The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Monuments and Mussolini

Every day out on the weekend I've done in Rome so far have been blessed with sunny blue Mediterranean skies. On every stroll one seems to get a sense of how smothered in history this city (and Italy itself) is. I went to a big bookstore (which was rather appropriately split into two buildings, one solo-Italian, one mostly English, to segregate the tourists) to find a book in Italian on Italian history. I planned to get an easy one, maybe a kid's book. Instead, I browsed the history and politics sections for the longest time. I almost got Romano Prodi's little memoir of his 5 years as EU commission president but that cost something like 15 euros. Instead, I got 500 pages of Storia d'Italia nell'a guerra fascista for a cool 7 euros.

Now, you might say I bit off more than I can chew, and you might be right. But, I managed to slog through the introduction and first chapter with the help of my little bilingual dictionary. I get the gist of it, historians seem to write the same way across languages... It was published in 1969 so, perhaps rather expectedly, it's pretty apologetic. It even claims Mussolini declared war alongside Hitler mainly because he didn't have the troops to safely assert his neutrality (supposedly unlike Franco). Hmm!

I have enjoyed some of the quotes though. When Hitler annexed Austria (Mussolini was scared of Germany, Nazi or not, more than anything else) he declared that:
It would be the end of European civilization if this people of assassins and pederasts should invade Europe. Hitler is Dollfuss’s murderer, a horrible sexual degenerate, a dangerous madman.
Rather ironic given how common pederasty and homosexuality were in the Ancient World, but I digress...

Nonetheless, you can see how a guy like Mussolini would get delusions of grandeur by living in Italy, what with the weight of her heritage.

That the Way of the Imperial Forums, a big road Mussolini plowed through to make walking along the ruins of the Colosseum, the temples and the Roman forums easier.


At the same time, it's a bit schizophrenic...

I was pretty surprised when I saw the side of the Colosseum... almost like it's just some sort of facade.

This view from one of the arches feels like someone has just lumped together half a dozen world monuments with its ancient temples, basilicas, Brandenburg Gate-esque chariots... It feels almost like too much.

I would end this post with a flattering picture of the Vittoriano (the massive marble monument in the center of Rome built to celebrate the unification of Italy in the 1860s) but it (my luck) is largely covered up for renovation.

Instead I have a closeup of the huge equestrian statue of King Vittorio Emanuele II in the middle of the monument. Those bollocks, along with the rest of the statue, were completed in the 1900s (a mere 4 decades after unification.. the original sculptor died it had to be finished by another) and are made of solid bronze.

The guys who commissioned the statue quite self-consciously picked a man-on-horseback in imitation of all those Roman-conqueror statues. They were worried the realism might not be in keeping with the classical style of their models.


Blogger Julia Haston said...

I'm looking forward to having a personal tour guide with quirky insights if and when we visit.

9:53 PM  

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