Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
There were many contributing factors of course but one that stands out was the lack of an effective commander to lead the Roman legions against the enemy. Yet, such a man had existed previously in the reign of Emperor Honorius and that was the vociferous warrior Stilicho. A 'Romanized' barbarian himself (he was half-Vandal), Stilicho had defended Italy from the barbarians with remarkable ability, rushing from one danger point after another to defend the Italian heartland of the Roman Empire from attack after attack. He was one of the most remarkable generals of Roman history. He was also the Emperor's former guardian and his father-in-law. However, a particular dishonest official managed to convince Honorius that Stilicho was plotting against him and so Honorius had Stilicho executed. Thus the Roman Empire lost its most talented general at a time when such a man was sorely needed.
What lesson can be learned from this? The lesson is compounded by the fact that this was not an isolated incident. Later, Emperor Valentinian III had another talented Roman general, Flavius Aetius, executed. It was Flavius Aetius who defeated Attila the Hun at the Battle of Chalons-sur-Marne. The point is that, in its declining years, the Roman Empire had ceased to value men of talent and proven success. On the contrary, such men were plotted against by lesser men who feared them because of their talent. They saw them as rivals rather than as valuable assets to defend the Roman world. We can see, with the sack of Rome, where such selfish attitudes ended. Today, it seems many have the same mindset, glorifying the mediocre and treating the talented and successful with contempt rather than appreciation. This is something that should be stopped, otherwise we shall all end up like Emperor Honorius, bereft of talent and with an empire crumbling around him.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
After further rebellions broke out in southern Italy, Ferdinando II did finally agree to having a constitution, however, it was never finalized due to a dispute with the King over his oath of 'office' as it were. Eventually, the Bourbon troops were able to use force to suppress the new government, restore the absolute power of the King and the constitution was, again, discarded. However, the revolution in Sicily in 1848 was noteworthy for having produced an independent government for at least 16 months led by Ruggero Settimo ("Roger VII, a name going back to the Norman Kings of Sicily of the Middle Ages). It also sparked a wave of pro-constitutional uprisings throughout Italy because of its real, albeit short-lived, success. The most prominent was King Carlo Alberto of Piedmont-Sardinia who raised the tricolor flag and enacted a new constitution. Other Italian monarchies did the same but all ended up revoking their constitutions after the crisis had past with the exception of the Savoy monarchy in Piedmont-Sardinia. This was the origin of the nickname of King Vittorio Emanuele II as the "honest king" because he stood by the constitution and did not abolish it as his contemporaries had done.
The uprising also set the scene for First Italian War for Independence, led by King Carlo Alberto with the other Italian states participating against Austria, which was not successful. However, it proved that there was a sizable number of people in Sicily and across the Italian peninsula who favored Italian unification. However, it also brought into contrast the division between those who favored constitutional monarchy and those who favored republicanism. The republicans could point to the revocation of the constitutions in Sicily and across the peninsula as proof that the monarchs could not be trusted to keep their word and that republicanism was, therefore, the only solution. However, the constitutional monarchists could point to King Carlo Alberto and Vittorio Emanuele II who upheld the constitution and argue that the problem was not monarchy but rather the individual monarchs themselves who, rather than coming together in a confederation, should simply be replaced by the King of Piedmont-Sardinia. It was one step on the road to the unification of the country and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
|Flag of the Repubblica Cisalpina|
|Flag of the Italian Republic|
|Flag of the (Napoleonic) Kingdom of Italy|
|Flag of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia|
|Flag of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, 1848|
|Flag of the Roman Republic, 1849|
|Flag of the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies, 1848|
|Flag of the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies, 1860-61|
Saturday, December 27, 2014
|General Giovanni Messe|
However, while the Italian forces lagged behind their German allies in weapons and equipment, one area in which they were much to be preferred was in their interaction with the local Ukrainian and Russian populace. The Italians had no racial prejudice against the Slavs and enjoyed good relations with the locals, liberating them from oppressive Stalinist rule and re-opening the churches that the Communists had closed as part of their efforts to stamp out religion wherever they found it. The Italians viewed the Ukrainian and Russian civilians, not as enemies, but as the first victims of Communist tyranny. When Mussolini visited the front, he saw this for himself and called the war against the Soviets a “holy crusade” -and one cannot help but wonder if there was any hint of irony in his voice for a man who had been a lifelong atheist.
Italian mini-subs and attack motor boats also appeared in the Black Sea in response to a request for help from German Admiral Erich Raeder. These small craft had a considerable impact, sinking Russian ships loaded with supplies and attacking barges crammed with Red Army soldiers. The Italian and German naval forces were so aggressive that the Soviets were reluctant to risk their own fleet in open combat. They were stung by one attempt to intercept German transports by a Russian heavy cruiser and a destroyer. The warships were attacked by Italian motor boats and one torpedoed the cruiser, putting it out of action for the rest of the war. When the destroyer moved in to pursue, the nimble Italian craft dumped over a trio of depth charges that so damaged the destroyer that it had to break off the pursuit. Enraged, Stalin ordered no more offensive operations without his direct orders.
What happened next is well known to history as the German and Russian forces began the titanic struggle for the city of Stalingrad, plunging into what would be the bloodiest battle in recorded history. The Germans finally took the city though pockets of Russian resistance continued to hold out. Finally, the Russians planned a massive counter-attack to encircle Stalingrad and targeted the armies of the weaker Axis powers (such as Hungary and Romania) as their point of breakthrough. The Italian army also came under attack during this Don offensive on December 16, 1942. Two days later the main Italian airfield was captured at Kanamirovka and 11,000 Italian troops were surrounded at Scertkovo. As German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein moved to relieve Stalingrad the Red Army attacked to block his effort, their force falling heavily on the Italian army along the Chir River. Many units were overwhelmed in the tidal wave of Russian attacks. One such unit was the Voloire which was wiped out, two officers committing suicide rather than surrendering. Many Italian artillerymen also refused to surrender and fought at their guns to the last man.
The Axis offensive against the Soviet Union was ultimately unsuccessful yet the Italian forces had acquitted themselves bravely. They had fought with great talent, tenacity and skill, winning numerous victories against forces far superior to their own. They had also maintained the honor and dignity of the Italian nation, never indulging in cruelty or barbarity against the local population. In the air, the Italian pilots had inflicted far heavier losses than they suffered themselves, on the Black Sea they had proven instrumental in bottling up the Russian fleet and on the ground the Italian troops had fought with unparalleled courage against seemingly impossible odds. Allied propaganda that disparaged the Italian soldier was proven to be entirely false on the steppes of southern Russia and no one learned the lesson better than the Red Army forces that had met the Italians in battle. The Italians who fought on the Russian front had done honor to their King-Emperor, their homeland and the Italian people.
Monday, December 1, 2014
It was something many had hoped for to further cement national unity, especially at a time when the Kingdom of Italy seemed to be moving up to the top tier of the great powers. Appropriately enough, the reconciliation started with a romance, a romance between a member of the House of Savoy and a child of the head of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies. The couple in question was HRH Prince Eugenio, Duke of Ancona (son of the Duke of Genoa) and HRH Princess Lucia Maria Raniera of Bourbon Two-Sicilies (daughter of Prince Fernando Pio, Duke of Calabria -the last undisputed head of the House of Bourbon Two-Sicilies). The couple obtained the permission of their parents to be married in 1938 in Munich, Germany (the mother of the bride was Bavarian). Prior to this happy occasion, Prince Fernando Pio came to Rome and was received by HM King Vittorio Emanuele III. He recognized the place of the House of Savoy and the authority of the Kingdom of Italy at that time. What did happen later, after the republican victory, was a further show of reconciliation between the two families when, in 1948, HM King Umberto II bestowed on the Duke of Calabria the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation, the oldest and most prestigious chivalric order of the House of Savoy. The Duke later reciprocated by bestowing on the exiled King of Italy the collar of the Constantinian Order. their most prestigious order of chivalry.