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The Heroic Pride in True Italian Hearts

Letter to Financial Times, April 19, 2012

From Mr Rosario A. Iaconis.
Sir, Gideon Rachman inaccurately equates the Continent's identity crisis with Massimo d'Azeglio's old saw about "making Italians" following the Risorgimento ("Europe has yet to make Europeans", April 10). Giuseppe Garibaldi, Camillo Cavour and Giuseppe Mazzini, the 19th-century triumvirate lauded as the "sword", the "mind" and the "soul" of Italian patriotism, brought the kingdom of Italy to fruition in 1861. Yet their efforts represented the rebirth of an ancient polity, not the gestation of a geographical expression.

In fact, Garibaldi said his vision of Roma Aeterna was "the dominant thought and inspiration of my whole life". Indeed, "the hero of two worlds" longed for the united Italy that first came into being in 222BC, approximately one year before Qin Shi Huang's China attained nationhood. By the time of Caesar Augustus, this political unity had become a cultural one as well. Virgil, who penned the Aeneid as an ode to Italian patriotism, spoke of a common destiny: "Such shall be the power of Roman stock, allied to the valour of Italy." According to the author Michael Grant, "Augustus felt and encouraged a new patriotic feeling for Italy, echoed by Virgil's insistence on the country's identity."

When Rome fell in 476AD, such patriotism remained hard-wired in the Italian consciousness. Niccolo Machiavelli penned The Prince as an empirical blueprint for a leader who would return the seed of Aeneas to unity and glory. Yearning for "our country to become noble again", the father of political science echoed Petrarch's verse that "ancient and heroic pride in true Italian hearts has never died". And Donald R. Dudley deftly explained the dynamism of an empire all'italiana: "To create Italy was the first great historical achievement of Rome; to make a political and cultural unity of the whole Mediterranean world was to repeat this task on a larger scale."

Rosario A. Iaconis,
Chairman, The Italic Institute of America,
Mineola, NY, US

 
 

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