Gennaro Ambrosino is a PhD student in Italian Studies at the University of Warwick. His project focuses on the reception of pre- (and anti-) Roman populations in nineteenth-century Italian culture and literature. He completed a Bachelor’s degree in Modern Literature at the University of Naples ‘Federico II’, a Master’s degree in Modern Philology at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ and a Master’s degree in Western Literature at KU Leuven. He worked on the Mesmeric imaginary in Italian literature of the late 18th and early 19th centuries with a particular focus on the figure of Francesco Orioli: contributions were published on the journals Enthymema and Incontri.
“Reinterpreting the Phoenician Past in Modernist Italy: The Case of the North Adriatic Sea (1890-1930)”
This paper will discuss political reinterpretations of the Phoenicians’ remote past in Modernist Italy, with a specific focus on the North Adriatic, a region with a complex ethnic and political reality. From the 1870s onwards, following the excavations carried out in Carthage and the deciphering of the Phoenician alphabet, there has been a growth of historical, cultural and archaeological interest in the marginalised and silenced population of the Phoenicians. Building on the line of research drawn by Pappalardo (2021), I will focus on the rise of two opposing narratives in the North Adriatic geographical area, which reinterpret Phoenicians’ historical and archaeological data: a pro-Roman version, inherited from the official Risorgimento tradition with anti-Semitic tendencies, which saw the Carthaginians as a barbarian and enemy people who had attempted to the Roman integrity; and a pro-Carthaginian one, which sought to prove, through completely unfounded theories, Phoenician origins of the Adriatic area in order to disengage from that dominant Greco-Roman narrative and to claim its own independent origin. With reference to the first, I will focus on the works by Amy Bernardy (1879-1959), who was both a modernist Italian journalist, close to nationalist and then fascist political positions, and a scholar of the Italian migratory phenomenon: L’Istria e la Dalmazia (1915), La via dell’Oriente (1916), Zara e i monumenti italiani della Dalmazia (1928). With reference to the second narrative, I will examine articles published in the same period in the scientific journal Archeografo triestino, in particular by the journalists Bernardo Benussi (1846-1929) and Emilio Frauer. Studying these conflicting narratives reveals the fundamental political role that the search for ancient origins played in Italian Modernism and the representation, on both sides, of the Phoenicians as the Oriental Other.