A long-forgotten codex hidden in a giant Fascist obelisk in Rome has been analysed for the first time by scholars and revealed to be a time capsule eulogising the achievements of Benito Mussolini for future generations.
The 120ft-high white marble obelisk was built in 1932 on the orders of Mussolini, with the Latin words “Mussolini Dux” inscribed down its side – Dux being Latin for Duce or leader.
It is part of the Foro Italico, a huge sports complex on the banks of the River Tiber, with stadiums, running tracks and travertine marble statues of manly athletes tossing discuses and javelins.
In the base of the 300-tonne obelisk was hidden a metal box containing a few gold coins and a parchment text, written in Latin, called the Codex Fori Mussolini – the Mussolini Forums Codex. While the existence of the document has long been known, it has been impossible to access without damaging the monument.
But two scholars have managed to piece together what they believe to be an accurate version of the document by consulting Fascist archives in Rome.
Han Lamers, from Humboldt University in Berlin, and Bettina Reitz-Joosse, from Groningen University in the Netherlands, have now published a book on the codex, The Codex Fori Mussolini – A Latin Text of Italian Fascism, in which they reveal that it chronicles the birth of Italian Fascism and Mussolini’s rise to power.
The 1,200 word paean depicts Italy as a country hurtling towards disaster in the wake of World War One, before being saved by Mussolini “through his superhuman insight and resoluteness”, Dr Lamers said according to the BBC.
“The text presents Mussolini as a kind of new Roman emperor, but also, by using biblical language, as the saviour of the Italian people.”
The text is accompanied by a medal depicting Mussolini wearing a lion skin on his head.
Though written in the language of the Roman Empire, the document was aimed at audiences far in the future – the Fascists envisaged it being discovered centuries later by archaeologists, long after Mussolini’s rule had ended.
They were inspired by the archaeological discoveries that they themselves were making at the time in former Roman territories.
Mussolini himself was keen to portray himself as a 20th century Augustus.
The text was written by an Italian classics scholar, Aurelio Giuseppe Amatucci.
“As the first detailed study of a Fascist Latin text, (the book) also throws new light on the important role of the Latin language in Italian Fascist culture.”
According to Dr. Reitz-Joosse the choice of Latin, as reported by the BBC, is motivated by the need to “use a language of the past to draw a link between the Roman Empire and the rise of Fascism” and at the same time to the need to revive the Latin language as language of fascism.