History of the Foro Italico

Foro Mussolini

The complex now known as the Foro Italico was built as the Foro Mussolini from 1931-1936. The complex is located in the north of Rome across the Tiber river. This complex was called the Foro Mussolini, or Mussolini Forum, when the architect Enrico del Debbio began work on it in 1928.

Today, the complex of Fascist buildings and monuments is called the Foro Italico, or Italian Forum, and houses the Olympic headquarters for Italy, as well as the World Cup Stadium (previously the Olympic stadium), and the red clay tennis court that hosts the Italian Open.

The Foro Mussolini was made to be the modern version of the ancient Foro Romano and is filled with pro-fascist messages of youth and masculinity. The complex was made in conjunction with the main Fascist youth group, the Opera Nazionale Balilla. In 1938, more than 50,000 fascist youth packed the Stadio for Mussolini and some Japanese visitors as shown in the embedded film clip at right.

The main site of the statues is the Stadio dei Marmi or Stadium of Marbles, a track and field stadium surrounded by 60 enormous male nudes.

Many of the marble statues featured on this website are from the Stadio dei Marmi. There are also similar stautes in the Stadio Olympico del Tennis, in niches on the buildings in the complex, and at various places throughout the complex.

Post War

After World War II, the Foro Mussolini was renamed the Foro Italico, but other than that little has changed. It still bears all of the marks of Mussolini's propaganda campaign and the statues still stand. The 1960 Rome Olympics were even held in the complex.

Today, the Foro Italico is open to visitors and hosts the football team A.S. Roma. The Italian Open is also held there, and Serena Williams has dominated the court for four tournaments.

Art History

Art historically the statues occupy an interesting niche. Although they are almost all male nudes, the emphasis on flat planes and harsh lines incorporates them into the "Mussolini modern" tradition of the 1920s and 1930s.

Many have exaggerated hands and feet, warlike scowls, and short-cropped hair that reveal them as Italian Fascist ideals of modern masculinity.

The Foro Mussolini was the headquarters of the Fascist youth group, the Opera Nazionale Balilla and these modern emblems of warlike machismo provided an example of the "wolves" Mussolini hoped they would become.

In recent years, the statues have developed a following in the gay kitsch movement, partly because of the loving way in which the hard bodies of the men are depicted.

For a modern viewer the site seems to be full of pin-ups and is made even more campy through their association with the anti-homosexual Fascist regime.

-by Taylor Hartley