Excavating Modernity: The Roman Past In Fascist Italy by Joshua ArthursExcavating Modernity: The Roman Past In Fascist Italy by Joshua Arthurs

Excavating Modernity: The Roman Past In Fascist Italy

byJoshua Arthurs

Hardcover | July 31, 2012

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The cultural and material legacies of the Roman Republic and Empire in evidence throughout Rome have made it the "Eternal City." Too often, however, this patrimony has caused Rome to be seen as static and antique, insulated from the transformations of the modern world. In Excavating Modernity, Joshua Arthurs dramatically revises this perception, arguing that as both place and idea, Rome was strongly shaped by a radical vision of modernity imposed by Mussolini's regime between the two world wars.

Italian Fascism’s appropriation of the Roman past—the idea of Rome, or romanità— encapsulated the Fascist virtues of discipline, hierarchy, and order; the Fascist “new man” was modeled on the Roman legionary, the epitome of the virile citizen-soldier. This vision of modernity also transcended Italy’s borders, with the Roman Empire providing a foundation for Fascism’s own vision of Mediterranean domination and a European New Order. At the same time, romanità also served as a vocabulary of anxiety about modernity. Fears of population decline, racial degeneration and revolution were mapped onto the barbarian invasions and the fall of Rome. Offering a critical assessment of romanità and its effects, Arthurs explores the ways in which academics, officials, and ideologues approached Rome not as a site of distant glories but as a blueprint for contemporary life, a source of dynamic values to shape the present and future.

Joshua Arthurs is Assistant Professor of History at West Virginia University.
Title:Excavating Modernity: The Roman Past In Fascist ItalyFormat:HardcoverDimensions:232 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.39 inPublished:July 31, 2012Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801449987

ISBN - 13:9780801449987

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Table of Contents


1. The Third Rome and Its Discontents, 1848–1922

2. Science and Faith: The Istituto di Studi Romani, 1922–1929

3. History and Hygiene in Mussolini's Rome, 1925–1938

4. The Totalitarian Museum: The Mostra Augustea della Romanità, 1937–1938

5. Empire, Race, and the Decline of Romanità, 1936–1945



Editorial Reviews

"Romanità has been a ubiquitous conceptual anchor in the analysis of the Fascist regime's fascination with Rome's histories and myths. While its relevance to Fascist ideology, discourse, and propaganda has been widely acknowledged, the concept itself has often been too easily juxtaposed to Fascism’s 'modernist’ streak. Joshua Arthurs’s fascinating and multilayered exploration offers a much-needed redress: the appropriation of the Roman past as history, aesthetics, physical space, and a set of values by the Fascist regime points to a decidedly revolutionary project that was underpinned by a unique transformational dynamic. Arthurs's idea of a Fascist excavation of romanità presents its investment in the ancient Roman past as a genuine, wholesale, and active attempt to redeem and mold it, both in physical terms within the urban space and as a timeless symbolic capital to be reclaimed in order to be (re)produced. In this respect, this book establishes Fascist romanità as different from previous iterations of the myth of Rome in modern Western and Italian political cultures."—Aristotle Kallis, Lancaster University, author of Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe