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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lazio: the Symbol

Lazio HQ
Many of our readers know that Rome is in the region of Lazio, and those who live in Rome know, courtesy of a photo that appears about once a week in the daily newspapers, that the regional government is housed in an oddly-shaped, 1970-ish building on Via Cristoforo Colombo.  Fewer still will know that Lazio has its own symbol, let alone have any notion of its content.  

That's our lesson for today.  Sit up straight.

The Lazio Symbol
We first saw--or were first aware of--the symbol when we saw it posted outside an art exhibit at the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II.  Without the sign "Regione Lazio," we wouldn't have had any idea what it was. 

Lazio's Provinces

It's an octagon with 5 squares inside, each representing a Lazio province (an administrative entity): la provincia di Frosinone (down highway 6, to the southeast), di Latina (along the coast), Rieti (to the northeast), Viterbo (northwest), and--in the center of the symbol, and grounding the region, Roma.  The 5 provinces are represented by "stemme," which might be translated as "coats of arms" or "heraldic symbols."

The symbol; more legible version.
Citizens of a relatively new nation (1861), one assembled from a cacophony of peoples and language groups with deep ties and loyalties to towns, areas and city-states, Italians are understandably anxious about what it is that unites them and eager--at least officially--to offer evidence of that national glue.  Hence the Lazio symbol not only unites its 5 provinces, but binds Lazio--and its provinces--to Italy with a tricolore (red, green, white) banner representing the country's flag.

Symbol of the Province of Frosinone
Of the provincial symbols, Frosinone's has a certain flair: an aggresive lion with sword, tongue stuck out and ready for battle, a double cornucopia, and the bannered proclamation "Ferocior ad Bellandum."  Never having studied Latin, we would guess that means something like "ferocious in war," or maybe "beautiful land of the terrifying lion with sword."  Actually, the first translation is the correct one.  You need to know that for the test.

Symbol of the Province of Rieti
Riete's "stemma" isn't quite so dramatic, but it presents an interesting puzzle: the letters S.P.Q.S.   Something close to that--S.P.Q.R.--is a commonplace in Rome; it stands for Senatus Populusqus Romanus (in Latin) or the Senate and the Roman People.  Rieti's version, ending not in R but S, stands for Senatus Populusqus Sabinus, or the Senate and the Sabine People, referring to the Sabine people/tribe that inhabitated the Riete area in antiquity.  (See our earlier - not to be missed - post on the rape of the Sabine women, even updated for "Seven Brides and Seven Brothers".  We like the Sabine area and have two other posts on it as well - for trekking and art.) 

Symbol of the Province of Rome
All of the provincial symbols are more alluring and dramatic in their original state than they are in the simplified form in which they appear on the Lazio symbol.  This is especially true of the Roma symbol.  What appears as a simple crown in the Lazio display is a complex one in the original, consisting of a circle of medieval towers; the awkward, almost comically splayed bird of the Lazio version derives from the fierce, multi-taloned predator eagle of the original.  The Lazio one suits a Rome catering to government and tourism; the older version is worthy of an empire. 

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