Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dublin's Fascist Symbolism

This is the Daniel O'Connell statue on Dublin's O'Connell Street, complete with seagull perched jauntily on O'Connell's crown:

At four corners of the statue sit four angels. Here is one of the four:

The angel is holding a bundle of rods with an axehead jutting out the top. Readers familiar with modern European history will recognise the shape. Here is one of the contexts in which that symbol was used:

The rods and axe are called "fasces", and were used by Mussolini's Fascist Party during their reign in Italy.

Yet the statue predated the rise of Italian fascism by many decades, sculptor John Henry Foley finishing the work in 1882. The fasces feature widely in American state symbolism too: Abraham Lincoln's great statue includes his hands resting on two fasces while the Seal of the United States Senate features crossed fasces which, they explain, "represent freedom and authority".

In fact the fasces were used in Ancient Rome as a symbol of authority. Fascist Italians may have been attracted by this mixture of violent power and collectivism: the rods tied together are stronger than any individual rod alone. Like the swastikas plastered all over Hindu and Buddhist temples centuries older than Hitler, the pre-Fascist fasces lingering in plain sight today seem rather weird anachronisms, respected ancient symbols polluted by the memory of Mussolini.

5 comments:

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  2. I was going to mention "Seal of the United States Senate" but I just saw that you mentioned it already :P

    Anyway, more can be seen here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasces

    Apparently fasces is not as demonized as the swastika. The eagle as well, which was a very common Nazi symbol. Fascist/Nazi symbols borrowed from the Ancient Romans seems to have been spared. Screw the Hindus :D

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  3. Hehe indeed. It was interesting for me to visit Buddhist temples in Japan covered in swastikas, especially considering Japan's historical alliance with Nazi Germany.

    I seem to remember visiting an early 20th century building in Sydney with loads of swastikas too. It's just such a cool symbol! The fasces are pretty cool too. So I'm always surprised (and secretly pleased) to see fasces and swastikas left innocently around from pre-WWII days :)

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  4. Dublin also hosted for many years the Swastika Laundry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika_Laundry

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  5. Aw what a gem of a story, thanks Gerard! I'd never heard of this :)

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