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Whispering City

Whispering City: Rome and Its Histories

R.J.B. BOSWORTH
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 358
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq9fg
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  • Book Info
    Whispering City
    Book Description:

    InCivilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud claimed that Rome must be comprehended as "not a human dwelling place but a mental entity," in which the palaces of the Caesars still stand alongside modern apartment buildings in layers of brick, mortar, and memory. "The observer would need merely to shift the focus of his eyes, perhaps, or change his position, in order to call up a view of either the one or the other."

    In this one-of-a-kind book, historian Richard Bosworth accepts Freud's challenge, drawing upon his expertise in Italian pasts to explore the many layers of history found within the Eternal City. Often beginning his analysis with sites and monuments that can still be found in contemporary Rome, Bosworth expands his scope to review how political groups of different eras-the Catholic Church, makers of the Italian nation, Fascists, and "ordinary" Romans (be they citizens, immigrants, or tourists)-read meaning into the city around them. Weaving in the city's quintessential figures (Garibaldi, Pius XII, Mussolini, and Berlusconi) and architectural icons (the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, and EUR) with those forgotten or unknown, Bosworth explores the many histories that whisper their rival and competing messages and seek to impose their truth upon the passing crowds. But as this delightful study will reveal, Rome, that magisterial palimpsest, has never accepted a single reading of its historic meaning.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17222-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xii-xvii)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-9)

    ‘What gives a city its special character is not just its topography or its buildings, but rather the sum total of every chance encounter, every memory, letter, colour and image jostling its inhabitants’ crowded memories’.¹ So the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk explained as he ventured into his own magical portrait of Istanbul/Constantinople and those pasts and presents that had made him. Similarly, this combined image of the permanent and the fleeting was what Mark Mazower noticed at the beginning of his subtle exploration of Thessaloniki/Salonika, a place of ‘more than two thousand years of urban life’ and ‘a city...

  7. 1 ROME AND THE ROMES ACROSS TIME
    (pp. 11-31)

    Could a historiographer drive on his history, as a muleteer drives on his mule, – straightforward; – for instance, fromRomeall the way toLoretto, without ever once turning his head aside either to the right hand or to the left, – he might venture to foretell you to an hour when he should get to his journey’s end; – but the thing is, morally speaking, impossible: For, if he is the man of the least spirit, he will have fifty deviations from a straight line to make with this or that party as he goes along, which he...

  8. 2 ROME, REVOLUTION AND HISTORY
    (pp. 33-55)

    Amid the treasury of Roman tourist sites, the Museo Napoleonico, housed in the Palazzo Primoli across the river from Castel Sant’Angelo, is not one of the city’s more celebrated buildings. Yet it is a place worth pondering by anyone investigating how histories in the city make themselves heard, live, die or run together at different times and with different needs and purposes. The current guidebook to this place of memory of a Roman Napoleon relates proudly that it was bequeathed to the Italian nation by Count Giuseppe Primoli on his death in 1927. Primoli was a great-grandson of Lucien Bonaparte,...

  9. 3 A HOLY CITY: ITS PAST AND FUTURE RESTORED?
    (pp. 57-81)

    The harmonious Piazza del Popolo that De Tournon and Valadier planned but that was completed after 1815 under Pius VII is now usually thronged with tourists. It is yet another good place in Rome to consume history. The crowds may gaze at the Egyptian obelisk which stands at the centre of the square and is covered with hierogyphs celebrating the reigns of Pharaohs Rameses II and Merenptah from the thirteenth and twelfth centuries bce. They may cool themselves from the spray of the lion fountains that guard the obelisk or from those at the middle of each hemicycle into which...

  10. 4 ROMAN REVOLUTION, NATIONAL REVOLUTION
    (pp. 83-105)

    The Janiculum Hill, running from Trastevere to the edge of the Vatican, rises steeply some 100 metres above the Tiber and acts as the western frame of Rome’s historic centre. It is a delightful place from which to survey the city and the sometimes snow-covered Apennines to the east. The hill has also on occasion acted as Rome’s last natural military bulwark, for example in 1849, when French troops moved against the revolutionaries, headed by Mazzini, and their Republic. Then control of the San Pancrazio gate was bitterly contested, with the peerless ‘hero’ of the Risorgimento, Giuseppe Garibaldi, offering defence...

  11. 5 ITALIAN ROME: RATIONAL AND HUMANIST
    (pp. 107-131)

    An instructive place to ponder the historical order that Liberal Italy sought to impose on newly annexed Rome after 1870 and its fate over succeeding time is the Campo dei Fiori, located not far from the classical Campus Martius and the Tiber and, by that decade, becoming ‘a centre of commerce among the working classes’.¹ Today the Campo is a more ritzy square located in a bustling shopping area between the Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the Palazzo Farnese. This latter is defined by the guidebooks as ‘the most magnificent Renaissance palace in Rome’; perhaps appropriately, it houses the French Embassy.²...

  12. 6 ITALIAN ROME: NATIONAL AND IMPERIALIST
    (pp. 133-159)

    Of the city sites whose histories are explored in this book, the most obvious and unavoidable is the glaringly white, massively pillared and stepped, confrontingly imperial-looking Vittoriano. This commemoration of King Victor Emmanuel II (d. 1878) stands at the heart of Rome, brazenly outshining the half-hidden monuments to thecarbonariof 1825, the Garibaldis, Cavour, Mazzini and Giordano Bruno. It proclaims loudly that a monarch matters more than any politician or intellectual. Its placement is as strident as its architecture. The Vittoriano faces Piazza Venezia, rendered notorious between the wars by the presence of thepalazzowhere, from September 1929...

  13. 7 ROME, ITS HISTORIES AND FASCIST TOTALITARIANISM
    (pp. 161-185)

    Among the vast array of eras that are today expressed in Rome’s architecture and urban planning, that of the Fascist dictatorship and its Duce, Benito Mussolini, is the most obvious. Tourist guides as yet rarely draw attention to it; however, to any with eyes to see, there it is, arguably the city’s best enduring and most pervasive history, and certainly a major competitor with the papal line that Rome is a holy, eternal and universal city. In this and the next chapter, we shall visit many Fascist sites in order to discern what, under Mussolini’s regime, may have been the...

  14. 8 THE ROME OF MUSSOLINI AND HIS HISTORY WARS
    (pp. 187-211)

    In one of his more expansive broodings late in his life, Mussolini contemplated converting the position of Duce into a fixed-term one, perhaps of seven years, perhaps of five.¹ Had this idea been pursued, it might be imagined that Mussolini could have retired to his home region of the Romagna in 1932 or 1936. Either choice might have granted him a less dismal historical reputation than he possessed after his death in 1945 and after the rout of his nation, regime and ideology in the Italian sector of the Second World War. To be sure, a Duce, retired like Cincinnatus...

  15. 9 A SECOND RESTORATION? THE CATHOLIC AND IMPERIAL ROME OF PIUS XII
    (pp. 213-239)

    The fall of one ‘Great Man’, who had been exposed in the war as by no means ‘always right’, inevitably burnished the image of his rival, the infallible pope, divinely inspired holder of the office whose power had always been said by the Church to run from one age to the next across the succeeding centuries. Even while Mussolini was still the warrior Duce, an event underlined the victory of the long-term histories marshalled by the Vatican over the short-term ones propagandised by the dictatorship. On 19 July 1943, with virtually no opposition, 662 American planes rained down 4,000 bombs...

  16. 10 OLYMPIC ROME: SPORT, BLOOD AND HISTORIES
    (pp. 241-265)

    It is not difficult to find vivid traces of the XVII Olympiad held in Rome between 25 August and 11 September 1960, or to see that cladding the Games in historical legitimacy was a complex matter. An area of the Tiber plain running down from the more elevated Parioli district is still called the Villaggio olimpico and possesses some of the athletes’ housing (most of it privatised in 1985), erected in 1958–9. At the entry to this village, competitors were unsurprisingly expected to salute a copy of the Capitoline statue of the she-wolf and the babies; Rome was inseparable...

  17. 11 ETERNITY GLOBALISED
    (pp. 267-291)

    It did not take long for Aldo Moro to be deemed worthy of a site of memory in the city. Today any who wish to reflect on Moro’s career, or the political travails and cultural wars that assaulted Italy and Rome during the 1970s, can find a bronze bas-relief portrait of him on the wall opposite the portal of the Palazzo Caetani and its libraries. The Christian Democrat whose life was so pitilessly and mindlessly ended by the Red Brigades’ left terrorists is there accorded tousled hair and a more youthful look than was actually his in 1978; he had...

  18. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 292-301)

    With Alemanno and his friends armed, in the field and seeking again to impose a single history on Rome, should this book reach a pessimistic conclusion about the endurance and replenishment of debate about the past and its meaning, and turn out to be another account of decline and fall? Certainly, despite being studiously apolitical about Romans’ ideological differences, the celebrated American anthropologist, Michael Herzfeld, when he assesses the fate of what he views as ordinary Romans, is pessimistic. Himself a frequent resident in the Monti area that runs up from the Colosseum to the Esquiline, Herzfeld fears that unchecked...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 302-340)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 341-358)