Humanism’s Renaissance Of Perpetual Bloodshed

The Renaissance is often envisioned in terms of Italy’s resurgence of magnificent art depicting the Classical World.

The best starting point to begin any cursory investigation into the Classical World is with the twin verse epics compiled by Homer…Iliad and Odyssey…between 1050 and 850 BC…Much like contemporary Hollywood superheroes, in whom we see our own desires and appetites incarnated…Zeus (Homer’s thundering “storm-bringer”) notoriously metamorphosed himself into various animal forms in order to impregnate a succession of unwitting and reluctant women…Through his mother Olympias, Alexander considered himself a direct descendant of Achilles[a demigod]…he used to sleep with a dagger and his private Iliad under his pillow, calling it his journey-book of excellence in war…Alexander lived out the poems he most preferred…

What began on…Alexander the Great’s Makran expedition passed to the Ptolemies in Egypt, to the generals and emperors of Rome…

[Roman] Virgil’s Aeneid, which is modelled on both Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey in almost obsessive detail and yet transforms them at every turn…Virgil chose to conclude with a duel between the champions on either side, Trojan and Latin: Aeneas [another demigod] slaughters Turnus in an excess of fury…Achilles abuses the corpse of his enemy, until even the gods are appalled at his inhumanity…

The scene has shocked and disturbed many readers, for the chilling violence with which Virgil elected to end his poem…Why has Virgil outdone Homer in the ferocity of the ending?

Sex and violence presented together clearly provided a highly arousing combination…

erotic tales…permeated the world of Greek and Roman mythology.

At Greek drinking parties (‘symposia’), the only women in attendance were slave girls and the high point was drinking wine afterwards…[Greek and Roman males] had sexual relations with one another..such couplings were…broadly acknowledged as simple facts of life.

Judging by the available evidence, the human appetite for sexual license is matched only by a concomitant lust for gruesome depictions of violence…

mass carnage…took place…on a regular basis…

each emperor vied to surpass his predecessor in staging grandiose scenes of indiscriminate slaughter…Emperors were well advised to provide suitably gruesome entertainment for their avid audiences, because crowds as vast as 150,000 in the Circus Maximus could use the occasion to shout out specific complaints or praises at their ruler…punishments began to be staged in outlandish mythical or fantasy styles…

Women having sex with animals…squatted inside a wooden cow [mounted by] a bull…

I thought I was familiar with sexual abuse through my profession, but I discovered how innocent I was in thinking that this exhibition surely killed the woman when I googled “pornography of woman having sex with a bull and received “About 53,900,000 results (0.47 seconds)”.

The enduring appeal of sex and violence provides a contiguous thread throughout the history of Ancient Greece and Rome, raising issues which percolate all the way down to the Renaissance and questions that remain relevant to many contemporary controversies and conflicts.

Renaissance artists clearly knew what their audiences liked and satisfied this appetite for cruelty by depicting buckets of gore, suppurating gashes, and the extremities of torture. Graphic decapitations of…John the Baptist…Jesus impaled on the cross invariably spurted bright gouts of crimson blood…

After Michelangelo, Caravaggio (1571-1610) exerted the most prodigious influence on Italian painting as it evolved…his lasting influence has continued to echo down the centuries, informing…a host of other artists…

his Del Monte period are replete with “full-lipped, languorous boys…who seem to solicit the onlooker with their offers of fruit, wine, flowers – and themselves”…Louis Crompton, in his “Homosexuality and Civilization…”Caravaggio’s 1599 portrait of a Boy With Flowers is incontrovertibly androgynous, as are all eight versions he painted of St John the Baptist.

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His work is certainly obsessive, and assuredly obscene by depicting the ascetic St. John the Baptist in his paradigm.

In doing so he reveals the nature of the Renaissance – “transforming Christian society back to unbridled sexuality” including what is still known today as Greek sex.

It took the Puritan Reformation to put a stop to such voyeuristic pleasures being purveyed in churches.”

The workhorse printing press is what truly resurrected medieval society back to knowing how to elevate society to a higher standard of living.

The war banner of the Reformers was “Know the Truth, And the Truth Will Set You Free.”

Martin Luther struck the first blows against the corruption of both the medieval Roman Catholic Church and the Renaissance of sex and violence. How?

Simply by empowering ordinary people to read the Bible for themselves, where they could discover individual freedom from both religious tyranny and “lusts of the flesh”, what we currently call addictions to physical drives leading to self- and other-destructive behaviors like substance and sexual abuse.

Martin Luther became the world’s first best-selling author. In the seven years from 1518 to 1525, Luther’s writings accounted for a third of all books sold in Germany and his German language Bible went through more than 430 editions.

This kicked off a frenzy of translating the Bible into the national languages with a resultant surge of Bible adherents breaking away from Catholic dictates.

Having Bibles wasn’t enough, they needed to be read by individuals, not pontificated from pulpits to gullible followers. “It has been estimated that “in the later Middle Ages out of the total population 10 per cent of men and I per cent of women were literate.

Martin Luther advocated state-funded free education of all social levels, for both boys and girls. This policy elevated Germany to the heights of academic and scientific scholarship.

In the nineteenth century the Germany university was the most admired institution of higher education in the western world.

As literacy and education rates among Protestants rose, they began out-earning their Catholic counterparts. Five centuries after Luther, that earning gap persists.

So powerfully did Luther’s influence reverberate down through the ages that, during a visit to Germany in 1934, Rev. Michael King Sr. chose to change both his and his son’s name to Martin Luther King. MLK Jr…. [the] namesake of the great German reformer would make full use of the power of free speech in catalyzing the American civil rights movement.

John Knox the 16th century Scottish…is remembered mainly for his reform of the Scottish church / kirk but he also made a significant contribution to the reform of education, which has lasted until the present day and has impacted on other contexts.

Ironically, Hutton with his Principles of Geology was the product of the Reformer’s success in empowering all men and women to read to “know the truth”. He chose to go to the Dark Side.

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In 1789 the French Revolution began by proclaiming “Renaissance humanistic ideals”. Promising enlightenment through scientific discoveries, freedom from religious dogma, and political democracy for all classes, it replaced 

  • the biblical 7 day work week with Rome’s 10-day work week,
  • sacred days of worship with pagan sensual festivals replete with intoxication and rape.

Accepting only what the senses could experience, it set up the atheistic Cult of Reason.

Robespierre, one of the most influential leaders of the revolution, detested the amoral culture spawned by atheism. Believing, like Nietzsche did later, that belief in a god was necessary to achieve the virtue essential to a Republican form of government, Robespierre replaced the Cult of Reason by the Cult of the Supreme Being.

Within the year Robespierre was executed, and his religious reformation wiped out.

The French Revolution rapidly degenerated into an orgy of blood eliminating everyone refusing to submit to the new ruler’s laws, or deemed unfit for service. And not just for France, but for most of continental Europe under the first of two lowly privates catapulted to Supreme Dictator of the reorganized Roman Empire seized from the Church.

Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in the presence of the Pope, ike Charlemagne who kicked off what became retroactively known as the 1st Reich of the revived Roman Empire.

This usurpation of what had been the Pope’s authority for millenia enhanced Napoleon’s intended impression, that he was the highest authority in France, more powerful than the Church.

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Like August Caesar before him, he already had absolute power through his position of First Consul for ife. Unlike Caesar, by doing this, Napoleon did away with the flimsy illusion of the Republic. Napoleon further undid any democratic reforms of the Revolution by re-establishing the French aristocracy, the French Court, and granting titles and land to those that served him well throughout his campaigns.

The second lowly private was, of course, Hitler with his Third Reich. Again with the Pope’s approval.

In July 1933, Hitler and Pope Pius XI signed a concordat, or treaty. On the face of it, the Vatican had scored a great triumph…

Hitler had even more reason to be satisfied. The concordat was his first international agreement, and it vastly enhanced his respectability in Germany and abroad.

The French Revolution was the shocking event that…ushered the West into the modern era. It provides a valuable cautionary tale against religious extremes and some of the most fascinating and bizarre episodes of history. Happy Bastille Day! May the Goddess Reason be with you.

What? Back up. How does the goddess Reason fit with “enlightenment through scientific discoveries?”

Festival of Reason, Paris, 1793

Thoughtful consideration of the available options must unerringly lead to the realization that identifying with the elitists of this world simply traps the masses into becoming their victims, either for elimination or as slaves.

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