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Excavating ModernityThe Roman Past in Fascist Italy$
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Joshua Arthurs

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449987

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449987.001.0001

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date: 17 September 2021

The Totalitarian Museum

The Totalitarian Museum

The Mostra Augustea della Romanità, 1937–1938

(p.91) Chapter 4 The Totalitarian Museum
Excavating Modernity

Joshua Arthurs

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the apex of romanità in Fascist political culture by focusing on the Mostra Augustea della Romanità, an archaeological exhibition that marked the bimillenary in 1937 of the birth of the emperor Augustus Caesar. Comprising more than 3,000 objects, the exhibition painted a picture of the Roman world that was totalitarian, technological, militarized, and hierarchical. Augustus stood at the center of this system, the archetypical transformative leader whose achievements anticipated Benito Mussolini's renewal of the Italian people. This chapter considers the ways in which the exhibition was conceived as a museological project and how its organizers tried to create a new medium for the presentation of archaeological artifacts that rejected the “sterility” of traditional museums. Finally, it discusses both scholarly and popular receptions of the exhibition in Italy and other countries. It suggests that the Mostra Augustea was a crucial moment for both Italian archaeology and Fascism.

Keywords:   romanità, Augustus Caesar, political culture, Mostra Augustea della Romanità, archaeological exhibition, Benito Mussolini, museums, Italy, archaeology, Fascism

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