top of page
  • Writer's pictureEd & Phil

S1 E4: Fourth Roman Republic transcript

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

SPOILER WARNING: Today’s episode covers the Fourth Roman Republic. If you haven’t already learned about the First, Second and Third Roman Republic, you might not want to spoil things by skipping ahead to the fourth in the Roman Republic franchise. The Roman Republic Episode 4: A Blue Pope.*

FX: Star Wars theme...then cut off.


Hello and welcome to Countries That Don’t Exist Anymore. The Historical Entertainment show about crop rotation in the 14th cent….no. Wait. It’s about countries that don’t exist anymore.

This week we cover the shortest Roman Republic of all time...the Fourth Roman Republic.

Where was the fourth Roman Republic?


What type of government was the…


What number Roman Republ... 


When was the Fourth Roman Republic?

Ok, that’s fair enough. The original Roman Republic lasted for 500 years. This version 4.0 (with very few of the original band members left in the lineup) lasted from February 9th till July 2nd 1849 - so just under 5 months, which is roughly the same amount of time as the gestation period of a goat.

If you’re curious about the previous three Roman Republics, I’ll do a quick summary:

1st Roman Republic - this is the famous one which preceded the Roman Empire.

2nd - was formed during a 12th century rebellion against the power of the Pope. Sorry to drop spoilers, but this becomes something of a theme.

3rd was set up in 1798, after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Italy.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get some historical context to this, because the Fourth Roman Republic doesn’t make much sense without understanding what was happening across Europe in 1848. *AHEM*

What was happening across Europe in 1848?

Thank you.

1848 was the year when a series of revolutions and uprisings took place across Europe as the force of liberalism and nationalism chafed against conservative, absolutist regimes - all achieved without Twitter! #believe1848

In Italy, this had an extra dimension thanks to Italian nationalism and the wish for Italian unification, which was a bit difficult to achi  eve given that Italy was separated into a patchwork of kingdoms and duchies and some occasional republics, with a powerful Austrian Empire dominating the north of the peninsula.

So to achieve Italian unification under the red, white and green tricolore, lots of little revolutions would have to happen at the same time since no one state was powerful enough to “go it alone” especially after initial liberal and nationalistic victories in 1848 were then met with a wave of reactionary fight backs.

The other problem with the idea of Italian unification is that no one could agree on what it would look like. Would it be a liberal republic on the French model or a constitutional monarchy under Charles Albert, the semi-enlightened king of Piedmont - a kingdom in the north of Italy. For while Charles Albert was leading the fight with a couple of wars against the Austrians, unfortunately he kept losing - which was not great for the heroic unifier and future Italian king section of his CV.


Now Mr. Alberto, it says here under “achievements: have liberated several areas of the Italian peninsula including Piedmont towards the goal of Italian unification.” But from what I can tell you inherited the kingdom of Piedmont. So which other areas have you liberated specifically?




It also says you can play the clarinet. Let's hear some.


(Crap honky noises)

Liberals in Rome wanted radical reform and a constitution because, at this time, Rome was in the Papal States, which were governed by Pope Pius IX.

Supporters of the Pope saw these agitators as a bunch of whiny, liberal snowflakes - but, nevertheless, the Pope had earlier introduced limited reforms in a papal charter because, well, everybody else in Europe in 1848 seemed to be doing it.

Things came to a head when, on Nov 15, 1848 Pelligrino Rossi, the Papal Minister of Justice and famous Martini cocktail, was assassinated - even though he showed some liberal tendencies by Papal standards. 

Sensing their opportunity, liberals filled the streets of Rome demanding democracy, social reforms, declaration of war against Austria to aid Piedmont in the Italian cause and a larger serving of parmesan cheese on every dish.

So on Nov 24th, the Pope fled Rome disguised as an ordinary priest in oversized glasses so he wouldn’t be recognised - true story, worked for Clark Kent - and headed off to the fortress of Gaeta in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

“Ladies and gentlemen. We are the Two Sicilies.”

“He’s si-serious.”

“And he’s si-cilly.”


GRAMS: Silly double act music.

Having legged it, the Pope left a note for Archbishop Carlo Emanuele Mazzarelli instructing him to form a new government. He said:

“We entrust to your known prudence and honesty to defend the palaces and persons near you…….because I’m not going to do it…...Byeeeeeeeee.”

FX: Cartoon run away effect.

To calm things down, this newly formed government issued liberal reforms to which Pope Pius IX, from the safety of a fortress in another country, said: “Naaaah.”

So he didn’t want to run the government but he didn’t want others to run the government either. Nice one Pope! Classic backseat driver. It’s like pushing your friend into a lion’s cage, locking the door, and then giving them advice through the bars.


“No, you’re doing it wrong. Punch him in the nose! Not like that!”

“But why did you lock me in the cage?”

“I think you’ve got bigger things to worry about just now...look out…*tut* now he’s eating your legs!”

A delegation was sent to this Pope to ask him to return since he had so many bright ideas to which he said “Mmmmm...nah, you’re all right actually.”

Meanwhile, back in Rome, local assemblies formed for the first time ever. The city was in high spirits, there was a grand progression and a new Italian tricolore, sent from the Republic of Venice, was set into th e hands of the equestrian statue of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. The crowd was not best pleased with the Pope, who kept threatening to excommunicate everyone from behind the sofa.

Pope (Richie from Bottom-style) “If you don’t do exactly what I say at all’ll go to heeeeell.”

When direct and universal elections were scheduled, the Pope forbade Catholics to vote.

As a result the subsequent constitutional assembly that dared ignored the Popester was known as The Assembly of the metal is that!

GRAMS: Possibly do a version of Iron Maiden’s Children of the Damned? Or just say “Assembly” and then play IM’s “...of the Damned.”

FX: Thunder and lightning.


We call this Assembly of the Damned.




To discuss the issue...of potholes.


Potholes, potholes, potholes…


The road to hell is poorly maintained and riven with Satan’s potholes….*cackle*, who’s taking minutes?

Nevertheless, across Rome there was a 50% voter turn-out and, since more conservative-minded people were too afraid to vote, it meant that most of the officials voted into office were radical republicans who would do exactly the kind of things the Pope wouldn't approve of. So that backfired! 

Now’s the time to introduce one of the key characters behind the Roman Republic, famed Italian nationalist and revolutionary,....Giuseppe Mazzini. Mazzini ended up in the Roman Republic after being involved in various revolts of 1848, so Rome was like a last stand for him.

If you’re looking for an advocate of republicanism and democracy, Mazzini’s your man. His thinking inspired the likes of US President Woodrow Wilson, British PM, David Lloyd-George and even Gandhi!

While he was a political radical for his time, he was dead against communism and Marxism, leading Marx to describe him as “reactionary” and “an old ass.” Ouch Karl, that left Marx!

SFX: Rim shot

However, Mazzini was no great fan of capitalism as he felt that it divided classes, when what he wanted was class collaboration and not class warfare. He also rejected rationalism, atheism and the liberal age of enlightenment. While he was a fervent catholic, he still spoke out against clerics and attacked the Pope in his writing. Despite this, he also hated Protestantism. 

SFX: House party

Host: (house party)*

Hey, Mazzini. Glad you could make it! Would you like a drink. We've got beer, wine, gin and tonic…



Host: (house party)

Don't think we have any of that. But we've got Barolo. That's Italian. Very good too.



Host: (house party)

Right. Well, I'll need to go to the shop I guess. Oh well. Can I get you anything else while I'm there?



Host: (house party)

Ok. So, salt and vinegar, cheese and onion or…



Host: (house party)

Mint crisps?


Si. Peppermint crisps.

Host: (house party)

Peppermint crisps. You want peppermint crisps? God… you’re the last Italian revolutionary I invite to a party. Except Garibaldi. Hey Garibaldi, want any biscuits? 



Host: (house party)

Aw, good old Garibaldi, he always wants biscuits that are his name.

Republican Mazzini called Charles Albert’s campaigns “the Royal War” and once that had failed, he called the resulting effort the “People’s War.”

While Mazzini didn’t start the revolt in Rome, he did head there, along with Italian dreamers everywhere, to help shape a republic. Mazzini saw that a Roman Republic could be the first step towards an Italian Republic. He wrote:

“You have in your hands the destinies of Italy, and the destinies of Italy are the destinies of the world.”

Given that we all knock back cappucinos and quite like pesto, he may have been on to something there.

Rome proved a huge inspiration to Italian nationalists and it was their romantic hope (literally in this case) that Rome should be the capital of a united Italy, a state of affairs that we take for granted now, but was far from being a given at the time.

And this hope wasn’t just some far-fetched pipe dream, because:

  • Naples to the south were hardly a force to be reckoned with, as we’ll see.

  • France’s motives were unsure. After all, why would a supposedly liberal republic be opposed to a...liberal republic. We’ll see about that, too.

  • While Austria was a serious threat, they were having their own problems with Hungary, which was in full revolt against their Austrian overlords, so their intervention was far from guaranteed.

Mazzini was actually elected to the Roman assembly despite being in Switzerland at the time, which was his favourite spot for inter-revolutionary downtime. As he made his way to take his seat, he passed through Tuscany, which had also declared itself a free republic after getting rid of its Grand Duke - who incidentally decided to go to Gaeta and bunk up with the Pope.

“This is our Papal treehouse and no republicans, liberals or atheists are allowed. Right Grand Duke?”

“Yes Holy Father, and no girls either.”

“Well, that girls without saying.”

SFX: Rimshot

On his way to Rome, Mazzini stopped off in Tuscany and suggested to the Tuscans that they should fuse with the Roman Republic to form a glorious Italian Republic, but the Tuscans said, “mmmmnahhh” so Mazzini said “sod ya then” and carried onto Rome.

Comic book guy: 

Worst historical anecdote ever.

When King Charles Albert of Piedmont announced another war with Austria, the Roman Republic offered 15,000 troops. Charles Albert rejected their offer because he was a lovely king and they were stinky republicans. Flouncing off on his own, Charles Albert was then smashed by the Austrians and had to abdicate in favour of his son, Viktor Emmanuel, who eventually became the first king of It aly which, in turn, eventually became...a stinky republic. 

Tough titties, Charles Albert.

With the Austrians on the offensive and enemies on all sides, the Roman Republic increasingly looked like Asterix and the Gauls holding out against the encroaching Romans, except exactly the opposite because - SPOILERS - The Gauls AKA the French are about to invade Rome. The noose was tightening around the Roman Republic’s neck, especially as Tuscany had been invaded by 15,000 Austrians and the Grand Duke restored...which actually nobody in Tuscany really seemed to mind.

For some reason, the Austrians liked warm, beautiful, gastronomically-exquisite Tuscany so much that they stayed until 1855.


Hallo wife. Back from the war.


But Gustav, the war finished 7 years ago.  


Ja, but me and ze guys have been on a wondrous post-war naked Mediterranean holiday oh and I and I don’t want to wear Lederhosen anymore. They're too restrictive! Also Klaus is moving in with us.

In response to Austrian advances, emergency powers were granted by the Roman assembly to a triumvirate of three leaders.

But rather than being a bunch of fascist bastards, it worked well. Because actually, the assembly had already offered Mazzini the role of dictator - by which I don’t mean as in the Mussolini kind, but as a traditional Roman Republic style dictator. i.e. a man appointed to run the show in times of war or emergency, break glass for laurel wreath. And while Mazzini didn't want to be dictator he was happy to be one of a three-man executive that he would basically run anyway.

And Mazzini governed well perhaps because he was a principled man, though some might question that, but more likely because he saw the Republic as realistically having a limited lifespan, but worth persevering with to show the world that republics didn’t have to be the gory, guilltone-themed, garlic-scented gourmand bleuuugh of the first French Republic.

Instead the Roman Republic was going to be a showhome republic. An advert for future republics. As Mazzini said at the time, “Here in Rome, we may not be moral mediocrities.” While his catchphrase is known as “God and People” it might well have been “Best behaviour, you lot.”


Welcome to the Fourth Roman Republic. We not like those other Roman R*epublics. No. We ‘ere, For you. I hand a over to Guiseppe tell you about how we run this place:

FX: Background music, street scenes etc.

  • FX: Bells...We don’t wanna dechristianise Rome. We're not crazy atheists. We want to be liberal AND religious...there’s no way liberalism will undermine Christian teachings in the 20th century. - forget about it 

  • Until that time, we say to the are still the Head of the Catholic Church although you definitely still think you are, everybody think you are, So it kind of looka like we offering you nothing! Whatsathematta? Guispee over to you

  • Freedom of the press. Say what ya want, but just make sure you use the font Times New Roman, capiche?

  • We will abolish the death penalty, because in Italy we have conquered death, thanks to our tradition of olive oil-infused spreadable butters.

  • We will alleviate the plight or artisans and workers and the poor. You hungry? Forget about it. No, I mean forget about it. You will feel less hungry if you don’t think about food.

  • We will have the tradespeople work on church buildings to keep them busy, but hopefully this will make us look very pious because what we're also going to do is…. confiscate church property and nationalise it to help out the poor clergy. Easy come, easy go.

  • No more death penalty. Anybody who don't agree, we put to Wait, we gotta rethink that one.

So, if you’re thinking about setting up a government, why not try a republic - it’s like replying to an email where the subject line was “public.” Re-public. (Can we shoe-horn in Fw:fw:fw:re:public)

So while the Fourth Roman Republic made every effort to seem like the benevolent, reasonable answer to government, there were still some people determined to stir things up. On Feb 2 1849, a young ex-priest named the Abbe Arduini made a speech declaring the temporal  power of the popes “a historical lie, a political imposture and a religious immorality.”

Then someone in the crowd said, “oh, like religion as a whole you mean?”

To which everyone else repl ied, “Yeah, Paolo. That’s a bit far actually, mate.”

And he said. “Oh. Sorry. I misread the room.”

Indeed Mazzini discouraged any attacks on the church or any political opponents in general. At one point during the defence of Rome, people were ripping confessional boxes out of churches to use as street barricades, but Mazzini told them to take them back, arguing that within these boxes, their mothers had experienced moments of great comfort.

Great tactic! If you want to win an argument, bring up someone’s mother. This also works for getting your head kicked in 

The Constitutional Assembly convened on Feb 8th and announced “a pure democracy that will take the name of a Roman Republic” to start at midnight on Feb 9th...which seems weird to delay….

“We proclaim the Roman Republic starting from….not yet...not yet….nearly. No. Wait. (SFX sleeping, morning music, yawn awake) Ok, now.”

At the first role call of the assembly, one of the elected members, Carlo Luciano Bonaparte (yep, one of THE Bonapartes who were still hanging out across Europe) called out “Viva la Republicca!” and everyone said “Yes. Viva. Love a bit of vivaing...” Guiseppe Mazzini was made a Roman citizen. And everybody looked forward to the time when Italy would be united.

BUT, hopes were dashed by news of the defeat of Piedmontese forces by Austria at the Battle of Navara on 22nd March, 1849.

FX: Wa, wa, wa.

Displaying classic Roman stubbornness, a triumvirate of leaders were chosen by the assembly and a government formed.

Time to introduce another key figure in this tale. Military liberator and revolutionary agitator extraordinaire, Giuseppe Garibaldi. The man was the Che Guevara of his day, appearing on t-shirts, coffee mugs and guitar cases. Although admittedly Che Guevara isn’t around anymore, so I need to think of a contemporary freedom fighter. Ooh, got one. The man was the Richard Dean Anderson, AKA MacGyver, of his day. 

Because of his exploits leading the charge against tyranny from South America to Italy, Guiseppe Garibaldi was a hero of his time who even had a biscuit - the Garibaldi biscuit - named after him. And not just because he regularly dusted himself with sugar and lived on a diet of squashed flies.

Garibaldi certainly got around. Weirdly, he made a very popular visit to South Shields in the North-East England. I guess when you come from perennially-sunny Italy, overcast skies and freezing rain must mean holidays!

Garibaldi looked up to Mazzini and saw him as the intellectual driving force behind Italian Unification and a nationalist leader of legendary status. 

But Garibaldi himself came to Rome with already legendary status as a paramilitary leader par excellence. In 1834, Garibaldi deserted from the Piedmontese navy and buggered off travelling to South America, landing in Rio.

But rather than staying in STD-ridden youth hostels of Copacabana and taking epic selfies next to a massive Jesus, Garibaldi spent his time meeting Mazzini-inspired Italian revolutionaries in exile. Fractious South America became Garibaldi’s 14-year-long boot camp. Here he learned guerilla warfare, how to ride a horse and that he looked like an ultimate badass in a red poncho, which became his trademark look.

Mazzini recognised how useful a can-do guy like Garibaldi would be to the cause so, when revolution started breaking out across Europe, Garibaldi was asked to return with his now-hardened Italian Legion.

On landing in Italy, Garibaldi first offered his services to Piedmont’s Charles Albert, who turned him down flat. The man apparently was not good at taking help even offered. So Garibaldi instead went off campaigning in Milan before ending up in Rome.

Unlike Mazzini, Garibaldi was NOT strictly a republican. He strove for Italian Unification and was willing to take any path to get there. He apparently stated that:


For the cause of unification, I would fight for the devil himself.


Would you like a free sample of roll on deodorant?


For a free sample of roll on deodorant, I would fight for the devil himself.


Here, have an extra one.

Garibaldi bolstered the ranks of his Italian Legion, initially receiving 1,000 volunteer recruits from all across Italy, which peaked at 9,000 at full strength. The troops were stationed on the border with the Two Sicillies (GRAMS: callback comedy music), knowing that the Pope had asked for international assistance to crush the Republic. To prepare for invasion, Garibaldi put this new Italian Legion through an intensive training montage.

GRAMS: “You’re the best around.”

Back in Rome, Mazzini continued to roll out some good new-fashioned populism:

  • There were prison and insane asylum reforms.

  • The tax burden was substantially reduced.

  • The unemployed were given work.

  • Secular education was established.

BUT, combining lower taxes plus increased spending is the fiscal equivalent of trying to lose weight on a 100% ice cream diet. It seems like a good idea to start with, but soon you can’t see your feet anymore.

To pay its increasing debt, the government had to inflate its currency and that’s a policy that NEVER works unless you manufacture  wheelbarrows.

Meanwhile, the nearest threat seemed to come from the rampaging Austrian Empire who were operating under a “shoot firs*t, don’t bother asking questions later” policy in Northern Italy.

BUT, the invasion of the newly formed Roman Republic actually came from…*drum roll* France?

What’s surprising about this is that France was supposed to be a liberal republic and was trying to destroy….a liberal republic. Its leader, President Louis-Napoleon (yes, one of those Napoleons) was trying to emulate his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had invaded other bits of Europe initially to set up other liberal republics...but, in fairness, then made himself Emperor and set up loads of kingdoms for his family and mates. So I guess Prince President Louis-Napoleon was a chip off the old block of Roquefort. (or chip off the ol’ Bree block)

But, Louis-Napoleon was….

GRAMS: Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn.


On the one hand, he’d actually participated in an insurrection against the Pope in 1831.

On the other hand he was only president of France because traditionalist Catholics had overwhelmingly voted for him AND if he captured Rome first that would be a reminder to Austria that they weren’t the only Major Catholic Billy Big Bollock Power in Europe. Not only were the Austrians amassing to the north of the Roman Republic, but Spain had sent a navy and Sicily was mustering its troops. So, while Prince President Louis-Napoleon, soon to be Emperor Napoleon III, didn’t want to betray Italian liberals on the other hand he thought SCREW IT. Let’s betray them and reinstall the pope.

On April 25th, France sent 8-10,000 troops to Rome. A French staff officer came to negotiate with Mazzini, and by negotiate, I mean tell them what to do.

The Roman Assembly’s response was “Guerra, guerra!” meaning “War, war!” and not because they were a bunch of builders who’d seen an attractive woman pass by. Mazzini was authorised to resist the French.

The French forces, meanwhile, expected little resistance from these ragtag Romans but they hadn’t reckoned on Guiseppe “Mad dog” Garibaldi, the Arnold Schwarzenegger/ Steven Seagal/ Tony Blair of Italian unification-themed punch ups.

Garibaldi arrived in Rome on April 27th in triumphant style followed by the street-fighting Bersaglieri of Lombardy on the 29th. At full force, his legion was only 9,000 strong, but his legionnaires had the zeal of youth, idealism and...most importantly...guns. (GRAMS: “Lots of guns.” from Matrix) You gotta have guns. To shoot people. 

Defences were set in place, walls were strengthened, villas were garrisoned, stray dogs were weaponised - all in an, it was a classic A-Team montage.


Yo, Hannibal, I’ve found some duct tape, a Carpenter’s greatest hits LP and some licorice.


Good work, BA. Let’s make an a-bomb.

The stage seemed set for greatn ess. As historian G.M TRevelyan put it:

“That there should ever have been a time when Mazzini ruled Rome and Garibaldi defended her walls sounds like a poet’s dream.”

It doesn’t though. A poet’s dream is being at a village literary festival and finding the biscuit cupboard both unattended and unlocked. 

The French got off to a bad start on April 30th as their maps were out of date. They also didn’t  realise that the first canon shot was aimed at them, instead thinking it was the midday gun.

This was followed up by a charge of Garibaldi’s fierce legionaries, which sent the French into full retreat, leading a French soldier to possibly say….

“I must say. Zat was tres embarrasment. But don’t worry. I’m sure zat is the last military humiliation ze French nation will ever experience.”

Unfortunately for Garibaldi, Mazzini was unwilling to follow up the success with a killer blow, instead sending French prisoners back to the French. He thought he’d try to appeal to their liberal, republican natures, buuuu t he just allowed the French to regroup and await Austrian pro-Papacy reinforcements.

BUT to be fair to Mazzini, even if he had let Garibaldi drive the French into the sea, he would have only pissed off them and the Catholic world all the more and simply hastened the Roman Republic’s already short expiry date.

By showing restraint, at least Mazzini could make the French look like they were completely in the wrong for betraying a fellow Republic. This was all part of Mazzini’s PR campaign to show how reasonable and merciful an Italian republic could be.

This also might explain the Roman’s extremely generous behaviour to French captives. The French were treated so embarrassingly well, which included getting guided tours of the sites of Rome, that some of the soldiers claimed they’d actually been deceived and assumed that they’d come to Rome to fight WITH the Roman Republic and AGAINST the Austrians and Neapolitans.


So how come you were shooting at me?


Moi? Non. I was actually sending you bullets through my gun barrel so you could use them against our mutual enemies.

The first repulsion of the French wasn’t the only victory for the Fourth Roman Republic and Mazzini didn’t always try to restrain Garibaldi. 

With Ferdinand King of Naples and 10,000 Neapolitan troops camped by Lake Albano, on the outskirts of Rome, Mazzini gave Garibaldi the go ahead to take a force of 2,300 troops to slow the enemy advance on Rome.

Garibaldi was a master of misdirection and was careful to shield his advance on the Neapolitan army by marching at night, switching approach and saying things like, “An army? No, we’re actually on our way to a quantity surveyors conference in Palermo.”

The Italian McGuyver was described “a devil, a panther” at the head of “a troop of brigands” and that was a description by someone who actually liked him. Common soldiers from Naples, meanwhile, were taught to fear him - as priests described him as a godless ogre. That’s right  clergy. Steel your men for battle by scaring the shit out of them. Nice move!

Look, I hate to sound too anti-clerical in this episode, but I think things would had run a lot more smoothly in the 1840s if the Catholic church had just kept their sticky beaks out. What is it about the forces of conservatism and they’re obsession with sabotaging every positive development in life….ahhhh. Sorry. I need to breathe into a paper bag for a while. Phil, take over. (breaths into bag) SFX paper bag breathing


(clears throat, it’s his big moment) But perhaps the fears of the Neopolitan rank and file were well founded. Fellow revolutionary - 


Right, I’m better - give me that script. Fellow revolutionary  type Emilio Dandolo talked about Garibaldi’s rather uncouth ways. Dressed in his trademark poncho and accompanied by a band of Latin American fighters loyal to him, Garibaldi didn’t match the traditional image of a nineteenth century European general. Rather than drinking fine wines in opulent palaces, Garibaldi went out lassoing animals for his supper, pitching his own tent and leaving his horse to wander off when he wasn’t using it.

Dandolo said of him: “Garibaldi appeared more like the chief of a tribe of Indians than a General; but in the heat of combat; his presence of mind and courage was admirable.”

The difference between Garibaldi and his force of both Italian nationalists, radical republicans and South American veterans and the royal army of Naples was that only one of those two bodies of men actually wanted to be there.

This couldn’t have been clearer at the Battle of Palestrina, where Garibaldi’s detachment beat the Neapolitan army in fierce fighting, despite being outnumbered 3:1. This wasn’t nineteenth century “line them up and take turns to shoot at each other” stuff either. This was close-quarters bayonet stuff over a wide ranging battlefield, which included fierce hand-to-hand, house-to-house, fist-to-face fighting. The Neapolitan soldiers, not really up for fighting an ogre and his army of demons anyway, broke and fled in terror after 3 hours - proving no match for Garibaldi’s desperados.

The Neapolitans were thus weak and, like the ice cream that bears their name, were vanilla troops who, at the first sign of battle, went a strawberry colour in the cheeks and then a chocolate colour in the pants.

The final French siege began on June 1. After a month of fierce resistance by the brave Romans, the French finally broke through on June 29th.

On June 30th, the Roman Assembly met to discuss their options, which were:

  1. Surrender.

  2. Fight in the streets.

  3. Retreat to the Apennine Mountains and continue an insurgency from there.

Garibaldi liked the third option and said, “Wherever we may be, there will be Rome.”

Then someone said, “What about if we were in Ipswich?”

And Garibaldi said, “Ok. Not there.”

The Roman Assembly had other ideas, however, and negotiated a truce. Bored of all this wussy political stuff, Garibaldi took 4,000 loyal fighters and buggered off to San Marino to fight another day….until 3,800 of his less loyal fighters also buggered off elsewhere.

The French entered Rome on July 3rd, re-established Pope power and the rest is history. Except for two further notes.

  1. While there was no reign of terror during the Roman Republic, once the Pope was back in charge he appointed a Red Triumvirate of three cardinals who wheeled out the guillotine in preparation for Roman citizens ratting each other out for radicalism. As it happens, the Romans kept their mouths shut and so the Red Triumvirate was only that colour because of embarrassment and not because of blood-letting.

  1. The French stayed in Rome until 1870, until they went to fight a war against Prussia which they were destined to lose. As soon as they went out the front door, the army of the Kingdom of Italy entered through the back, annexed the place and “whallop” no more Papal States. Tough luck Popey and tough luck Frenchies, too.

Mazzini said:

“A revolution proclaims that the state is rotten; that its machinery no longer meets the needs of the greatest number of the citizens; that its institutions are powerless to direct the general movement; that popular and social thought has passed beyond the vital principle of those institutions; that the new phase in the development of the national faculties finds neither expression nor representation in the official constitution of the country, and that it must therefore create one for itself.”

Fortunately that kind of crazy talk is no longer relevant to today. All our institutions work brilliantly and everybody's delighted. And thanks to the ultimate victory of the kind of capitalism Mazzini wouldn’t have been too keen on, all things have been resolved.

(Communist chant)

Hail capitalism! Long live Francis Fukushama. May its enemies be ground to dust. May decent wages, financial scrutiny, democracy and dignity be ground under the golden boot.

Coming soon: check out our range of ‘smash capitalism’ merch.


The Fourth Roman Republic wasn’t doomed from its inception, but its founders were idealists who looked for a better way of governing and being governed than nineteenth century conservative Europe was willing to concede. As the reactionary forces fought back against the revolutions of 1848, Rome was increasingly seen as a last line of defence or, if it were to be defeated, an advertisement to the world of what a liberal republic could really look like. Yes, the fourth Roman Republic didn’t last very long and yes it was defeated, but 1848 had been a battle for new ideas over old and though the crusaders of liberalism lost the battle in Italy’s holy city, they were far from losing the war.

Song - Based on “That’s amore.”

When the Pope goes to flee

And you’ve got Mazzini...that’s Republic

When the French storm the gates

But their maps aren’t first rate...that’s Republic

Garibaldi forms an army

For liberty and unity...that’s Republic

It was sure doomed to fail

But one day they would hail an Italian Republic.

Thank you for listening. Next time, we cross oceans, continents and centuries to a time when the mighty Inca ruled a vast empire in the mountains of South America before Spanish conquistadors introduced them to tapas, songs which involve clapping and total oblivion. So don't miss a special empire edition of….


19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page