It’s been an awful long time since anyone was afraid of the Italians. In recent history–the 19th, 20th and now 21st Centuries, Italy has stumbled from one embarrassing episode to another–dictators, side-switching in both World Wars and a series of dysfunctional governments have been among the highlights.
Juxtaposing modern Italy with its historical progenitor brings the problem into sharp contrast. The Romans were true historical badasses, imposing their culture and indelible historical stamp throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, and were brazen enough to successfully campaign for the Vatican after putting to death the only Son of God Almighty. Rome’s might was built around the crimson-clad ranks of the Legion, and displayed in such violent spectacle as the life-and-death battles between gladiators.
In today’s Italy, those same proud gladiators and legionaries are but pale facsimiles of their brutal ancestors who revelled in driving their foes before them, wading though sticky rivers of blood as broad as the Rubicon. Now, these ghosts of Rome’s glory haunt the broken ruins so often frequented by tourists, living not as before on the foreigners’ blood and treasure, but on their treasure alone, and that taken not by force, but by begging.
For those few remaining Italian patriots, the news of grumbling from these walking-tour warriors was a sign of hope. As the fighters, increasingly unsatisfied with their pay, began gathering in groups, more optimistic Italians allowed themselves to believe they would be witness to a sanguinary return to the heady days of yesteryear. However, fortunately for their Mediterranean neighbors, too much time has passed since the storied era of Rome’s glory, and the angry legionaries and gladiators employed the only tactic left in their depleted arsenal: they bitched about it.