Page 1 Page 2
Visions of building a ‘New Roman Empire’ had filled the dreams of many Italian political and military leaders during the opening decades of the twentieth century. Squarely set in their colonial sights was the vast frontier of Africa. Conquests of Ethiopia and British Somaliland, in 1936 and 1940 respectively, added these territories to the previous Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. They would collectively be known as Italian East Africa, Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI. Benito Mussolini and his government envisioned a day when large commercial sea ports and military naval bases would dot the coast line of this African portion of “the Empire”. AOI’s shorelines touched three great bodies of water; the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean. Italy longed for an expanded presence and increased trade relations in the Far East, and felt these ports and the needed naval protection for their merchant fleet would be essential to making this dream come true. Their new colonies in East Africa were to be the stepping stones to build an even greater ‘New Empire”. Alas this ambitious plan was never to materialize.