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Memoria e Ricerca

Re/producing Roman Africa: The Italian Pavilions at the Exposition coloniale internationale, Paris 1931

di Maddalena Carli
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 17 (2004), p. 211

On May 6 1931, the Exposition coloniale internationale opened in Paris. Among the numerous temporary buildings erected in the Bois de Vincennes for its six months of duration, three pavilions were to represent Italy: first, a replica of the basilica of Leptis Magna, originally built by Septimus Severus, the first Roman emperor of African origins; second, a pavilion devoted to Italian possessions in the Aegean sea; and a third one simply entitled Italia, inspired by futurist ideas. These buildings, to which Mussolinian dictatorship assigned the task of conveying its colonial vocation to the French public, testify to both the diffusion of the Roman myth during the nineteen-thirties, and its specific position towards a ritual dimension inspired by the “cult of the lictor”, as well as to a visual representation of history. From such a perspective, the three pavilions present fitting examples of what American historians have called the “inclination to exhibitionism” of Italian Fascism.