THE ROMAN FORUM SUMMER SYMPOSIUM GARDONE 2015 will get you the details via Google. The dates are June 29 until July 10, and the theme this year is Forbidden Topics: a free and rational Catholic challenge to the frightened Modern Mind. An admirable general subject; it took me some time to narrow myself down to the two choices I am allowed to lecture on. I do beg you to give serious consideration to a ten day treat in which one is unsure whether it is first-rate intellectual stimulation varied by food, wine, good liturgy, good conversation, top-notch sight-seeing ... or the food and the etceteras varied by first-rate intellectual stimulation. I append below what I wrote after returning from last year's Forum; WARNING: its original heading apologised for the excessive Classical references. Don't be put off: the Conference is not a Classical Conference!
FROM 7 AUGUST 2014 ... mainly for Classicists ...
.... the drill was that we made our own arrangements for lunch ... usually eating in little groups at the various eateries around the square. On just one occasion I acted antisocially. On my own, concealing shamefacedly a small volume of poetry, some of it sexually explicit, I crept down to the waterfront, lined with lavish villas and hotels built by or for the Austrians and Germans for whom this was a convenient riviera. Under the ample and cool portico of the former Casino, looking out over what must be some of the most wonderful views in the world, I ordered a vitello tonnato and settled down, undisturbed, to reread Caii Valerii Catulli Carmina.
Well, wouldn't you have done so? Perhaps you have done so. How could one visit Catullus's lake, looking across to his Sirmio over the anerithmon gelasma ton kumaton (did he have this line from the Prometheus Vinctus in mind as he wrote O Lydiae lacus undae, ridete quidquid est domi cachinorum?) and not read his Carmina? And not think of his Phaselus cutting through the water? (The commentators, incidentally, discuss whether the river was still navigable when he brought her home for her retirement; but since more than a millennium later the Venetians hauled their galleys over the mountains to have a naval battle with the French, the question seems otiose.)
I wondered whether it was the limpid waters of Garda that got Catullus thinking, while he was still an adulescens, about luxus et veneres: what Jasper Griffin, the Corpus Professor emeritus in this University, once wrote about as the joys of women, water, and nakedness ... the nymphs nutricum tenus exstantes e gurgite cano ... Ariadne on the beach, mindless of her mitra, her amictus and her strophium all slipping off her body to be played with by the cheeky little waves around her ankles as in Catullus 64, his Epyllion in the purest manner of Callimachus ... until I was woken from reminiscences of Neoteric poetry and Oxford Professors by the waiter, who clearly had begun to think quamquam invito Catullo of taking his siesta. He told me that the premises had been used during the War as a German Officers' Club. For the first time in my life (this will confirm you in your view of how amoral and unimaginative I am) I began to wonder whether I might have had a vocation to join the Wehrmacht.
So I strolled through the gardens of the adjoining villa, where Il Duce, another man not indifferent to pleasures of the flesh, set up Clara Pettacci ... in all the circumstances, let us hope that she enjoyed her all-too-brief stay there ... and then I climbed the hill to listen to another particularly spectacular paper by John Rao.