Whatever modern man since the
Enlightenment may think of as history, it is obviously far from the truth. Dates may be
known and theories bandied about by every shade of opportunist, but generally the causes
of historically significant events are understood only in a superficial way. The idea,
too, that we are capable of learning from "a history's mistakes" seems absurd in
a world which sinks ever deeper into the quagmire of international conflict, ideological
dissimulation and economic chaos.
During such periods of widespread unrest and
danger, people look back to an ancient and imagined glorious past. If this interest
reaches the proportions of a revival, it is often difficult for the world to assess the
authenticity of the peculiar cultural aspects that the exponents of the revival have
chosen to emphasize.
Mussolini's Italy, to cite an example, began
with a revival of the idea of the ancient Roman empire, and the insistence that the glory
of ancient Rome was to re- emerge in the twentieth century. At first, high- sounding
phrases about the cultural splendor of the Italian past issued from the mouths of poets
who were probably sincere in their praise of the great artists of bygone days. This did
not, of course, stop the fascists from taking up this eloquent rhetoric and using it to
lead the Italian people down the path of dictatorship and ruin.