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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Virgil, Salad, Augustine, U2 and National Mottos

This year I have made it a challenge to myself to read (or re-read) some of the classics of western civilization – books like The Iliad and The Odyssey by the Greek poet Homer, and The Aeneid by the Roman, Virgil. 

I recently finished Virgil’s work, but before I move on to something else, I wanted to make note of the fact that Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum “Out of many, one” found on the Seal of the United States
may be attributed to Virgil.

It is found in his poem Moretum – which on the surface reading is about preparing type of cheese spread (sort of like pesto) eaten by the ancient Romans on breads and salads.  (Though the poem is attributed to Virgil, the actual authorship may be up for debate…)

…with his right [hand] he first
The reeking garlic with the pestle breaks,
Then everything he equally doth rub
I' th' mingled juice. His hand in circles move:
Till by degrees they one by one do lose
Their proper powers, and out of many comes
A single color, not entirely green
Because the milky fragments this forbid,
Nor showing white as from the milk because
That color's altered by so many herbs.

Another early use of the phrase, though in a slight variation – ex pluribus unum - can be found in the writings of St. Augustine.  In his Confessions he wrote:

These and similar tokens of friendship, which spring spontaneously from the hearts of those who love and are loved in return—in countenance, tongue, eyes, and a thousand ingratiating gestures--were all so much fuel to melt our souls together, and out of the many made us one. (Book 4, Chapter 8)

And though it’s not Latin, and ‘classic rock’ is hardly ‘classics of western civilization’ – I also include in this little list the song, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, by U2 because it resonates with Virgil’s many colors mixing into one...

I believe in the kingdom come,
Then all the colors will bleed into one,
Bleed into one,
Well, yes, I'm still running.

Having finished The Aeneid, I was planning to continue with Pharsalia by Lucan, and it was going to be a collaborative reading / blog writing with a friend of mine. But something has come up, and that will be put on hold for a while.  I'll do some other reading - but will keep the plan to come back to the classics throughout this year.... 

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