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The Impossible Capital: Monumental Rome under Liberal and Fascist Regimes, 1870-1943 Author(s): John Agnew Reviewed work(s): Source: Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, Vol. 80, No. 4 (1998), pp. 229-240 Published by: Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/11/2012 17:36Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

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Agnew, John 1998: The impossible capital: monumental Rome under liberal and fascist regimes, 1870-1943. Geogr. Ann., 80 B: 229-240. ABSTRACT. Every nation-state has a capital city from where the central government's institutions operate and where the past of the nation is remembered monumentally. Following unification in 1870 Rome became the capital of the new Italy. Turning it into a singular site to represent the aspirations of the regimes that came to power, however, proved an impossible task. Not only did the Liberal and Fascist regimes of the period 1870-1943 have contradictory intentions and goals, they also ran up against the complexities of Rome's own history in trying to establish their own. This paper contends that there are important similarities between the two regimes in their approaches to making Rome a capital for the new state and that contemporary cultural analysis of the Fascist regime misses this continuity when it takes the regime's claims to aesthetic novelty and architectural innovation at face value. In the end, Rome resisted attempts at using its monumental space to symbolically unify a country that remained materially and culturally divided. Key words: Italian unification, Rome, capital city, monumen-

tality. National identity requires a common memory that is shared by people who do not know one another, but who think of themselves as having a common history. This identity relies on forgetting as much as remembering; reconstructing the past as a trajectory to the national present in which to make a radically new future (Gillis, 1994, p. 9). At one and the same time, therefore, new nations require ancient pasts that can be mined for commemoration yet which do not totally obscure the achievements of the present. This is the burden borne in part by the "monumentality"of capital cities and other sites of national commemoration or lieux de memoire such as key battlefields, the birth- and resting-places of national heroes, and other national shrines (Nora, 1984). They replace or challenge the myriad milieux de memoire in which people's daily lives are saturated with particular place memories that do not privilege "national"events or history. In particular, a capital city's physical layout and the scattering of monuments celebrating national history proAnnaler- 80 B (1998) - 4 Geografiska

vide not only a legibility to the city itself but also a physical means of representing the nation in the city as the city represents the nation. To Moshe Safdie (1984), for example, monumentality refers to the spatial and architecturalarrangementof sites designed to convey the political meanings embedded in the location and iconography of the specific sites both separately and taken together as an ensemble. The architects of monumentality endeavor to impose on the spatial form of the city a singular set of meanings, a perceptible order and sense of hierarchy among sites and connecting routes, that both commemorates and celebrates the common history and evolving brilliance of the nation. The past is thus represented geographically as coeval, without any necessary historical sequence or chronology, within the capital city. After the occupation of Rome in 1870 by the forces of the risorgimento, one of the challenges facing the new regime was to turn the ancient city into a capital worthy of their project. With an incredible heritage of buildings, ruins and artefactsto draw on this might seem to have been an easy task. Surely establishing places of memory to commemorate the achievement of a united Italy would require only the token ritualization of already familiar and beloved sites and scenes? This was not how it worked out, however. On the contrary, it proved impossible to turn Rome into a capital on a par with other European capitals such as Berlin, Vienna and Paris. There were too many different memories encapsulated in the city to effect a successful transition to just an "ordinary"capital for an ordinary country. In the end, Rome defied all attempts at turning its historic center into a site of commemoration and ritual for the new Italian state.

Making a capital for a nation?When Rome was annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy in 1870 it was only the fifth city of the new



state, exceeded in populationby Naples, Milan, GenoaandPalermo.Followingthe collapseof the RomanEmpire,Rome had shrunk bothpopulain tion and political-economicimportance. The city survivedlargelyas a resultof its ecclesiasticalrole in Christendom as the seat of the Pope's terriand toriesin centralItaly(thePapalStates).As the new capitalcity it grewvigorouslyfrom212,000 inhabitantsin 1871to 660,000 in 1921.By thenonlyNaples and Milan were larger.It overtookNaples in 1931andMilanin 1936.Withwell over2.5 million inhabitants Romeis easily the largestcity in Italy , area is second in today, thoughthe metropolitan size to that of Milan. Unlike Paris or Londonin theirrespective states,Romeis by no meansa dominantmetropolis withinItalyas a whole. Norhas it everbeen. Milanis still moreimportant economically.As Italy's self-namedcapitalmorale,Milan has also been seen by manyItaliansas a clearother or totalalternative Rome;untilthe crisis of tanto Rome gentopoliin 1992 it represented everything was not. Only in its immediatehinterland in and partsof the southhas Rome ever been politically andculturally predominant. Italyhas a diffuseand urbansystemthatreflectsthe long hisfragmented in toryof politicalfragmentation the peninsula. As Italian political unificationproceededbetween 1859and 1870,a criticalquestion concerned the selectionof a capitalfor the new kingdom.As not earlyas 1861,although yet partof thenewstate, Rome was declaredthe capital.The annexation of Romeandits surrounding regionnotonly provided the lastchunkof the national then territory claimed by Italianpatriotsbut also a "neutral city" not associated,as were Turin,Milan andFlorence,with the local elite groupswhich had takenhold of the (Caracciolo,1956,p. processof Italianunification 16). In otherwords,as Birindelli(1978, p. 23) puts it, Rome "becamethe capitalnot for the qualities thatit had but for the ones it was missing".This, plus the obviousassociationwiththe gloriesof the ancientRomanEmpire,gave Rome a crucialadRome'sinternational vantageoverits competitors. unification more was visibilityalsocounted.Italian theresultof international thanof nationdiplomacy alist revolt. Consequently, outside supattracting uniGerman portwas crucial.By way of contrast, ficationduring sameperiodwasmoreinternally the oriented.The choice of Berlin as a capitalfor the new Germanyreflectedboth Prussiandominance of the new stateandthe Prussian state'spriorcommitmentto economicandmilitarygrowthas manifestedin the growthof Berlinitself. Rome was so 230

different.Ratherthan being a center of national Romewas widely viewedas a prestigeor strength, thatconsumedanddid notproduce "parasitic" city (Scattareggia,1988, p. 43). But the choice still made considerable sense. In the firstplace, in the movements unification city of Romewas itfor the self a unifyingforce.If therewas a singletradition that the populationof the peninsulaheld in commonit wasthatof ancientRome.Acrossall theideof this ological currents Italianunification was the one integrating element.Themythof a unifiedpast a imunderwriting unifiedfuturewas particularly to whichtookcontrol portant theliberalaristocracy over the processof nationalunification underthe auspicesof the Kingdomof Sardinia.Rome presentedthe image of a strongcenterfor a powerful groupworriedthatthe new Italymightbe too decentralized theirpoliticaland economicinterfor ests. Second,as notedabove,Romewas notseenas a threat the interestof dominant to groupsin existFlorenceandNaples.Its ing capitalssuchas Turin, to rulingclass was subservient the Pope andit was weak. economically As Italy's political-symbolic capital, Rome threat Turin's to administrative posedno immediate functions(as the seatof the dominant politicalunit, the Kingdom Sardinia), Milan'seconomicimof to portance,to Florence'sculturaland geographical or centrality to Naples'sdemographic weightin Italy as a whole.Yet very quicklymost roadsonce to againled to Rome.ThenewItalyproved be anexstateas the royalcourtmoved tremelycentralized into the RomanQuirinale palace,the military high the and command, Parliament, ministries, thehighest courtsof law took over formerpapalandother in ecclesiastical As properties the historiccenter. a result,by 1890Romehadbecometheplaceof work and residencefor a nationalgoverningclass. The city was now the fulcrumof nationallife undera As stronglycentralizedgovernment. Scattareggia the (1988,p. 45) expres