Tag Archives: Mussolini

Roman Hero


Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is depicted humorously in the Palazzo Massimo in a political cartoon by Paresh Nath, contrasted with prominent historical works of art: Augustus of Primaporta and The Lancellotti Discobolus.

In this political cartoon by Khaleej Times cartoonist Paresh Nath, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is illustrated alongside famous Roman sculptures of Augustus Caesar Octavianus and The Discobolus. The cartoon is an ironic depiction of the corrupt Italian politician juxtaposed against great figures in Italian historical culture, and references a larger historical context. In addition to the contrasts Nath attributes between the celebrated connotations of these prominent masterpieces and Silvio Berlusconi’s nefarious political career, wider connections can also be drawn among Berlusconi and another leader from Italy’s past: Benito Mussolini. Though far from identical leaders in practice, their respective rise and fall in political power share notable similarities. The egotistical demeanor with which both men governed Italy would indeed lead many to satirically label them as self-proclaimed Roman heroes.

The figures in Paresh Nath’s cartoon are depicted in the Palazzo Massimo, one of four parts of the National Roman Museum in Italy. This particular building holds “one of the world’s largest collections of ancient art” (National Roman Museum), featuring prominent Roman paintings, mosaics, and sculptures. The Discobolus, translated simply as “The Discus-thrower,” was originally produced by the 5th century Greek artist Myron (Sculpture of the Classical Period, 411). The Roman Empire adopted this masterpiece and reproduced countless copies, which were dispersed throughout villas as a symbol of cultured taste. “One of the most famous sculptures from ancient times” (Butler, 1), the Discus-thrower represents the perfect image of beauty, youth, athleticism, and balance, according to ancient Greek ideals. The specific Discobolus that is located in the National Museum of Rome today is the Lancellotti (or Palombara) Discobolus, which was “notoriously sold to Adolf Hitler in 1938 as a trophy of the Aryan race” (Butler, 1). The importance of this transaction will be revisited later in the analysis.

Even more intriguing is the inclusion of Augustus Caesar Octavian in the cartoon, wherein Berlusconi’s pose is notably identical to Octavian’s. This statue of the Roman Emperor is named Augustus of Primaporta, sans the small angel that accompanies him at his feet. There exist many different sculptures of the man, although this is certainly the most famed version. The decision to include this particular version is significant, because it was sculpted as an idealization after his death (Ford, 1). Throughout his life – and especially during his political career – Octavian only wanted himself depicted by others as humble and modest; thus, it is the only sculpture of him in military attire and with an allusion to the divine (although the angel is absent in Nath’s cartoon).

Successor to his great-uncle Julius Caesar, Octavian faced many adversaries at the inception of his rule, including those who murdered his great-uncle (“Augustus, Caesar Octavianus”, 88-89). The Battle of Actium concluded in his favor when his last rival, Marcus Antonius, was defeated (“Augustus Caesar Octavianus, 88-89). The sole remaining ruler of the Roman Empire, Octavian stabilized, expanded, colonized, and reformed the civilization, bringing about a golden age and a Pax Romana. During this time, Roman culture and commerce flourished under his reign and even well after his death (Augustus, Caesar Octavianus”, 89-90).

Over two millennia later, Silvio Berlusconi’s rise to power began with his entry into the real estate market during the post-war development boom of the 1960s (Silvio Berlusconi, 48). He followed this success by building a media empire throughout the 1970s and 1980s, developing of a massive private network television market (Silvio Berlusconi, 48). His status as a prominent media mogul would eventually propel him to the seat of government power in 1994. Berlusconi utilized his expansive media holdings to campaign for the office of the Italian Prime Minister, and won the position on the promise that he would clear out the corruption that plagued the Italian government. Despite convictions of financial crimes and allegations of further corruption that temporarily forced him from the seat, he remained in Parliament as the opposition party leader until his re-election to premiership in 2001 (Silvio Berlusconi, 49-50).

By 2004, Berlusconi had been Prime Minister of the longest-lasting Italian government in the history of the country, gaining the respect of many Italians for years to come. In what was perhaps Berlusconi’s most dictatorial maneuver of his premiership, after his re-election in 2008 he prioritized his government’s legislation to pass a law that granted the Prime Minister immunity to prosecution (Hooper). Of course, this law was swiftly dismantled by Italy’s constitutional court.  Unfortunately for his image, by 2011, years of corruption and scandal finally caught up to the unethical politician. Berlusconi resigned from the position amidst allegations of abuse of office, child sexual abuse, and tax fraud (Giuffrida). After being convicted of the tax fraud charges in 2013, he was forcefully removed from Parliament as well and banned from office. However, he would remain the iconographical leader of the Forza Italia party, which would renew his political strength in only five years.

In Nath’s illustration, Berlusconi is facetiously being placed on the same degree as Octavian. By drawing Berlusconi imitating Octavian’s pose, Nath is humorizing Berlusconi’s consistent practice of idealizing himself as a great man and an experienced politician. Even though both rulers promoted economic growth under their authority, Octavian actively sought to root out corruption in his government, while Berlusconi only claimed to do so (Encyclopedia of World Biography). In fact, most of the moral degradation of Berlusconi’s government derived from his own premiership. Despite this, Berlusconi has repeatedly upheld that he is “the best political leader in Europe and in the world” (BBC News). This egotistical attitude is contrasted with irony in Nath’s cartoon. His pants, labeled “Morality,” are drawn at his ankles, and his heart-spotted underwear is a clear innuendo to the 2011 child sexual abuse case he was involved in with the underage prostitute, “Ruby the Heart Stealer” (Squires). The crowd surrounding him represents the massive publicity that his numerous scandals provoked.

Furthermore, Berlusconi is also contrasted with the Discus-thrower. The cartoonist Nath even characterized them with the same body type, a simple action that degrades The Discobolus from its status as one of the most prominent historical works of art. Again, Nath is utilizing irony to spuriously situate Berlusconi at the same level of prominence as a historical masterpiece; however, one subject is famous, while the other is infamous. As discussed previously, The Discobolus was crafted out of the ancient Greek notion of physical perfection and ideal form. It is now regarded as one of the greatest works of art ever created, which gives more power to Nath’s juxtaposition of the piece against the public humiliation and shame that riddled Berlusconi’s late political career.

The 1930’s era political cartoon, “Telling the World” by John Knott depicts the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during his 1932 address to the citizens of Turin, Italy. Its accompanying editorial in the Dallas Morning News, “Mussolini and the Crisis,” provides more universal context referencing the content of the speech. A strong connection exists between the John Knott’s “Telling the World” and Paresh Nath’s “Roman Hero”. Mussolini’s Turin speech took place during the tenth anniversary of the Fascist Party’s political takeover of Italy. In an effort to legitimize his party’s political scheme as well as his dictatorship in the eyes of the citizens of Italy, Mussolini utilized ancient Roman architecture and art – such as the statues in Nath’s cartoon – heavily in his fascist propaganda (Brangers, 125). His goals were to cast the Fascist party as unifiers under a new Rome and to associate himself with the great Emperor Augustus Caesar Octavianus (Brangers, 125). “The State before the individual” was a belief that both the ancient Romans and the Fascists seemed to share. Mussolini promoted the construction of works of art glorifying the united Roman Empire under Octavian throughout Italy as part of his propaganda machine. He even initiated major archeological projects to uncover four ancient Roman buildings that he hoped would epitomize the magnificence of ancient Rome and of his own ruling. These projects also had a practical purpose other than ideological propaganda, however. The plans to clear old buildings and roads in order to uncover the ancient buildings also included arrangements to build wider roads and piazzas to better accommodate the rapidly growing population in the city of Rome (Brangers, 125). The demolition and construction of these locations also granted jobs to many laborers that were desperate for employment in a deteriorating economy.

In addition to this, the famous Lancellotti (or Palombara) Discobolus – as mentioned previously – was sold to Adolf Hitler in 1938 for five million lira (Italy’s currency at that time) by the struggling Italian Lancellotti family (Sooke, 1). It was placed in the Glyptothek museum in Munich for all Germans to view, however it was returned to Italy in 1948 after World War II’s conclusion. The Nazi leader had taken large interest in the marble sculpture as supremely representative of Germany’s then-visual ideology of the “master race” (Sooke, 1) due to its portrayal as a beautiful, ideal white male body in athletic form. Personally, Hitler wanted to be associated with the era that the original piece was built during: 5th Century BC, the golden age of Classical Greece (Sooke, 1). He also desired to bring with the sculpture the values it embodied: balance, athleticism, and of course, male beauty. Similarly to how Mussolini utilized archeological projects and ancient Roman architecture for fascist propaganda purposes, Hitler used this statue to propagandize the Nazis’ idealization of the perfect physical Aryan form.

Finally, direct ties can even be drawn between Silvio Berlusconi and Benito Mussolini. When initially forming his Forza Italia political party, Berlusconi allied himself with the leader of a disbanded neo-fascist group (Silvio Berlusconi, 49). This disrupted his 1992 campaign briefly when the leader of the group praised Mussolini as “the century’s finest statesman” (Silvio Berlusconi, 49). Berlusconi managed to overcome criticisms as a result of this comment and emerged as Italy’s Prime Minister; however, his charismatic influence could not shield him from scathing backlash when he himself praised Mussolini as a good leader on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2013 (BBC News).

Although enough differences exist between the two men to reject characterizing Berlusconi as a repetition of Mussolini, there are similarities between their efforts to gain initial political standing. The Italian public’s discontent with established institutions and the country’s poor economic standing offered both men the opportunity to gain power through promises of change and rectification. They utilized the media to establish political footing and to “cultivate a direct bond with Italians” (Ben-Ghiat), a bond that was severed when each was disgracefully forced from their respective positions of power.

Despite certain fundamental disparities between the two leaders – Mussolini was a socialist at his core, Berlusconi a self-made capitalist – they were both severely corrupt in their own ways. It’s no coincidence that the mockumentary film, “I’m Back”, which  portrays the late Italian dictator staging a modern comeback through a darkly humorous gradient, was released in the midst of Italy’s 2018 Parliamentary elections (Poggioli). The film firmly alludes to Silvio Berlusconi’s own surprising political resurgence through his Forza Italia party in the elections. This was highlighted by the film’s Mussolini opposing the 600,000 African immigrants seeking asylum in Italy, “…you won’t find it so funny when an African steals your job” (Poggioli). The comment bears marked resemblance to the intense anti-immigration rhetoric and policy proposals imposed by Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition during the Parliamentary elections.

Unlike the statues in the Palazzo Massimo, the legacies of Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi as leaders are permeated with dishonor and public reproach. Far from Roman heroes, their deeds and convictions are in stark contrast to the accomplishments of Octavian and the philosophies of Myron. Paresh Nath’s political cartoon focuses on the convoluted morality of one of Italy’s longest running leaders, while addressing the dilemmas of the country’s past that have resurfaced in the present.

Works Cited

“Augustus, Caesar Octavianus.” Ancient Greece and Rome: An Encyclopedia for Students, edited by Carroll Moulton, vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1998, pp. 87-91. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX2897200063/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=a6828a46. Accessed 22 May 2018.

Ben-Ghiat, Ruth. “An American Authoritarian.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Aug. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/american-authoritarianism-under-donald-trump/495263/.

“Berlusconi Praises Mussolini on Holocaust Memorial Day.” BBC News, BBC, 27 Jan. 2013, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21222341.

“Berlusconi, Silvio.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, edited by Tracie Ratiner, 2nd ed., vol. 25, Gale, 2005, pp. 48-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3446400032/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=bd181530. Accessed 20 May 2018.

Brangers, Susan L. Fugate. Political Propaganda and Archaeology: The Mausoleum of Augustus in the Fascist Era. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Aug. 2013, www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_16_Special_Issue_August_2013/15.pdf.

Butler, Simon. “The Discobolus.” Hidden History, 30 June 2018, www.hiddenhistory.co.uk/2017/03/28/the-discobolus/.

Ford, Josh. “Augustus of Prima Porta.” Ancient Art, 24 Apr. 2015, ancientart.as.ua.edu/augustus-of-prima-porta/.

Giuffrida, Angela. “After Tax Fraud, Sex Scandals and Heart Surgery Silvio Berlusconi Is Back.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Nov. 2017, www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/12/silvio-berlusconi-after-tax-fraud-sex-scandals-heart-surgery-back-sicily-election.

History.com Staff. “Augustus.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/emperor-augustus.

Hooper, John. “Silvio Berlusconi: Immunity Granted by Parliament Could Yet Be Voided by Top Court.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Feb. 2009, www.theguardian.com/world/2009/feb/18/silvio-berlusconi-immunity-prosecution.

“In Quotes: Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi in His Own Words.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Aug. 2013, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-15642201.

Knott, John. Telling the World, 25 Oct. 1932.

Leslie, Larry Z. “Worldwide Perspective.” Celebrity in the 21st Century: A Reference Handbook, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 75-103. Contemporary World Issues. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX2532800012/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=94ef7b2d. Accessed 20 May 2018.

“Mussolini and the Crisis.” Dallas Morning News, 25 Oct. 1932. Page 2.


“National Roman Museum – Useful Information – Rome & Vatican Museums.” Entradas Museos Vaticanos: Reservaciones Museos Vaticanos – Roma, www.rome-museum.com/national-roman-museum.php.

O’Mahony, Mike. “In the Shadow of Myron: The Impact of the Discobolus on Representations of Olympic Sport from Victorian Britain to Contemporary China.” Taylor & Francis, 8 May 2012, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09523367.2012.657628?src=recsys.

“Sculpture of the Classical Period.” Arts and Humanities Through the Eras, edited by Edward I. Bleiberg, et al., vol. 2: Ancient Greece and Rome 1200 B.C.E.-476 C.E. Gale, 2005, pp. 410-420. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3427400368/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=984ec1f8. Accessed 22 May 2018.

“Silvio Berlusconi, Roman Hero.” World Scene Today, 26 Feb. 2011, ericyoungonline.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/silvio-berlusconi-roman-hero/.

Sooke, Alastair. “Culture – The Discobolus: Greeks, Nazis and the Body Beautiful.” BBC News, BBC, 24 Mar. 2015, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150324-hitlers-idea-of-the-perfect-body.

Squires, Nick. “Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi Faces April Trial for Relations with ‘Ruby the Heart Stealer’.” Christian Science Monitor, 15 Feb. 2011. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=58113259&site=ehost-live.

Sylvers, Eric. “Italy’s Berlusconi Ordered to Stand Trial for Alleged Bribery.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 26 Mar. 2018, www.wsj.com/articles/italys-berlusconi-ordered-to-stand-trial-for-alleged-bribery-1522073623.

Sylvia, Poggioli. “Anti-Migrant Slogans Are Overshadowing Italy’s Election Race.” Morning Edition (NPR), 21 Feb. 2018. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6XN201802211017&site=ehost-live.

Trentinella, Rosemary. “Roman Portrait Sculpture: Republican through Constantinian.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum, Oct. 2003, www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ropo/hd_ropo.htm.

“Trials and Allegations Involving Silvio Berlusconi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trials_and_allegations_involving_Silvio_Berlusconi.

“Work Discus Thrower or ‘Discobolus.’” Law Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon | Louvre Museum | Paris, www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/discus-thrower-or-discobolus.

Advance, Work, Fight, If Necessary

Benito Mussolini addresses the world from the city of Turin, Italy on October 23, 1932
Benito Mussolini addresses the world from the city of Turin, Italy on October 23, 1932.


Telling the World by John Knott depicts the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during his 1932 address in the city of Turin, Italy. The speech occurred in the midst of the tenth anniversary of the Fascist Party’s March on Rome in October 1922, when Mussolini was appointed as Italy’s fascist head of government by King Victor Emmanuel III (De Grand 513). The Italian dictator’s balcony, illustrated in Knott’s cartoon, evokes the baroque architectural style of Turin’s buildings. As Mussolini stated in his speech, “Turin is a Roman city,” and according to his regime, 1932 was Year X of “The New Era” in the “Third Rome” (“Benito Mussolini” 273). However, by the time of Mussolini’s visit to Turin, Europe was still reeling from the consequences of World War I. Despite fervent calls by European allies for the cancellation of German war reparations, emphasized at the Lausanne Conference in the summer of 1932, the United States refused to accept the mandatory condition that all European debts to the U.S. be cancelled as well (Bemis 55). This decision, combined with the League of Nations’ insistence that Germany was to be denied juridical parity, only served to aggravate tensions in the region. Furthermore, looming over the world and compounding the western dilemma was The Great Depression, a burdening force which would not cease for a decade.

In Knott’s cartoon, Mussolini is holding a globe before him as he asserts his position on the world’s affairs. His discontented expression and clenched fist indicate that he his making demands to resolve conflicts threatening his regime. Depicted on the globe, Africa and Europe face the audience, as North America is subjected to the Italian dictator’s scrutinous glare. This scowling expression carries a direct challenge to the United States, “. . . the ship of reparations and war debts entered the port of Lausanne. Are the great people of the star-spangled republic going to send this vessel, which was filled with sorrow and blood of so many peoples, back to the open waters?” (Mussolini 1932). In this statement he addresses the imperious nature of the U.S. pursuit of war reparations from Europe, and its significance in impacting western politics. Mussolini’s Turin speech took place only a month prior to the US Presidential Election of 1932. According to “Mussolini and the Crisis,” the Dallas Morning News editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, then-candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt was thought to have been more sympathetic toward the idea of debt cancellation than his opponent, Herbert Hoover. Mussolini appeared to time his appeal to the US in order to influence the vote of Italian Americans toward Roosevelt (Dallas Morning News 2). The Lausanne Conference was a pivotal point in the decision to end or continue war debts, and the United States was the eminent faction in determining the outcome. Unfortunately, The Great Depression was well entrenched in America during this time, leading the struggling nation to assert its demands for reparations to a continent likewise hindered by economic downturn.

The historically industrial city of Turin was home to many unemployed and disgruntled labor workers at the time of Mussolini’s 1932 address. As the Dallas Morning News editorial begins, “Premier Mussolini took his life in his hands when he addressed the semihostile citizens of Turin” (2). Workers throughout Italy directed their blame and animosity toward the current political institutions whose policies they believed were failing to remedy the country’s postwar ailments (Atkins 271). Adding more pressure to the desperate nation and to Mussolini’s government was The Great Depression, which had begun with the Wall Street collapse only three years prior.

Italy’s involvement in World War I came at an immense cost. Though neutral at its commencement, the Treaty of London eventually situated Italy in the conflict alongside France and Britain, with promises from the Entente powers that Italy would be compensated with sought-after territories in Austria-Hungary and Africa (Karabell 96). By the war’s conclusion, however, Italy’s military was nearly decimated; and the country was economically, politically, and socially ravaged (Atkins 270).  Further deteriorating postwar conditions in Italy, its efforts as one of the Allies against the Central Powers were minimized at the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and Italy received meager recompense for its losses (Atkins 271). Postwar debt, high inflation and unemployment, as well as low morale resulting from enormous war casualties, left the population embittered and desperate for change (Atkins 271). Hostility and violence in the country, along with radical war-induced nationalism, instigated the formation of an aggressive political party grounded in Mussolini’s fascist ideology (“World War I” 2765).

Although he did not explicitly mention France, Mussolini certainly held a vendetta against the country, as evident in his Turin speech. As “Mussolini and the Crisis” editorial points out, Turin is located near the Italian border with France, and Mussolini appeared to choose this city for his address in order to send a provocative message (Dallas Morning News 2). Much of Italy, including its head of government, still resented France for the outcome of the Treaty of Versailles. France gained a great deal of territory while Italy received little of what it was promised in comparison. This issue was also of great concern for Mussolini when considering the state of Germany in the European scene.

The League of Nations, founded by the Treaty of Versailles, was hesitant to grant Germany juridical parity within the organization, despite that it was a member. Its most prominent and influential member, of course, was France. Mussolini feared that France sought hegemony in Europe through its recent territorial acquisitions and its refusal to treat Germany as an equal country. In his Turin speech, he emphasized the importance of German parity in the League of Nations as necessary to prevent hegemonies in Europe, and indicated that Italy was prepared to resist any attempts by France to establish hegemony over another European country. This decision to side with Germany was a prelude to the fascist alliance that would form between the two countries in the second World War.

The complexities of western political affairs in the 1930s cannot be understated. By October 1932, Europe had already begun to brew a second world war. The Allies refused to acknowledge the impact of their decisions in formulating the rise of the fascist dictators Mussolini and Hitler. Poor and desperate populations suffering from economic depression rallied behind the aggressive, nationalistic political parties that sought to take advantage of power vacuums left by World War I. At that time, Fascism was a promise to put the unemployed to work, but also an engine of resentment fueled by losses in the Great War. In time these factors would culminate in a conflict far more catastrophic than the one that caused it.


Works Cited

Atkins, William Arthur. “Strike Wave: Italy.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide, edited by Neil Schlager, vol. 2, St. James Press, 2004, pp. 270-273. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3408900274/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=6601c1eb. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.

Bemis, Samuel Flagg. “Lausanne Agreement.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 55. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3401802329/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=8407df53. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.

“Benito Mussolini.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 11, Gale, 2004, pp. 272-274. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404704665/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=98c7abb0. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

“Comparison with the League of Nations.” Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, edited by Melissa Sue Hill, 14th ed., vol. 1: United Nations, Gale, 2017, pp. 7-9. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3652100020/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=7a09ea1b. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

De Grand, Alexander. “Fascism and Nazism.” Encyclopedia of European Social History, edited by Peter N. Stearns, vol. 2: Processes of Change/Population/Cities/Rural Life/State & Society, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001, pp. 509-517. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3460500112/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=5c8cbac6. Accessed 25 Mar. 2018.

“Fascism.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 102-105. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3045300802/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=f4ab522f. Accessed 29 Mar. 2018.

Karabell, Zachary. “London, Treaty of (1913).” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, edited by Philip Mattar, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 1446. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3424601697/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d1d0e452. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.

Knott, John. Telling the World, 25 Oct. 1932.

“Mussolini and the Crisis.” Dallas Morning News, 25 Oct. 1932. Page 2.


“Mussolini’s Speech, Turin 1932.” Readable, www.allreadable.com/1267LckD.

Mussolini’s Turin Speech, 1932. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgmcoUjHNBU.

STRANG, G. (2001). IMPERIAL DREAMS: THE MUSSOLINI–LAVAL ACCORDS OF JANUARY 1935. The Historical Journal, 44(3), 799-809.

“World War I.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2751-2766. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3447000917/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d2f9a9b5. Accessed 29 Apr. 2018.


Drunk with Power


A drunken Mussolini slurs "" as two men representing Britain and France resentfully stand to the side, watching Italy's celebration.
A drunken Mussolini slurs “you ‘pologize an’ we’re all frien’s again – am I right? -” as two men representing Britain and France stand to the side, watching Italy’s celebration. A man drinking from a swastika mug sits in the background.

The first major international conflict to occur after World War I took place in 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria, a region then governed by China. Following this event, the League of Nations, a coalition of nations functioning to prevent war, failed to take action to punish Japan for committing this act of war. In May of 1936, another member of the League of Nations, Italy, conquered Ethiopia, a weaker, less influential ally of the League of Nations that had been a member since 1923 (“League of Nations”). As in Manchuria, the League failed to protect Ethiopia, discrediting the League. Ultimately, Italian victory in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War destroyed the global perception of the League of Nations in the years leading up to World War II, especially creating tension among prominent League members like England and France.

In John Knott’s political cartoon titled “Drunk with Power,” published in May of 1936, Knott clearly demonstrates this tense dynamic between England, France, and Italy. In this cartoon, Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy at the time, sits drinking wine from a bottle that says “African Victory Celebration.” He drunkenly gestures to Britain and France and says “You ‘pologize an’ we’re all frein’s again- am I right?-”  Britain and France are standing together off to the side, looking back at Mussolini with eyes of resentment. Hitler sits alone at a table in the background, drinking alone (Knott). Mussolini’s statement alludes to Britain and France’s desire to maintain positive relations with Italy in spite of Italy’s divisive decision to enter war with a League Ally. Additionally, the caption reads “The Prodigal Son Returns,” which is also the title of the accompanying editorial, published alongside Knott’s cartoon in the May 8, 1936 edition of the Dallas Morning News, which examines Italy’s foreign policy after conquering Ethiopia, and disobeying the fundamental doctrines of the League.

England and France receive clear representation in this cartoon because they were perceived as the most powerful members of the League of Nations by many countries, especially after their victory in World War I, and their active role as “big four” members in forming the League of Nations (Nichols). Correspondingly, both nations were expected to use the established framework of the League of Nations to resolve the growing conflict between Italy and Ethiopia; however, Britain and France instead chose to work outside of the League, fearing that “decisive action by the League would result in pushing Mussolini into an alliance with Hitler,” (Wemlinger 36). In early 1935, both nations chose to privately assure Mussolini that they would not attempt to prevent him from using military power to carry out his Ethiopian conquests; Mussolini soon after conquered Ethiopia.

This event served as a decisive moment in the history of the League of Nations, and key point in understanding the causes of World War II. Britain and France, founding members of the League, a coalition created with the purpose of “providing avenues of escape from war”, failed to prevent a powerful ally from conquering a smaller ally (“League of Nations”). Although these actions were carried out with the strategic intent of pacifying Italy, they sent a message to the world: the league would not fulfil its obligation to protect any nation or prevent war.

However, international perception of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict strongly favored Ethiopia, which placed Britain and France in a difficult position (Wemlinger 39). In late 1935, the British Foreign Secretary stated that “the League stands, and my country stands with it, for the collective maintenance of the Covenant in its entirety, and particularly for steady and collective resistance to all acts of unprovoked aggression,” (Wemlinger 39). This disparity between Britain and France’s public support for the League’s obligations, and private negotiations with Italy, is cause for the tense dynamic presented in Knott’s cartoon “Drunk with Power.” By May of 1936 when the cartoon was published, Britain, France, and the League of Nations had conceded to Mussolini’s power-hungry objectives.

For this reason, Mussolini becomes “drunk with power” from his African victory wine, accompanied by two particularly sober figures representing Britain and France. Mussolini had succeeded in forgoing his obligations to the League without consequence, whereas Britain and France had only narrowly avoided losing their necessary alliance with Italy to Germany and Hitler; Italy was “ready to quit” the League “if the council [interfered ] in her dispute with Ethiopia”(Associated P). Knott includes the image of Hitler in the background, distant from Britain, France, and Italy, with an unhappy look on his face and a glass that has a swastika on it in his hand. For Hitler, who may have been seeking to weaken opposing European alliances, the preservation of the alliance between the three nations may have served as upsetting news; he is not drinking to celebrate, but instead to mourn his diplomatic loss. Britain and France, similarly unhappy with the League’s failure and Italy’s victory, stand off to the side of Italy. By 1936, both nations had to accept Italy’s victory, and welcome Italy back into the League, as if the nation were a “prodigal son,” returning home after doing wrong, and claiming to reform their actions in the future. In the editorial that was published alongside Knott’s cartoon, “Prodigal Son Returns,” the writer outlines Italy’s claim that it only “[wanted] peace and [wished] to strengthen the league,” even after taking several actions to undermine the League. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand the complex dynamic depicted in the cartoon. Italy expected Britain and France to “‘pologize” for the times they publicly opposed Italy’s actions in Ethiopia, and Britain and France did so, but begrudgingly. The League of Nations had been disgraced, and Britain and France from there on would have to face the consequences of this outcome, all while catering to the whims of a “drunk with power” Italian ally.

After Italy’s victory in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, the League of Nations was made ineffective in the eyes of nations all over the world. This outcome resonates in modern society, as many view the United Nation’s attempts to prevent humanitarian crises in nations like Syria with anything more than sanctions and ceasefires. In evaluating the events of the past, we must look to present times, and gain understanding of our future.

Works Cited

Associated P. “League is Told to Stay Out of African Tilt.” The Washington Post (1923-1954): 1. Jun 21 1935. ProQuest. Web. 29 Nov. 2016 .

Knott, John. “Drunk with Power.” The Dallas Morning News 8 May 1936, sec. 2: 8. Print.

“Prodigal Son Returns.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News 8 May 1936, sec. 2: 8. Print.

Nichols, Christopher McKnight. “Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Ed. Robert D. Johnston. Vol. 4: From the Gilded Age through the Age of Reform, 1878 to 1920. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010. 383-387. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“League of Nations.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 1628-1631. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.


Suggestion for Historical Mural

Suggestion for historical mural

Going against the wishes of the League of Nations, Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and his italian army invaded Ethiopia in an effort to gain an advantage in the imperialistic race Europe found itself in at the time. This increased tension between Italy and other members of the League of Nations, particularly England and France.

In the Knott cartoon, a man is dressed in Ancient Roman robes and a laurel wreath. He is labeled as Mussolini and Caesar. Mussolini rides a horse drawn chariot through the street under an arch labeled “Roma”, surrounded by an enormous crowd and people leaning out of windows waving flags. The design of the town is evocative of ancient Rome. Being marched behind him, attached to the chariot by the neck with a rope, is a bedraggled black man wearing nothing but a large barrel, labeled Ethiopia.

This cartoon references the Italo-Ethiopian war, an armed conflict which was one of the leading causes to world war II and ended in the subjugation of Ethiopia by the Italian forces.One of the reasons for this conflict was imperialism. Before World War I, European countries were racing to colonize Africa — this competition was a major inciting factor for the war. One of the reasons for the creation of the league of nations after the war was to settle disputes between nations and avoid further war. They pushed for the disarmament and demilitarization of nations involved in the first war in an effort to seek and maintain peace. However, during this time Benito Mussolini and his movement of fascism rose to power in Italy. He became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and focused on the expansion of the Italian military forces. By the late 1930s, he had used his military to invade Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Albania, making Italy a force to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean area.

The Italo-Ethiopian war was a significant one of Mussolini’s conquests. Ethiopia was one of the few independent countries in the European colonized continent; Italy had tried and failed to acquire it as a colony in the late 19th century. A small border conflict between Ethiopia and the Italian controlled Somalia gave Mussolini the justification for invading Ethiopia. The rationale was that Ethiopia was to be held accountable for the conflict, but the real motive was to gain the resources and boost Italian prestige.

This was exactly what the league of nations wanted to avoid. It denounced Italy’s invasion and tried to impose economic sanctions on Italy, but it was ultimately ineffective due to lack of support. The conquest of Ethiopia angered the british, who had colonized East Africa and worried about maintaining their control, but other major powers had no real reason to interfere with Italy. Supporting the rise of fascism within Europe, this war contributed to the tensions between fascist regimes and western democracies.

Equally important to understanding this political cartoon is the reference to Julius Caesar. The ancient politician and eventual dictator of Rome bears similarities to Mussolini: both were ruthless Italian dictators bent on expanding Italy’s control through military force and who were eventually killed by those who opposed them. Although in the present day we know of Mussolini as a dictator, at the time the cartoon and editorial were published that was up for debate, as he was still accumulating power. By likening him to Caesar, someone historically known as a tyrant, Knott made a strong political statement about the ethics of Mussolini’s conquests. This is further emphasized by the title of the cartoon, “Suggestion for Historical Mural”. Murals are a large, public, accessible artform. Since they reach such a wide audience, they have the capability to sway public perception. By suggesting that this unflattering depiction of Mussolini be a historical mural, Knott is making a statement about the way he wants history to remember Mussolini.

The cartoon shows Mussolini on top of a chariot, crowned with a laurel wreath, while the Ethiopian man is dragged below by the neck, wearing only a bucket. Mussolini’s stature is one of power: he is in possession of technology that allows him to be swifter and stronger, he stands above the other man, and he wears a crown that is symbolic of victory. Meanwhile, the barrel the Ethiopian man wears signifies destitution, and the rope around his neck helplessness. Mussolini and his army reign over Ethiopia with formidable strength, and this is reflected in the positions the people in the cartoon find themselves in.

The editorial accompanying this cartoon is titled “A Hot Time in the Old Town”. This title is drawn from a popular song from the time period of the same name, “A Hot Time in the Old Town” (also referred to sometimes as “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” after a memorable refrain in the chorus) composed by Theodore A. Metz in 1896. This march was popular in the military, associated with the Spanish American war and Theodore Roosevelt’s rough riders. Although the song was created before the 20th century, a popular rendition of it was recorded in 1927 by Bessie Smith, a notable singer of the era. This would have made the song a relevant reference in the 1930s, when the editorial was written. In regards to the article, the “hot time” would be the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, and the “old town” would be a reference to Rome, a city in Italy with an ancient history of conquest, and fits in with the parallels the cartoon draws between Ancient Rome and Italy during the 1930s. The fact that this song was popularized with the military emphasizes the militaristic nature of the conflict in Ethiopia, drawing attention to the fact that Italian armed forces were sent in to occupy Ethiopia.

By equating Mussolini with the tyrant Caesar and showing him subjugating the Ethiopian man, Knott draws attention to the situation between Italy and Ethiopia, as well as making it clear he believes Mussolini is a dictator wrongfully conquering Ethiopia.

Works Cited

“Italo-Ethiopian War.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia.” Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia | History Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Julius Caesar.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Benito Mussolini.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Kalinak, Kathryn Marie. How the West Was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford. Berkeley: U of California, 2007. Print.

Knott, John. “Suggestion for Historical Mural” Dallas Morning News 18 Apr. 1936. Print.

Kibitzer’s Advice

John Bull and Mussolini playing cards over a map of Europe with Lloyd George speaking to John Bull and telling him that Mussolini is bluffing.
John Bull and Mussolini playing cards over a map of Europe with Lloyd George speaking to John Bull and telling him that Mussolini is bluffing.

This cartoon refers to David Lloyd George’s call for Britain to take action against Italian aggression that was happening during the time.  The Italian and German fascist states had just begun their involvement in events that were building up to World War II, such as making and using forces to invade nations and interfering with foreign affairs.  Other countries were worried about what these involvements might turn in to if the situation was left unchecked, and Lloyd George wanted Britain to interfere with the fascist forces for this same reason, so he demanded the country to take action.  However, the cartoon is entitled Kibitzer’s Advice, and a kibitzer is a person whose advice is unwanted, so this suggests that Lloyd George’s call was largely ignored.  The reason Britain did not listen to Lloyd George’s advice was that Britain did not have much in the way of intervening due to the fact that they had been playing the pacifist role since the First World War.  This made it so that their arms were heavily depleted and taking any form of action appeared unappealing to the country.

The cartoon depicts Mussolini and John Bull playing a card game over the map of Europe, and David Lloyd George is telling John Bull that Mussolini is bluffing.  David Lloyd George was the Prime Minister of Britain during World War I and was instrumental in helping build up British arms for that war and Mussolini was the dictator of Italy and the face of fascism at the time.  John Bull is a comic personification of Britain, similar to how Uncle Sam personifies America so Lloyd George is depicted as talking to Britain and not just an individual.  John Bull and Mussolini playing cards refers to the saying that politics is a game and them playing over a table with a map of Europe means that their actions are going to be for the sake of changing or maintaining territorial boundaries of  Europe.  The “Bluffing” in this case refers to the belief that the fascist did not have the amount of force and arms that they claimed to have, so Britain had the opportunity to act against Mussolini.  Mussolini is depicted as the face of fascism in the comic instead of Hitler, because the Italian dictator had devoted much more forces in conflicts at the time while Hitler used less of his forces and was rather preparing his army for future aggression.

The accompanying editorial “Lion’s Tail” states two different Italian involvements at the time, aggression in Ethiopia and breaking the non-intervention agreement.  Mussolini used Italian nationalism and stated that he wanted to build Italy into an empire like it was in ancient Roman times to gather support from the people, so his aggression in Ethiopia was to help and acquire a foothold in Africa and prove that he was committed to the sake of Italy.  However, the situation scarred Mussolini’s image and brought to the attention of Europe that peace was fleeting for the time being.  The non-intervention agreement was created for the sake of the Spanish Civil War, so other nations would not interfere with the war; however, the agreement was known to eventually be a political farce.  This agreement was broken by many nations, especially the fascist nations who wanted the rebels to win so that a pro-fascist state would be set up in Spain and France would be between two fascist areas.

Some countries and citizens believed that the Italian and German forces needed to be halted, and David Lloyd George called for Britain to believe this as well and take action against the fascist.  However his cries to Britain for involvement in these issues were not heeded, the main reason being that Britain did not want another war on their hands, since the effects of World War I were devastating for many people. The article “Lion’s Tail” states that if Britain and France did interfere with the fascist in these conflicts and they were in fact not bluffing, there would be full scale war on their hands, but if Mussolini were to withdraw from Spain, then that would only reveal that he was bluffing and did not have the forces that he claimed to have.  Britain had been playing a pacifist role since the First World War, and the article says they were speaking softly since they did not carry a big stick and instead were in the middle of rearmament themselves.  This means that Britain was the one that needed to bluff since their forces were depleted not Italy who proved they had forces in the Ethiopian and the Spanish Civil War conflicts.  Britain was also one of the few nations to not break the nonintervention agreement.  All these factors, with the addition that Lloyd George was mostly not listened to by the people after he left office of Prime minister, makes it so that his message of Britain interfering against the fascist was largely ineffective to the mainly peace-loving population.  The “Lion’s Tail” article also states that even if Lloyd George played a large part in British decision making, they would still have the condition of not having the proper amount of forces.  This means that the author believed that the primary reason that Lloyd George would speak so much of fighting is because he was part of the opposition of Mussolini and not a policy maker.

The aggression that Italian and German forces showed during the time would escalate later and lead to the need of other nations to interfere.  Eventually Italy and Germany would team up with Japan in the East to create the axis powers against the Allies and would plunge the world into the Second World War.



Works Cited

Author not listed. “Lion’s Tail.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 27 Mar. 1937: n.pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“Baldwin, Stanley (1867–1947).” Encyclopedia of World War II. Alan Axelrod. Ed. Jack A. Kingston. Vol. 1. New York: Facts on File, 2007. 146-147. Facts on File Library of World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

“Italy.” Encyclopedia of World War II. Alan Axelrod. Ed. Jack A. Kingston. Vol. 1. New York: Facts on File, 2007. 461-462. Facts on File Library of World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

“Lloyd George, David (1863–1945).” Encyclopedia of European Social History. Ed. Peter N. Stearns. Vol. 6: Biographies/Contributors. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001. 195-197. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “Kibitzer’s Advice.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 27 Mar. 1937: n.pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“Mussolini, Benito (1883–1945).” Encyclopedia of the Modern World1900 to the Present. Ed. William R. Keylor. New York: Facts on File, 2009. 888-889. Facts on File Library of World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

“Spanish Civil War.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 4. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2416-2424. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.