On Sunday, 11 July 2021, Italy became the European champion, winning the European Cup. So, I thought, those who watched the match (but also those who didn’t) must have heard the Italian national anthem many times. So, in the aftermath of this pleasant victory for Italy, I decided to tell you more about our national anthem and its author, and explain its meaning.
The Italian anthem: Mameli’s anthem
The Italian anthem is called Mameli’s Anthem and, from the very first notes, plays its role perfectly and makes us all feel a little more patriotic. In general, Italians take this moment very seriously, everyone sings it and everyone knows its words. I’ll explain to you how we Italians sing it!
HOW TO SING MAMELI’S ANTHEM:
1. Stand up as soon as you hear the first notes
2. Put your right hand on your heart
3. Make a straight face, almost angry
4. Sing your heart out
Italian anthem’s history
Who was Goffredo Mameli?
When wa Italy unified?
Write it in the comments! Otherwise, if you want to review, take a look at the article dedicated to the Unification of Italy!
How did Mameli’s Anthem come about?
Goffredo Mameli writes it while Italy is under Austrian rule, and soon becomes a song of courage and invitation to revolt for the liberation of Italy. Its debut took place in 1847 in Genoa, during the commemoration of the Genoese revolt against the Austrians. As you can clearly imagine, the Hymn of Mameli saw its popularity grow during the Risorgimento. In fact, it was also sung during the Five Days of Milan, the five days of armed revolution in 1848, which led to the temporary liberation of Milan from Austrian rule. But after the Unification of Italy in 1861, Italy became a monarchy under the Savoy family, and the Italian anthem was the Royal March of Savoy. Yet, people felt Mameli’s Anthem far more representitive of themselves and their ideals, than the Royal March.
In any case, it officialy became the Italian Anthem only in 1946, the year of the proclamation of the Republic.
What does Mameli’s Antheam mean?
Mameli’s anthem was born in a climate of fervor and revolt, during the war against Austria. But his verses contain many references to the past of Italy. Let’s analyze them:
Fratelli d’Italia -> Brethrens of Italy
L’Italia s’è desta, -> Italy has awaken,
Dell’elmo di Scipio -> The helmet of Scipio
S’è cinta la testa. -> Has bound her head.
The Hymn begins by emphasizing the fraternal bond that unites all Italians, who feel like brothers.
Then there is an invitation to wake up (destarsi, in fact, is a formal synonym for “svegliarsi”): this reference is linked to Italy ready to fight against the Austrian domination and rebel.
In support of the fact that the Italians are ready to fight, there is a reference to a very important historical fact: the victory of the Romans against the Carthaginians in 202 B.C. The Romans were led to victory by Publius Cornelius Scipio (Scipio, in the verse, called the African).
Italy, therefore, recalls that great event and metaphorically puts its helmet on its head, recalling the strength and courage of the ancient Romans and their heroic deeds.
Dov’è la Vittoria? -> Where is Victory?
Le porga la chioma, -> Victory will bow her head,
Ché schiava di Roma -> Since the slave of Rome
Iddio la creò. -> God created her.
“Victory” in this verse refers to the Roman goddess Victoria.
In this second verse, Mameli refers to a custom of the Roman people: free women kept their hair long, while women made slaves had to cut themselves in order to be distinguished from others, almost as if to deprive themselves of their femininity.
Affirming that the goddess Victoria will give the crown to Rome, Mameli emphasizes that the Victory will be the slave of Rome, in the sense that it was certain that Rome (and the whole of Italy) would win, in case of rebellion against the Austrians. Because it is destiny that so wants, God has planned it.
Stringiamci a coorte -> Let us unite in a cohort,
Siam pronti alla morte -> We are ready for death,
L’Italia chiamò. -> Italy has called!
The cohort was a 600-man Roman army combat unit.
“Stringiamci a coorte” therefore wants to be an invitation to all Italians to present themselves without hesitation to arms, and not only! Even to remain united and united, to be willing to die, for liberation from the foreign oppressor.
Why? Well, because “l’Italia ha chiamato”! That is, Italy wants it, it wants all Italians to fight for it, for its integrity, its history, its culture, that no foreigner must “mess it up”.
Mameli’s Anthem goes on, but it is these three verses that are always sung in all sports competitions and official events. If you want to know more about it, read our article about the second part of the Hymn of Mameli.
I recommend you a very useful exercise to practice your pronunciation and to learn the anthem at best, to sing it together with the players of the Italian national team at the next match: listen to a sentence, stop the music (or our video) and repeat the sentence with a good chant. It happens very often that, at the time of the anthem, the cameras frame someone who does not really know all the words and makes a bad impression!
And how is your National Anthem? What does it say? How was it born? If you know it, write it in the comments, it will be nice to compare the stories of the anthems of different parts of the world!