Mare Nostrum (Latin: mare nostrvm, "Our Sea") was a Roman name for the
In the years following the unification of Italy in 1861, Italian
nationalists who saw Italy as the successor state to the Roman Empire
attempted to revive the term.
1 Roman usage
2 Italian nationalist usage
3 Fascist usage
4 Contemporary usage
5 See also
The term mare nostrum originally was used by Romans to refer to the
Tyrrhenian Sea, following their conquest of Sicily,
Corsica during the
Punic Wars with Carthage. By 30 BC, Roman
domination extended from the
Iberian Peninsula to Egypt, and mare
nostrum began to be used in the context of the whole Mediterranean
Sea. Other names were also employed, including mare internum
("Internal Sea"), but these did not include mare mediterraneum, which
was a late Latin creation only attested to well after the Fall of
Italian nationalist usage
The rise of
Italian nationalism during the "Scramble for Africa" of
the 1880s led to calls for the establishment of an Italian colonial
empire. The phrase was first revived by the Italian poet Gabriele
Even if the coast of Tripoli were a desert, even if it would not
support one peasant or one Italian business firm, we still need to
take it to avoid being suffocated in mare nostrum.
— Emilio Lupi, 
The term was again taken up by
Benito Mussolini for use in fascist
propaganda, in a similar manner to Adolf Hitler's lebensraum.
Mussolini wanted to re-establish the greatness of the
Roman Empire and
believed that Italy was the most powerful of the Mediterranean
countries after World War I. He declared that "the twentieth
century will be a century of Italian power" and created one of the
most powerful navies of the world in order to control the
When World War II started Italy was already a major Mediterranean
power that controlled the north and south shores of the central basin.
After the fall of France removed the main threat from the west, the
British Mediterranean Fleet, with bases in UK-controlled Gibraltar,
Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, and
Mandatory Palestine remained the only threat
to Italian naval power in the Mediterranean. The invasions of Albania,
Greece and Egypt, and the Siege of
Malta sought to extend Axis control
over the Sea. This policy was so great, it threatened neutral nations
like Turkey, a threat that İsmet İnönü, the president of
the time of war, countered by only promising to enter the war if the
Soviet Union joined the Allies.
Mussolini dreamed of creating an Imperial Italy in his "Mare Nostrum"
and promoted the fascist project—to be realized in a future peace
conference after the anticipated Axis victory—of an enlarged Italian
Empire, stretching from the Mediterranean shores of
Egypt to the
Indian Ocean shores of
Somalia and eastern Kenya. He referred to
Mediterranean Sea "an Italian lake". This aim, however, was
challenged throughout the campaign by the Allied navies at sea and the
Allied armies and resistance movements on land. For example, Greece
had easily been incorporated into the Roman Empire, but the new Greek
state proved to be too powerful for Italian conquest, and Greece
remained independent until German forces arrived to assist the Italian
invasion. Despite periods of Axis ascendancy during the Battle of the
Mediterranean it was never realized, and ended altogether with the
final Italian defeat of September 1943.
The term "Mare Nostrum" was chosen as the theme for the Inaugural
Conference of the Society for Mediterranean Law and Culture, being
held in June 2012 at the
University of Cagliari
University of Cagliari Faculty of Law,
Sardinia, Italy ("La Conferenza Inaugurale della Società di Diritto e
Cultura del Mediterraneo"). In this contemporary usage, the term is
intended to embrace the full diversity of Mediterranean cultures, with
a particular focus on exchanges and cooperation among Mediterranean
Following the 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck, the Italian
government, has decided to strengthen the national system for the
patrolling of the Mediterranean sea by authorizing "Operation Mare
Nostrum", a military and humanitarian operation in order to rescue the
migrants and arrest the traffickers of immigrants.
^ a b Lowe (2002), p.34
^ Couperus (1993), p.32
^ Online Etymology Dictionary. "Mediterranean". Accessed 29 Aug 2011.
^ Anthony Rhodes, Propaganda: The art of persuasion: World War II, p70
1976, Chelsea House Publishers, New York
^ Fleming, Thomas. The New Dealers' War. Perseus Books,2001
^ Italian naval operations in the Mediterranean, such as the Battle of
Cape Matapan, are included in the Battle of the Mediterranean
^ a b "International Law Prof Blog". typepad.com.
^ "L'OPERAZIONE MARE NOSTRUM - eurasia-rivista.org".
eurasia-rivista.org. Archived from the original on 2014-07-18.
Lowe, C.J. (2002). Italian Foreign Policy 1870–1940. Routledge.
Tellegen-Couperus, Olga (1993). Short History of Roman Law. Routledge.
Talbert, R., M. E. Downs, M. Joann McDaniel, B. Z. Lund, T. Elliott,
S. Gillies. "Places: 1043 (Internum Mare)". Pleiades. Retrieved
December 7, 2011. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors