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Archivio per Impero Romano

Flavius Belisarius: The African campaign – The first Italian campaign – Novo Scriptorium

Su NovoScripitorium un lungo articolo che dettaglia la campagna militare di Belisario, generale di Giustiniano I.

Justinian declared war on King Gelimer the moment that he had made peace with Persia, using as his casus belli, not a definite re-assertion of the claim of the empire over Africa—for such language would have provoked the rulers of Italy and Spain to join the Vandals, but the fact that Gelimer had wrongfully deposed Hilderic, the Emperor’s ally. In July, 533, Belisarius, who was now at the height of his favour for his successful suppression of the “Nika” rioters, sailed from the Bosphorus with an army of 10,000 foot and 5,000 horse. He was accompanied, luckily for history, by his secretary, Procopius, a very capable writer, who has left a full account of his master’s campaigns. Belisarius landed at Tripoli, at the extreme eastern limit of the Vandal power. The town was at once betrayed to him by its Roman inhabitants. From thence he advanced cautiously along the coast, meeting with no opposition; for the incapable Gelimer had been caught unprepared, and was still engaged in calling in his scattered warriors. It was not till he had approached within ten miles of Carthage that Belisarius was attacked by the Vandals. After a hard struggle he defeated them, and the city fell into his hands next day. The provincials were delighted at the rout of their masters, and welcomed the imperial army with joy; there was neither riot nor pillage, and Carthage had not the aspect of a conquered town.

The triumphal entry of Belisarius into Constantinople with his captives and his spoils, encouraged Justinian to order instant preparations for an attack on the second German kingdom, on his western frontier. He declared war on the wretched King Theodahat in the summer of A.D. 435, using as his pretext the murder of Queen Amalasuntha, whom her ungrateful spouse had first imprisoned and then strangled within a year of their marriage. The king of the Goths, whether he was conscience-stricken or merely cowardly, showed the greatest terror at the declaration of war. He even wrote to Constantinople offering to resign his crown, if the Emperor would guarantee his life and his private property. Meanwhile he consulted sooth-sayers and magicians about his prospects, for he was as superstitious as he was incompetent.

Next spring King Witiges came down with the main army of the Goths—more than 100,000 strong—and laid siege to Rome. The defence of the town by Belisarius and his very inadequate garrison forms the most interesting episode in the Italian war. For more than a year the Ostrogoths lay before its walls, essaying every device to force an entry. They tried open storm; they endeavoured to bribe traitors within the city; they strove to creep along the bed of a disused aqueduct, as Belisarius had done a year before at Naples. All was in vain, though the besiegers outnumbered the garrison twenty-fold, and exposed their lives with the same recklessness that their ancestors had shown in the invasion of the empire a hundred years back. The scene best remembered in the siege was the simultaneous assault on five points in the wall, on the 21st of March, 537. Three of the attacks were beaten back with ease; but near the Praenestine Gate, at the south-east of the city, one storming party actually forced its way within the walls, and had to be beaten out by sheer hard fighting ; and at the mausoleum of Hadrian, on the north-west, another spirited combat took place. Hadrian’s tomb—a great quadrangular structure of white marble, 300 feet square and 85 feet high—was surmounted by one of the most magnificent collections of statuary in ancient Rome, including four great equestrian statues of emperors at its corners. The Goths, with their ladders, swarmed at the foot of the tomb in such numbers, that the arrows and darts of the defenders were insufficient to beat them back. Then, as a last resource, the Imperialists tore down the scores of statues which adorned the mausoleum, and crushed the mass of assailants beneath a rain of marble fragments. Two famous antiques, that form the pride of modern galleries—the “Dancing Faun” at Florence, and the “Barberini Faun” at Munich—were found, a thousand years later, buried in the ditch of the tomb of Hadrian, and must have been among the missiles employed against the Goths. Thorough usage which they then received proved the means of preserving them for the admiration of the modern world.

The Manliness of War in the Eastern Roman (‘Byzantine’) Empire – Novo Scriptorium

Su NovoScriptorium un lungo post – in inglese, obviously – che tratteggia lo sviluppo storico degli eserciti romani e bizantini rispettivamente nel tardo impero e nei primi secoli ancora romani dell’Impero d’Oriente. Tutto ciò è messo in relazione col concetto di virilità e mascolinità vigente allora nelle file delle armate imperiali. Un estratto:

By the second and the third centuries, however, Roman men’s military roles were being redefined. What scholars call the crisis of the third century played a part in this transformation. The twofold threats of external invasions and crippling civil wars ignited by rival claimants to the purple, challenged the Empire’s military capabilities and created the necessity for reform. Establishing control over the frequently rebellious Roman forces represented a key step in quashing this chaos. Those in power entrusted the states’ defence to a professional army of mixed descent that fought its battles mostly on the Empire’s outer fringes. The imperial authorities also sought to curtail the threat presented by mutinous regional military commanders.

The Emperor Diocletian (ruled 284-305), carved the provinces into smaller more manageable administrative units and increased the number of imperial leaders, first to two then to four. In a further effort to curb the threat of usurpation and create a more effective fighting force, the “senatorial amateurs”, who had often used their military commissions merely as an obligatory step in their political careers, were no longer required to fulfil their military duties. Sometime during Diocletian’s reign, serving in the army became hereditary, and the sons of soldiers and veterans were obligated to follow their fathers’ example. Though not strictly enforced, a law from 364 (Codex Theodosianus 15.15) forbade all Roman civilians the use of weapons.

Even though men from the upper classes continued to serve as officers and provide a vital reserve of civil and military leadership upon whom the government could call in time of crisis, many wealthy aristocrats chose instead to pursue comfortable lives in one of the Empire’s major cities or on their provincial estates. In the fourth century, “elite” citizens’ roles in the military decreased even further, and to meet its recruitment needs the army, at times, depended on the enrolment of foreign troops.

While it is notoriously difficult to determine with any certainty either the size of the Late Roman/Early Byzantine army or the percentage of Romans serving compared to non-Romans –particularly within the non-officer corps– the foreign component was never as high as some historians suggest. The majority of soldiers throughout the Byzantine period were “Roman”.

Estimates vary on the Late Roman and Early Byzantine armies’ exact numbers. Recent suggestions for approximately 500,000 as the total for the combined forces of the fourth-century army and 300,000 for the sixth-century Byzantine forces—including frontier troops, fleet, and the field army—seem reasonable (Whitby, “Emperors and Armies”, W. Treadgold, “Byzantium and Its Army”). Whatever the exact tallies, we are dealing with a significant number of eligible Romans serving in the military. The non-Roman element in the Eastern Roman army in positions of command held steady at less than a third during the fourth and the fifth centuries. After the fifth century, the foreign component of the Byzantine army declined to perhaps a fifth of the overall total. This shift was due to a combination of legislative efforts to monitor recruitment and financial reforms undertaken during the reign of Anastasius I, which made military service much more attractive. Indeed, conscription which had been prevalent in the fourth century, by the close of the fifth century had been abandoned.

The idea of the emperor as the embodiment of Roman martial prowess and idealised manliness in the Later Empire was ubiquitous. The relationship between masculinity, military virtues, and the emperors’ divine right to rule were never far beneath the surface of this imagery. By concentrating notions of heroic masculinity into the figure of the emperor, imperial ideology fashioned a portrait of the ideal emperor as a model of “true” manliness for all aspiring men to emulate. This paradigm reflected the increasing domination of state ideology by the imperial family and its direct supporters, and it helps to highlight the Later Roman emperors’ growing autocratic power. Though far from a move towards the “Oriental despotism” argued for in the older historiographical tradition, the reigns of Diocletian and his successors witnessed the growth of a more elaborate court ceremonial, along with an increased promotion of the emperor in literary and visual portrayals as an authority reliant predominantly upon divine assistance (at first that of pagan divinities, and then the Christian God) for his clout.

Lankenauta | Super-Eliogabalo

Su Lankenauta la recensione di Ettore Fobo a Super-Eliogabalo, di Alberto Arbasino – morto proprio ieri, l’articolo è invece del 2005. Un romanzo del ’68 che traccia percorsi quasi surreali di una storia imperiale che diviene postmoderna nei sui continui intrecci con la storia attuale, che diviene apparentemente più leggera ma poi risulta essere più surreale alla maniera di un supereroe americano… Un estratto dalla rece:

Arbasino arriva a presentarci un interessante imperatore – bambola, imperatore – giocattolo, imperatore – gadget, che semplicemente si lascia fare, lussurioso, travestito, elegantemente antistorico, lorenzaccio, per usare un aggettivo – nome caro a Carmelo Bene, per cui il testo doveva essere sorta di canovaccio di un film mai fatto. Una commedia per spiriti liberi, un agghiacciante reportage fra le banalità che cuociono l’epoca nella salsa già allora immangiabile dell’autocoscienza fittizia d’una corte dei miracoli fatta di mamme ninfomani, intellettuali, sacerdoti, precettori, schiavi, amanti, cafoni, maghi, in un continuo irriverente alleluia di metaforiche tumorali escrescenze, uno sgonfiarsi di tutti gli stereotipi in un linguaggio che li fonde, un collassare delle strutture finto letterarie, finto storiche, finto cinematografiche, finto teatrali, pseudo televisive etc , come a mostrarci la tempesta magnetica che attraversa e scuote qualsiasi mezzo di espressione. E poi ecco la sottile ma fracassona parodia incarnata da Eliogabalo, in cui Arbasino individua, già come Artaud, ma in maniera del tutto diversa, un progetto politico a volte demistificatorio, ma involontariamente quasi, un inno alla leggerezza depensata e depensante, un divertito eccesso di ogni cosa, la volontà di potenza di un Caligola che scende le scale travestito da Wanda Osiris e canta ”Roma non far la stupida stasera” in un deleuziano divenire minoritario che allaga l’intero paesaggio, fino a confondere tutte le epoche in una sarabanda pop strafottente.

Tutto viene dunque ridotto dal procedimento ironico a canzonetta biascicata, tango fra ubriachi, filmaccio che trasuda tutte le menzogne culturali di quegli e dei nostri anni. Eliogabalo dall’alto della sua incoscienza critica può dunque deplorare l’illuminismo e le sue fatue imitazioni, in un impero che è il mondo, postmoderno, per cui la contemporaneità di tutto, da Jarry a Giulio Cesare, da Plauto a Nietzsche, è un guazzabuglio onomatopeico di rane gracidanti, in cui il linguaggio apparentemente lussureggiante di forme è in realtà scarnificato fino a generare una sorta di derisoria demenza, a tratti mostruosa, a tratti salvifica; così, nell’impossibilità di creare valori, l’asino del buon senso viene lapidato, tutto si decompone in una rissa di significanti, che fumano come vulcani e sembrano volerci inondare del loro segreto e delle loro un tempo vitali illusioni. Frankenstein smembrato e ricomposto il linguaggio di Arbasino è anche un perpetuo intersecarsi di bagliori provenienti dalle epoche tutte, a mostrarci che la folle vacuità illecita di un Eliogabalo è meno pericolosa della pensosa, noiosa, virtuosa serietà assassina degli imperatori che la Storia celebra. L’impero è nient’altro che il residuo di un film trash peplum in salsa finto pop in lamé sdrucito, con sapienti tocchi di agghiacciante glamour, per usare gli stessi termini che Arbasino rigurgita nel testo, anticipando così la successiva esplosione di termini inglesi nella lingua italiana e il kitsch imbarbarimento che ne conseguirà.

In questo impero romano che imita i kolossal americani gli attori hanno un orologio al polso, parlano in romanesco, e vanno in lambretta. In tale contesto Eliogabalo è “una specie di Monica Vitti” con più moine e merletti, la prosa alterna sapientemente il pecoreccio al tono super erudito e la trama anche se pretestuosa e non fondamentale alterna il giallo alla spy-story e magari al teatro dell’assurdo, con inserti di poesie quasi limerick, ma in chiave così evidentemente caricaturale da riuscire in una specie di iperrealismo grottesco. Poi ecco un florilegio di citazioni nascoste o semplicemente inventate: se ho capito bene lo stesso Eliogabalo legge la sua vita su un Lampridio e un Dione Cassio, forse ritoccati, mentre il week-end scorre fra carneficine, orge e varietà e incontri con i senatori: vengono dichiarate guerre non si sa da chi, informatori portano dispacci con storie inverosimili, si attende il rituale dell’omicidio come ogni sabato, c’è anche un residuo di annoiata suspense: chi sarà stavolta la vittima etc…?

Tra fulminanti narrazioni, digressioni, nonsense, il filo della narrazione conduce non fuori ma dentro il labirinto di tutte le avanguardie storiche, dove avviene la catarsi di qualsiasi linguaggio medio, messo sul rogo di calembour, di straniamenti ed efferatezze verbali, celebrando la poco santa messa del dileggio, imparziale nel demolire qualsivoglia mitologica rappresentazione di una realtà che sfugge a ogni decodificazione che non sappia di pernacchia assoluta, anche se super colta, super informata dei fatti; così l’imperatore può diventare icona pop, nell’assalto al tempio supermarket, dove un pontefice produttore di miracoli deve nascondere la sua stessa fede ai dipendenti- sacerdoti, per non essere deriso. Qui evidentemente viene destrutturata qualsiasi ideologia, anche mimandone i linguaggi, trascesi da un’ironia che, dissennata parodia trash, cerca forse di irriderne la consustanziale agonia, l’irrimediabile originaria decrepitezza, magari, anzi sicuramente, a la page. In questo Eliogabalo con i suoi diari, superando l’equivoco intellettuale, colla sola forza del delirio, scardina il luogo comune, lo trasforma in latrina pubblica e invita i lettori –sudditi a evacuare tutta la fetida miseria del buon senso e allegramente, scompisciandosi, e non v’è intelletto che tenga, nella cloaca anche lui.

Qui la decadenza è dunque un’attitudine conoscitiva che si fa beffe della storia, come Eliogabalo stesso in uno dei suoi ultimi monologhi, prima di diventare, con una sorta di finto colpo di scena, il dio feticcio rock, che si lancia in veri ma violentemente assurdi miracoli, adorato dalle sue mamme lascive, invece che finire come nella storia gettato nelle fogne.

“Abbiamo deciso di separarci definitivamente dalla scienza… perché abbiamo concluso che se una casa piena di gadgets ci pare ridicola, una nazione piena di macchine ci sprofonda nel tedio, nel fastidio, nel lutto del Tutto… Sull’astronave andateci voi- io no –e i vostri transistor metteteveli tutti nel dietro…tutto tutto lontano dai presuntuosi presepi di quell’Illuminismo che è davvero la minore età dell’uomo qualunque della strada, e insomma bisogna uscirne al più presto, e all’intelletto intollerabile sostituire l’aberrazione e l’immaginazione, la frattura, la scissura, lo scarto rispetto alla norma, l’afasia, la folly, e le Folies. Cioè la parola poetica. Olè”.

Famous Eastern Roman (‘Byzantine’) physicians – Novo Scriptorium

Su NovoScriptorium un articolo che illustra la grande capacità organizzativa bizantina della Sanità, dagli ospedali ai servizi sanitari e a tutto ciò che è collegato col concetto di Salute, concetti che sono stati sviluppati nei nostri giorni e che sono alla base del moderno Sistema Sanitario.

The Byzantine Empire lasted for over 1100 years and the organization of a functional health care system was undeniable merit of Byzantine medicine.

In Byzantium, hospitals functioned near monasteries. The administrative head of the entire institution was called the nosocomos. Two doctors and a lot of assistants, who learned, not helped, were working in each section.

Women were cared for by a woman doctor, and at night there was a service call.

Two inspectors were visiting the hospital day and night inquiring whether patients are satisfied or have any complaint to make.

Each hospital had a dispensary in which worked two doctors and a number of assistants.

There were specialized hospitals – e.g. hospital doctors in Mangane dealt exclusively with diseases of the digestive tract.

Nurses were instructed on the spot and formed health care professionals’ associations.

Doctors were trained in two ways, individually or in groups ie in school.

Generally, medical profession was transmitted from father to son.

Medical schools were established around hospitals and one of the doctors acted as a teacher. Students were practicing in hospitals or clinics. Education was free. Teachers were chosen very carefully and students had to accumulate a lot of experience before start practicing as physicians. This period of training was called kronia.

After the training, the student had to pass proficiency exam and answer question of a maestro, the head of the school or the emperor’s physician, bearing the title of actuarios.

The candidate who passed the examination received as a sign of promotion a medal or badge to distinguish himself from impostors.

Medical practice was based on the theory of the four humors.

In therapy, Byzantine physicians used, along with the old remedies, new exotic ones, made from the three regna. An important role was played by diet recommendations. There were used curative and preventive diets, but there were also exaggeration. Doctors used to recommend to their patients diets according to different seasons, months, professions or social class.

In order to master these diets and astrological data, doctors had to read a lot and collect many books. So, they had copies of classical medicine textbooks and many copybooks of diets and complicate recipes.

Hospitals sheltered vast libraries with valuable medical works.

Justinian ascends to the Imperial throne – The “Sedition of Nika” – Novo Scriptorium

Bellissimo articolo che ripercorre la parabola di Giustiniano I, imperatore di Costantinopoli e ultimo reale imperatore romano; all’interno della trattazione – in inglese – le caratteristiche della sua persona e del suo regno, che tratteggiano un personaggio magnifico anche nei suoi difetti.

Justinian was a hard and suspicious master, and not over grateful to subjects who served him well; he was intolerant in religious, and unscrupulous in political matters. When his heart was set on a project he was utterly unmindful of the slaughter and ruin which it might bring upon his people. In the extent of his conquests and the magnificence of his public works, he was incomparably the greatest of the emperors who reigned at Constantinople. But the greatness was purely personal: he left the empire weaker in resources, if broader in provinces, than he found it.

Justinian did a great legal work — the compilation of the Pandects and Institutes. His private life was strict even to austerity. All night long, we read, he sat alone over his State papers in his cabinet, or paced the dark halls in deep thought. His sleepless vigilance so struck his subjects that the strangest legends became current even in his life-time.

The empire when Justinian took it over from the hands of his uncle was in a more prosperous condition than it had known since the death of Constantine. Since the Ostrogoths had moved out of the Balkan Peninsula in 487 A.D., it had not suffered from any very long or destructive invasion from without. The Slavonic tribes, now heard of for the first time, and the Bulgarians had made raids across the Danube, but they had not yet shown any signs of settling down—as the Goths had done—within the limits of the empire. Their incursions, though vexatious, were not dangerous. Still the European provinces of the empire were in worse condition than the Asiatic, and were far from having recovered the effects of the ravages of Fritigern and Alaric, Attila, and Theodoric. But the more fortunate Asiatic lands had hardly seen a foreign enemy for centuries.  Except in the immediate neighbourhood of the Persian frontier there was no danger, and Persian wars had been infrequent of late. Southern Asia Minor had once or twice suffered from internal risings, but civil war left no such permanent mark on the land as did barbarian invasions. On the whole, the resources of the provinces beyond the Bosphorus were intact.

There were more than 300,000 lbs. of gold in store when Justinian came to the throne. The army was in good order, and composed in a larger proportion of born subjects of the empire than it had been at any time since the battle of Adrianople. There would appear to have been from 150,000 to 200,000 men under arms, but the extent of the frontiers of the empire were so great that Justinian never sent out a single army of more than 30,000 strong, and forces of only a third of that number are often found entrusted with such mighty enterprises as the invasion of Africa or the defence of the Armenian border. The flower of the Roman army was no longer its infantry, but its mailed horsemen (Cataphracti), armed with lance and bow, as the Parthian cavalry had once been of old. The infantry comprised more archers and javelin-men than heavy troops: the Isaurians and other provincials of the mountainous parts of Asia Minor were reckoned the best of them. Among both horse and foot large bodies of foreign auxiliaries were still found: the Huns and Arabs supplied light cavalry, the German Herules and Gepidae from beyond the Danube heavier troops.

Emperor Zeno’s reign; the last German danger in the East – Novo Scriptorium

Su NovoScriptorum le fasi finali della legalità imperiale romana d’Occidente, intorno al 476 d.C., quando le relative insegne imperiali furono riconsegnate a Costantinopoli. Da notare come l’imperatore orientale, Zeno, non riconobbe il nuovo Re d’Italia e anzi, come cercasse di restaurare l’impossibile, aprendo così la porta alla politica traianea di Giustiniano I, circa mezzo secolo dopo.

The line of ephemeral emperors who reigned in Italy over the shrunken Western realm had ended in 476 A.D., when the German general Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, and did not trouble himself to nominate another puppet-Caesar to succeed him. By his order a deputation from the Roman Senate visited Zeno at Constantinople, to inform him that they did not require an emperor of their own to govern Italy, but would acknowledge him as ruler alike of East and West; at the same time they besought Zeno to nominate, as his representative in the Italian lands, their defender, the great Odoacer. Zeno replied by advising the Romans to persuade Odoacer to recognize as his lord Julius Nepos, one of the dethroned nominees of Ricimer, who had survived his loss of the imperial diadem. Odoacer refused, and proclaimed himself king in Italy, while still affecting—against Zeno’s own will—to recognize the Constantinopolitan emperor as his suzerain.In 488 A.D. it occurred to Zeno to offer Theodoric the government of Italy, if he would conquer it from Odoacer. The Ostrogoth, who had harried the inland of the Balkan Peninsula bare, and had met several reverses of late from the Roman arms, took the offer. He was made “patrician” and consul, and started off with all the Ostrogothic nation at his back to win the realm of Italy. After hard fighting with Odoacer and the mixed multitude of mercenaries that followed him, the Goths conquered Italy, and Theodoric—German king and Roman patrician—began to reign at Ravenna. He always professed to be the vassal and deputy of the emperor at Constantinople, and theoretically his conquest of Italy meant the reunion of the East and the West. But the Western realm had shrunk down to Italy and Illyricum, and the power of Zeno therein was purely nominal.


Da LaPoesiaLoSpirito presento di nuovo, visto lo spunto di ieri, una recensione al mio L’impero restaurato, romanzo che ha vinto in tandem il Premio Urania 2014. Alcuni estratti dalla critica di Giovanni Agnoloni. Che ringrazio.

Il tema di fondo, ovvero l’interazione tra la dominante e intrusiva personalità dell’imperatore dell’Impero Connettivo Totka_II e Giustiniano, imperatore romano d’Oriente, e la sua consorte Teodora, oggetto delle sue mire sessuali (ovviamente, per un tramite mentale), è essenzialmente un pretesto – sia pur articolato con grande dettaglio – per esplicare al massimo le potenzialità dell’intuizione creativa di Battisti: un impero retto da immortali che attingono a una sapienza ancestrale il potere che consente loro di reggere – e mutare – le sorti di sistemi di potere succedutisi nel corso della storia “rettilinea” (anche) della Terra. E, nel far questo, si servono di soggetti postumani – come il plenipotenziario Sillax -, ovvero uomini che hanno progressivamente rinunciato a parti del loro holos biologico per lasciare spazio a integrazioni meccaniche, sintetiche e perfino puramente energetiche, tali da prolungare pressoché indefinitamente il loro ciclo vitale.

In particolare, qui, l’aspetto interessante sta nella fascinazione irresistibile che Totka_II subisce da parte dell’avvenente moglie di Giustiniano. Quasi un’“invidia” della mortalità e della sia pur transitoria bellezza che essa porta con sé. Inoltre, dal punto di vista terrestre – e perciò di una circoscritta finestra spaziotemporale – è estremamente significativo il modo sottile e trasversale in cui Totka_II e i “suoi” intervengono nelle vicende umane: con lievi ma inequivocabili sfrangiature di ambiente e di atmosfera, segnali di allarme che rimandano a un oltre di eventi che sfuggono alle limitate facoltà terrene. È qui che la fantasia di Sandro Battisti si spinge nei territori della (o confinanti con la) fisica quantistica, con un’implicita apertura alla teoria del multiverso.

Il fascino segreto di questo romanzo breve sta nella sua capacità di raccogliere ed esprimere tutti questi spunti con un linguaggio poetico che è figlio di un’ispirazione “canalizzata”, “ricevuta”, non costruita a tavolino o frutto di gagliarde tecniche di editing. È espressione di una narrativa autenticamente lirica, che attinge al territorio del mito, confermando la portata archetipica – e filosofica – del movimento connettivista.


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la condivisione del dolore è un dono di amore da parte di chi lo fa e di chi lo riceve

Flavio Torba

Flavio Torba non esiste, ma ciò non gli impedisce di descrivere l'orrore.

francesca del moro

La differenza tra prosa e poesia è che la prosa dice poco e ci mette molto tempo, la poesia dice molto in pochissimo tempo. C. Bukowski

Istanze & Fantasmi

poesie seminate, di Martina Campi

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