Classical Culture and White Nationalism

From BookBrowse:

The hands of history have reshaped the Greek past for centuries, sculpting it into an idealized version credited with birthing a myriad of ideas and concepts, notably identity. Certain contemporary political currents claim that Hellenic identity was what we would today consider white, although Greece was a multiethnic society that did not have our modern concepts of race.

Groups promoting racist ideology have pushed the interpretation that the apparent lack of color and ornamentation in Greco-Roman classical sculpture, which is in fact due to the erosion of pigments over time, is indicative of a more advanced and sophisticated culture resulting from the supposed superiority of white Europeans. As Lauren Markham writes in A Map of Future Ruins, “classical iconography continues to be a touchstone of white supremacy today, building off the myth that ancient Greece is the taproot of so-called Western culture.”

. . . .

The former president has also drawn on classical imagery. In 2020, a draft of an executive order titled “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” was leaked. It sought to establish neoclassical architecture as the preferred style for federal buildings. The draft argues that in designing Washington D.C. buildings, the founding fathers embraced the classical models of “democratic Athens” and “republican Rome” because they symbolized “self-governing ideals.”

. . . .

Classicists are pushing against this misuse of antiquity’s ideas and symbols. According to Curtis Dozier, founder of Pharos and assistant professor of Greek and Roman studies at Vassar College, these views “all depend on the widespread assumption that Greco-Roman antiquity is admirable, foundational and refined. Thus any presentation that promotes uncritical admiration for the ancient world, by presenting it as a source of ‘timeless’ models and wisdom, has the potential to be complicit in white supremacy.”

As classics and black world studies professor Denise McCoskey explains, the “idea that the Greeks and Romans identified as ‘white’ with other people in modern-day Europe is just a complete misreading of ancient evidence.

Link to the rest at BookBrowse

PG reminds one and all that he doesn’t necessarily agree with items he posts on TPV.

He also asks that any comments to this or other posts avoid any disparagement of anyone on the basis of race or any other characteristic that is inherent to an individual’s personhood.

17 thoughts on “Classical Culture and White Nationalism”

  1. “Certain contemporary political currents claim that Hellenic identity was what we would today consider white, although Greece was a multiethnic society that did not have our modern concepts of race.”

    Two things wrong here: first and most obvious is the claim that there is a “modern” concept of race. Nope. Truly modern concepts of race say it doesn’t exist. It’s not genetic nor immutable. It is purely a legacy cultural construct. The concepts the OP both decries and promotes are both non biological. (Funny that nobody cries “follow the science!”)

    Second, the greeks (and probably, but not demonstrably, the myceneans) came from the north and north east. They were descendants of the very old steppe cultures of millenia past. The same gene pool that later birthed goths and vandals and, ahem, aryans. Even earlier, the Cucuteni-Trypillia civilization.

    Third, dragging the egyptians and phoenicians into their propaganda neglects they were not by any stretch of rationality “black” even by racialist concepts, and equally pretends that the twelth century collapse and the invasions of the sea peoples from the north and west of the mediterranean didn’t happen. Which they did even if they erased so much in their invasions they left a centuries long void of clear data, at the end of why myceneans are gone and replaced in Greece by the Dorians. The switch in languages at least is proof that the prehellenistic culture was displaced by the hellenes that gave us Sparta, Athenes, Macedonia, etc.

    Whatever those folks were, they were not of african origin (at least not since before the last ice age). And recent genetic studies make that abundantly clear, if nothing, by the distribution of “neantherthal genes” in modern populations.

    I have my own doubts about the subspecies cross breeding theories but the distribution of genes suggests population movements that predate the last ice age followed by other waves, as the ice retreated. I suspect some of those “neanderthal genes” are way older than any of the known subspecies. (Maybe HALO got it right. 😉 )

    Regardless, the roots of western civilization clearly come from regions north and south of the black sea, not Subsaharan africa and no political propaganda can put the lie to those sites.

    Great story fodder for anybody interested in that era.
    Some of those truly ancient cultures show amazing capabilities. There were geniuses in those days. But that’s, ahem, a different story. 😉

  2. I find it interesting that the only quote tying this to white supremacy in the excerpt is someone claiming that’s what motivates folks. The actual people praising classical in here didn’t say a word about skin color.

    It’s a phrase that means nothing to me anymore, except that the speaker is probably not worth listening to.

    • The “classical” culture the OP thinks of is probably BLACK ATHENA which is old enough by now they think of it as a “classic” even though every bit of it is demonstrably counterfactual. Archaeology knows better; none of the mediterranean cultures were actually “black” or had the mind of contacts they pretend.

      Those kinds of muddy mind speakers make the infamous DavidD sound almost rational. And a kindred spirit of theirs.

      I’ve long expected the extreme left to go so far extreme as to wrap around and end up making common cause with the extreme right on many issues. Which they have in making everything about melanin.

    • Yes, there’s a great deal of supposition and innuendo in the OP. I note she’s alleging herself to be a journalist, yet she’s light on facts and getting both sides of the story. But to be fair, it’s possible there was something lost in the translation — she’s from Madrid — and she meant to call herself an activist or a propagandist. The latter in particular would make more sense.

  3. The Romans in particular identified as Romans, and to be Roman required you be a citizen, and one could become a citizen by serving in the legions for 25 years. Skin colour had nothing to do with being a citizen.

    A citizen who served in the legions for 25 years would get a payment in gold, which could be used to buy an estate or business as required. So yeah, Romans didn’t need to be white; for definitions of white that actually means a range of skin tones from olive through to brown.

    Greeks were like the Romans, but it wasn’t about being a Greek citizen, but rather a citizen of a city state. They weren’t quite as egalitarian as the Romans about acquiring citizenship either.

    As to the whole white supremacy thing, or whatever you call it? this stems from Europe and the Renaissance and the great divergence caused by the industrial revolution.

    • Generally true of the imperial era but the republic was a bit different. The military was always a central part of the Roman state but pre-empire citizenship was structured around a dual class structure of patricians (land owners primarily) and plebians. Both were mostly native born. The mercenary/legion road to citizenship came late.

      The real power of the state lay with the Consuls, though:

      “A consul was the highest elected public official of the Roman Republic (c. 509 BC to 27 BC). Romans considered the consulship the second-highest level of the cursus honorum—an ascending sequence of public offices to which politicians aspired—after that of the censor, which was reserved for former consuls.[1] Each year, the Centuriate Assembly elected two consuls to serve jointly for a one-year term. The consuls alternated each month holding fasces (taking turns leading) when both were in Rome. A consul’s imperium (military power) extended over Rome and all its provinces.

      There were two consuls in order to create a check on the power of any individual citizen in accordance with the republican belief that the powers of the former kings of Rome should be spread out into multiple offices. To that end, each consul could veto the actions of the other consul.”

      Baseline roman culture was thoroughly transactional which is often neglected in popular narratives, almost as much as the earlier age of kings. A lot of the “enlightened” practices in the eyes of many were anything but. Just inevitable consequences of the economic underpinings, which were true unfettered capitalism. Patronage was everything.

      A delightfully alien civilization.

      • You are correct Felix, I should’ve have clarified I was referring to Imperial Rome.

        But, I would also add that this means from 27BC to now, which is 2,050 plus years ago. People tend to forget that Cleopatra lived as far from us as she did from the First Dynasty Egyptians.

        And in the bigger scheme of things this is not even Deep Time, which measures in millions and billions of years (say in Carl Sagan’s voice). Yes, I’m a Nerd.

        Even in terms of modern humans, two thousand years is a mere bagatelle in our 100,000 plus years. Even against the twelve, or so, thousand years and the the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, two thousand years of empires and population emigration is a mere blip in ethnic and melanin differentiation.

        Sorry for the Geek out.

        • Not all.
          Deep archeology is an interest of mine.
          And the earliest human societies intrigue me: things like how did anybody come to realize that odd vein of rock could be useful and figure out how to extract and work copper? And tin? Or to combine both to make bronze?

          So many people assume that low tech deep timers were somehow…less smart.. because they lacked smartphones and thus fail to realize the magnitude of their achievements, starting with nothing to build sophisticated answers to Maslow’s Hierarchy. They had genuises we’ll never know of. (Reminds me of Vernor Vinge’s TATJA GRIMM, who conquered a barbarian world, just to find somebody she could have a *serious* conversation with.) Today a hungry mind can go online and find answers (some even correct) or audit an online university course (if they can filter out the marxist indoctrination at the name schools), but back then…

          So, how’s that for “geeking out”? 😉

          As to early Rome and the military, I have this notion that as soon as early societies developed and first managed to produce more food than the minimum needed to survive, the very first move would be to spin up a “protector class” to enhance survival. This second class of citizen would in time lead to other specialties and the first civilizations. Every tribe would do it differently but every known culture had their military. They had to. Even today, societies don’t last if nobody is willing to fight, kill, and possibly die for it. (Something western europe is belatedly relearning today.)

          Story fodder, methinks.

Comments are closed.