bob dylan's roman empire

now i'm going to try something very odd. i'm going to try to explain how the work of bob dylan corresponds with the history of the roman empire. don't worry, i won't get too technical about it, just brief connections.

first the groundwork.

woody guthrie's work travels the distance from romulus to scipio amelianus, where everything began the process of change and growth that later took place. this is a period referred to often in roman history as "classical roman republic."

bob dylan/bob dylan - this album is most closely connected to scipio africanus, who is one of rome's finest leaders and generals, but the album's unyeilding qualities also give it a bit of cato the censor about it. this is where you knew things were begginning to look bigger, better, and a bit scarier, a bit more invincible.

bob dylan/freewheelin' - here we meet the brothers gracci, who rampaged the notions everyone had had of rome before. by this time woody's in the dust and, truth be told so is the eponymous album. The brother's gracci (think rome's jack and bobby) threw down the gauntlet to an entire generation of rome's elite, sending shudders through the whole system, by appealing to the regular, average folks, by paying attention to their needs and this scared the elite to no end. they were assassinated by rome's elite just a few years apart from each other. no worries, they were followed.

bob dylan/the times they are a changin' - enter gaius marius, and the rabal rousing he caused. imagine a country hick coming up to be the most powerful man in the world's greatest nation. wait, who was i talking about? he was also one of rome's greatest generals and statesmen who worked tirelessly to pull power from the stuffy old bastards that kept it for themselves and handing as much as he could over to the population itself. he was often said to let people know that rome was changing with or without their consent. rome better get on board, he'd say.

bob dylan/another side of bob dylan - and here comes marcus livius drusus, champion of the people, at least until his assasination. drusus' main fight was that all italians should have full roman citizenship (shocking, i know). his ideas were obvious to us now, just like the ideas of dylan are now, but neither was true at the time they arrived. interestingly, drusus was also killed by the roman elite for his maniacal ideas.

bob dylan/bringing it all back home - and here comes sulla, often called the last republican. this was where rome began to try and get a little more back to it's roots, tried to retrace a few of the "errors" of the gracci, while still seeing and acknowledging the need for change.

bob dylan/highway 61 revisted - dylan's breakthrough album. when this album landed, no one before had ever written or sang anything like it, it was an entirely new thing, righteous, beautiful, daring. and not just a little controversial among listeners. and here, we've met julius caesar. caesar was the one who was as good or better than everyone else at everything while creating major innovations in many areas. [ example: our calendar is the one he devised, with the start date changed to make people forget he did it and convince them jesus created time] a hero to the people such that when he died, he was deemed a god. not just by the romans, but there are variations on the legend of caesar in the god stories of everyone from the egyptians to the druids, to the gauls, even the norse have a god loosely based on caesar. infinately forgiving, but not afraid to do what needs to be done either.

bob dylan/blonde on blonde - and now we meet the great nephew (adopted son) of caesar, augustus, the first roman emporer, who came into his own and is often considred one of the greatest rulers of all time. it is said that augustus found rome made of wood and left it made of marble. he also began the period called the pax romana, a period of peace in the empire which lasted more than 200 years.

bob dylan/blood on the tracks - and now we meet the great marcus aurelius, philosopher, genius. this album does for breakup records what the meditations of marcus aurelius did for stoic philosophy in pointing out the highest lights, the brightest stars of dark worlds. and considering at this point dylan had been through the hell of being expected to have the answer for everything in life while watching his marraige fall apart and that aurelius spent most of his years fighting the germans and still watching a glowing world, we arrive.

the connection run much deeper than this, but with an aim to give you an overview, this will do. then again, i already understand it. maybe if this is something new to you, it makes very little sense.

hard to say.

2008-02-28 | 11:11 a.m.
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