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Tutorial Latin: Mussolini Dux: The Latin Literature of Italian Fascism


Admission requirements

This course is open to MA and research MA students in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (specialization Classics). Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree must contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.


“Much of what was the immortal spirit of Rome is reborn in fascism: the lictor is Roman, our organisation of combat is Roman, our pride and our courage are Roman: Civis romanus sum.” In an important speech, just months before his seizure of power, Mussolini stressed the connection between fascism and ancient Rome. His particular vision of ‘Romanness’ (romanità) was to become a cornerstone of Italian fascist ideology: what had made the Roman empire great was to make Italy great again. Connections between the present regime and ancient Rome were stressed at every possible turn, in literature, architecture, art and spectacle as well as the modern mass media which fascism used so effectively.

In the speech cited above, Mussolini not only made explicit some of the perceived continuities between ancient Rome and fascist Italy. Strikingly, he also used an actual Latin phrase, “civis Romanus sum.” In this tutorial, we will study and discuss the role of Roman antiquity in fascist Italy through focussing on the use of Latin and the composition of Latin texts. In the 1920s and 30s, several Italian scholars of antiquity composed Latin inscriptions, literary texts and speeches, putting their expertise at the service of the regime’s self-representation. In their texts, ancient Rome is appropriated in a variety of ways. For example, Aurelio Amatucci in his Codice del foro Mussolini invokes the ‘golden age’ discourse of the Augustan era, casting the advent of Mussolini as the beginning of yet another golden age for Italy.

Students will engage with (to date) almost unexplored Latin texts, mainly short compositions in both prose and poetry. After a series of introductory seminars on the role of antiquity in Italian fascism, each student will independently focus on one such text, researching the circumstances of its composition, its ideological import and literary and rhetorical techniques. Towards the end of the semester, students will be involved in the organisation of a small-scale symposium, where they will present their findings and have the opportunity to discuss them with experts in the field.

Course objectives

After the completion of this tutorial, a student:

  • has a basic knowledge of the relevance of classical antiquity for Italian fascist ideology and of the role of classicists under the fascist regime;

  • has experience of reading 20th century Latin, with its particular challenges (e.g. no available translations, sometimes idiosyncratic syntax and style);

  • has a basic understanding of different approaches to classical reception.


  • can find, select, and critically assess relevant secondary literature;

  • knows how to formulate an independent research question;

  • can construct a convincing argument on the basis of independent research;

  • can present research results clearly and effectively both in oral (and, where relevant, written) form;

  • has basic experience of organising a small-scale symposium.


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Individual Supervision

  • Research

Course Load

  • Class attendance (28 hours)

  • Class preparation (45 hours)

  • Research for and preparation of presentation (67 hours)

  • For 10 EC: writing a paper (140 hours)

Assessment method

For 5 EC:

  • Participation and preparation, including a book review and a prepared response to a book review: 40%

  • Research presentation: 60%

For 10 EC:

  • Participation and preparation, including a book review and a prepared response to a book review: 20%

  • Research presentation 30%

  • Paper (15-20 pages): 50%


In this course we make use of Blackboard.

Reading list



Students are required to register for this course via usis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

In addition to the registration in uSis students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.


Dhr. H. Lamers MPhil
Mw. dr. B.L. Reitz


The course will be taught in Dutch or English, depending on the first language of participating students.