The Spirit of Roman Civilization

With this article from the December 1940 issue of La Vita Italiana, Evola takes up the idea of Romanity, and its continuity beyond the Roman Empire itself. While different from the mystical vision of Guido de Giorgio, based on Dante, it is equally spiritual. Following a conception of Spengler, the difference between culture and civilization is noted. Along the way, the features of the Old Right are delineated. Readers are encouraged to contrast them with contemporary pretenders to represent the right. We wonder where the hierarchical order will come from, and who is describing the supreme, divine and transcendent power, or is even capable of recognizing it.

With the appearance of every new work on Roman Civilization, we experience a certain sense of annoyance: in fact, for the most part, we take notice of books of this type only perfunctorily, they do not reveal any new idea, they repeat the clichés of earlier “positivist” interpretations, adding only the rhetorical hype of commemoration, thereby producing a pathetic effect, and whatever true meaning it has of our original tradition, it is not so much illuminated by similar writings, but rather trivialized and almost profaned.

We were therefore pleased to have been removed, at least once, from prejudices of that type in reading a very recent book of crystalline clarity written by Pietro De Francisci on the Spirit of Roman Civilization. [Spirito della civilita romana, 1940]. Above all, beginning with its first chapters, we had to admit: Finally there is an authoritative person who hits the mark and knows what must be considered essential in Romanity. And we also found ourselves totally consenting to the justification of the books, viz., that no constructive revolution is a creation from nothing, but has as conditions the return to elementary principles and factors, which for us can only be those of the original tradition of Rome. And De Francisci also very correctly criticizes those who break our history into two parts: the history of Rome and her Empire on one side, the history of Italy on the other.

As for Corradini, so also for De Francisci, Italianity and Romanity are a single thing, or said better: they must be a single thing, on the basis of a decisive choice of their own callings and traditions: that is, we must exalt, consider as our own, and glorify as “Italian” only what is of value to us in our history, as “Roman”, and not have any lenience or mitigation for the rest. De Francisci correctly says that to bring youth to the awareness of the power and depth of the current of Romanity that spreads throughout all our medieval and modern history, eliminating wrong ideas and destroying old and new prejudices, means to draw on precious nourishment for the ideal strength of our revolution.

Who does not see the abyss that separates similar positions from those which, nevertheless like De Francisci, had to have the direction of the fascist Istituto Nazionale di Cultura [National Institute of Culture]—we mean Gentile, who did not hesitate to assert what Romanity is for us, but only in the empty rhetoric of life and content, because for him the true Italian tradition is identified with a series of suspect thinkers and heretical rebels starting with the Renaissance, as if in fascist Italy itself no others should be seen and desired except those involved in the development of Italy of 1870? [when Italy was unified].

As the premise of his treatise, De Francisci, following up on an idea from Spengler, makes the appropriate morphological distinction between culture and civilization. Culture, both as an intellectualistic phenomenom, as well as refinement of the material conditions of the life of a people, has nothing to share with civilization, reality. De Fransisci writes this very profound passage:

Civilization is not only a manifestation of the prevalent intellectual activities but the complex and concrete expression of all the energies of the spirit: it is not only the ruler of man in his exterior nature, but is at the same time the dominion of man over his own human nature, the awareness of coordination with other men, of subordination to a certain hierarchical order, and of dependence by a supreme, divine and transcendent power.

Part II ⇒

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