pretext of establishing a New Brave World is illustrated  in the following cases of Manifest Grand Irony of Liberalism that is supposed to be synonymous with altruism and niceness.

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A Nazi sympathizer? Are you kidding?

According to this week’s edition of The Spectator, an anonymous former British Prime Minister revealed his hatred toward Theresa May by saying that she should be stabbed or done harmed in the most despicably atrocious fashion that reminds me of the gruesome murder of women by the Reaper of Whitechapel in the late Victorian period. Then there is a British conservative party leader named Esther McVey, who was maliciously excoriated by John McDonnell, a British Labor party politician instigating the mass in public to “lynch” her. Also, the First Lady of the U.S. Melania Trump was criticized for her supposedly apocryphal colonial fashion in Egypt by the media which also prompted the subsequent rebukes from the public. And this does not stop in the West. The first female president of Republic of Korea, Keun Hae Park was preposterously ousted by her radical left-wing contender Jae in Moon on the count of accepting bribery from a prominent business conglomerate based on unfounded grounds. Besides, Moon’s myrmidons maligned her reputation with indecent computer-generated photo-ops of her to destroy her political career as well as her personal life in prison because she was a leader of a conservative party.

What the aforesaid ladies have in common is not only their conservative affiliations but also their social defenestration from their societies that show neither sympathy nor solidarity among the members of the parties and of the humanity in general. But then, woe betides anyone declaiming against the faults of the demagogues! Criticism of a political rival on different stances with courtesy is countenanced and actually encouraged in democracy, but contextualizing it in the egregiously violent words toward the women amounts to terrorism and therefore should be publicly deplored in full force and effect. Besides, however strong-willed and imperturbable the aforesaid women might seem in public, they are “ladies” deserving being treated with courtesy, for none other than being women because they are women. Where has all the honorable, respectful chivalry gone? It’s a code of honor, civility, respect toward womanhood that is transcendent of geographical, cultural, and racial boundaries. Just because they are conservative does not give anyone a license to harass them with malicious verbal remarks or gestures marshaling a mass prompting for the behoof of their political hegemony.

To top it all off, the aforesaid betrays the usual faux-pas of declining against their contenders ad hominem, not on the ground of substantive factors or evidence, as Shakespeare corroborated thus: “Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?” So it’s not altogether based on the standard of Reason but the manifestation of appetites, the raw emotions, the unbridled egos. Sounds antiquated, abstract, or even priggish? – Maybe so, but the men speaking about the women in the aforesaid manner are beyond the pale because it IS a violence of men in power against their women peers in a form of sordid verbal harassment. And it makes me wonder why #MeToo tweeters seem to connive at it, doing nothing to mobilize the supporters for pillorying the guilty men as usual.

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