Evidence of a dark and inglorious period in the history of Italy can be seen on buildings throughout Rome!
Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943, a period known as the ventennio facsista or simply the ventennio (Italian for a period of twenty years). The symbol of the Fascist Party (and the origin of its name) was the fasces lictoriae, an emblem of authority in the world of ancient Rome.
The fasces was a bundle of elm rods, bound together with an axe; it was carried by the lictors, officials who attended magistrates wherever they went. Lictors preceded a magistrate in an ordered line, with the primus lictor (the principal lictor) directly in front of him. The number of lictors varied according to the rank of the magistrate. The fasces, which was about 1.5 metres long, was held in a lictor's left shoulder and rested on his left shoulder.
Fast forward to late 19th century Italy and the name fasces had come to be used by a number of political groups of varying political persuasions. In 1919, Benito Mussolini founded the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, which, in 1921, became the Partito Nazionale Fascista (National Fascist Party).
A year later, on October 28th, Mussolini organised the 'March on Rome', after which King Vittorio Emanuele III invited him to form a government. The Era Fascista was born and the image of the fasces lictoriae was resurrected. The symbolism of the fasces suggested strength through unity: a single rod is easily broken, while the bundle is difficult to break.
After the fall of Il Duce and his death at the hands of the partisans on April 28th, 1945, most images of the fasces were deliberately expunged from public places, in an attempt to wipe out the memory of Fascist rule.
However, many images have survived. A well-preserved example can be seen, high up and relatively out of reach, on the Teatro di Marcello (Theatre of Marcellus). The inscription at the bottom, 'A VII E F', indicates that it was erected in the seventh year (Anno) of the Era Fascista.
In 1927, Mussolini introduced a new calendar, which made October 28th (the anniversary of the 'March on Rome') the start of the year and used Roman numerals to denote the number of years that had passed since the fascists had come to power.