Gabriele D'Annunzio

Having agitated for the Intervention, the poet aesthete D'Annunzio passed the war in dare devil propaganda exercises. After the war, he sought to circumvent President Wilson's veto on Italian expansionism in the Adriatic, which the Italian government, indebted to the Allies, had been obliged to forgo, exposing it to ultranationalist fury for its `renunciation', condemned as a betrayal of Italy's war dead. In September 1919 D'Annunzio occupied the Istrian port of Fiume, Hungary's only outlet to the sea, which had voted for union with Italy, with a force of nationalist volunteers, defying for over a year the Versaille powers and the Italian government, which was unsure how far it could rely on the army. The revolt was eventually quelled by a naval bombardment. D'Annunzio's subversion of the rule of law paved the way for fascism, demonstrating how effectively the legitimate constitutional authority of the community could be set at defiance. D'Annunzio also prefigured fascist theatrics, which was in turn to be emulated by the Nazi's to maximise their mass appeal. Under the Treaty of Rapallo [November 1920] Fiume was made a free city, but in January 1924 the port city was ceded to Italy and the suburbs incorporated in the new state of Jugoslavia.

Photo from Gernsheim `Historic Events 1839-1939'Longmans London 1960