Sunday, March 12, 2017

When The People Publicly Hanged "Populists" From Their Feet

This has happened at least twice in Italy's history.  The first time was in October, 1354 in Rome to Cola di Rienzo, the second time was in April, 1945 in Milan  to Benito Mussolini.  There is another similarity to both of these events

Cola di Rienzo (aka Rienzi) was in the Campodiglio, the ruling building of Rome where he lived on the Capitoline Hill, when a mob attacked it and began burning it in anger at his misrule of the city.  After a failed effort to calm the crowd from the balcony, he decided to escape by fooling people.  He dressed up as a peasant and left through a back stairway, joining the crowd in calling for people to attack the palace and going on about how much there was to steal in it. He might have gotten away with it, but this "Man of the People"regularly wore not  only fine robes but fancy jewelry, especially elaborate rings, which he had forgotten to take off when dressing up as a peasant.  These were spotted, and the mob set on him attacking him and killing him, then dragging his body some distance to hang it from the feet for two days, where people spat on the body before it was burned on the mausoleum of Augustus.

Likewise when his Fascist Republic of Northern Italy was finally collapsing, self-proclaimed "Man of the People" Mussolini attempted to escape to Switzerland by dressing up as a peasant, but was recognized and captured by partisans who killed him.  His body was then taken to Milan and hung by the feet.

An irony of this latter event is that shortly before World War II started, an old comrade of Mussolini's from his youthful socialist period came to visit him, requesting financial  help for some mutual former friends who were out of work and being harassed by the police.  Mussolini agreed while trying to convince this old friend to join the Fascist Party, which the friend refused to do.  The friend then warned him that "This regime of yours of yours, I am afraid, will end badly.  Such things always do, Benito, you'll end like Cola di Rienzo." Mussolini reacted with anger initially to this but then spread his short and thick hands towards this old friend and denied it saying,"I wear not rings, you see.  It will not happen to me."

Barkley Rosser

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