Saturday, July 30, 2011

Count Belisarius

Way too late last night, I finished Robert Graves' 1938 novel, Count Belisarius. My edition was a battered 1966 paperback reprinting I bought at some booksale years ago and finally have read.

If Graves' depiction of this era in history, the world of sixth century Byzantine Rome, is to be believed, there perhaps never existed a stupider, less grateful sovereign than Emperor Justinian, nor a better, less-appreciated general than Belisarius. Time after time, the general saved the Eastern empire from its enemies, only to be punished again and again by his myopic, jealous emperor, against whom he never would raise a finger, however justified. I heard echoes of the Saul-David story, and even of Stowes' Uncle Tom-Simon Lagree portrayal. Evil is ever resentful of good. The more patient in suffering the good, the more incandescent in fury true evil becomes.

They say every writer is a product of his or her times. But Graves' novel didn't feel dated, other than one odd reference to primitive communism.

Now, time to move on, to a very strange old book given to me by a good friend, Chuck B., who knows that I love strange old books. Mystical Theology and the Celestial Hierarchies purports to have been written by Dionysius the Areopagite of New Testament fame, but is believed by scholars to have been composed sometime around the 5th Century A.D.

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