Medieval History | Later Middle Ages










The Middle Ages and Fascist Italy: Beyond "Romanità"


E42. Publio Morbiducci. La Storia di Roma attraverso le Opere Edilizie, 1939, EUR, Rom (Credits: Dr. Markus Wurzer)



Benito Mussolini's fascist regime drew on ideas, symbols, figures and narratives from antiquity not only to legitimate its aggressive expansionist policy in the Mediterranean and East Africa, but also to consolidate its rule domestically. The history of the Imperium Romanum was meant to serve as a propagandistically powerful projection surface for a 'new' fascist Italy. It is therefore hardly coincidental that Mussolini fashioned himself as a new Emperor Augustus, proclaimed a renewed 'empire' in 1936 – after the conquest of Addis Ababa – and sought to build a 'third' (fascist) Rome with the EUR. This "renaissance" of ancient greatness was designed to bring the Risorgimento to completion and lead a united Italy to greaterstanding on the world stage.

At first glance, it might seem like the "second" Rome – that of popes – and the Middle Ages are of little relevance to this view of history. However, the historical politics of Mussolini's regime leveraged not only the ancient Imperium Romanum, but the history of Italy in the Middle Ages as well. Medieval Italy not only revealed the history of a politically splintered peninsula, but was also well suited for instrumentalizing propaganda by the regime in two ways: On the one hand, it connected antiquity with the modern era, a chronological link that was emphasized e.g. in the history of the city of Rome. On the other hand, medieval developments could be drawn upon on a regional level to mobilize the public. This leads to a different picture than we find e.g. in national socialist Germany or fascist Spain, where medieval imagery played a more central role in political propaganda; it is this observation that makes fascist Italy particularly interesting case for closer investigation.

This conference aims to address this research gap. Until recently, historical research rarely put the Middle Ages and fascist tyranny into context: this conference therefore looks at the reception of the Middle Ages in Italian fascism with interdisciplinary perspectives, bringing together new approaches in contemporary history and medieval studies, urban studies and art history. A keynote lecture by Tommaso di Carpegna Folconieri introduces the current research status and puts the conference in context of the discussion of "Medievalismo" between fascism, modernism and socialism. The conference is structured into four round tables, each dedicated to a different aspect of the broader theme: The first session addresses representations of the Middle Ages and analyzes their instrumentalization in architecture, pop culture and art history. The second round table discusses the role of medieval studies under fascist rule. The third session ascertains the relation between fascism and the catholic church in the context of referencing the Middle Ages. The last round table complements the picture with international perspectives and sheds light on how the Middle Ages were received in Franco-Spain, in national socialist Germany or in the USA in the interwar period.


Link / Conference agenda



The conference is an international cooperation between the German and Austrian Historic Institutes in Rome (DHI and ÖHI Rome), the University of Heidelberg and the University of Graz and is organized by Martin Baumeister (Rome), Romedio Schmitz-Esser (Heidelberg) and Markus Wurzer (Halle/Saale).


Prof. Dr. Martin Baumeister

Prof. Dr. Martin Baumeister

German Historical Institute in Rome (DHI Rome)

Prof. Dr. Romedio Schmitz-Esser

Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg

Dr. Markus Wurzer

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

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Yen-Hsi Beyer: E-Mail
Letzte Änderung: 07.06.2021
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