Modern Italians and Ancient Rome

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Modern Italians and Ancient Rome

Postby Q Valerius on Sat Aug 18, 2007 12:43 pm

How do modern Italians feel about ancient Rome? More specifically:

1. Of Benito Mussolini's plan to bring back the Roman empire;
2. Of modern pagans following after the ancient religion;
3. Of those who wish to restore the ancient glories such as the colosseo?
4. Of Christianity in relation to pre-Christian ancient Rome?
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sat Aug 18, 2007 5:57 pm

Salve mi Scerio,

It is indeed an interesting question how modern Italians treat their history. I can tell from personal experience the following:

My murmillo has recruited an Italian from Sicily as thraex. This man is open-minded and interested in everything Ancient, be it Greek, Egyptian, Roman. But when we went over to his place because his mom was also there and we wanted to ask her if she who's skilled in sewing could make him the manica (gladiator arm protection) which is just sewing two layers of thick linen together she refused. And she said that she does not approve anything which is Ancient Roman because it's Pagan. The Italians esp. those from the South are very strict Catholics and they don't like anything which was before the Emperors were Christians.
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No togas in the Forum

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Aug 18, 2007 6:58 pm

Salvete, amici Romani!

A couple of years ago, several Novaromani from Europe and the US met in Rome for their fourth annual Conventus. They took one day to stroll the ancient City center, and dressed the way I would have on such a once-in-a-lifetime occasion: in all their togate Roman finery. They were promptly escorted off the premises by a warden with a clipboard and told that no one was allowed to wear Roman "costume" in the Forum Romanum(!!). They had to change clothing before they were allowed to resume their explorations.

I'd never quite understood that incident until very recently. A couple of weeks ago I read a news article about some people in "centurion's dress" who were scamming the tourists by posing with them for photos, then harrassing (and in one case assaulting) them for extra money. Perhaps the authorities thought the NR crew were more of the same...

(Personally, I can't imagine anyone in a full-blown Imperial-length toga assaulting anyone with any degree of effectiveness.) >({|;-)

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Modern Italians on Ancient Italia

Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Thu Aug 23, 2007 6:53 pm

Salve, Valerii Scerio -

Wonderful topic; I've wondered about this a lot. Nonne habemus Italianos Sodales qui respondere possint?

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Re: No togas in the Forum

Postby C.AeliusEricius on Thu Aug 23, 2007 9:44 pm

I don't know about while wearing an Imperial toga, but a group of Senators had no trouble assaulting a certain Dictator per Perpetua while wearing the late Republican style toga.

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Aldus Marius wrote:"]Salvete, amici Romani!

A couple of years ago, several Novaromani from Europe and the US met in Rome for their fourth annual Conventus. They took one day to stroll the ancient City center, and dressed the way I would have on such a once-in-a-lifetime occasion: in all their togate Roman finery. They were promptly escorted off the premises by a warden with a clipboard and told that no one was allowed to wear Roman "costume" in the Forum Romanum(!!). They had to change clothing before they were allowed to resume their explorations.

I'd never quite understood that incident until very recently. A couple of weeks ago I read a news article about some people in "centurion's dress" who were scamming the tourists by posing with them for photos, then harrassing (and in one case assaulting) them for extra money. Perhaps the authorities thought the NR crew were more of the same...

(Personally, I can't imagine anyone in a full-blown Imperial-length toga assaulting anyone with any degree of effectiveness.) >({|;-)

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Experience points

Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:19 am

Ita, mi Erici; but they were used to wearing the darn things! >({|;-)

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Postby Q Valerius on Sat Oct 06, 2007 7:38 am

Salve Aelia clarissima,

By Southern Italians, you're referring to those South of Rome? Are there any "pagans" akin to the Olympian worshippers in Greece, especially around the Roman vicinity?
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Re: Modern Italians on Ancient Italia

Postby Q Valerius on Sat Oct 06, 2007 7:40 am

Valerius Claudius Iohanes wrote:Salve, Valerii Scerio -

Wonderful topic; I've wondered about this a lot. Nonne habemus Italianos Sodales qui respondere possint?

Valete omnes!


Salve, Valerii,

I had thought so, sed, eheu, nemo Italiae respondit.
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Postby Gaius Iulius Tabernarius on Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:37 pm

I am first generation Italian American. both of my parents are from Calabria. and both talk about Rome very little but generally have nothing but good things to say about it.

"1. Of Benito Mussolini's plan to bring back the Roman empire; "

my mom is basically a fascist, me I admire his plan to revive Rome but not his tactics,( I don't like fascism or any from of socialism for that matter, I am strictly a Novas Homo republican)

"2. Of modern pagans following after the ancient religion;"

they never talk of it, even though every facet of rural Italian Catholicism is just Romano paganism with a christen dressing. saints instead of gods, prayers instead or rituals, ect.

"3. Of those who wish to restore the ancient glories such as the colosseo?"

I cant really say, I am guessing it would be something good, I certainly love the idea.

"4. Of Christianity in relation to pre-Christian ancient Rome?"

again my family at least don't like to talk about it, (I didn't even know there was a difference between catholic and roman until school, neither the catholic church nor my family ever say anything bad about Rome)

Me I may be catholic, but I heavily admire true pagans. (then again I am far from religious)
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Re: No togas in the Forum

Postby Decima Decia Melania on Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:08 pm

Aldus Marius wrote:
I'd never quite understood that incident until very recently. A couple of weeks ago I read a news article about some people in "centurion's dress" who were scamming the tourists by posing with them for photos, then harrassing (and in one case assaulting) them for extra money. Perhaps the authorities thought the NR crew were more of the same...



Unfortunately, this really does happen. About 10 years ago, I spent 2 weeks in Rome and visited the Colosseum. No kidding, there were guys out roaming around in gladiator regalia, having their pictures taken with tourists. They were also in cahoots with some little kids armed with sticks. The kids would come up to you, get right in your face (basically swarm you) and swat you with the sticks until you either paid them or managed to get away from them. They didn't beat you enough to hurt you... just enough to pester the h-e-double hockey sticks out of you.

The NR in question may have been denied entry in toga for that reason... Another theory involves two words - "stupido Americano." I heard this more than once while I was visiting Rome. The warden (or whomever) may have been using his authority to simply say, "Americans go home."

Either way, it's unfortunate. Perhaps an attempt in the future to enter the area in civvies (with togas in a backpack), then a quick presto-changeo once inside? :lol:
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Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:36 pm

Salvete, amici Romani!

> The kids would come up to you, get right in your face (basically swarm you) and swat you with the sticks
> until you either paid them or managed to get away from them.


Or got them to go away from you; that's one reason I carry a quarterstaff. Ask Curli. >({|;-]

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Stupido Americano?

Postby Gaius Iulius Tabernarius on Fri Mar 21, 2008 11:04 pm

Wonder how they would react to me? (full blooded first generation Italian American)

Who am I kidding they would probably just call me a Calabrian peasant or a bandit, (our little region of southern Italy has a reputation for both)

Yeah the concept of nationality or romanness its as always inferior to regional rivalries and international snobbishness.

I find it slightly disturbing that some of the blessed few people in the land of the free to break the history and cultural ignorance stereotype Americans have in Europe are treated so poorly, a sort of dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.

I for one am always very happy to welcome a barbarian as a roman. I think what matters is how we are, not how are ancestors where. After all the original Romans where a bunch of Latin tribes living in mud huts before they adopted the customs of their neighbors.
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Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Mar 21, 2008 11:21 pm

Salve iterum, mi Tabernari!

(Still here after my salvo? --You've certainly got the toughness! <g>)

Sometimes, at my reenactor gigs, people ask me if I've got Romans for ancestors. My family hailing as it does from Hispania Baetica, I probably do; so does anyone from any of 36 modern nations that once were Rome...but that's not the point.

I've long felt that "Roman" is not something you're born as, but something you become. Anyone who's done 30 years in the Auxiliaries in hopes of netting Citizenship for his son and a magistracy for his grandson knows this. Of all ancient societies, only Rome had that kind of upward mobility. So I feel right at home having "entered into the Heritage" in middle life, lived in a few dwellings that might qualify as mud huts, and done my level best to expand on and express our common, day-to-day Romanitas ever since. >({|:-)

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Postby Gaius Iulius Tabernarius on Fri Mar 21, 2008 11:46 pm

what can I say, I come from a long line of stubborn tenacious people, (another thing Calabrians are famous for)

I was born roman in a way, my parents both raised me with a healthy dose of patriotism for America Italy and ancient Rome.

more than that I have many roman tendencies, very strong sense of duty, pride, industry, and tenacity. and a healthy amount of ambition perhaps slightly more than healthy...

I cant say that if given an army I wouldn't pull an Alexander. Hey part of my philosophy is that if you wouldn't want to conquer the world, your not ambitious enough. If you actually think you can, your nuts.

Generally speaking in any setting with the chance of upward mobility I make a bead line for the top.
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Postby L. Livia Plauta on Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:20 am

Salvete,
finally I have time on my hands to answer this question by Valerius Poplicola, which is one of the main reasons I joined this forum.

At least I am italian, and even if I haven't lived in Italy for the last 15 years I still spent at least two months a year there, so I feel I am competent emough on the subject.

1. Of Benito Mussolini's plan to bring back the Roman empire;

This is actually the crucial point of any talk about ancient Rome. Unfortunately fascists used so much of the visual and conceptual repertoire of ancient Rome, that they got a kind of monopoly, and even if 60 years have passed, still in Italy any mention of reviving roman values will make people automatically think of fascism.
When I tell people in Italy that I joined Nova Roma and what it is all about the first questions they ask is: "are you sure these roman wannabes are not fascists?". So of course I have to explain all about the republican and democratic values of romanity, blah, blah, and I explain that these organizations actually make big efforts to keep fascists out.
The end of it is that they say:"Yes, yes", while from their faces I can see they still believe I've fallen into the clutches of the extreme right.

What most people think of Mussolini's attempt in concrete is that it was totally ridiculous, but the emotional undertones vary according to people's age. A lot of aged people remember (usually not fondly) when in their childhood they had to march as "figli della lupa" (the she-wolf's children) or "piccole italiane". Even younger people who had no part in fascism have seen documentaries, or sometimes have the chance to see every day some of the fascist buildings, with the pseudo-roman iconography.

In fact in Italy any public mention of the "glorious roman past" has been taboo for decades. Only recently the roman town authorities feel ancient Rome is de-politicized enough that they can be really proud about it. That's probably why there has finally been a wave of restorations, discoveries, and opening to the public of a lot of sites that were totally abandoned before.


2. Of modern pagans following after the ancient religion;

Here, again the first reaction of people who hear about neopagans is to ask whether they're fascists. This is partly justified, because neopaganism in Italy and the rest of Europe really has a right wing tradition, and part of the pagan organizations in Italy are (more or less disguisedly) fascist.

On the opposite side of the scale, there seem to also be extreme left-wing pagan organizations. In this case they are prompted by a reaction to christianity as the oppressive and monopolistic state religion, while paganism is seen as an embodiment of pluralism and democracy, which is basically the same train of thought present in other european countries.

It's hard to say what average people think of neopagans, because they hardly ever have a chance to meet any, and there's no relevant media coverage of neopaganism.
As far as I kow, the main attitude is one of "you never know". Some of the Christians probably think there's no harm in worshipping the classical gods too, "just in case". There might be people who consider them demons, but traditional believing Christians are a very small minority in Italy, and they probably worry more about the far wider presence of satanists.
The vast majority of the population varies from the very mild believing Christians (those who only go to church twice a year), the "generic" believers (those who believe in a God, but not the christian one), to the complete atheists. For atheists paganism is just a superstition like any other religion, but I can say by experience that most view it with far more sympathy than monotheistic religions.

One can't forget that the Gods are still present somehow in collective conscience: from expressions ("in culo a Giove" means in a very remote place) to metaphors.
All in all, I have the impression that few Italians would risk the enmity of the Gods by turning openly against neopagans, if they are otherwise acceptable from a political point of view, at most they think they're a bit crazy.

3. Of those who wish to restore the ancient glories such as the colosseo?

Here I don't understand what you mean. If you mean restoration of ancient monuments, of course everybody is favourable. If you mean restoring the use for the colosseum, well, nobody ever proposed that.

4. Of Christianity in relation to pre-Christian ancient Rome?

Christians usually view Christianity as a a huge progress compared to pre-christian cults, which they consider superstitions, and they are convinced that morals as we know them were created by Christianity.
Atheists consider all religions as superstitions. Some of them buy the teory that Christianity had a positive historical role because of its "modern" morality, while others think that, as a monotheistic religion, it was instrumental in shifting the political system to a dictatorship, while polytheism was related with pluralism and freedom of speech.
Basically this is the same range of positions you can find in the rest of Europe.
In Italy, though, what everybody will underline (with the exception of the most "hardcore" Christians, but they are an insignificant minority) is the continuity between Christianity and the pre-existent cults. People know that most of the ancient festivals have been preserved and adapted by Christianity, and that the cult of Saints is the direct descendant of the cult of Gods, so in fact most people tend to think that ALL festivals and traditional celebrations in Italy have a pre-christian origin (which is not always the case).

Well, amice Poplicola, I hope I have partly satisfied your curiosity.
If you want to know more you can always ask the same question over at the italian list of NR.

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very nice explanation.

Postby Gaius Iulius Tabernarius on Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:28 pm

Interesting points, as I said my family is from a rural back woods area so I guess the tenancy to favor nationalism is still prevalent, (even though I personally am fairly disturbed by the whole thing)

honestly I didn't have a tough time separating Romanism from fascism, manly because nearly all of the indigenous Italian superstitions where themselves very pagan like, (any one who tells me that saint Anthony's picnic isn't completely based on pagan health god worship needs to work on their imagination)

Me I don't really think a clove of garlic is going to protect me from sickness but I still respect my grandmother and her holy oil, (she is very old school.)
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Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Sun Mar 23, 2008 2:08 am

Salvete omnes,

Very interesting to read your views on the matter, Livia. I am, however, puzzled by one of you statements:

L. Livia Plauta wrote:...traditional believing Christians are a very small minority in Italy, and they probably worry more about the far wider presence of satanists.


This strikes me as very odd, especially considering the fact that Vatican City is located in the heart of Italy. I always heard Italians were pretty religious people. But then again, they may be considered relgious by our standards.

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Ave T. Dionysius

Postby Gaius Iulius Tabernarius on Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:21 pm

Tiberius Dionysius Draco wrote:Salvete omnes,
I always heard Italians were pretty religious people. But then again, they may be considered relgious by our standards.

Valete bene,


well it depends on where in Italy you are talking about. like in America some areas are very liberal when it comes to religion and others are very zealous.

but because of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism, Italian religious people are more mystical and ritualized than their far western counterparts.

for example no smacking across the face and forcing demons out of people who suffer from epilepsy. my grandmother would probably write the cross on your forehead in oil say some kind of prayer and maybe bless the house.

she's not a religious official or anything just really well versed in Calabrian folk traditions. Again much like roman paganism the emphasis isn't about submitting to god its about appeasing god and getting him to help you.

for anyone who is even vaguely familiar with real paganism its surprisingly similar, (probably why I don't have many compelling reasons to convert from one to the other)
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Postby L. Livia Plauta on Tue Mar 25, 2008 12:13 am

Salve Draco,
Tabernarius is correct, but his view needs integrating.

Italy is a bit more religious than Belgium or Britain, but it's still located in Western Europe, and thus is a basically secular country, far less religious than the most religious countries, like the U.S. and muslim countries.

Religiousness is tied to geographical areas, but also to social status. Generally speaking southern Italians are more religious than northern Italians, people who live in small villages are more religious than those who live in big cities, poorer people are more religious than richer people, and people who only have basic education are more religious than those with higher education, exactly like in a lot of other countries.

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italy) "87.8% of Italians identified as Roman Catholic, although only about one-third of these described themselves as active members (36.8%)".

The answers to some specific questions, though, are more informative, though unfortunately I have only been able to find stats from 1991 (http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/ ... _19_3.html).

Percentage Saying "I know God exists and I have no doubts about it": Italy 51.4

Percentage Saying They Definitely Believe in "Life after Death": Italy 34.8

Percentage Saying They Definitely Believe "The Bible is the actual word of God and it is to be taken literally, word for word": Italy 27.0

Percentage Saying They Definitely Believe in "The Devil": Italy 20.4

On the original website you can see the comparison to other countries.

Also, a lot of the "hard core" believers have the attitude Tabernarius describes, which does make it hard to distinguish their version of catholicism from paganism.
Anyway, on the whole, nobody in Italy has an interest in underlining the differences between Paganism and Christianism, and everybody has an interest in evidencing the continuity. The days of persecutions against Pagans are long past, so now Christians find it more useful to appropriate and integrate their cultural heritage instead.

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Postby Q Valerius on Tue Mar 25, 2008 6:15 am

Thank you Plauta and Tabernaria for the answers.

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