English Version

The Council of Nicaea reshapes the world

On May 20 of 325 AD, the world stopped. The Council of Nicaea had begun, in one way or another this event was going to shape the future of the entire humanity.

There’s nothing wrong with affirming that the choices made in the Council of Nicaea influenced history up to the present day. Some of its decrees and dogmas affected our lives, shaping religious beliefs and political ideologies.

Icon of Christ of the Pantocrator type (Χριστός Παντοκράτωρ)

Preservation of peace

Under the patronage of Emperor Constantine, Christianity transitioned from a marginalized cult to a strong religious one. This led to the construction of the first Christian churches, within and outside city walls.

However, in only 20 years, there was so much confusion and internal conflicts in the heart of the Church itself that the emperor had to intervene to shape its future. Thus, a council was planned in the city of Nicaea, in Bithynia, on 325 AD. Christ’s nature brought together 220 bishops who intervened on that occasion, it was such a huge important topic that it could have destroyed the Empire itself.

Spread of Christianity during the 3rd Century AD

A new world, made of dogmas and heretics.

The decisions made at the Council of Nicaea gave a new structure to a state that was increasingly influenced by too many Christian values.

The council of Nicaea strongly denied the Arian interpretation of the Holy Trinity, viewing Jesus as a subordinate to God. Furthermore, the conception of Jesus from Mother Mary through the Holy Spirit was declared a miracle. Therefore, a dogma was declared, imposing a truth that would have determined faith from then onwards. Additionally, the Church’s structure was reorganized, stating the authority of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria over others. However, according to sources, the Council of Nicaea ended up being a flash in the pan. In conclusion, heretical movements became stronger, accompanying the empire into its progressive transformation.

Ario condemned from the Nicaea Council, icon hailing from the Mégalo Metéoron monastery, Greece.


Translation from: Il Concilio di Nicea riscrive il mondo

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The foundation of Rome: the myth in the history

The foundation

21 April 753 b.C., it’s an important date where history and myth merge to give birth to the legend of one of the most important cities that the world has ever known: Rome.

Through literary sources, we’re going to retrace the events that led to the foundation of the city and, thanks to archaeology, we’re going to see if there’s any truth behind it.

The origins and the myth of Romulus and Remus through literary sources

Plutarch and Titus Livius are some of the greatest writers of the past that dedicated their writings to the myth of the foundation of Rome, associated with the legend of Romulus and Remus.

The story of the foundation starts when Romulus and Remus, thanks to the approval of their grandpa, Numitor (whose throne was initially usurped by his brother, and then returned to him thanks to the intervention of his grandchildren) left their hometown, Alba Longa, in order to go back to the banks of the Tiber where they grew up.

Apparently, this is supposed to be the place where they founded the city of Rome. However, the problem was to establish the name of the city and who should have had the right to reign. Titus Livius explains to us how the matter was resolved:

“Since they were twins, and birthright couldn’t be applied as an elective criteria, the gods who protected that area should have decided, through the haruspices, the one that could name the city and could rule after its foundation. So, in order to interpret the signs, Romulus chose the Palatine Hill and Remus chose the Aventine Hill.

(Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, Book 1)

According to the myth, the brothers looked towards Alba Longa from the top of the two hills. From there, the gods would have sent a sign which would have legitimated the future king. From the East, the first omen arrived: Remus saw six vultures flying around his head, while Romulus saw twelve of them. The gods had decided: Romulus was going to be the king.

After having established who would have ruled, it was time to found the city on the Palantine

Romulus, after obtaining the god’s favors, chose the Palatine as a starting point, and then he prepared to make a foundation ritual and trace the perimeter of the dawning city.

Plutarch described this moment in a detailed way:

“Romulus hooked a plowshare in the plow and yoked an ox and a cow on it, he rode them, tracing a deep groove in the perimeter that he established. Where it was intended to place a door, the plow was extracted while the plowshare was pulled so that they would leave a gap in the groove.”

(Plutarch, Life of Romulus)

Plutarch tells us that, after tracing the groove, the edge of the city was redesigned, and the foundation stones for the city were placed. That sacred and inviolable boundary was called Pomerium. To add a sacrality to the event, a girl was sacrificed and buried close to the pomerium.

The city of Rome was founded, and its ritual of foundation became the model of inspiration for other future cities.

Romolo traces the boundaries of Rome, Annibale Carracci (1520)

The Myth of Rome: archaeology could confirm or disprove

A specific date, two twins who were nursed by a Wolf and raised by shepherds in a hut, a circle of walls, a human sacrifice, and a small village named Rome, founded on the Palatine and ruled by one king. It seems like the Roman writers agree on the events that led to the birth of Rome, the Eternal City. How much of this “fairy tale” has convinced archaeologists? The answer is: a lot.

Andrea Carandini claimed that he made one of the most important discoveries during excavations around the Palatine’s area, in 2005.

The sacrifice of the girl during the furrow of foundation

On the slopes of the Palatine, a burial was dug containing the remains of a murdered little girl and buried with her grave goods. There was a small cup, which allowed us to determine the date of the burial, around 775-750 b.C., a date that is incredibly close to the one attributed to the foundation of Rome.

In the ridge between the Palatine Hill and the Velian Hill, Carandini and his team found the remains of a wall, dated at about 750-700 b.C., which took the name of Wall of Romulus”.

The “Wall of Romulus”, between the Palatine and the Velian hills


The huts of the kings and the temple of Vesta

Under the Palatine, archaeologists excavated the remains of some huts; hearths, stove tops, and post holes which were datable to the 8th century b.C.

Those elements were found near a temple dedicated to the goddess Vesta, which was already excavated in 1987. Inside the temple, the remains of a previous building, were discovered, once again, from the 8th century.  Even though it was a building of considerable size with an external court (which meant that it was a house worthy of an important figure), the construction technique was still rudimentary: once again, post holes that supported a roof and walls of dried clay, which were typical of constructions from that historical period.

This building was attributed to Numa Pompilius (754-673 b.C.).

Reconstruction of a 8th century b.C. hut on the Palatine hine


The “tugurium Romuli” or “the house of Romulus”

The tugurium Romuli is a hut that has been identified thanks to the presence of dugs where stakes supported the roof, which was of modest size.

The foundations of this building recur to the Iron Age (900-700 b.C.) and the position on the Palatine Hill could be associated with the first legendary king of Rome, that’s why it is named after him, “the house of Romulus”.


One of the huts that was found on the Palatine hill during Carandini’s excavations
The Lupercale

To conclude with the findings that allowed archaeologists to give credit to the myth, in 2007, the Italian archaeologist Irene Iacopi announced that, under the slopes of the Palatine, 16 meters deep, the archaeologists found a cave, which could only be explored with a camera probe, whose vault was decorated with Augustus’s eagle.

Perhaps, it might have been a place attributed to the legend and then became a house of worship.

“I’m an archaeologist, which means that I’m an historian, I study things that are made by humans and what is left of them on the land. I have been lucky enough to excavate for many years in those places that are mentioned in the myth, where Rome is supposed to be founded, and where the first kings may have lived. I have collected lots of material evidence in these excavations, which seem to be external to the literary tradition, and yet dating back to those days that recall the events and the actions of legendary figures. This is why I don’t believe that the legend of Rome is a fairy tale, but rather a tradition where truth and fiction are present and blended.”

-Andrea Carandini 


BEHINDFASCISM | The University City, a State Art

The University City project was a symbol of fascism and the whole Rome. The complex, inaugurated on April 21, 1935, represented an important venture for the regime because Mussolini decided to concentrate the buildings in a single area, to examine and modify the different designs and to visit the site often. The complex became a work created for the people and was somehow sanctified by the people.

A collective design

Mussolini entrusted Marcello Piacentini, academic of Italy, with the task of creating this large complex of buildings that was to constitute not only the University of Rome but the largest study center in Italy and the Mediterranean. Together with Piacentini, many others were the architects called by the Duce to collaborate, so that it would be a collective design enterprise. In spite of the work of the various architects, a unity of style was created, since the classic type of basilica and common architectural elements were used, such as the use of the same windows and the same covering materials such as travertine and yellow or red plaster.

The architectural approach

The chosen plot of land, in a quadrangular shape, is located between Viale del Policlinico, Viale dell’Università and Viale Regina. The different institutes are grouped around a central empty space, the center of the project. An essential project, with monumental visions, avenues and gardens. The monumental entrance, formed by high and solemn propylaea, opens towards Viale del Policlinico, 60 m wide, bounded by the buildings of the different faculties. In front of the Avenue, on its axis and placed to close the long side of the Forum, stands the building of the Rectorate and the Library, which forms a unitary complex with the buildings of the Faculties of Humanities and Law. The tree-lined avenue flows into a large transversal space, a square measuring 68 x 240 m, similar in size to Piazza Navona. At both ends stand the Institutes of Mathematics by Giò Ponti and the Institute of Mineralogy, Geology and Paleontology by Giovanni Michelucci. In the rear part, near the Aula Magna, there was a large square used for meetings and various ceremonies. Many areas were used for parks and gardens, such as the quadriporticus built on the left side of the avenue. The pronaos, the travertine pillars, the large windows framed in red marble, the statue of Minerva placed in front of the atrium represent a harmony of form and values.

General plan
The great avenue seen from the Rectorate building
The entrance porch seen from the outside
Building technology

The construction of the buildings was caged in reinforced concrete with the foundations consisting of concrete poles. The external facades were covered with a curtain of lithoceramic and Roman travertine. There were many special applications, such as glass brick cladding, lightweight reinforced concrete floors or glass-cement canopies.

The Rectorate building with the statue of Minerva
Architecture as a style of the fascist era

The University City is a successful experiment of collaboration and coordination that will be re-proposed with the E42. The simple architecture does not renounce the modernity born in a classical and Mediterranean climate. A political and artistic compromise: the point of equilibrium will then be found according to the orientations and needs that the Regime required for the realization of modern architecture as a style of a fascist era, a State art.

Aerial view of the University City

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ARCHAEOLOGY | The Baths of Caracalla, wellness center of antiquity

The Baths of Caracalla or Antoninian Baths were built by the Emperor Caracalla on the Aventine, between 212 and 217 A.D., as shown by the brick stamps. The external enclosure was, instead, the work of Elagabalus and Severus Alexander. Majestic and rich with precious ornaments, they were destined to the people of the nearby working-class quarters of the XII Regio and could contain about 1600 people. Polemius Silvius, in the V century, cited them as one of the seven wonders of Rome.

A unique complex

The baths were one of the favorite places of entertainment for the ancient Romans, where they regularly took care of their hygiene and improved their social relations.

From the structural point of view, they distinguished themselves from the “great imperial thermal baths” (a very common building typology, in fact, at the beginning of the V century A.D., there were 856 of them!) for a substantial novelty: the real thermal nucleus is clearly separated from all the other secondary and service rooms, that are not for bathing, which are located along the whole enclosure.

In the vast enclosure occupied by the Baths, citizens could not only use the public baths, but also devote their free time to sports, reading in the library, strolling through the gardens or paying homage to the god Mithras and other pagan gods by visiting the temple.

The Baths of Caracalla are an architectural and engineering marvel, especially when you consider their date of construction, with their water supply system, as well as heating and drainage. The wood-fired ovens, fed by slaves, were used to heat the floor and walls of the baths, as well as water.

The water supply was obtained from a branch of the Acqua Marcia: the Acqua Antoniniana, an aqueduct specially built in 212 A.D. and enhanced with a new spring. The heating of the water was provided by the fireplaces on the lower floors, the hypocaustics, which spread hot air in the cavities under the floor, supported by short brick pillars. Covered in marble and decorated with excellent works of art, those of Caracalla were the most sumptuous baths built in antiquity.

The thermal path
pianta Terme di Caracalla
Map of the Baths of Caracalla

One entered the central body of the building from four doors on the north-eastern facade. On the central axis you can observe different rooms in sequence: the calidarium, equipped with a large circular tank for immersion in hot water; here, to make the body absorb the moisture of vapors, the skin was sprinkled with water and a little soda, used instead of soap, cleansing with the strigilis, a metal scraper of curved shape suitable to remove the grease left on the skin by the combination of oils, ointments and sweat.

Continuing on, there was the tepidarium, equipped with tanks with lukewarm water to accustom the body slowly to the change in temperature, and then the frigidarium. This basilical hall (or cold room) is the focal point of the complex. Here the body was refreshed and invigorated, immersing itself in the four cold water tanks, placed at the corners of the room, which had to be covered. Finally, the natatio, where the ritual of bathing ended with a dip in the pool of very cold water.

At the sides of this central axis other rooms are arranged symmetrically around the two gyms. All the rooms were particularly well cared for and the spaces were enhanced with mosaic floors, walls covered with stuccoes, polychrome marble and, above all, hundreds of statues that decorated all the rooms. Sometimes special effects were also created. The mosaics, for example, often covered the interior and the bottom of the pools, perhaps with representations of fish and marine animals that the movement of the water made them seem alive!

Reconstruction of the Baths of Caracalla

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BEHIND FASCISM | E42, the relationship between regime and architecture

The E42 project represents the most important episode of the fascist will; with its construction the relationship between regime and architecture is given a turning point. The Duce identifies the “Mussolinian city” with the architecture that recalls Roman classicism. The project was born from the idea of Giuseppe Bottai, Governor of Rome who proposed in 1935 to Mussolini the intention to organize a Universal Exhibition in Rome. The idea was to create the “Olympics of Civilizations”, which would formalize the arrival of Italy to peace and cultural confrontation with other nations. The Exposition is called E42 because the end of the work was in 1942, the twentieth anniversary of the seizure of power by the fascists.

The seat of E42

The E42 is a project consisting of permanent buildings, with the exception of the Palace of Water, Light and Tourism, which were to make way for further expansion of the city. An area of about 400 hectares was chosen, located in the southern part of Rome, near the Abbey of the Three Fountains, thus intensifying the connections between the city and the sea.

The project team

Mussolini appoints as commissioner Vittorio Cini, a man from industry and finance, and personally chooses the six architects to whom he entrusts the realization of the project: Pagano, Piacentini, Piccinato, Muzio, Rossi and Vietti. The construction of the E42 involved everyone, not only the insiders. The Duce on this occasion speaks of peace and collaboration between nations, but in reality he aims at economic success to strengthen the coffers of the State and cope with the war effort, not expected before 1943-1944.

The Roman Castrum

The E42 was conceived with the typical Roman castra scheme, with glass and steel palaces, all referable to a single style, the “E42 style” of the XXieth Fascist Era. An expression that revealed the trends of an era, therefore classical feeling, monumentality and grandeur.

Urban project of the E42

In the second version of the project, produced in 1938, Piacentini took direct control of the operation. The architect used classical styles such as the arch, the colonnade and the exedra. You were faced with an almost suspended atmosphere, tending towards solemnity. Much of the surface area was occupied by parks and gardens.

The entire project was based on the system of the cardo and decumanus maximus: the cardo was via Imperiale, which would connect Rome to the sea, while the decumanus was the axis that connected Palazzo dei Congressi with Palazzo della Civiltà e del Lavoro. At the intersection of the two streets, the Piazza Imperiale, the scenographic heart of the entire project, is grafted onto the four symmetrical buildings that were to house the Museums of Arts and Popular Traditions and the Museum of Science. This type of system recalls the acropolis of Selinunte and the agora of Miletus, while the pentagonal shape of the plant is inspired by the plan of Versailles by Blondel; lastly, the green areas recall those of Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati.

The Imperial Gate and the Sea Gate

The monumental entrances were the Imperial Gate and the Sea Gate, which led to the entrances of the Exhibition. For the Imperial Gate, the architects initially thought of an aligned sequence of towers, but then they opted for a line of fountains. Unfortunately, the interruption of work due to the war prevented its realization. The Sea Gate, on the other hand, was a monumental arch that was to cross Via Imperiale, south of the artificial lake. Among the various projects presented, the one that was approved was by the engineer Covre, with two aluminum alloy arches of 200 and 320 m of light. The final project was completed in March 1941, too late to carry out the work.

Project of the Sea Gate of Adalberto Libera, 1942
INA and INPS Palaces

The final structure of the Exhibition involved several changes in the arrangement of the first entrance square, with the introduction of the two opposing exedras that gave shape to the two buildings of the INA and INPS, in the area of the large artificial basin of the lake, where one can see a reference to the Trajan’s Markets. The double colonnade of the exedras did not have a static function, but only a decorative one and it was made of marble. In addition, the two buildings were adorned with four colossal bas-reliefs of square shape.

INA Palace, EUR
EUR in the fifties

In 1940, due to the outbreak of the Second World War, many monuments of the E42 were not completed and the immense building site was abandoned, taking on an almost ghostly appearance.

The works were resumed, under the guidance of Virgilio Testa, Secretary General of the Governorate of Rome, only in the ’50s. The entire area, renamed EUR, was transformed into a district for offices and residences and became the site of the Olympics in 1960.

The EUR area in the 1950s
The architecture of the E42

The architecture of E42 addresses the masses. It represented an instrument for their education in the fascist sense and a testimony to the mission of civilization. The architecture of the Empire symbolized the myth of Romanity, immediately grasping the link between the modernity of the present and the ancient Roman tradition. In ancient Rome the Duce saw the model of a relationship between the individual-artist and the community, to be taken up and framed in the totalitarian conception of the State.

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BEHIND THE FASCISM | Stone Fascism, Mussolini’s Forum

Mussolini had used the myth of Rome to provide historical legitimacy for fascism. The reference to the past was found in the looting carried out by the Duce to bring to light the glories of ancient Rome. One of the most important places of the fascist regime was Mussolini’s Forum. Designed by Enrico Del Debbio, it was one of the places created to last over time. It kept its original and symbolic function intact due to the architectural quality and the name itself, “Foro Italico”, with which it had been called starting from August 1943.

The location of the building

The place chosen for the construction of Mussolini’s Forum is the Farnesina plain, between Ponte Milvio and the districts of Piazza D’Armi, which are crowned by the hills of Monte Mario and Macchia. A place where the greenery and the silence of the woods helped to create a sort of classic utopia in which stadiums and theatres were usually located. A place not chosen by chance: in fact, the Via Flaminia connects the Forum with the city centre via the Duca d’Aosta bridge, which acts as a direction. However, a run down place as well, up to the time of the construction of the Forum, due to the stagnation of the water and the difficulty of drains towards the Tiber. For this reason, the whole area was raised by 5 metres.

The reference to the ancient

For the construction of the Forum the concept of the ancient Gymnasium was taken up, enlarged and modernized. Del Debbio does not create a kind of Forum in the classical way, with colonnades, arches and scenographic walls, but buildings corresponding to the modern conception of their function. For example the central buildings of the Opera Nazionale Balilla, where Italian teenagers had everything they needed for training and physical education. The Duce, like the great Roman emperors, had his own Forum built recalling the myth of the “new Caesar”. Mussolini’s Forum was, therefore, a group of listed buildings linked to the most solemn monuments of Roman antiquity for the richness of marble, works of art and grandeur of lines. We wanted to celebrate beauty through it, creating an immortal work, thanks to the use of pure white Carrara marble, which perfectly suited the green of the slopes of Monte Mario.

The architectural layout of the Forum
The Fascist Academy of Physical Education

Mussolini’s Forum had a pedagogical, sporting, political, monumental and symbolic function. It consisted of a central core, the Fascist Academy of Physical Education, made up of two symmetrical blocks, joined together by a diagonal and central block. The building was plastered in Pompeian red, with windows framed by thin columns, topped with broken gables of white marble.

The Stadio dei Marmi (Marble Stadium)

Through a passage, one entered the Stadio dei Marmi, consisting of 10 tiers of steps, obtained thanks to the difference in height derived from the backfill of the area. The stadium’s capacity was around 200,000 people. The foundations of the building were in reinforced concrete, while the supporting framework of the steps was in tuff and brick masonry. The steps were made of blocks of white Carrara marble and housed 60 statues, 4 m high, placed as a crown, on bases 1.20 m high and 2 m in diameter. The statues represented athletes, intent on various game actions, and were donated by the Italian Provinces. To complete the sculptural part, in correspondence with the heads of the entrances, there were two niches in which two bronze statues were placed, while on the sides of the tribune of honor stood two groups of bronze wrestlers.

Mussolini’s monolith

The entrance to the Forum was characterized by the presence of a large obelisk in Carrara marble, erected in 1932. Made from the drawings of Costantino Costantini, it is the largest block of marble ever extracted from the Apuan Alps. The entire project describes a solemn space, the heart of the entire complex of the Forum, a further demonstration of how Mussolini took inspiration from the majestic architecture of imperial Rome to manifest fascist power. Initially placed in the centre of the Forum, it was then moved to the entrance.

The Avenue of Foro Italico

Located between the monolith and the Fountain of the Sphere is the Avenue of Foro Italico. Made in 1937, it is decorated with black and white mosaics which, together with the symbols and slogans of the regime, illustrate the historical phases of the conquest of power, the Balilla, the subjugation of Ethiopia, the arts, the activities sports and the achievements of the regime. The dowels used are the same used in ancient Rome, about one centimeter in size.

The Fountain of the Sphere

At the western end of the square stands the Fountain of the Sphere. It consists of a large circular basin of 3 metres in diameter and a large sphere, made from a single block of marble from the Carrara quarries. The ring-shaped basin of the fountain is decorated with a mosaic of black and white marble tiles with marine subjects.

The Stadium of the Cypresses

Behind the Academy is the Stadium of the Cypresses, formed by terraces cut into the side of the hill, with a capacity of one hundred thousand spectators. During the war the construction site was abandoned and used as a car park by the allied troops until 1949. Then, CONI, its owner, entrusted the completion project to Annibale Vitellozzi, who completed it in 1953. After reopening it was known as “Stadio dei Centomila”, given its capacity, but was renamed “Olympic Stadium” when, in 1960, the 17th games were assigned to Rome.

The southern part of the Forum

In a symmetrical position with respect to the Fascist Academy is the building intended for the Baths and the Academy of Music, built in 1937. Then there are the sports facilities dedicated to tennis, which consisted of the monumental Olympic Stadium, a stadium containing six training fields and a building used as the service areas of the two fields. The southern side of the Forum ended with the Casa delle Armi, assigned to the discipline of fencing, and the guesthouses used to host the athletes.

Mussolini’s Forum is one of the major urban interventions carried out during the regime and all of its works must be evaluated from an architectural point of view. Originally created as a Sports Forum, it became one of the places of mass mobilization, taking on great political and symbolic value. Sport is also used as a propaganda tool, capable of appealing to people. Courage, sacrifice, will, strength, which are the typical aspects of sport, became the identifying features of the Italian race and the constituent elements of the new Mussolini man.

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BEHIND THE FASCISM | Scipio the African, the clay giant

During the Fascist period, theatre and in particular cinema, had to adapt to a new mentality, that of the mass regime. One of the most important examples is certainly the production of Scipio the African. The blockbuster film of 1936-1937, directed by Carmine Gallone, exalted the imperial power of Rome identified with that of Fascism and superimposed the figure of Mussolini victorious over the Ethiopians on that of the Roman general.


Poster of Scipio the African (1936-1937)

Carmine Gallone, a cosmopolitan director

Carmine Gallone was defined by critics as a “cosmopolitan director” for his productions abroad, carried out between 1926 and 1935. He made hundreds of silent and sound films. He had great mastery of technical innovations such as feature films, sound, playback in opera films, the introduction of colour and style changes from realist to historical films.


The director Carmine Gallone

The plot of Scipio the African

Scipio the African reconstructed the events of the Second Punic War, from the departure of Scipio for Africa in 207 BC to the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. The consul Scipio, adored by the Roman people, obtains control of the province of Sicily from the Senate and prepares the military campaign against the Carthaginian army. Veterans of the Battle of Cannae join the departing troops as large numbers of volunteers flock from all over. Meanwhile, Hannibal is stuck in the Bruttium due to lack of food, so his troops plunder villages and crops. The soldiers break into the villa of Velia, a Roman noble and take her prisoner together with her fiancé Arunte and the servants. In Cirta, Sofonisba, the daughter of Hasdrubal, pushes her husband Syphax to ally with the Carthaginians. Scipio, after having besieged Utica and defeated the army of Hasdrubal and Syphax, prepares to face Hannibal, who leaves Italy to defend Carthage. Velia and Arunte manage to escape and reach Scipio’s camp. The two generals face off, Scipio on a white horse, Hannibal on a black one. Elephants hinder Roman soldiers, but the union of cavalry and infantry guarantees victory. Hannibal escapes along with a few other survivors while Scipio, having thus avenged the Battle of Cannae, returns to Rome, where he is celebrated with a night party.


Scene from Scipio the African (1937)

The critics’ opinion

The making of Scipio the African was done in ten months of work and cost about eight million lire. It constituted the greatest organizational effort made by the film industry for the use of masses, for the splendour of the interiors and for the impressive reconstructions. Despite this, it was considered by the critics of the time a total failure for several reasons: it represented an opera film both for its dramaturgical construction and extras (such as the choir) and for its music and theatrical acting; there was no collaboration between the various, indeed too many, assistant directors; others pointed the finger at the production and not the director, considered only a coordinator. The interpretation of Annibale Ninchi in the role of Scipio was considered negative, not loved by the crowd, not very charismatic. He could not bring the strong and daring figure of the Roman leader onto the screen, unlike the character of Hannibal played by Camillo Pilotto. The bad interpretation of the figure of Scipio consequently accentuated the melodramatic character of the film. The difference with the American blockbusters, which were based on strict rules and divisions of tasks supervised by the producer, was clear. Hard enough judgments on Scipio the African were also found in modern criticism. Carlo Lizzani wrote:

Scipio the African is the classic clay giant who would like to glorify impossible relationships between fascism and Roman times. The film is as redundant as it is provincial and painful is Mussolini’s illusion of resembling the Caesars.

Scipio the African (1937). Carlo Nicchi, Fosco Giachetti, Francesca Bragiotti

A political project

The film, wanted by Mussolini, had to be a productive and spectacular challenge, in competition with American cinema, and it was an opportunity to highlight the conquest of Ethiopia and the colonial empire created by the Duce. Scipio was not supposed to be just a film, but a blockbuster capable of being superior to all the other films shot up to that moment. The Scipio project was simply a political project, it was not created for the show and Gallone, naively, accepted advice and suggestions from everyone, especially from those who saw the world of cinema and, in general, of the show only as a propaganda medium for political consensus. This explained the reason why Mussolini chose Gallone as his own director: a director with experience, especially foreign, able to adapt to any circumstance and above all politically compliant.


Mussolini on the set of the film

Mussolini as Scipio the African

Scipio the African was a film made to celebrate the glories of ancient and new Rome and two important personalities: Scipio and Mussolini who, despite the chronological gap, had accomplished the same feat. While Scipio had defeated one of the greatest powers of his time, Mussolini had used advanced technologies to destroy a backward army, from that point of view. After the successful African feat, fascism presented itself as a new imperial power. A power that had changed the fate of Italy, which from a backward country became an economic and military power. The African feat pleased the masses, because in those subaltern regions they would find the job and land they had long sought. Africa was seen as a long-dreamed myth and achieved only thanks to Benito Mussolini. The African victory raised nationalist morale, but on the historical level there were negative outcomes with regard to international relations. Italy was moving away from Western democracies, getting closer and closer to Hitler’s Nazi Germany; the Second World War will sweep away the memory of the colonial conquests, which were immediately compared to the conquests of the Roman Empire. Scipio was considered a film that united the Italians and spurred political consensus towards Fascism and the Duce.


27 October 1937. The audience waiting to watch the film in front of the Barberini Theatre in Rome

The contrast between Roman and Carthaginian society

The creation of Scipio the African inevitably led to the launch of the figure of the Roman leader and, consequently, Mussolini became the main protagonist. The figure of the Duce was charged with a mystical halo, almost a divine light. The film inserted within it a considerable amount of symbols and also put Roman society in contrast with the Carthaginian one: the Romans were presented as a model of discipline, while the Carthaginians as hateful people who did not respect the truce and were ferocious with women. Carthaginian society was devoid of moral principles and dominated only by the god of money, as England was considered in the time of Mussolini. On the contrary, Roman society, after Scipio’s seizure of power, was compact and constructive, based on popular consensus. Scipio like Mussolini, was considered a predestined, a natural leader who had a privileged relationship with the people.


A bogus classicism

Scipio was a failure on several fronts. The film represented the end of the film made for the masses trend and Garrone, despite his long and satisfying career, will remain forever labelled as the director of Scipio the African. Scipio’s production shows how the myth of ancient Rome was widely used by fascist propaganda and how it was modified and shaped according to Mussolini’s ideas only. A use of the past, however, that risked reducing history to a myth, leading to a bogus classicism, emptied of content and reduced to a simple celebratory aesthetic.


BEHIND THE FASCISM | The Augustan Exhibition of Roman times

The process of identification between Augustus and Mussolini and the reference to antiquity reached its apex with the great Augustan Exhibition of Roman times in 1937. Managed by Giulio Quirino Giglioli, it was launched at the Exhibition Palace to celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Augustus.


Manifesto of the Augustan Exhibition of Romanity

The Exhibition Palace

The façade of the Palace, created by Alfredo Scalpelli, featured “writings along the entire façade, warning visitors and passers-by about the indestructible power of Rome, the talents of the Italic people and the universality of Roman politics, with the words of great classical writers and Christians “. It was decorated with copies of Roman statues of captive barbarians, the originals of which (2nd century AC) were found in the collections of the Conservative Palace.

The entire facade was a clear reference to the tripartite layout of the arch of Constantine, with the casts of the statues imitating the statues of the Trajan era placed on the top of the ancient monument. On the keystone of the central entrance of the exhibition there was a cast of the statue of the Victory of Metz, a reference to the Victories trophy placed in the median arch of the arch of Constantine. On the keystone of the central entrance of the exhibition there was a cast of the statue of the Victory of Metz, a reference to the Victories trophy placed in the median fornix of the arch of Constantine. Already from the mere realization of the façade, the desire to reuse classical elements and the desire to connect the Fascist empire with the Roman one was conceived.


The facade of the Exhibition Palace

The exhibition rooms of the Exhibit

Giglioli had set up twenty-six rooms dedicated to the history of Rome, from the first kings to the formation of the Empire, considered a space that the Romans had conquered because they were superior from a cultural point of view. Through the exhibition, visitors could learn about the uses, customs, techniques and economy of the entire Roman world.


Entrance to the Augustan Exhibition of Romanity

One of the most important rooms was certainly the Empire room, with the casts of triumphal monuments, such as the relief of a sacrifice probably made by Trajan, in front of a large temple. The shrine of the exhibition was the room dedicated to Augustus (room X), where, surmounted by the passage of Suetonius which exalted his birth, the statue of the Augustus of Prima Porta appeared.

Fragment of Suetonius’s piece

The glass cross in the Hall of Augustus

The mystical analogy between Augustus and Mussolini will find an iconographic translation in a glass cross bearing the words of St. Luke. The cross referred to the imperial census issued by Augustus and the birth of Christ. The identification between Augustus, “cooperator of Divine Providence” and Mussolini, who, after the Lateran Pacts, will be considered as the Man of Providence, became clear.


The Glass Cross

Giglioli recovered hundreds of casts, models of monuments, machines, models of cities, geographical and topographical maps that highlighted the power and grandeur of the Empire. Indeed, the exhibition was intended to “educate the masses”, to speak to the general public and enhance the similarities between the ancient empire of Augustus and the new empire of Mussolini.

The image of Constantine

In rooms XXIV and XXV the “fascistized” image of Constantine emerged. The rooms were placed in communication with each other by the architecture, which suggested the ideal continuity between the obelisks and the triumphal arches of the present and the past. Think about the triumphal arch of Constantine “erected to celebrate the victory over Maxentius on 28th October 312 AC, which marked the advent of Christianity […] reported at that same Milvian bridge, which the Black Shirts crossed on 28th October in 1922, starting the Era of Fasci ».

The peace savior

On his return from Munich, fresh from the closing of the Augustan Exhibition of Roman times, Mussolini, at least at home, was able to present himself in Rome as the “savior of peace”. If those garments did not mislead Pius XI, the same could not be said for the Catholic press. On 5th of November in 1938 The Catholic Civilization praised Mussolini as the new Augustus, who had returned from across the Alps with peace. A peace that wanted to resemble the Pax Augustea, which lasted for four centuries, but, when it left Europe, there was nothing but disorder and barbarism, which, within a year, destroyed the myth of Roman times.

Mussolini as Augustus and Constantine

The Duce personified the model of Constantine, the Christian emperor, and that of Augustus, the Princeps of the empire: a fusion of two imperial models. This happened through the recovery of the legend about the “Christianization” of Augustus, whose testimony emerged from the panels of the Augustan exhibition in which he was represented. An Augustus “Christianized” and aware of his earthly mission, illuminated by the light of providence, coinciding with the redemptive mission of Christ. Mussolini, therefore, claimed to fascism the merit of having restored the authority and prestige of the capital of Italy to Rome; moreover, he had used the myth of Rome and, in particular the classical elements, to provide historical legitimacy and ideological consistency to fascism.




ARCHAEOLOGY | Metaponto – Basilicata – the pearl of Magna Graecia

Metaponto, an ancient city of Magna Graecia, was probably founded in the eighth century BC by groups of Achaeans from the Peloponnese. According to the tradition handed down by Strabo, it seems that the centre was initially constituted by the veterans of the Trojan war.

The new veterans, however, lived together and clashed with the local populations of the Oenotrians. In the oldest phase of the area there was also an important inhabited area, now designated as the archaeological area of the “Incoronata of San Teodoro.


History of the city

The place, during the early age, was called Metabos with regard to a legend, and from this comes the subsequent evolution in the name. The ceramic productions were important in the area of ancient Metaponto.

Among the ancient artists the “Painter of Pisticci” should be remembered . The craftsmanship of bronze, sometimes illustrated, found in the Incoronata site was also important.

The city, in the period of maximum splendour, was able to host Pythagoras, who fled from Crotone. Following the events of the times, the city of the Achaeans often allied with nearby Taranto, following its fate for a long time. After being involved in the wars between the Romans and the Carthaginians, Metaponto entered the Roman orbit, first as a Federal City, then as a City Hall  in the 1st century BC.


The archaeological area

The sacred area is bordered on the west and east side by a perimeter wall ,Témenos, as well as by wide orthogonal streets. The east side, on the other hand, is marked only by a symbolic theory of pillars, which physically separates the area from the other public space, the agora.

The two major temples, Heraion and Apollonion, were built in the Doric style around the mid-sixth century BC. They are the result of a process of monumentalization of the sanctuary, which seems to end with the construction of the Ionic temple and with the reconstruction of building, in the first decades of the fifth century BC. The most impressive remains belong to the temple of Hera, the series of the 8 columns of the eastern front with a partial reconstruction of the elevation is proposed. The entire floor plan, on the other hand, is suggested by the orderly arrangement of the other remaining architectural elements.

On the side there is the temple dedicated to Apollo Lykaios, named as the Virtuous or the “Wolf”, of which some monolithic non-fluted columns relating to a previous building, never built, can be appreciated. The grandeur of the structure, the large base, is due to the need to support a great weight, determined by the marble roof. The building is characterized by the central division of the cell and by the double colonnade on the eastern front.

This building and the Ionic temple dedicated to Artemis maintain an old orientation, different from that of the two major temples, which instead align perfectly with the geometries of the urban grid. In front of the temples are situated the altars, accompanied by numerous bases, inscriptions and votive objects.



In the agora, however, the architectural grandeur of the theatre is clearly distinguished, which during the second half of the fourth century BC replaces the previous archaic circular building, conventionally referred to as Ekklesiasterion. The building certainly hosted the highest town hall meeting, Ekklesia, but also competitions and shows with great popular participation. The absence of a hilly slope in the area has forced the invention of an artificial embankment. This is held on the outside by a retaining wall made of large limestone blocks.

In the current arrangement we can point out the development of the first layout, following that one of the metal section bars. In the centre the orchestra is recognizable, rectangular in shape, with two large opposite entrances. To represent the elevation of the theatre, instead, the masonry reconstruction of a sector of the external retaining wall, decorated with columns and Doric frieze, was preferred. Along this wall there are also the entrances, which should have allowed the spectators to access the upper part of the steps, the cavea.


Remains of the theatre
Remains of columns and doric frieze














On the opposite side of the modern access road to the park, before the railway line, the area of the so-called Castro Romano develops, built between the agora and the line of the eastern walls. This is happened probably to house the Roman military garrison during the wars of the third century BC, before the definitive defeat of the Carthaginian army led by Hannibal. It is important the large portico or stoà, probably on two floors, with columns and Doric frieze, which closes the east side of the agora.

During the imperial period, Metaponto was further reduced to a small town within the Castro area. It exists in the basis of the port and the coastal road system. It is significant that the public space of the Greek city , agora and sanctuary, hosts a sector of the necropolis as if to underline the loss of any cultural and topographical relationship with the previous stages of life.