According to this morning's paper, rebel troops are on the move in Libya, freed from the trap at Ajdabiya, pursuing the retreating Libyan army around the Gulf of Sirte and through the Sirte desert through Brega, Uqaylah, and Ras Lanuf, heading toward Qaddafi's home town of Surt.
|Arch of the Fileni, c. 1940|
For a time (and perhaps still) it was known as the via Balbia, or the via Balbo, after Italo Balbo, the larger-than-life figure who became governor of Libya in 1934 and under whose watch the highway was completed three years later. The formal name for the 822 kilometer highway was the Litoranea-Libica.
What the rebel army didn't see as they approached Ras Lanuf from the east was an enormous arch, built over the new highway in 1937 as a sign of the road-building, unifying achievement, as well as Italian might and hegemony. The Qaddafi regime demolished the arch in 1970--blew it up with dynamite--just a year after the whacky dictator took power, no doubt because the new government didn't savor a prominent reminder of 3 decades of European colonial rule. He had a point.
|The flamboyant Balbo stood for what |
the Italians wanted to be.
|March 1937. Mussolini at the dedication.|
|Bronzes of the Fileni brothers, originally in the |
slot (see photo at top) just above the curve of the arch.
|Fragments of the bas-reliefs. On the left, salutes to|