Keywords: 19th Century Rome; Heritage of Antiquity; Nationalism; Modernity.
This article examines how Italian nationalists tried to appropriate the idea of Rome which had a universal dimension to it and represented a primacy of the past over the present. These two aspects constituted formidable obstacles to their ambition to transform Italy into a modern nation state. Nineteenth century patriots sought to reshape the idea of Rome by adding new dimensions in space and time linked to concepts of nation and modernity. But this operation proved to be culturally fragile and fuelled anti-Roman ideology which grew at the end of the century. Only later, with the advent of a new imperial nationalism, did the identification of Rome and Italy become an axiom of political discourse, which however was destined to disappear with the fall of the fascist regime.