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CARTHAGO, "Fire on Carthage"

Aggiornamento: giu 15

Fire is an element present in the human life since the epoch of its discovery (happened in the lower Paleolithic). It can rise to innumerable literary valences and philosophical meanings. In physics, fire consists of a thermoluminescence phenomenon that occurs as a result of combustion. The gases released after the ignition point is reached form flames (composed of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen and water vapour). The fire can also born from combustions produced by organic matter, which in contact with the oxygen present in the air, generates flames from which give rise to the magical concept of the will-ò-the-wisp. In geology, fire flows in the form of magma running under the earth’s crust, feeds volcanoes and generates tectonic movements that give rise to different orographic systems. The fire, therefore as a versatile element, can passes from the fluid to the aerial state, but also crystallizes in plastic forms as in the process of cooling of igneous rocks. In Greek mythology, Prometheus, chained to a cliff in Tartarus for delivering fire to men, embodies the myth of the philanthropist. He was the first to grant men the divine element. Throughout history, fire is often used as a weapon to defend itself; Greek fire or sea fire, for example, was an incendiary mixture used by the Byzantines to defeat enemies during battles on the seas. In the spiritual and religious world, fire is a sacred element and in pagan cults, it can be an expression of divine manifestations or become a symbol of passage, threshold to the chthonic world1. In Christian iconography has assumed positive and nefarious values. Dante, exponent of medieval theocentrism, developed the three senses of allegory; among these the anagogical meaning to represent union with God through divine lightning. The divine fire inflames the soul, leads to mystical ecstasy and is completed in the celestial vision of God. In the Divine Comedy a circle of fire encircles the Earth’s circumference while burning at the epicenter of the earth, according to the beliefs of scholastic philosophy, it fans the flames of hell. Paradoxically in the dark Middle Ages, fire becomes a symbol of purification and eradication from evil, as in the case of the stakes that illuminate the nights of capital executions against witches. Fire of Carthage refers to the fire that blazed in the ancient city of Carthago (Punic foundation of 814 BC) destroyed by the flames of the Romans in 146 BC (end of the Punic wars). It represents an event that opposed East and West bringing the Roman hegemony over the Mediterranean. But what does fire represent in the pictorial imagination? The fire attracts, emanates, ignites, blazes, evokes, overheats, expands, burns, inflames, destroys, purifies. Fire is the element that symbolizes with its flames the elevation, the call to the otherworld, the fire of passions, the spell of transmutation of matter.

oil on canvas 80x60
Carthago - oil on canvas 80x60



1. According to Roman beliefs the volcanal was a fiery chasm connecting world of the living to the dead through an access located in the sanctuary of the god Vulcan. Pythia, the priestess of Apollo, sat in her temple on the crater of a volcano, whose exhalations produced prophetic visions and oracular abilities. The Greek-Roman goddess Vesta was devoted to the custody of the sacred fire, perpetually fed by her priestesses called vestals.

2. The chthonic deity such as Gaea (Mother Earth), Cybele,the triad Persephone/Demeter/Hecate, Mephite, Feronia , Etna are just some of the testimonials of the terrigenous cult of Mediterranean and Oriental ancestry.


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