Wisdom on Wednesdays—Rome the center

CSF42000

Palace of Septimius Severus, watercolor on paper, 18 x 15 in.

“There must be a center.
“A center in time-space values.
“A center in Eternal values.
“A philosophic center.
“A geographic center.
“And a religious center.
“Rome is the religious center.
“It is a geographic center.
“And a philosophic center.”
(1934)

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4 thoughts on “Wisdom on Wednesdays—Rome the center

    • Well, I don’t think he means to exclude secondary religious centers, and notice that he carefully says that Rome is “a” (not “the”) geographic and philosophic center. And I could concur that Fitchburg, Mass, in its own way, might just deserve the title of a religious center.

      But it’s an excellent question, deserving an equally excellent response which I hope to provide in due time. Let me just say that Carl Schmitt considers Rome to be a sort of culmination of what Athens and Jerusalem had to offer, rather than just a cultural afterthought which simply borrowed earlier achievements. I’ll leave you with something my grandfather wrote a few years after the above quotation, which goes somewhat far afield but I hope addresses some of your concerns:

      “There is no popular half-truth more misleading nor one that needs challenging more emphatically than the statement that Rome has nothing original to give civilization and that she was merely the medium by which the civilization of Greece was passed on to us.

      “Rather we should say that Greece was the medium, transmitting the Jewish oriental democratic form to Rome who enlarged this democracy expanding it to include aristocracy and nobility. Rome added the family authority (the peasant) and the personal authority (the prince) to the Jewish form which up to that time only understood and recognized the social-financial authority (democracy). A glance at the map reveals the position of Greece geographically midway between Europe and the Orient.”

  1. Thank you – I look forward to more. Meanwhile on centers – Do you think Carl Schmitt knew Yeats? Do they mean the same thing by “Center”?

    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
    THE SECOND COMING

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    • I think he meant “center” not just in the sense of a moral or metaphysical center as Yeats seems to mean (though I think it included this), but more literally, or rather, more geographically. He had in mind an actual location on the planet, with its history, people, culture – even climate – everything that goes along with a “place” understood in the holistic sense of someone’s “home” or “homeland.” He had a keen sense of place understood in this sense, as I’ve written about elsewhere.

      The epitome of this thinking can be seen in his unfinished book Europe and the Arts, where he links each of the seven fine arts to seven regions in Europe. He saw the character of each country as the natural “place” of the corresponding art, which in turn led to a flowering of that art in that place – or, in some cases, the full flowering was yet to come.

      I hope to post more about Rome and the arts soon. In the meantime, this essay, Rome and Form (an excerpt from Europe and the Arts) may be of interest. And thank for your interest and your comments!

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