Mystic Chords of Memory Binding All Italians
Op-Ed, The Financial Times,
January 23, 2015
Sir, John Lloyd struck a surprisingly balanced tone in reviewing
John Hooper's The Italians ("Italy uncovered", Life & Arts, January 10). Eschewing the ritual condescension reserved for discussions of the Magic Boot, Mr Lloyd echoes the author's belief that Italy is "less susceptible to separatism than Belgium, Spain and the UK". However, the mystic chords of memory binding all Italians predate Garibaldi, Cavour and Mazzini.
When the Kingdom of Italy came into being in 1861, it marked the rebirth of a nation-state forged by the Romans in defeating the Gauls at Telamon (Talamone).
Will Durant notes, in The Story of Civilsation: Caesar and Christ, that by March 1, 222 BC, "protective colonies were established at Placentia and Cremona — and from the Alps to Sicily, Italy was one".
According to Michael Grant in his History of Rome, Caesar Augustus "felt and encouraged a new patriotic feeling for Italy, echoed by Virgil's insistence on the country's identity".
Grant writes that the emperor's "pro-Italian, pro-Roman" worldview resulted in Augustus's title: "It was pater patriae, father of his country."
"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," explains Donald R Dudley in The Civilisation of Rome.
When the western Roman empire fell in 476 AD, Italy came under the yoke of foreign occupation. Reunification would not occur until the 19th century. But Niccolo Machiavelli kept the dream alive in The Prince, invoking Petrarch's verse that "ancient and heroic pride in true Italian hearts has never died".
Rosario A Iaconis
The Italic Institute of America,
Mineola, NY, US