By Žikica Milošević
OK, we could polemicise about Greece being the cradle of the Western civilization, and everybody who claims so is probably right. Alexander the Great disseminated Hellenic ideas further in the East which, back in the day, was not such a fertile ground for them. The ancient Romans, as the ancestors of the Italians, did just the opposite. They took Hellenic ideas only to the brink of the East, but most of them ended up in the West. They incorporated these ideas into the foundation of their civilisation, and raised them to a higher level organisation-wise.
WORLD IS ROME, ROME IS WORLD
And, of course, the said ideas spread across the entire world. You don’t need to be a genius to see the resemblance between the buildings that house the US Congress, or Cuban, or Uruguayan state authorities and the ancient Roman ones. Also, you don’t need to be especially educated to know that the strongest Christian denomination in the world is exactly the one that has the seat in Rome. Rome is ‘an eternal city’. Although it was never the capital city of the Roman Empire, it did secure itself a position of being the capital of Catholicism which means that it has a spiritual grasp over a huge part of the world. The ideas that were brought to Italy after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, reached their pinnacle with the birth of Renaissance. It is futile to go into the benefits that this era brought to the world. The foundation of our modern civilization, obssessed with science and progress, has its roots in Northern Italy. If, in the past, the world was centered in Rome, a city with the population of 1.5 million when a town of 20,000 inhabitants was considered a metropolis, now the entire world has begun to imitate Rome.
We can say that the inner and outer face of the Western culture originated in Italy in a way. The outer face is visible at first glance, and, apart from Christianity, we should also mention other important things like the Senate, philosophy, Roman Law, art, science, behavioural norms and culture.
AMALGAMATION OF CIVILIZATIONS
Although, the Italians seem to us as a compact ‘formation’, back in the day things were different. When you really get to know Italy, you will notice that the regional differences in this country are huge which are a result of a substratum on which the modern Italy rests on. Before RAI, radio and televisión, it was very difficult for the people speaking in different dialects to understand each other, with local patriotism being very pronounced to this day. However, we should not forget that the first unification of Italy started in Rome when the Etruscans, Samnites and other nations, who developed very strong civilizations, interwove their cultural heritage into the modern Italian culture. Later, the Italians were not shy at all when they wanted to ‘borrow’ from other cultures things they liked. The cultures of the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Phoenicians, the Germans, and the Arab conquerors all become a part of the incomparable Italian culture.
We won’t even go into the way in which Italy has influenced other nations. Owing to a rather uncomfortable fact that Italy, from its north to the south, from Venetto to Sicily, was very poor yet so beautiful, the number of Italians who left their country to live abroad, from America to Australia, is exceptionally high. Madonna, Lady Gaga, Natalie Imbruglia, Ayrton Senna, and Robert de Niro are just a few descendants of Italian migrants. Also, Italy ‘exported’ migrants to neighbouring France. Michel Platini showed that blood is thicker than water when he was transferred to Juventus in 1982, and irked his French compatriots by saying that he “was not moving abroad, but returning home”. Would you believe if we told you that Jean-Paul Belmondo is also a descendant of Italian migrants, as is the legendary Eric Cantona?
WHAT DID THEY GIVE US?
Well, everything. From opera, which is their invention, to street theatres and comedies (commedia dell’arte), all the way to ballet. Giotto was the first artist to replace flatness with depth in his frescoes, and thus cause a real visual revolution in painting. Maybe the French did elevate everything to a higher level, and the Russians (like Dyagilev in ballet, and Stanislavski in acting) gave it the final, modern touch, but Italy is the place which the art originated from. And fashion, of course. New York, London and Paris may well be fashion centres, but Milano is fashion’s capital city. Italy has the biggest number of entries on the UNESCO World Heritage list in the world, a total of 51, which is just another validation of our claim.