"Istituto Italiano per la storia antica" has just celebrated the eightieth anniversary of its foundation. It was established on 25 February 1935, within the context of the systematic reorganization of historical studies that the Fascist regime carried out in the mid-1930s. This paper provides a survey of the fifty years of history of the previous organization (starting in 1883, the foundation year of "Istituto storico italiano"); the historiographical debate that led to the creation of an Institute devoted specifically to Ancient History; and the centralist logic that underpinned the regime's organizational and political choices in that endeavour. It then offers an overview of the history of the Institute since its foundation. The early history of the Institute (1935-43) stands out as especially instructive. It was created as a national centre for the promotion and coordination of the study of ancient (especially Roman) history in Fascist Italy. It emerges as an instance of the dissociation between rhetoric and practice that was a distinctive feature of many aspects of Fascism, and is especially apparent in its ideological exploitation of Roman antiquity.