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The Society for Classical Studies strongly supports the American Historical Association's statement condemning the Polish law criminalizing discussion of Polish complicity in Nazi war crimes during World War II. Open discussion of the events of the past is our own Society's raison d'être. Such discussion cannot be limited to events of which we are proud, nor can we permit those of which we are ashamed to be forgotten. These principles must apply to the study of all periods of history. Our Society's interest in this particular question involves a growing integration between what were once regarded as discrete areas in the study of Mediterranean antiquity, including Greek and Roman studies, Ancient Near Eastern studies, Jewish studies, and other related areas. In addition, we remember the many Jewish scholars of Classics and Ancient History who migrated from eastern Europe to Great Britain and North America, fleeing persecution by the Nazis and their sympathizers. The impact of these scholars on their new countries and on our field as a whole was both great and very positive, but it came with enormous human cost, and it is essential that we remember these facts.
In light of the executive order on immigration issued on Friday, January 27, 2017, the Society for Classical Studies publicly reaffirms its commitment to the international community of scholars and to the importance of the free movement of scholarship and ideas. We believe that the selective ban placed on the entry to the United States by individuals of particular nationalities and (in effect) of particular religious beliefs, the suspension of all refugee processing, and the suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program are harmful to students, scholars, and academic institutions in this country and, given the importance of the middle eastern region to the study of classical antiquity, of particular concern to our discipline.
The mission of the Society for Classical Studies is “to advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the ancient Greek and Roman world and its enduring value.” That world was a complex place, with a vast diversity of peoples, languages, religions, and cultures spread over three continents, as full of contention and difference as our world is today. Greek and Roman culture was shared and shaped for their own purposes by people living from India to Britain and from Germany to Ethiopia. Its medieval and modern influence is wider still. Classical Studies today belongs to all of humanity.
For this reason, the Society strongly supports efforts to include all groups among those who study and teach the ancient world, and to encourage understanding of antiquity by all. It vigorously and unequivocally opposes any attempt to distort the diverse realities of the Greek and Roman world by enlisting the Classics in the service of ideologies of exclusion, whether based on race, color, national origin, gender, or any other criterion. As scholars and teachers, we condemn the use of the texts, ideals, and images of the Greek and Roman world to promote racism or a view of the Classical world as the unique inheritance of a falsely-imagined and narrowly-conceived western civilization.