I guess I should say “thank you.” Gratias vobis ago. Thank you to the Republican Party’s long game, a partisan SCOTUS, years of deliberate Democratic avoidance. You see, I’ve been wanting for a while to write a book about social control, forced reproduction, and their effects on real people living under an authoritarian government.
In a discussion of the concept of the “good slave” in her book Reconstructing the Slave: The Image of the Slave in Ancient Greece, Kelly Wrenhaven rightly argues that “representations of good slaves are as much a part of the rationalizing ideology of slavery as bad slaves, as both help to justify and reinforce the institution.” Examining enslaved nurses depicted on Athenian tombstones, Wrenhaven points out that, out of a total of 15 extant tombstones for nurses, nine include the word chreste. Other inscriptions further confirm the association between the adjective chrestos and enslavement. On a 4th-century tombstone from Thasos, a shepherd named Manes is described as chrestos tais despotais (“useful to his masters”). Enslaved people are also described with this adjective in Menander as well as in Greek tragedy.
In the latest issue of the CADW magazine, the organ of Wales’ official heritage body, the discussion of the Roman fort at Caerleon was accompanied by a graphic designed for children on the subject of Roman dining. With a Horrible Histories-type tone, the cartoon features a boy asking his mother if his friend can stay for dinner. “I thought we’d go Italian,” says his mother, but it’s not the demanded “Pasta? Pizza? ICE CREAM?”; rather, “Rich Romans had things like…Parrot heads or…dormice…and … sea urchins maybe” (to which the boy says “I feel sick”).
To say that there was such a thing as racism in classical antiquity would strike most modern readers as odd. However, if we examine what racism means, it is not as striking. The modern connotations of “racism” often instantly call up differences in biological features such as skin color. Historians of antiquity, such as Frank Snowden, have examined ancient evidence in search of racial hatred, working from these modern assumptions about what “race” is. Given those assumptions, Snowden concluded that the ancients did not have an idea of racism or hatred of black people more specifically.
Classical Greeks often articulated a worldview that divided the world between Greeks and all other ethnic groups. This fundamental distinction served to justify war and slavery. The tragedian Aeschylus portrays non-Greeks as slavish and decadent in his Persians. Aristotle thought enslaving non-Greeks was a just cause for waging war (Politics 7.15.21). The Greeks called non-Greeks barbaroi, or “barbarians,” because of the unintelligible sounds of their foreign languages (they said bar bar). The historian Herodotus has long been a central figure in scholarly discourse about the creation and articulation of the boundary between Greeks and others.
As I strolled one day in the old center of Tel Aviv, I entered the house of Haim Nachman Bialik, the Hebrew national poet. An imposing building, it constitutes a manifesto of Jewish art in the early 20th century: the architectural style reprises oriental shapes, alternating arches and square forms; the decoration aims to express a quintessentially Jewish art. As I daydreamed about the poet holding private meetings and public receptions with the foremost representatives of culture and politics of his day, my eye was caught by two decorative tiles. These tiles, located at opposite ends of an arch that leads into the salon, represent two opposite moments of Jewish history: on one hand, a tile reproduces the Judaea capta coin minted by Vespasian after the First Jewish War; on the other, another tile mirrors Vespasian’s coin, proclaiming, in Hebrew letters, “Judaea liberated.”
Blog: Weaving Humanity Together: How Weaving Reveals Human Unity in Ancient Times
To start with, she lived a respectable life, frugal and hard;
she earned her living by weaving and spinning wool.
primum haec pudice uitam parce ac duriter
agebat, lana ac tela uictum quaeritans.
— Terence the African (P. Terentius Afer), The Girl from Andros, 74–75
This line drew my attention because I am an avid fiber artist. When I am not reading, teaching, and writing about Classics and its connection to Black people, I am in my wool room, lost in the magical world of fiber arts. This line from The Girl from Andros has led me on a new journey of discovering fiber arts in ancient times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought historical epidemics into contemporary public awareness on a massive scale. Although ancient pandemics have been studied in detail since at least the 19th century, over the past year, outbreaks of the past have become apparently more relevant for what they might offer us today. Of course, the interest in historical pandemics seems to increase every time contemporary diseases draw public attention. Over the last three decades, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika, among others, have made headlines, increasing interest in past diseases, even if not on the same scale as Covid. Presentist concerns, unsurprisingly, drive historical research.
The Classics Everywhere initiative, launched by the SCS in 2019, in March 2021 has been renamed and reimagined as the Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities initiative.