A new video by “Visit Italy,” an organisation to promote Italian tourism, has caused a stir online with its many historical inaccuracies read out by a man with a thick American accent that mispronounces all the Italian names.
The video begins by saying “I am Italian and I am born in the place where all stories originate from,” forgetting of course Homer’s epic Iliad and the Odyssey, written in about 800BC, even before the city of Rome was founded.
The video then continues to say “We were an empire when the United States did not even exist and France and England were only one of our territories.” A confusing statement because France and England also did not exist during the Roman period, and rather what we call France today was the region of Gaul inhabited by many Celtic tribes, and what we call England today was Britannia, also inhabited by many Celtic tribes. So just as the United States did not exist during the Roman period and North America was inhabited by many indigenous tribes, France and England also did not exist.
But to avoid nitpicking every inaccuracy in the video, and there are many, the one that caused the biggest reaction was when the video said “I am Italian and I belong to the oldest culture in Europe” – a very basic historical fallacy, especially since there is the well established moniker that “Greece is the birthplace of western civilisation.”
Cato the Elder, a known anti-Greek Roman senator and the first historian to write history in Latin instead of Greek, had to concede that Rome was founded 432 years after the Trojan War.
By claiming that Italy has “the oldest culture in Europe,” it completely bypasses large swathes of Greek cultural achievements, such as poems, pottery and other art forms, that existed and flourished hundreds of years before Rome was founded sometime around 750BC.
In fact, cities in today’s Italy were founded and settled by Greeks even before Rome existed. These include Naples, which gets its name from the Greek Neapolis (Νεάπολις/New City) and was established by settlers from the Greek island of Rhodes sometime about 1000BC.
Social media users highlighted the inaccuracy.
Michael Rylatt commented- “He said he comes from the oldest culture in Europe what about Ancient Greece.”
Richard Crossley said “Pretty sure Greek culture pre dated Italian.”
Annalisa Maguolo asked “Who is voicing this? Surely not an Italian, the way he says Cristoforo Colombo for example…. And the oldest civilization in Europe?? What about the Greeks? Oh, and I am Italian.”
Yannick Guay highlighted “Oldest culture in europe…. The Greeks did whatever the Romans (not the Italian) did before them.”
Christopher Hayward said “Oldest culture in Europe ! Isn’t that Greece?”
Although Italy certainly has a long and proud history, it does question why “Visit Italy” engaged in historical revisionism.