The Divine Spark of Syracuse (The Mandel Lectures in the Humanities at Brandeis University)
Focusing on the figures of Plato, Archimedes, and Caravaggio, The Divine Spark of Syracuse discloses the role that Syracuse, a Greek cultural outpost in Sicily, played in fueling creative energies. Among the topics this book explores are Plato and the allegory of the cave, and the divine spark mentioned in his Seventh Letter. It also considers the machines of Archimedes, including his famous screw, and the variety of siege and antisiege weapons that he developed for the defense of his hometown during the siege of Syracuse during the Second Punic War, including “the hand” (a giant claw), the “burning mirror,” and the catapult. The final chapter offers a look at the artist and roustabout Caravaggio. On the run after yet another street brawl, Caravaggio traveled to Syracuse, where he painted Burial of St. Lucy (Santa Lucia) in 1608. Typical of his late works, the painting is notable for its subdued tones and emotional and psychological delicacy. This captivating book lends clear insight into the links between the sense of place and inspiration in philosophy, mathematics, and art. Rowland is the most learned tour guide we could ask for.
Praise for The Divine Spark of Syracuse (The Mandel Lectures in the Humanities at Brandeis University)
"In this delightful book Ingrid Rowland tells a story which weaves history, biography and a sense of place around three figures from the past: Plato, Archimedes and Caravaggio. For the non-specialist reader like myself, this unusual combination makes for a page-turning read. Rowland’s intelligent light touch can speak to a general readership, while never ignoring the complexities of historical evidence, personal testimony, hearsay, or legend. The Divine Spark of Syracuse offers a packed and thrilling journey into the various pasts of this great city. By the end it has become one of the main protagonists."
— Angela Leighton
“For the general reader unfamiliar with the material, it will make an informative and entertaining read.”
— Bryn Mawr Classical Review
“Another bravura performance by Ingrid Rowland. Rowland’s signature blend of biography and topography brings the ancient Greek city to life, with its dazzling contrasts of darkness and light, cruelty and genius. These animated lectures take us all the way from Plato’s cave, in the ancient slave quarries of Syracuse, to Caravaggio’s dramatic Santa Lucia, the patron saint whose name means Holy Light.”
— James Grantham Turner, University of California, Berkeley