Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March: Julius Caesar in Art

Gerard Julien/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A Roman bust thought by some French historians to be the only surviving statue of Julius Caesar that was carved during his lifetime.
On display at the Musée Départmental de l’Arles Antique.

Julius Caesar's assassination in Joseph Mankiewicz' 1953 film version of Shakespeare's play.

The Ides of March
by C.B. Cavafy

Guard, O my soul, against pomp and glory.
And if you cannot curb your ambitions,
at least pursue them hesitantly, cautiously.
And the higher you go,
the more searching and careful you need to be.

And when you reach your summit, Caesar at last—
when you assume the role of someone that famous—
then be especially careful as you go out into the street,
a conspicuous man of power with your retinue;
and should a certain Artemidoros
come up to you out of the crowd, bringing a letter,
and say hurriedly: “Read this at once.
There are things in it important for you to see,”
be sure to stop; be sure to postpone
all talk or business; be sure to brush off
all those who salute and bow to you
(they can be seen later); let even
the Senate itself wait—and find out immediately
what grave message Artemidoros has for you.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

Μάρτιαι Eιδοί

Τα μεγαλεία να φοβάσαι, ω ψυχή.
Και τες φιλοδοξίες σου να υπερνικήσεις
αν δεν μπορείς, με δισταγμό και προφυλάξεις
να τες ακολουθείς. Κι όσο εμπροστά προβαίνεις,
τόσο εξεταστική, προσεκτική να είσαι.

Κι όταν θα φθάσεις στην ακμή σου, Καίσαρ πια·
έτσι περιωνύμου ανθρώπου σχήμα όταν λάβεις,
τότε κυρίως πρόσεξε σα βγεις στον δρόμον έξω,
εξουσιαστής περίβλεπτος με συνοδεία,
αν τύχει και πλησιάσει από τον όχλο
κανένας Aρτεμίδωρος, που φέρνει γράμμα,
και λέγει βιαστικά «Διάβασε αμέσως τούτα,
είναι μεγάλα πράγματα που σ’ ενδιαφέρουν»,
μη λείψεις να σταθείς· μη λείψεις ν’ αναβάλεις
κάθε ομιλίαν ή δουλειά· μη λείψεις τους διαφόρους
που χαιρετούν και προσκυνούν να τους παραμερίσεις
(τους βλέπεις πιο αργά)· ας περιμένει ακόμη
κ’ η Σύγκλητος αυτή, κ’ ευθύς να τα γνωρίσεις
τα σοβαρά γραφόμενα του Aρτεμιδώρου.

(Από τα Ποιήματα 1897-1933, Ίκαρος 1984)

Much more on Cavafy at:
The Cavafy Archive
Hat tip to the Hellanic Antidote
And Happy Birthday Ralph Heilemann!

Master of the Apollini Sacrum
Italy, late 15th century
Death of Julius Caesar
Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Study Collection, 60.48
Depicted on a cassone (marriage chest) panel in the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas
Noting that this painting of the death of Caesar is in the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, it would behove Kansas - the #1 seed in March Madness - to heed the warning. Is there an NCAA Brutus in the mix?


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