|Fin de Siecle|
s we come to the end of our great and terrible Twentieth- this century of Eleanor Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, of motion pictures and mustard gas, of the Internet and the Holocaust- we wonder: will its last few years be as filled with events, inventions, and cultural richness as the famed fin de siecle of 1897-1900? And how will it measure up against the other eight fins of our millennium? To answer this question, the Gough House Historical Society telephoned people whose (institutional) memory goes back a thousand years:
"The fin de 19eme was merely mechanical toys and decadent poets- a fin ordinaire," scoffs Francoise Jacobine of the Sorbonne. "The 18th Century had the only true grand fin of our millenium. Ending feudalism and organizing the masses of Frenchmen for a common purpose- that's real history! And in '97 and '98, having finished the job here, we took our glorious Revolution to the world- Germany, Italy, Austria, even Egypt!"
"The 1790s- such godlessness and chaos!" declares Father Diego de Agarrar, of the Seminary of Santiago de Compostela. "Now the fin de 15th- that was a time! Finding the New World, rounding the Cape of Good Hope... I tell you, our boys of the classes of '97, '98, and '99 had the opportunities of a millennium. Gold! Silver! Spices! Silks! Souls to save for Christ! And no damned Muslims in the way! Of course all this traveling brought new diseases, too. Half of us died from the Great Pox [syphilis] in such a short time... But the other half- why, most became bishops of territories that hadn't even been heard of when they were studying here!"
"Pah- the New World was just a pile of tobacco and chocolate bars for gluttonous arrivistes! Give me the true civilization of Greece, Arabia, Persia, China!!" says Cosimo Dandolo, scion of the ancient Venetian family of bankers and collectors. "My money's on the fine del Undicento. In the late 1190s, when the Third Crusade came back through our town, we took payment on their loans in the form of goods they'd picked up on their travels. And what goods- the ceramics! The fabrics! The artworks! The Greek antiquities! We were inspired to join in on the Fourth Crusade, just after the turn of the century, and our family made some very important artistic acquisitions in Constantinople. Truly, the Renaissance's first roots were fertilized by these treasures."(printer friendly version)