Can you undo "damnatio memoriae"?
For as long as I can remember, I've taken students and friends in Rome, to see a great example of modern "damnatio memoriae". That's to say when an unpopular Roman emperor finally died or was disposed of, it was not uncommon for people to take a chisel to the inscriptions that bore his name and hack it out.
It was an ambivalent exercise -- because, of course, as you see on this stone from which the name of Geta has been removed, it both removed the name and drew attention to its removal.
Anyway, I have often had fun using the modern inscription at the top as a great example of the practice of "damnatio" still going on in the mid twentieth century. It's the inscription from the square in Rome that Mussolini erected around his reconstructed Mausoleum of Augustus. And it orginally read, in Latin "This place, where the spirit of Augustus flits through the air, after the emperor's Mausoleum had been excavated from the darkness of the ages and the scattered fragments of the Altar of Peace had been restored, Mussolini il Duce had the old narrow lanes demolished, and ordained that it <ie the place> should be embellished with more splendid streets, building and monuments suitable to the character of humanity. 1940, 18th year of the Fascist Republic."
But as you can just see at the top, after the fall of il Duce, someone came along and defaced the thing, removing the letters "..lini dux", to leave only "Musso" which is Italian slang for donkey. A nice "damnatio" joke.
Anyway on Friday I was there with a couple of friends to whom I planned to show this and tell the little story.
But when I got there, all had changed. Someone had put back the letters that had been removed (had they actually been chiselled off or just cemented over, I now wonder).
But who? And when exactly did it happen? Was it the result of some campaigning from Mussolini's twenty-first century supporters?
A quick google did produce a couple of sites pointing out what had happened. But I didnt find out WHY.