(The walk to) Stadio Olimpico


Italy is the only country in the world with three daily newspapers dedicated completely to sport, and the country in which sports shows receive the highest television-audience rating. Soccer is war, we have experienced that ourselves, and marks such as Ferrari and the National Football team, ‘la Nazionale’ are almost religious for the country’s inhabitants. Italy’s growing obsession with sports was brought about, in part, by the Fascist regime’s attempt to invent a tradition of shared identity through – among other things - the use of sports.

On this Wikipage, we take a deep dive into Italian Fascism and sports, in general, but also in depth, when we analyze some of the works present at the Foro Italico, former Foro Mussolini. We concentrate on and analyze the walk to Stadio Olimpico, and the Stadio itself, including in our report the Mussolini Obelisk, the mosaics and marble blocks of the Viale del Foro Italico, the Fountain of the Sphere of the Piazzale del Foro Italico, and the Stadio itself. Our main question is:

What problem was solved by creating (the walk to) Stadio Olimpico?
Or in other words: To what problem was (the walk to) Stadio Olimpico a solution?
How was the (walk to the) Stadio a means to deal with, and reflect upon cultural change?

In what follows, we will first look at the context, before concentrating on bridging the times, through sports, and through the chosen works of arts, before answering our research question.

Please be wary of the fact that in its first stages, the Stadio Olimpico was called the Stadio dei Cipressi. It was designed and constructed within the larger project of the Foro Mussolini, which was renamed Foro Italico after the war. We will use these names interchangeably, but especially in the case of the Stadio, stick to the term ‘Stadio Olimpico’, because the Stadio has had more than three names over the years.

Contents
1. Context
2. Bridging the times
3. Bridging through sports
4. The Italiano Nuevo
5. Unity from Chaos
6. Bridging through the chosen artworks
7. Mussolini Obelisk
8. Mosaic
9. Marble Blocks
10. Fountain of the Sphere
11. The Stadio’s Architecture
12. Further discussion of the artworks
12.1 What Fascist Art expresses
12.2 Questions facing the builders of these artworks
12.3 What problem was solved by creating (the walk to) Stadio Olimpico?
Sources

Context


The Stadio Olimpico is forthcoming of the Fascist reign in Italy. During the Fascist reign there was a strong objective to regain Rome’s, or Italy’s imperial power. This desire for imperialism can be considered a direct result of the First World War. Although technically Italy won the war, and as a result won most of the territorial gains that were promised by the Treaty of London, among the Italian people there was a deeply dissatisfied opinion on the treaty of Versailles. Italy believed to be entitled to more territory, but they could not make a significant stand against the Big Three of France, Great Britain, and the United States of America. The Italians considered themselves to be deprived of what they were entitled to, considering the effort they had put into the war. As a result, the feeling of a mutilated victory arose.[1]

Thus, despite ‘winning’ the war the Italians, felt rather humiliated. This led to (among other things) the formation of the Fascist party by Mussolini, galvanizing support of many unemployed war veterans. By the end of 1922, Italy seemed to be slipping into political chaos. The Fascists or ‘Black Shirts’ marched on Rome and Mussolini presented himself as the only man capable of restoring order. When in reign, Mussolini put a large emphasis on regaining Rome’s, as well as Italy’s respectability.

Mussolini had many plans he wished to realize during his reign over Italy, but his main aim was expanding the Spazio Vitale – a concept similar to the later developed, but better known Nazi term ‘lebensraum’. Importantly, though, unlike lebensraum, Spazio Vitale was not based on the genocide of the conquered countries, but presented the Italian race as a ‘custodian and bearer of superior civilization’ [2], whose mission was to export the fascist revolution and ‘civilize’ the territories conquered. Giuseppe Bottai, a Fascist ideologist, compared this ‘historic’ mission to the conduct of the ancient Romans, stating that the ‘new Italians’ would once again ‘illuminate the world with their art, educate it with their knowledge, and give robust structure to their new territories with their administrative technique and ability’ [1]. In other words, there would be one, large nation of ‘new Italians’.

Although the new imperial age was never achieved - to the disgrace of Mussolini [1,3], many effort was also put into the fundamental idea of Spazio Vitale: creating new Fascist Italians, with a sense of Italian identity[4]. This sense of Italian identity, or really any kind of unity, was what the country had lacked in the years before 1922. Mussolini had many different means to create this shared Italian identity, including bringing back the greatness of the past, and one of the most important ones was sports.[4]


Bridging the times


After the humiliation of the war the Italian people deeply desired to regain its respectability. Mussolini already established on quite an early stage that relating back to Roman Empire would be the way to go.

‘Rome is our departure and reference point: it is our symbol, or if you wish, our myth’
Benito Mussolini, 1922

Mussolini was extraordinarily susceptible to power exerted by the past. Naturally the celebration of the old Roman Glory was highly selective, as the Fascists did not take in to account any of the complexity experienced during different stages of Rome’s evolution. Especially those periods wherein Rome was characterized by decline and decadence were ignored completely. To illustrate the superiority of ancient Rome, Mussolini tore down large pieces of the town in order to free (among other buildings) the Colosseum from the buildings that had risen in the centuries following the decline of the Roman Empire.[1]

As Mussolini already established that ancient Rome would be his reference point, the only problem left was deciding how to return to its past. Mussolini had to create a bridge between the times.


Bridging through sports


As mentioned earlier, Mussolini decided to clear out the Colosseum. This illustrates the importance he had put on the Colosseum being a central point of reference to ancient Rome. He incorporated many of the facets of the Colosseum in the construction of the Foro Mussolini, and of our object of analysis, the Stadio Olimpico. One of the reasons why Mussolini chose to develop the Foro Mussolini as one of his trademarks was because ancient Rome was very much related to sports. Eventually, there were well over 250 amphitheaters in the Roman Empire - so it is no surprise that the amphitheater and its associated shows are the quintessential symbols of Roman culture[1]. Bringing back this historic relation with sports and games was one reason to build Stadio Olimpico and Foro Mussolini from 1927 onwards.

An additional effect that the Stadio had to promote was greatness. The Stadio had to be large as it had to be able to impress people, both visitors and sportsmen. This greatness again was a direct reference to the past. The effect of the massive building works under Mussolini in central Rome was to transform the capital into a kind of ‘theme park’ [3] where both visitors and inhabitants would be reminded of the powerful utopia of the past.

A further reason why Mussolini chose for the Stadio Olimpico as a main tool to create his Fascist Italy was that in the past, it had proven that sports could promote unity among people. In ancient Rome, the gladiator games were found to be one of the main tools to promote unity among the people [3,4]. Sports therefore, were considered to be capable unitizing and changing the mindsets of the people. Augusto Parboni, one of Fascist Italy’s most prominent journalists, also witnessed this as he mentioned that sport became a ‘new method to penetrate and educate the masses physically and spiritually’[4]. When Italy won the soccer World Cup of 1938, in France of all countries, it was seen as biggest achievement ever made in Italy’s sporting history. It was mentioned that prior to these events, ‘Italy’ was more considered to be a geographical term rather than a national one. It was theorized by Lando Feretti, Mussolini’s press officer and one of Fascism’s most prominent theorists in sport, that these kinds of successes in sport unitized the Italian diaspora and symbolized the rise of the Fascist Italian nation[4]. It can be theorized thus, that Stadio Olimpico was mainly a tool to promote this unity among the people. Not only by participating in these sports, but the mere presence at these events promoted the unity.


The Italiano Nuevo


Mussolini believed that the main asset that was required to get a modern day empire was through people. Therefore, Mussolini desired to create warriors that could fight for him, that could inspire the people into doing greatness. In order to achieve this however, Mussolini believed that an army of real men was required. This was an issue because Mussolini saw that Italian men were recognized by too much femininity. He believed that the ‘Latin Lovers’ were not capable of reaching his goal, and therefore it was required to change the mindsets of people. This requirement is well illustrated by the following quotation, found in Lo Sport Fascista:

‘Abandoned to themselves, or worse still, badly guided, these youngsters waste precious energies in efforts unsuited to their physical means that ruins their physique. We need to teach them technique, to control their exertions in order to success and get the maximum benefit from the minimum effort.’[4]

Mussolini idealized the fascist man that would represent power and prominence, and therefore the overall masculinity among men had to be increased. An important requirement for his ideal fascist man, which he called the ‘Mediterranean man’, was to be extremely fit. Therefore, also, he emphasized the importance of sports. He called all of his athletes ‘gladiators’, emphasizing that the athletes were the kinds of warriors he wished to have under his reign – and linking them to past heroes. These new men, the Italiano nuovo, were imagined to be disciplined men that loved combat and confrontation, and desired to proclaim Italy’s glory through their own personal drive and energy. Mussolini believed not only that the athletes were the most capable warriors, but he also believed that the people would be inspired by the athletes to improve their own physical capabilities[4]. Thus, yet another reason why the Foro Mussolini was built was to help educate the new men into becoming more masculine. Within the Foro Mussolini, training programs were developed to cultivate citizen soldiers that could help Mussolini achieve his empire.

The athletes that truly excelled and became champions within their sports were dubbed as ‘soldati dello sport’[4]. It was believed that success in sports would evidently lead to success on the battlefield. Success in sports first of all meant for the Italians that they could regain some of their lost glory. In addition, it was believed that the success would trigger a certain hunger among the Italian population for more success. In the end, Benito Mussolini seems to have achieved changing the mindsets of many of his athletes, as illustrated by the following quote:

‘Whether beyond or within the borders, sporting or not, we Italians… shook and still shake with joy when seeing in these pure thoroughbreds, that overwhelms so many noble opponents, such a symbol of the overwhelming match of Mussolini’s Italians’[4]


Unity from Chaos


It must be said that the Colosseum was not only a tool to facilitate sports and games to unite the people, it also held significant symbolic value to the people. The Colosseum was built in the aftermath of Nero's extravagance and the rebellion by the Jews in Judea against Roman rule. Nero, after the great fire at Rome in 64 AD, had built a huge pleasure palace for himself, the Domus Aurea, right in the center of the city. In 68 AD, faced with military uprisings, he committed suicide, and the empire was engulfed in civil wars. The eventual emperor, Vespasian decided to shore up his shaky regime by building an amphitheater for the people.

The Colosseum was built on the site of the lake in the gardens of Nero's palace, directly facing Nero’s old palace. It was a grand political gesture: suitably for Rome, it became the largest amphitheater in the Roman world, capable of holding some 50,000 spectators. Through the Colosseum, the emperor was able promote peace among the people[5].

The modern Italy of after World War I, especially before Mussolini’s ‘coup d’état’, also experienced unrest. Mussolini therefore desired to promote more unity and calmth among ‘his’ people. As the Colosseum had achieved to create unity and peace after an era of complete chaos, Mussolini attempted to do the same with the creation of the Stadio Olimpico and the Foro Mussolini. Thus, through the construction of the Stadio Olimpico, Mussolini attempted to achieve a similar result of achieving unity from chaos.

The establishment of the Stadio Olimpico was preceded by the construction of the National Monument of Victor Emanuele II several years earlier. The monument was built in honor of Victor Emanuele II, the first king of the unified Italy. In principle, the monument could be seen as a symbol for the unification of Italy, and thus it was also a tool to unify the people of Italy. For the construction of the monument, a significant part of the Capitoline Hill was destroyed. In addition, the monument itself, being very large and white, was fairly out of tone with its surroundings. As a result, the monument was center of a lot of criticism among the people. Consequently, the creation of the monument caused diversification rather than unification. Following these events, Mussolini knew that he should learn from the mistakes made, and apply that to his symbols of the reunification of Italy[1]. Thus for the Foro, Mussolini chose a less central location and a design that was far less out of tone with its surroundings. In the end both the monument as the Stadio Olimpico were meant to be symbols of the unification of Italy, however where the monument could not create a common identity, the Stadio Olimpico achieved to a great extent.


Bridging through the chosen artworks


The Stadio Olimpico - in the context of the Foro Mussolini - serves as an excellent example of Fascist propaganda. The area’s name, Foro Mussolini, suggested the imperial image sought after by Mussolini, as before only emperors had forums constructed and named in their honor. The Foro also contained a number of monuments dedicated to Mussolini, next to them showing (once more) bridges between the times. When moving towards Stadio Olimpico via the designated path, that is, over the Ponte Duca d’Aosta - which shows the struggles of Italy in the First World War, but will not be analyzed in this piece – one is directly welcomed by a colossal obelisk, constructed from one block of marble. Walking on, there are a number of artworks to be found, and to be analyzed in the following, including the mosaic, the marble blocks, the fountain of the sphere, and the oversized statues. We will use this exact order in the following analysis. Of course, we also take a look at Stadio Olimpico’s architecture, and analyze some unrealized plans for the Foro.


Mussolini Obelisk


The Mussolini Obelisk, or the Mussolini Monolith[6], is the absolute eye-catcher of the former Foro Mussolini, and simply cannot be overseen when moving towards Stadio Olimpico. The seventeen-meter high, three-hundred ton marble obelisk was created by Costantino Costantini in 1932, fully dedicated to Benito Mussolini, and can be seen as a means of linking the greatness of past empires to that of the new, Fascist empire.

The choice of an obelisk to illustrate authority is not particularly surprising. Literally meaning ‘pointed pillar’ in ancient Greek, the first obelisks were erected in Egypt, originally in honor of the sun god, and later in honor of fallen Pharaohs. After defeating Antony and Cleopatra, Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, conquered Egypt around 30 BC. Subsequently, he took the obelisks dedicated to the Pharaohs Rameses II and Psammetichus II, and placed them in Rome. Later obelisks came from Egypt, or were made in Italy in the next three centuries – among them two that were erected at the Mausoleum of Augustus. At present, eight ancient Egyptian, five ancient Roman, and five modern obelisks can be found in Rome, making it the city harboring the most obelisks in the world.

While most ancient obelisks were inscribed with lengthy, difficult-to-interpret hieroglyphs and texts, that in honor of Mussolini knows no ambiguity. When approaching the obelisk from the Ponte Duca d’Aosta, onlookers will find only two words to read: MVSSOLINI, and DVX. This MVSSOLINI text is, interestingly, the only public honoring of Mussolini that was kept intact after his reign. Next to the word DVX, which means leader in Latin, one finds a fasces, the symbol of (Italian) Fascism representing strength through unity. When turning to the side of the obelisk, there is another text, stating: OPERA BALILLA ANNO X. This text mentions the Fascist youth organization, Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB), and the year in which the Obelisk is built, namely ten (X) after the start of Fascism, or in other words: 1932. This new calendar only underlines the believe of Fascist Italy in a new era that had started.

One interesting view on obelisks is the view that interprets them as ‘male organs of generation’, in other words, as erected phalluses. This view seems to come from the ancient Egyptian worship of phalluses, a worship that – to this date – has never been linked to obelisks by mainstream academics. Nevertheless, it is ‘masculine energy’, so to say, that is typically rewarded by having an obelisk built for you. The Mussolini Obelisk is no exception – and might not be a coincidence either. As Dr. Vincent Arnold stated when explaining the obelisk: what else could be more demonstrative of the masculine values meant to unite the Fascist empire, than a seventeen meter erect penis?

In terms of answering our research question, we should conclude this analysis by asking ourselves what problem was solved by building this obelisk. How does it exactly reflect upon cultural change? This question cannot be answered by looking at the obelisk exclusively: we need the story told by the Ponte Duca d’Aosta, as well as the stories of the mosaics and the other art works, to know what Italy needed at the time of developing plans for the obelisk, and building it eventually.

When one looks at the Foro Mussolini as a way of honoring Il Duce, the Mussolini Obelisk was a way of showing who this Duce was, and what he did to the country that had no common identity before he stood up. The Mussolini Obelisk is the ‘good thing’ at the other side of World War I, and literally at the other side of the road separating the Ponte (the struggles) from the Foro (the new start). Its height makes Mussolini more important than anything else, and one has to admit this before becoming one of many Nuevo Italiano, or Mediterranean men, who – when together – are able to relive the glories of the past.


Mosaic


The mosaic that follows the Mussolini Obelisk is an approximately 200 meters long pathway taking the visitor past colossal marble blocks and the fountain of sphere, towards the actual (old) entrance to Stadio Olimpico. As most of the other artworks present at Foro Mussolini, except for the Mussolini Obelisk, the mosaics were designed by one of Mussolini’s favorite architects, Enrico Del Debbio. At present, the pathway is called the Viale del Foro Italico, ending on the Piazzale del Foro Italico. It consists of black and white Fascist era mosaics, executed in the ancient Roman style – as used throughout the Roman Empire’s history - but most of them with modern or mixed themes. These simple but effective works seek to capture the ancient Roman art form to glorify a modern-day emperor, Il Duce, and also the athlete in action.

Together, the mosaics seem to suggest the similarity between the new Fascist empire and the foundation of Rome by Romulus and Remus. More specifically, there are five types of images to be found in the mosaics at the Viale del Foro Italico, and the Piazzale del Foro Italico:

Modern images that honor Mussolini

These images include, again, unambiguous messages about Il Duce, such as mosaics that simply say DVCE DVCE DVCE, four times, and repeated over the length of the Viale. Others include large M’s with a fasces, texts such as DVCE ANO, which means our leader[7], and MOLTI NEMICI, MOLTO ONORE: many enemies, much honor. The Fascist youth organization is also represented again, with mosaics saying ‘Duce, our youth we dedicate to you’

Modern images that honor the athlete

These images include sportsmen from almost all sporting categories, including swimming, running – and even ice hockey.

Modern images that honor the worker and the soldier

These images vary greatly; in some images, ancient workers are shown, while in others, they are in army trucks – and in some other, the images are combined to show the link between ancient workers, and modern workers.

Ancient images that honor ancient times and themes

Most notably in this category is the image of Apollo, holding a victor’s wreath, pictured above the famous image of the Romulus and Remus brothers, being raised by a wolf-figure. The mosaic honors the founders of the ‘old Rome’, and one of the Roman Empire’s most important gods.

Combinations

There are also combinations to be found in the mosaics, such as this example, in which an ancient Roman blesses the flag of the modern soldier.

We will first analyze the marble blocks that can also be found at the Viale, before answering how the Viale del Foro Italico, and its works of art, represent cultural change.


Marble Blocks


The marble blocks at the sides of the Viale del Foro Italico are written confirmations of Italy’s twentieth-century conquests up to 1943, including some blank ones for the conquests that never came. Most blocks include texts like these:

IX MAGGIO MCMXXXVI XIV

IL DVCE PROCLAMA LA FONDAZIONE DELL'IMPERO. VFFICIALI SOTTVFFICIALI GREGARI DI TVTTE LE FORZE ARMATE DELLO STATO IN AFRIKA E IN ITALIA CAMICIE NERE DELLA RIVOLVZIONE ITALIANI E ITALIANE IN PATRIA E NEL MONDO ASCOLTATE.

CON LE DECISIONI CHE FRA POCHI ISTANTI CONOSCERETE E CHE FVRONO ACCLAMATE DAL GRAN CONSIGLIO DEL FASCISMO VN GRANDE EVENTO SI COMPIE. VIENE SVGGELLATO IL DESTINO DELL'ETIOPIA OGGI IX MAGGIO XIV ANNO DELL'ERA FASCISTA

Meaning (notice how again, 1922 is the year 0) [8]:

May 9, 1936, Year 14

Il Duce proclaims the foundation of the empire. Officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers of all the armed forces of the State in Africa and in Italy, Blackshirts of the revolution, Italian men and women in the fatherland and throughout the world, listen!

With the decisions that you will learn within a few moments, decisions acclaimed by the Fascist Grand Council, a great event is accomplished. The fate of Ethiopia is sealed today, the ninth of May, in the fourteenth year of the Fascist era.

Again, in terms of answering our research question, we should wrap up the analysis of the mosaic and marble blocks by asking ourselves what problem was solved by these works of art. How do they exactly reflect upon cultural change? Together with the mosaics, the blocks show exactly how all Nuevo Italiano, when united by Il Duce (which visitors of Stadio Olimpico have passed now, in the form of the Mussolini Obelisk), are able to relive the glories of the past.

These glories of the past are shown in the mosaics, as are the ways in which the new Italian people can relive these glories – through honoring the leader by working and sporting together, and by fighting other nations. The proofs of these ways are then shown on the blocks of marble that glorify the deeds of the Fascist movement. Together, the mosaic and the blocks are a means of taking away the instability of Italy, filling the nation’s people with pride and believe that they can once again form a respected empire under the unquestioned leadership of Benito Mussolini.


Fountain of the Sphere


The Fountain of the Sphere contains a sphere weighing forty-two tons, and was meant as the middle point of Foro Mussolini, as well as the last work of art one comes about before entering the actual sporting facility. The sphere is located in the center of the Piazzale del Foro Italico, and is surrounded by some small stairs and numerous works of mosaic. It was designed by M. Paniconi and G. Pediconi.

Not only is the sphere believed to symbolize the strength of Fascism, it also had a very important link to ancient Rome. Dr. Vincent Arnold told us that the fountain was meant to become the new Umbilicus Urbis Romae:

Literally meaning ‘Navel of the City of Rome’, the Umbilicus Urbis Romae is still present in the Forum Romanum. It was the symbolic center of the city from which, and to which, all distances in ancient Rome were measured.

This new sphere was to become the new Navel of the City of Rome, once again emphasizing the importance of sports in Mussolini’s new empire.

In terms of answering our research question, we conclude the analysis of the Fountain of the Sphere by asking ourselves what problem was solved by this work of art. How does it reflect upon cultural change? Again, we should see the new Navel of Rome in relation to the other works analyzed here. After being reassured about their leader (the Mussolini Obelisk), and their possibilities (the mosaic and blocks), visitors and sportsmen and women were once again taught about the ambition of the new Italy, and how they could help to achieve a greater empire.

Because if this was the place where it had all started, they were part of it. Could this navel once again lay thousands of miles away from Rome’s furthest border? This question was to be wiped out by the fountain: of course it could! When the people of Italy were united under Mussolini, and worked together, a new Roman empire would lie around the corner.


The Stadio’s Architecture


As to the design of the Stadio itself, Mussolini had very little requirements. According to Dr. Vincent Arnold, architects enjoyed a fair amount of freedom under Mussolini, and he only was quite clear in the message it had to transcend – perspective was very important in this. The initial structure of the Stadio dei Cipressi could be considered to be very simple and had almost no similarities with today’s Stadio Olimpico. The first structure, as built in 1927, was engineered by Del Debbio, and did not include any additional aesthetic decorations.

The Stadio itself, without a doubt the most important building of the Foro Mussolini was aesthetically perhaps the least interesting object: literally, the only real criterion that Mussolini had appointed to the Stadio was that it had to transcend greatness. Mussolini believed that the architecture had to impress everybody, both visitors as inhabitants of Rome. He believed that through its greatness people would again be reminded of the Roman Empire[4]. Therefore, what the Stadio lacked in decoration, it gained very much in its size. The architects had chosen pure mass over beauty and as a result a very large imposing construction was created, with room for 55,000 spectators.[9,10]

It can even be said that the Stadio’s simplicity amplified its greatness: the Stadio dei Cipressi was sunk in the ground partially, making sure that the only focus of spectators was on the game – and this is also believed to have been done to let the stadium suit its environment, that is, the banks of the Tiber. Unsurprisingly, though, the Stadio had a place for the emperor: the stands grew higher at the far side of the Stadio, leading to a plaza that was called Piazzale Superiore – which in turn had a ‘podio d’onore’. It should not be too difficult to guess who sat there, and who watched his game of soccer from there. In 1937, the construction of a second tier of ‘normal’ stands, which were just stairs, really, was started, but cut off in 1940 with the start of the Second World War.

Contrary to what some believe, sports games were not the only occupation of the Stadio. It was also used for Fascist and even Nazi conferences, which most of the time incorporated honoring the leader in great fashion – by forming colossal M’s or swastika’s with hundreds of people. German eagles on pillars were specially added to the Stadio for the visit of Adolf Hitler, der Führer, who was an important ally of Mussolini, in 1938.

In terms of answering our research question, we conclude the Stadio’s analysis by asking ourselves what problem was solved by this works of architecture. How does the Stadio exactly reflect upon cultural change? It is again referring back to Ancient Rome, but not much so in a visual way. Visually, it does not remind people as much to the Roman Empire as other aspects such as the mosaics and the obelisk that were discussed earlier, but its goal was very much the same.

Mussolini believed that if people would be impressed by its grandeur, people would intrinsically be reminded of greatness of the past. Also, the visitors had – before entering the stadium – been welcomed by the leader, they had seen the successes of the Fascist movement, and they had seen the new Navel of Rome. Once inside, the show was on, and they spurred their country forward to beat other counties. The Stadio dei Cipressi literally was the centerpiece of the Foro Mussolini, which was to serve as a modern ‘ city’ devoted to sports, physical fitness and youth. Creating a united Italian people trough sports was realized in this very stadium.


Further discussion of the artworks


What Fascist Art expresses

Fascist Art, in itself, is very simple. Some even say it is not art, because it only tells the story of the ancient past, or – in the case of the Stadio – is just a facilitator of showing greatness. The unambiguity of most of the artworks tells the stories of Fascism, such as who the leader is, how great Fascism is, and what was reached by the Fascist movement. The art around the Stadio in summary does an excellent job in portraying the time, place and emotion of fascist era.

In a way, Fascist Art, and with that the Fascist movement itself seems extremely confident of itself: the artworks always express power, greatness, and achievement. But really, were the Fascists so confident? If so, than why did the architects need all this worshipping of Fascism, of their leader, and why did they have to show the way to the Fascist people?

We have long thought that our conclusion would be that Foro Mussolini was a way of taking away chaos. But there’s more to the Foro and the Stadio than that. The questions answered by the artworks analyzed here are questions of uncertainty, rather than chaos alone, uncertainty about Fascism and its followers: did the followers really follow the leader? Could they be united? The unambiguous works presented by Fascism had only one answer to these questions: yes. The works were created to take away the uncertainties of Fascism by showing that Italy’s ancestors were able to thrive in ancient times, and that Italy was becoming a great power once again.

Questions facing the builders of these artworks

The creators of the (walk to) the Stadio Olimpico were facing a sequence of problems. The problems can also be divided into two perspectives, one from Mussolini and the other from the artists. For Mussolini the main question, how could he reach the goal he so desperately wanted of Italy becoming a great nation again? He realized early on, that only through the people this would be possible, and that the mindsets of the people had to be changed. People had to crave for greatness, and should also physically be able to achieve this greatness. Unity was also among the most important tools to achieve this. Consequently, the problem however, became how to create this unity among the people and to create these new mindsets. As a solution to that, Mussolini came up with referring back to ancient Rome.

The problem that followed all of Mussolini’s ideas was from the artist’s perspective. How can the artists create such an art that could refer back to Ancient Rome, and still make it representative for modern day Italy? In addition, the art should incorporate the message that greatness is achievable among the people, and persuade them to become the ideal fascist man. And then there was also the issue of indoctrinating the glorification of il Duce.

What problem was solved by creating (the walk to) Stadio Olimpico?

By now, we have referred multiple times to the unity from chaos phenomenon. Rather than chaos, the problem the Stadio Olimpico was dealing with was creating unity from uncertainty. Even though Mussolini was head of state, creating a full alignment among the people is still difficult to achieve. After the turbulent times of the world war and the March on Rome, creating calamity and unity was among the most important issues. In the past it had proven that sports and entertainment were one of most important means to create unification among the people. To illustrate, the Colosseum was built in order to create calamity after a turbulent period. Similarly, the Stadio Olimpico was created to achieve a likewise goal. The Stadio Olimpico moreover attempted to achieve unity, through reassuring, quite obviously, who the leader would be that could lead them to future success.

In addition, the Stadio Olimpico and its surroundings had to progress the creation of the Italiano Nuevo. Through references to the past, Italians were reminded about the glories that were once attained. The sometimes obvious connections between modern day and the past, such as in the mosaics, illustrated the possibility of achieving those kind of glories once again. In addition, the glories that could be attained through the sports exercised around the Stadio would prove to be great symbols to unify the Italian people.


Sources


  1. Pollard, J. (1998). The Fascist Experience in Italy. London: Routledge.
  2. Rodogno, D. (2006). Fascism's European Empire: Italian Occupation During the Second World War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521845151.
  3. Burdett, C. (2008). Italian Fascism and utopia. History of the Human Sciences, 93-110.
  4. Martin, S. (2004). Football and Fasicsm. Berg : New York.
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  6. Medina Lasansky,D. (2005) The Renaissance perfected: architecture, spectacle, and tourism in Fascist Italy. Pennsylvania, US. Penn State Press.
  7. http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~timmoore/imagesofrome/Mussolini/https://nestor.rug.nl/webapps/Bb-wiki-bb_bb60/wikiView?course_id=_59286_1&wiki_id=_4987_1&page_guid=14eb6dc6c36f4e3db2343d64f02f43e6
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  10. Il Foro Italico e Lo Stadio Olimpico (copy from KNIR