In which way does humanity take contact with cosmic time? Three bronze hourglasses, Venetianbricole, the sea-portrait gently and relentlessly crumbling Venice, the very last refuge of time: “I know I’m talking too much, but I do that just to make the time last longer, and to postpone your test”, Portia whispers to Bassanio in the play by William Shaekspeare The Merchant of Venice. Among the endless and possible declension of time (scientific and philosophical), the resistance opposed by Venice against time looks like the one the artist opposes to artwork. The hourglasses, mold of Venetian bricole the poles sticked into the Venice lagoon, shapes consumed by the high and low tide devouring dance up to crack them, they undergo a functional metamorphosis and they become sundials of history to which Venice grabs onto daily in order to survive the effects of time, to her myth, to the abuses of mass tourism that brutalize the innate grace and the moving beauty of Serenissima.
Keyword: tempo e calendario romano
Before the Greek thought made the concept of time an object of its philosophical speculation, ancient cultures perceived it in different ways. In ancient Egyt, cyclical time (neheh) and eternity (djet) are two divergent forces; in Mesopotamia, time belongs to the astral and cosmic realm; in the Vedic thought, Śiva is the time-owner; within Mazdaist and Manichaean conceptions, Zurvan is a “period of time”; in Greece, time is Aion and Kronos; for Buddhism, kala is an experience that evolves continuosly; in Rome, time is aeternitas, maybe a concept invented by Cicero. According to the legend, Romulus wanted the Roman Calendar. It had 10 months from March to December. Numa Pompilius added January and February. Year has 355 days:
-4 months of 31 days (March, May, July, October)
-7 month of 29 days (January, April, June, August, September, November, December)
-1 month of 28 days (February)
The lunar sytem rules the roman calendar: the word for month, mensis, means “lunation”. The calculation of 12 lunations gives 365, 36 days. Nonetheless, the administrative, economic, political, and burocratic management of this calendar system was quite complex, up to the point that Julius Caesar suppressed it. The emperor, thanks to the contribute of the Egyptian mathematician Sosigenes of Alexandria, introduced the solar year calendar system. This new calendar was a secular revolution: its introduction freed society from the lunar year and it abruptly reduced several religious festivities connected to supertsitions of any sort.
Massimo Gusso, “Il calendario romano (alle origini di quello moderno)”, Circolo Vittoriese di Ricerche Storiche, 1996.2, pp. 21-47