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FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam

New Signs of Antiquity: The Uses of Latin in the Public Culture of Italian Fascism, 1922-1943

Alternative title: Bruken av latin i den italienske fascismens offentlige sfære (1922-1943)

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

This project explores the role and functions of the Latin language in the public culture of Italian Fascism (1922-1943). “Rome is our starting point and our point of reference,” Benito Mussolini declared in 1922: “it is our symbol or, if you wish, our Myth”. Signs and symbols of Rome were everywhere in Mussolini’s Italy, from the symbol of the fasces to the ‘Roman’ salute. The ancient language of Rome, too, was part of the Fascist ‘cult of Rome’. Apart from Dux and SPQR, Latin words, phrases, and even short texts proudly featured in inscriptions, stamps, and radio shows. Mussolini himself exclaimed, in Latin: “Civis Romanus sum” (“I am a Roman citizen”). This rhetorical use of Latin resonated with a wider interest in the ancient language under Mussolini, actively supported and promoted by the regime. Although the language was not commonly understood by all Italians, Mussolini’s regime deftly exploited its symbolic potential. How was the ancient language put to the service of Fascism in Italy’s public culture under Mussolini? Which cultural, linguistic, and ideological notions informed Latin’s appeal for Fascism? And why is it important to understand that appeal today? A team of researchers from Norway, the Netherlands, and Italy will explore how and why Latin was used in Fascist public culture. It will also make the recently rediscovered and difficult-to-find heritage of Fascist Latin texts available online, in a scholarly responsible way.

“Rome is our starting point and our point of reference,” the leader of Italian Fascism, Benito Mussolini, declared in 1922: “it is our symbol or, if you wish, our Myth”. Commonly recognized as a constitutive part of Italian Fascism, the ‘cult of Rome’ was a public spectacle informed by a set of values and ideas associated with Roman antiquity. Signs and symbols of Rome were everywhere in Mussolini’s Italy (1922-1943), from the fasces to the ‘Roman’ salute. The ancient language of Rome, too, was omnipresent in public culture. Apart from "Dux" and "SPQR", Latin words, phrases, and even short texts proudly featured in inscriptions, stamps, and radio shows. Mussolini himself exclaimed: “Civis Romanus sum” (“I am a Roman citizen”), in Latin. Such ‘Latin signs’ resonated with a wider interest in the ancient language under Mussolini, supported and promoted by the regime. Even though Latin was not commonly understood, Fascists deftly exploited its symbolic potential. How was the ancient language put to the service of Fascism in Italy’s public culture under Mussolini? Which cultural, linguistic, and ideological notions informed Latin’s appeal for Fascism? And why is it important to understand that appeal today? A team of experts from Norway, the Netherlands, and Italy will explore how and why Latin was used in Fascist public culture. It will also make the recently rediscovered and difficult-to-find heritage of Fascist Latin texts available online, in a scholarly responsible way.

Activity:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam