WORKSHOP: Writing Ancient History in the Interwar Period
Newcastle Upon Tyne, 23rd-24th January 2020
Organisers: Nicolò Bettegazzi (Groningen) and Emilio Zucchetti (Newcastle)
The workshop “Writing Ancient History in the Interwar Period” aims to investigate the role played by the study of ancient history (especially Greece and Rome) in the construction of nationalist narratives in the interwar period (1918-1939). Between the two world wars, the European continent witnessed the propagation of nationalist narratives based on idealised images of a distant past. Through the idea of “roots” (see Bettini 2012), nationalist ideologies have often relied upon the idealisation of classical cultures as a foundation myth to constitute shared identities, and not only in Italy or Greece. Contemporary identitarian narratives in the far right are deploying the very same techniques as the Claiming the Classical workshop, held in London in November 2018, demonstrated.
Recent political developments, namely the rise of the so-called New Populisms (see Canovan 2005) and of Souverainism, have brought back to the centre stage the roles of Sovereignty and the People (as opposed to the establishment), understood as a well-defined, closed, national community. Nationalist and identitarian narratives are more and more used by politicians –and not only – all over the world: unlike what one would expect, contemporary nationalisms seem to be connected and work together, exchanging ideas, strategies, and themes, and looking for support in each other. The importance and success of these discourses, as well as their interconnections, prompted the idea for this workshop, whose objective is to investigate relations in nationalist uses of ancient history in a different time-span, the 1920s-30s.
As is well known, historical narratives occupied a central place in the construction and legitimisation of national narratives during the inter-war. Research on this topic focused largely on the myth of romanità in Fascist Italy and on the reception of Ancient Greece in Nazi Germany. However, scholars have devoted less attention to interpretations of ancient history in the historiographies of other national communities and to possible interactions between different narratives.
Investigating historiography in the interwar period can be fruitful not only with a view towards achieving a better understanding of the different notions, forms and functions of nationalism, but also to shed new light on the possible links between nationalist claims and international politics. By looking at the interactions between ancient history and nationalism in different geographical areas, this workshop aims to highlight inter-relations of historiographies across the world and their impact on political narratives.
Historiography on the ancient world can be a valuable case-study to investigate the relations of nationalist discourses and the use of history. Categories of thought, interpretations, and organization of historical materials can be revealing of major cultural trends and discourses. Prominent figures in historiography, such as, for instance, Ronald Syme or Jerome Carcopino, have received much scholarly attention: with this workshop, we would like to offer a wider reflection on the impact of intellectuals on civil society and the role of ancient history as a means to understand power structures.
For all these reasons, we are organising five panels – four of two papers and one of three, for a total of eleven papers – investigating the relationship between interpretations of history and nationalist mobilizations in different national contexts during the 1920s and 1930s. The contributions will consider a wide range of aspects of historiography on the ancient world during the interwar period:
– Elements of Sameness and Otherness in Historiographical Narratives
– Construction of Nationhood and Models from Antiquity
– Individual Historians and Intellectuals (and their role) during the Interwar
– Freedom and Political Agendas in Universities
– Alternatives or Dissidence to National Narratives
We hope to stimulate a fruitful discussion, during which common elements and differences between the different national contexts will be highlighted and brought together: we would like each paper to be around 20-25 minutes long, so that discussions could last almost as much as the presentations, each panel being of roughly 75 minutes.
Conferences and workshops
On 13 March 2018, the University of Oslo’s Classics Seminar welcomed Helen Roche (Cambridge):
Fascium decus superbum: Neo-Latin in the ventennio fascista. A conference on Neo-Latin literature of Italian Fascism, organized by Martin Korenjak, Lav Šubarić, and Valerio Sanzotta. Vinzentinum, Bressanone/Brixen, 7–8 October 2016.
Van Dux tot Duce: De Latijnse literatuur van het Italiaans fascisme. A student-organized workshop as part of the MA tutorial “Mussolini Dux: The Latin Literature of the ventennio fascista”. Leiden University, 19 December 2013.
Papers and presentations
We regularly present our results at academic venues and events. A selection of some of these appearances can be found below.
Nicolò Bettegazzi, “Between Political and Religious Leadership: Mussolini and Pius XI in the Latin literature of Italian Fascism (1922–1943).” University of Oslo, Department of Philosophy, Classics, and the History of Art and Ideas, Tuesday 7 May 2019.
Han Lamers & Bettina Reitz-Joosse, “Viewing Rome in the Latin Literature of the ventennio fascista: F. Giammaria’s Capitolium novum.” What Remains? Fascist and National Socialist Antiquities and Materialities from the Interwar to the Post-war Era. Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 8 June 2018.
Han Lamers & Bettina Reitz-Joosse, “Past and Future under a Fascist Obelisk: Aurelio Amatucci’s Codex fori Mussolini.” Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, October 2015.
Han Lamers & Bettina Reitz-Joosse, “Past and Future under a Fascist Obelisk: Aurelio Amatucci’s Codex fori Mussolini.” Forum Antiquum, University of Leiden, October 2015.
Han Lamers, “Latinizing Mussolini’s Message: Nicola Festa’s Latin Translation of the ‘Imperial Orations’ (1936/7).” Technical Translation; Translation Technique. Princeton University, December 2015.
Han Lamers, “A. G. Amatucci’s Codex Fori Mussolini and the Use of Latin under Italian Fascism.” The Sixteenth International Congress of the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies. Vienna, August 2016.
Han Lamers & Bettina Reitz-Joosse, “Mussolini Dux: Die lateinische Literatur des ventennio fascista”. Universität Rostock, July 2014.
Bettina Reitz-Joosse, “Aurelio G. Amatucci’s Codex fori Mussolini and the prospective memory of Italian fascism”. 145th Annual Meeting of the American Philological Association, Chicago, January 2014.