Nationalism can be seen from history as a “force of self-preservation, heroism, and honor, or for vengeance, conquest, enslavement and dishonor” (Wheelwright, 2005, pg1). For Aeneas, his nationalism did preserve his people, made him a hero, and brought honor to a nation. For Mussolini, on the other hand, became a dictator that wanted to expand his nation and make it superior to all others. Throughout Vergil’s epic and Mussolini’s life, nationalism ties these leaders to their people, and to Rome. Aeneas can be seen as an Augustus figure, and it can be argued that Vergil uses him as propaganda for Augustus, as well as to critique the decisions and actions Augustus made. Mussolini tries to tie himself to Rome, and uses Augustus as a connection to Caesar’s family tree (Nelis, 2007, p. 405) Mussolni uses view of classical antiquity to build up his artistic propaganda (Nelis, 2007, p.405).
It was both Aeneas and Mussolini’s goal to create a strong nation of peace for their people. Aeneas was encouraged by the gods that he would find a homeland and Mussolini felt that by learning from Rome, he could create a strong nation that would tower above all others and live in peace. The road to both Aeneas and Mussolini’s peace was paved with sorrow. For Aeneas, he watched Troy be destroyed by the Greeks, the people he loved being murdered, and, once on his journey to the new homeland, gave up the desire of his heart. Mussolini believed that Italy could learn from Rome’s rise and fall, and believed that this was extremely vital to the creation of a Roman Italy. Where Aeneas’ decisions did not always benefit him, Mussolini decisions were made based on his want for power and glory. Mussolini wanted to become a dictator like Caesar, and his love for Rome seems to imply that he was trying to learn how to create a strong nation from Caesar and Augustus’ Roman Empire. Both Aeneas and Mussolini’s search for peace brought creation of beautiful buildings, structures, and landscapes which would sing of their glory as a nation. With the rise of their leadership, Aeneas and Mussolini both seem to be consumed by madness. Aeneas, for the homeland he lost, the people he cares about, and the freedom of his people. Mussolini, on the other hand, seems to be maddening by his own beliefs. Jan Nelis states Mussolini’s mythical beliefs began to blur his reality (2007, p.401).
This madness was a small price to pay for their people’s glory. For this glory, Aeneas and Mussolini would make sacrifices and even offer up their lives.Aeneas would take a people who have been displaced by war and find a peaceful homeland for them. Out of disaster a great nation would rise. Mussolini, on the other hand, would watch his nation slowly being destroyed. The domino effect of power caused a disaster to fall on Europe, one that was under the control of Hitler, and would smash all of Mussolini’s dreams of creating a strong Roman Italy. Mussolini tried to display himself as an “all-knowing leader” (Nelis, 2007, p. 415) but Aeneas was a true leader because he placed others above himself and always sought the best for his people.
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