Roads that Lead #flashbackfriday

This morning, before heading over to Annecdotal to check out the featured books reviewed by Anne Goodwin, I had noticed “Fandango’s Flashback Friday” around the blogosphere. After reading Anne’s reaction to Piero Boitani’s A New Sublime: Ten Timeless Lessons on the Classics (translated by Ann Goldstein), I was led to dig into the way-back machine and use Flashback Friday as an excuse to create this post and present an ancient poem that was written as a reflection on ancient times.

Anne faults gaps in her own literary and cultural education for not having much to say in reaction to A New Sublime. She did find “flashes of connection” but “struggled to conceptualise that alongside cultures where slave-owning goes unquestioned, ditto an empire with a founding myth based on rape.”

Though I too have holes in my knowledge of ancient history and literature, I know the story Anne refers to. I know there are truths in myths. I know enough of the founding of Rome and the fall of Rome to be highly alarmed at current events, at the history we are presently living.

The flashback that I feature is from much further back than my blog; it was written in a time before, by a young woman just out of high school who could not have imagined that a country that had for over two hundred years claimed to incorporate the highest ideals from classical Greece and Rome, would so rapidly succumb to the basest aspects of a people.

In these times a flashback seems less discomfiting than a fast-forward; the future is uncertain, or worse. But maybe we can yet learn from history and redraft the present. Perhaps we the people can write a more united and democratic story for future tellers.



Classical History  (circa 1983)

They say all roads lead to Rome

but that it was not built in a day

unless you consider that day at Romulus’ camp


A festival, the neighboring tribe unsuspecting

the deceit, disclosed as swords unsheathed

pointed the way

as sisters wives and daughters were dragged

from the bloodied site screaming


The Sabine women obscured by the road dust

of history’s memory

a couple of encyclopedia sentences, bleary

talk of cultural assimilation, dim recollection of

The Rape of the Sabine Women

subject heading for the legendary founding

of great western civilization.


But what of the captive women?

Did they dream of the Amazons?

In self defense one-breasted

in bold archer’s stance diminished

by brandished weapons

spears and arrows

in their calloused hands discovered


2 thoughts on “Roads that Lead #flashbackfriday

  1. Brava 1983 D, Brava 1983 D, for capturing this tragic tale so neatly. Ditto 2020 D for reviving it in response to my lazy incomplete reference to the myth.
    And who would have thought, back in the 80s that Italians would have occasion to roll their eyes at UK and US politics.

    Liked by 1 person

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