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Pyromania and arsonism


Octobre 2012                    André J. Fabre        

Since the beginning of times, in every part of the world, have flourished myths and legends about fire and how fire could be  acquired through their own daring or as a gift from an animal, god, or hero

The goal of this presentation is to show, through heritages of mythology, literature and fine arts, that fascination for fire has always existed


No wonder that there can be cases of obsession with fire but it goes along many pathologic states or delictuous actions , mainly pyromania, uncontrolable urge to set fire and arsonism.

under three main categories : pyromania, pyrophilia and arsonism


Pyromania can de defined as an impulse-control disorder to set fires in order to relieve an inner tension and typically includes gratification or relief afterward. The term comes from the Greek words pyr (fire) and mania (madness).

According to  Freudian psychoanalysis, fire setting being seen as an archaic desire to gain power over nature

Few scientifically rigorous studies have been done on the subject, but some psychosocial hypotheses suggest that pyromania may come from communication problems or ungratified sexuality..

Children who are pyromaniacs often have a history of cruelty to animals. They also frequently suffer from other behavior disorders and have learning disabilities as ADD (attention deficit disorder ) or ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), as many pyromaniacs say they feel comfort with a fire burning.

Pyromaniacs are known to have feelings of sadness and loneliness, followed by rage, which leads to the setting of fires as an outlet. In some cases it is all about the pleasure of seeing what other people have to do to extinguish the fire, and the pyromaniac may enjoy realizing the effects of what they have done thus the "  syndrome"

Some biological similarities have been discovered, such as abnormalities in the levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin and also low blood sugar levels, which could be related to problems of impulse control,

 For a positive diagnosis, there must be the folowing criteria :

  • Purposeful setting of fire on at least two occasions.
  • Feeling of inner tension or arousal prior to the act  and gratification or relief when it is over.
  • Fire setting is  done for its own sake, and not for any other motivation



Pyrophilia is a relatively uncommon paraphilia in which the patient derives gratification from fire and fire-starting activity. It is distinguished from pyromania by the gratification being of a sexual nature.


 Arson is the crime of maliciously, voluntarily, and willfully setting fire to the building, buildings, or other property of another, or of burning one's own property for an improper purpose, such as to collect insurance.


 Through the centuries there has been such an intimate connection of fire with the cultural growth of humanity : Fire is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. It was commonly associated with the qualities of energy, assertiveness, and passion. The fire was considered a divine element, it was natural that it would have its place in all religions and almost all the altars. A sacred fire burned in the temple of Apollo, Athens and Delphi, that of Ceres, at Mantinée, Minerva and Jupiter. In Prytanée of all Greek cities, it maintained lamps that never left off. In imitation of the Greeks, the Romans adopted the worship of fire, they entrusted the care of Vestals


 In Greek mythology, Prometheus (Ancient Greek: "Forethought") is a Titan known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals for their use.

Zeus didn't share Prometheus' feelings and wanted to prevent men from having power, especially over fire. Prometheus cared more for man than for the wrath of the increasingly powerful and autocratic king of the gods, so he stole fire from Zeus' lightning, concealed it in a hollow stalk of fennel, and brought it to man.

Vulcan Hephaistos In one version of the myth, Prometheus stole the fire that he gave to man from Hephaestus's forge

 Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while an eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day.

In Antiquity, Prometheus is credited with (or blamed for) playing a pivotal role in the early history of humankind


 Hephaestus is the god of fire, especially in so far as it manifests itself as a power of physical nature in volcanic districts, and in so far as it is the indispensable means in arts and manufactures, whence fire is called the breath of Hephaestus, and the name of the god is used both by Greek and Roman poets as synonymous with fire.

As a flame arises out of a little spark, so the god of fire was delicate and weakly from his birth, for which reason he was so much disliked by his mother, that she wished to get rid of him, and dropped him from Olympus.


 Herostratus was a young man who set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus on about July 20, 356 BC. The temple had been built to honour Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the wild and childbirth and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, 425 feet long and supported by columns sixty feet high,.

Far from attempting to evade responsibility for his act, Herostratus proudly claimed credit thus intending to immortalise forever  his name but In order to dissuade similar-minded fame-seekers, the Ephesean authorities not only executed him but also condemned him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under the penalty of death.

However they could not achieve their goal, the name of Herostratus is still “embalmed in history, like a fly in amber,”[1]

Hephaestus crafted much of the other magnificent equipment of the gods, and almost any finely-wrought metalwork imbued with powers that appears in Greek myth is said to have been forged by Hephaestus : Heracles' bronze clappers (scared the birds into flight to kill the Stymphalian Birds (Sagittarius)

 Importance of fire in mythology and legendary tales, appearing both as a creative, cleansing force and as a destructive, punishing one, with  positive aspects of fire generally outweigh negative ones.


  Livy [Titus Livus][2] Fire used as a Stratagem by Hannibal during the Second Punic war [3]

Hannibal had moved from Apulia into Campania, followed and watched by Fabius, who finally bottled him up in an area unfavorable to cavalry and decided to give battle. At night, however, Hannibal sent oxen toward Fabius' army with burning sticks tied to their horns; while the Romans investigated what they considered an attack; he escaped with his army to ADulia, where he wintered.

As soon as it was dark the camp was moved in silence; the oxen were driven a little in advance of the standards. When they arrived at the foot of the mountains and the narrow passes, the signal is immediately given for setting fire to their horns and driving them violently up the mountains before them. The mere terror excited by the flame, which cast a glare from their heads, and the heat now approaching the quick and the roots of their horns, drove on the oxen as if goaded by madness. By which dispersion, on a sudden all the surrounding shrubs were in a blaze, as if the mountains and woods had been on fire; and the unavailing tossing of their heads quickening the flame, exhibited an appearance as of men running to and fro on every side."

 Tacitus[4]  : the Great Fire of Rome[5] et forums.heavengames.comv et et www.

The great Roman historian Tacitus had been eye witness for the Great Fire of Rome : started on the night of 18 July in the year 64 CE, among the shops clustered around the Circus Maximus.[1] As many Romans lived in wood houses without masonry, the fire spread quickly through these areas.[1] The fire was almost contained after five days before regaining strength.[2] Suetonius claims the fire burned for six days and seven nights in total.[3] The fire completely destroyed four of fourteen Roman districts and severely damaged seven.[4] Also destroyed were Nero's palace, the Temple of Jupiter Stator and the hearth in the Temple of Vesta.[4] It is uncertain who or what actually caused the fire—whether accident or arson. According to Tacitus, some in the population held Nero responsible.[17] To diffuse blame, Nero targeted the Christians

 With the exception of Tacitus (Annales XV, 38), who along with the version of the fire wilfully caused by Nero (dolo principis) also knew the version of those who attributed the fire to accident (forte), all the ancient sources blame it with certainty on Nero, from his contemporary Pliny the Elder, who probably underlies the later tradition (Naturalis historia XVII, 1, 5), to the Senecan author of the Octavia, to Suetonius (Nero, 38), to Dio (LXII, 16, 18). It broke out on 19 July 64 and, according to Suetonius, the fire lasted six days and seven nights, but immediately broke out again, spreading from the property of Tigellinus, so feeding suspicion of the emperor, and went on for three more days, as documented by an inscription (CIL V, 1, 829, that gives a duration of nine days).

     The moderns now tend to reject any direct responsibility of Nero for the fire: all the sources agree, however, in saying that people were seen spreading the fire once it had started. For those who favour his guilt they were acting iussu principis, «by order of the emperor», for those who see him as innocent - according to them the fire broke through carelessness, spontaneous combustion, the hot summer, the wind - they were doing it «so they could do their looting more easily». According to Suetonius and Dio, however, they were cubicularii (servants) of the emperor and even soldiers, and their presence might justify the worst suspicions. Collating Tacitus and Suetonius it emerges that the precautions and attempts to intervene were interpreted as evidence of Nero’s guilt: in particular the burning down by soldiers of buildings close to what was to become the Domus aurea and the prohibition on the rightful owners to approach their houses to save what could be saved and recover the dead, fed much suspicion. The suspicion was also nourished by the attribution to the emperor of a precise motive: not that accepted as certain by Suetonius and Dio, but not by Tacitus, of the desire to see Rome perish under his reign, as Priam had seen Troy perish (a desire crowned by his famous harping), but above all by his contempt for old Rome, with its narrow streets and old buildings, and the wish to engage in a great building project and become the new founder of Rome.

     Tacitus is the only one of our sources who says that Nero, in order to silence the voices accusing him of the fire, made up the false accusation against the Christians (Annales XV, 44): he got his information, certainly, from the accusatory sources (the sources in favor of his innocence blame nobody for the fire, it broke out by accident), then, in all probability, from Pliny. For Pliny, as for Tacitus, the Christians were innocent of the burning of Rome and the torture they were subject to stirred pity, even if the Christians, blameless of the fire, were certainly guilty, according to our source, of an exitiabilis superstitio (baleful cult). The testimony of Tacitus, clearly against the Christians for their superstitio, but convinced of their innocence in the burning, shows the groundlessness of the notion of those among the moderns who accuse the Christians of having set fire to Rome out of their belief in the coming parusìa (the return of Christ on earth).

     The distinction between the false accusation of being arsonists, that according to Tacitus was levelled at the Christians of Rome, and that of superstitio illicita (illegal cult), the only one known to Suetonius (Nero, 16,2), levelled at Christians throughout the Empire, is not, as is often believed, the result of two versions of the same events related by different sources, but the outcome of two different legal dispositions, of which the second is certainly prior to the first. The First Epistle of Peter (4,15), datable in my view to between 62 and 64, is alert to the possibility that the Christians may be incriminated for being Christians not only in Rome but throughout the Empire, and presupposes widespread hostility (cf. 1Pt 4,12), that fits well with the accusations of flagitia (ignominious crimes), that according to Tacitus made Christians hateful to the vulgus (the common people). But if the atmosphere of the First Epistle of Peter is that presupposed by Tacitus, the criminalizing of Christians is certainly what is known to Suetonius and cannot refer to an imperial edict (such as incrimination for the burning of Rome), but only to a senatusconsultum, a deposition which, in the Julio-Claudian era, regulated religious questions. The institutum (institution) of which Suetonius speaks, the institutum Neronianum of which Tertullian speaks (Ad nationes, 7,14), was not an edict nor a senatusconsultum, but a precedent of fact: it was the application which Nero, dedicator damnationis nostrae (author of our condemnation, Tertullian, Apologeticum V, 3), was the first emperor to make, immediately after 62, of the senatusconsultum which in 35 had rejected Tiberius’ proposal to recognize as lawful the cult of Christ and that had made Christianity a superstitio illicita throughout the Empire. Tiberius’ veto had blocked its application and the situation remained unchanged down to 62, when the killing in Judea of James the Less, decided by the high priest Ananos, was made possible only by the momentary absence of the Roman governor. But in 62 there was a decisive shift, not only in relationships between the Empire and the Christians, but in the whole of Nero’s policy: it was the moment of Seneca’s withdrawal from political life, of the death of Burrus, replaced as Praetorian Prefect by Tigellinus, of the repudiation of Octavia and marriage to the judeizing Poppea, of the break with the Stoics of the ruling class and of the definitive abandonment of the Julio-Claudian management of the principate in favor of one of an orientalizing and theocratic sort. Christians and Stoics were attacked in the same years and both criminalized in the eyes of public opinion: in the judgment of ignorant people the Stoics were aerumnosi Solones (tormented Solons) according to Persius (Satirae III, 79), in a graffito in Pompeii the Christians are described as saevi Solones (merciless Solons): according to the First Epistle of Peter (4,4) they were slandered «because they did not run into the confusion of riotousness». The climate in which these accusations were formulated is the same: against the Stoics of the ruling class the political weapon of the lex maiestatis (law for the defense of the State) was used; against the Christians it was enough to resurrect the old senatusconsultum of the 35.

     The first victim of Nero’s decision to attack the Christians on the basis of the old senatusconsultum was, in my view, Paul, who was well known in court circles: the incrimination is testified to in the Second Epistle to Timothy, written in the autumn of a year that could well be 63 (cf. 2Tm 4, 21). Paul was once more in prison in Rome, but this time awaiting sentence, but not certainly for the fire (precisely because he was under “civil” arrest Paul could ask for books and a cloak). The arrest and the sentence of Peter, together with that of the other Christians of Rome, was instead to take place after the fire of 64: his martyrdom, by crucifixion in the horti neroniani (the gardens of Nero), cannot be separated - as collation of the description of Clemens Romanus (1Cor 5) and that of Tacitus (Annales XV, 44) reveals - from that of the multitudo ingens (enormous crowd) – poly plethos that Nero offered as entertainment, along with a circense ludicrum (circus show), to the people of Rome, making available hortos suos (his gardens): Guarducci has suggested the festivities of 13 October 64, some months after the fire, when the persistence of suspicions against the emperor may have prompted him to look for scapegoats.

"...Now started the most terrible and destructive fire which Rome had ever experienced. It began in the Circus, where it adjoins the Palatine and Caelian hills. Breaking out in shops selling inflammable goods, and fanned by the wind, the conflagration instantly grew and swept the whole length of the Circus. There were no walled mansions or temples, or any other obstructions, which could arrest it. First, the fire swept violently over the level spaces. Then it climbed the hills - but returned to ravage the lower ground again. It outstripped every counter-measure. The ancient city's narrow winding streets and irregular blocks encouraged its progress.

Terrified, shrieking women, helpless old and young, people intent on their own safety, people unselfishly supporting invalids or waiting for them, fugitives and lingerers alike - all heightened the confusion. When people looked back, menacing flames sprang up before them or outflanked them. When they escaped to a neighboring quarter, the fire followed - even districts believed remote proved to be involved. Finally, with no idea where or what to flee, they crowded on to the country roads, or lay in the fields. Some who had lost everything - even their food for the day - could have escaped, but preferred to die. So did others, who had failed to rescue their loved ones. Nobody dared fight the flames. Attempts to do so were prevented by menacing gangs. Torches, too, were openly thrown in, by men crying that they acted under orders. Perhaps they had received orders. Or they may just have wanted to plunder unhampered. Nero was at Antium. He returned to the city only when the fire was approaching the mansion he had built to link the Gardens of Maecenas to the Palatine. The flames could not be prevented from overwhelming the whole of the Palatine, including his palace. Nevertheless, for the relief of the homeless, fugitive masses he threw open the Field of Mars, including Agrippa's public buildings, and even his own Gardens. Nero also constructed emergency accommodation for the destitute multitude. Food was brought from Ostia and neighboring towns, and the price of corn was cut to less than ¼ sesterce a pound. Yet these measures, for all their popular character, earned no gratitude. For a rumor had spread that, while the city was burning, Nero had gone on his private stage and, comparing modern calamities with ancient, had sung of the destruction of Troy. By the sixth day enormous demolitions had confronted the raging flames with bare ground and open sky, and the fire was finally stamped out at the foot of the Esquiline Hill. But before panic had subsided, or hope revived, flames broke out again in the more open regions of the city. Here there were fewer casualties; but the destruction of temples and pleasure arcades was even worse. This new conflagration caused additional ill-feeling because it started on Tigellinus' estate in the Aemilian district. For people believed that Nero was ambitious to found a new city to be called after himself. Of Rome's fourteen districts only four remained intact. Three were leveled to the ground. The other seven were reduced to a few scorched and mangled ruins."

 Jean de Joinville : the Greek fire ( et et

The Greek Fire was a burning-liquid weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning even on water. It was largely responsible for many Byzantine military victories, and partly the reason for the Byzantine Empire surviving as long as it did. Medieval sources mention weapons sometimes referred to as "Greek fire" as being also used by Arabs, Chinese, and Mongols; however, these were most likely another incendiary weapon of a different composition and not Greek fire based on the original formula, which was a highly protected secret of the Byzantine Empire and not even discovered by the Latin Empire or the Ottoman Empire. Whilst the real formula is not known, some of the ingredients may have included naphtha, quicklime, sulfur, and niter.Although the phrase "Greek fire" is general in English and most other languages (Greek being a notable exception), early sources used terms whose literal translation would be otherwise, such as "Byzantine fire", "Roman fire",[3] "sea fire" (Greek: πρ θαλάσσιον, pyr thalàssion), "liquid fire" (Greek: γρόν πρ), or "artificial fire" (Greek: πρ σκευαστόν, pyr skevastòn, a term used in the Byzantine military manuals

The Memoirs of Jean de Joinville, a 13th-century French nobleman, include these observations of a weapon similar to Greek fire during the Seventh Crusade:

" It happened one night, whilst we were keeping night-watch over the tortoise-towers, that they brought up against us an engine called a perronel, (which they had not done before) and filled the sling of the engine with Greek fire. When that good knight, Lord Walter of Cureil, who was with me, saw this, he spoke to us as follows: "Sirs, we are in the greatest peril that we have ever yet been in. For, if they set fire to our turrets and shelters, we are lost and burnt; and if, again, we desert our defences which have been entrusted to us, we are disgraced; so none can deliver us from this peril save God alone. My opinion and advice therefore is: that every time they hurl the fire at us, we go down on our elbows and knees, and beseech Our Lord to save us from this danger."So soon as they flung the first shot, we went down on our elbows and knees, as he had instructed us; and their first shot passed between the two turrets, and lodged just in front of us, where they had been raising the dam. Our firemen were all ready to put out the fire; and the Saracens, not being able to aim straight at them, on account of the two pent-house wings which the King had made, shot straight up into the clouds, so that the fire-darts fell right on top of them.This was the fashion of the Greek fire: it came on as broad in front as a vinegar cask, and the tail of fire that trailed behind it was as big as a great spear; and it made such a noise as it came, that it sounded like the thunder of heaven. It looked like a dragon flying through the air. Such a bright light did it cast, that one could see all over the camp as though it were day, by reason of the great mass of fire, and the brilliance of the light that it shed.Thrice that night they hurled the Greek fire at us, and four times shot it from the tourniquet crossbow."


 Fire setting is a constant in world literature


 A murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327. It is an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory

Ascending the forbidden library, William of Baskerville and his apprentice Adso of Melk  come face to face with the Venerable Jorge, the blind librarian, most ancient denizen of the abbey, who reveals the book, which contains a description of comedy and how it may be used to teach. Being afraid of laughter and comedy—the traditionalist firmly asserts that Christ never laughed and jocularity is a blasphemous sin—Jorge has poisoned the pages to avoid the spread of what he considers dangerous ideas[6].

Realizing that William knows of the poisoned pages and will not fall for the same trick, Jorge throws over a candle, starting a blaze that spreads quickly in the tower, the internal structure of which is completely made of wood. As it contains innumerable rare and unique books of infinite value, this devastates William, who insists Adso flee while he desperately tries to save as many tomes as possible.

The fire destroys both Jorge and the Second Book of the Poetics, but miraculously, William does make it out with a few precious books

As quotesd from Umebrto Ecco himself, "...imagining a medieval story without a fire is like imagining a World War II movie in the Pacific without a fighter plane shot down in flames." [7]


Leo Tolstoy has left in War and Peace a striking description of the Great Fire of Moscow : The 1812 Fire of Moscow broke out on September 14, 1812 in Moscow on the day when Russian troops and most residents abandoned the city and Napoleon's vanguard troops entered the city following the Battle of Borodino. The fire raged until September 18, destroying an estimated three-quarters of Moscow. It is believed that Moscow governor Fyodor Rostopchin had made preparations for anything that might have been of any use to the French army — food stores, granaries, warehouses and cloth stores — to be torched once the city was evacuated by the Russians.. Tolstoy, in War and Peace, suggests that the fire was not deliberately set, either by the Russians or the French: the natural result of placing a wooden city in the hands of strangers in wintertime is that they will make small fires to stay warm, cook their food, and other benign purposes

            Here is the text from TolstoI :

The French attributed the Fire of Moscow to the Rostopchine ferocious  patriotism,* the Russians to the barbarity of the French. In reality, however, it was not, and could not be, possible to explain the burning of Moscow by making any individual, or any group of people, responsible for it. Moscow was burned because it found itself in a position in which any town built of wood was bound to burn, quite apart from whether it had, or had not, a hundred and thirty inferior fire engines. Deserted Moscow had to burn as inevitably as a heap of shavings has to burn on which sparks continually fall for several days. A town built of wood, where scarcely a day passes without conflagrations when the house owners are in residence and a police force is present, cannot help burning when its inhabitants have left it and it is occupied by soldiers who smoke pipes, make campfires of the Senate chairs in the Senate Square, and cook themselves meals twice a day..

However tempting it might be for the French to blame Rostopchin's ferocity and for Russians to blame the scoundrel Bonaparte, or later on to place an heroic torch in the hands of their own people, it is impossible not to see that there could be no such direct cause of the fire, for Moscow had to burn as every village, factory, or house must burn which is left by its owners and in which strangers are allowed to live and cook their porridge. Moscow was burned by its inhabitants, it is true, but by those who had abandoned it and not by those who remained in it. Moscow when occupied by the enemy did not remain intact like Berlin, Vienna, and other towns, simply because its inhabitants abandoned it and did not welcome the French with bread and salt, nor bring them the keys of the city.’


The famous and influential novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. published in 1847

On the surface, the novel embodies stock situations of the Gothic novel genre such as mystery, horror, and the classic medieval castle setting; many of the incidents border on (and cross over into) melodrama. The story of the young heroine is also in many ways conventional—the rise of a poor orphan girl against overwhelming odds, whose love and determination eventually redeem a tormented hero.

The next day, Jane takes a coach to Thornfield. But only blackened ruins lie where the manorhouse once stood. An innkeeper tells Jane that Rochester's mad wife set the fire and then committed suicide by jumping from the roof. Rochester rescued the servants from the burning mansion but lost a hand and his eyesight in the process. He now lives in an isolated manor house called Ferndean. Going to Ferndean, Jane reunites with Rochester. At first, he fears that she will refuse to marry a blind cripple, but Jane accepts him without hesitation. Rochester eventually recovers sight in one eye, and can see their first-born son when the baby is born.

 Among many other references in world literature :

 Victor Hugo Hunchback of Notre Dame

 Hervé de Balzac Le curé de Tours

 Conan Doyle Return of Sherlock Holmes



 L'incendie d'Elbeuf, dessin par P. Blanchard, L'Illustration, 21 mai 1870.

Un incendie a éclaté le 23.12 dans la manufacture de M. Kastner à Claye-Souilly.


Autodafe mexiwue

Autodafe médiéval

Le grand incendie de Londres qui a détruit une partie de la ville en 1666

Incendie de Rome par Hubert Robert et

Incendie de Moscou et et et et et et et

Incendie de Rome

Londo fire et www.pamelabelle.c et et et

L’Incendie de l’Hôtel-Dieu 1772 Aquarelle de Gabriel de Saint-Aubin, 1724-1780[8]

Jane douses the fire in Rochester's Bed 

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 by David Roberts[9], Jerusalem fire

 Burning of Paris Hôtel Dieu in 1772 Hubert Robert[10], (22 mai 1733, Paris - 15 avril 1808, Paris) est un des principaux artistes français du XVIIIe siècle qui s’illustra notamment comme paysagiste, aquafortiste, dessinateur et à travers la peinture. Ses peintures montrent des interprétations poétiques de paysages, des vues de Rome, de Paris, et d’Île-de-France. Il a peint également des fantaisies, par exemple la grande galerie du Louvre en ruines. Il fit aussi des croquis d’après nature (et des tableaux en atelier) de l’incendie de l’Hôtel Dieu (en 1772), et de la démolition du pont Notre-Dame

 unknown artist The Great Fire of London, with Ludgate and Old St. Paul's[11], oil on canvas, ca. 1670, by an unknown artist. The painting is part of the Paul Mellon Collection and was photographed in the Yale Center for British Art. 1666

Jerusalem on fire in 70 AD by Titus by David Roberts (1796-1864)

 Fire in quarter St John of Quebec , vu vers l'ouest 1845, Joseph Légaré[12]

 Etch Many cultures have myths and rituals involving fire. Here, Australian Aborigines with complex designs painted on their bodies dance in front of a fire.


 Modest Mussorgsky : Kovantchina (1886)

 Khovanshchina (Russian: Хованщина, Hovánščina, sometimes rendered The Khovansky Affair) is an opera (subtitled a 'national music drama') in five acts by Modest Mussorgsky. The work was written between 1872 and 1880 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

its main themes are the struggle between progressive and reactionary political factions during the minority of Tsar Peter the Great, and the passing of old Muscovy before Peter's westernizing reforms. During the minoirity of Peter the Great  Andrey Khovansky, son of Prince Ivan Khovansky and the Old Believers perish in the flames of a burning chapel, Peter's soldiers arrive in a vain attempt to capture them.


 Charles Chaplin : The Fire Man (1916)

The Fireman is the second film Charlie Chaplin created for Mutual Films in 1916. Released on June 12, 1916, it starred Chaplin as the fireman and Edna Purviance as the daughter to Lloyd Bacon. Lloyd Bacon played a character trying to arrange with Eric Campbell (the fire chief) to have his house burn down so he could collect on the insurance money. Shows some early day street scenes in the surrounding Los Angeles ar

 Fritz Lang : Fury (1936)

Fury (film) Directed by Fritz Lang with Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney Fury is a 1936 drama film which tells the story of an innocent man who narrowly escapes being lynched and the revenge he seeks. Directed by Fritz Lang, the film was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and stars Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney and features Walter Abel, Bruce Cabot, Edward Ellis and Walter Brennan. Loosely based on the events surrounding the Brooke Hart murder, the movie was adapted by Bartlett Cormack and Lang from the story Mob Rule by Norman Krasna. Enroute to meet his fiancée, Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney), Joe Wilson (Spencer Tracy) is arrested on flimsy circumstantial evidence for the kidnapping of a child. Gossip soon travels around the small town, growing more distorted through each retelling, until a mob gathers at the jail. When the resolute sheriff (Edward Ellis) refuses to give up his prisoner, the enraged townspeople burn down the building.

 Fahrenheit 451 (François Truffaut) (1966).

Fahrenheit 451 science fiction novel authored by Ray Bradbury and first published in 1953.

The novel presents a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic, and critical thought through reading is outlawed. The central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a "fireman" (which, in this future, means "book burner"). The number "451" refers to the temperature (in Fahrenheit) at which the books burn[1] when the "firemen" burn them "for the good of humanity".

Starring Julie Christie, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack, Anton Diffring, Michael Balfour, Bee Duffell, Anna Palk, Alex Scott, Jeremy Spenser, Ann Bell

In a dark futuristic world, literature, reading, and independent thought have been outlawed. The government has gone so far as to employ a special league of firemen to burn all books on sight. But when ...    Full Descriptionone otherwise obedient fireman (Oskar Werner) meets an intriguing revolutionary (Julie Christie), she provokes him to question the legitimacy of his actions. Tensions mount when he blatantly transgresses the very laws he's employed to enforce, and his terrified wife becomes an informant. Because the subject of censorship seems to be perpetually contemporary, one can argue that the significant social impact of FAHRENHEIT 451 will forever be current. François Truffaut's film is based on the best-selling novel by Ray Bradbury

 Many other films :

 Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)( 1979)

 Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall  "love the smell of napalm in the morning"

 Pyromaniac (Don't go in the house ) (Joseph Ellison) (1980) avec Dan Grimaldi  a young who, as a child, was severley burned by his sadistic/overbearing mother as a cruel means of discipline and punishment.

 A Pyromaniac's Love Story (Joshua Brand)(1995)  with John Leguizamo ...and Sadie Frost .......


 Fire can be a friendly, comforting thing, a source of heat and light, as anyone who has ever sat by a campfire in the dark of night knows. Yet fire can also be dangerous and deadly, racing and leaping like a living thing to consume all in its path. Most dangerous is the fascination for fire is a recurrent theme in mythology, literature and the arts : attractrion for evil or compulsive behaviour ?

From many examples from mythology, literature and fine arts, comes the idea that fascination for fire is incrusted in human nature and that shows the ambiguities of human nature. Dark depths of sinful human nature and reveals its helplessness under the law

We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it[13]


[1] Smith, William, ed. (1870) Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, V. 2, p. 439 

[2] Titus Livius, known as Livy  (59 BC – AD 17),  History (Ab Urbe Condita,)

[3] Livy, History, XXII, 17

[4] Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (56-117) Annals and History

[5] Tacitus, Annals XV.38

[6] A common method of reading books at the time was to lick one's finger to moisten it in order to turn the pages; when the page corners were poisoned, the reader licking his poisoned finger died soon thereafter

[7] (Umberto Eco in Postscript to the Name of the Rose)

[8] Musée du Louvre

[9] (24 October 1796 – 25 November 1864) was a Scottish painter. He is especially known for a prolific series of detailed prints of Egypt and the Near East produced during the 1840s from sketches made during long tours of the region (1838-1840).

[10] Ses peintures montrent des interprétations poétiques de paysages, des vues de Rome, de Paris, et d’Île-de-France. Il a peint également des fantaisies, par exemple la grande galerie du Louvre en ruines. Il fit aussi des croquis d’après nature (et des tableaux en atelier) de l’incendie de l’Hôtel Dieu (en 1772), et de la démolition du pont Notre-Dame

[11] . The painting is part of the Paul Mellon Collection and was photographed in the Yale Center for British Art. 1666

[12] (1795_1855) pintre quebecois autodicacte.

[13] Tennessee Williams (1914–1983), U.S. dramatist. Chris, in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, sc. 6 (1963).


Octobre 2012                    André J. Fabre                  jfabrefl@club-


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