The Romans were racist

16 II. Slaves and Barbarians: Racism in Antiquity? the practical need to highlight and reinforce them. Not the racial differences, but above all the racist behavior and the racist practice itself are declared to be a natural factor in many forms of racism. This also explains why some racisms get by without an explicit concept of race, instead talking about nation, class or culture, and yet the history of the phenomenon of racism is unmistakably continued. The following presentation of this story builds on these and other findings of recent research, to which reference is made in the bibliography of the individual chapters, and tries to formulate an overarching, commonly understood synthesis. The individual focus, which is nevertheless set here, lies in the aforementioned endeavor to historicize racism as much as possible. Because only a historical look can tie racism back to the contextual horizons that made it possible in different times and spaces. These conditions of possibility play a correspondingly important role in the following presentation of the history of racism. It begins with the question of its historical beginning. II. Slaves and Barbarians: Racism in Antiquity? Asking about a historical beginning of racism not only requires a reasonably precise time, but also a place where the phenomenon first appeared. The many peoples of prehistory and early history as well as the mainly orally traditional cultures that existed outside Europe up to modern times have given us few sources from which we can directly deduce the extent to which they have racist thinking BB814808728_IT_bwi-2424_Geulen_2a II Slaves and Barbarians: Racism in Antiquity? 17 and behavior played a role. Through their oral and ritual traditions, however, the anthropologists teach us that practices of differentiation and demarcation from others or the celebration of one's own particularity, power and size played a role here. But was that already the germ of racism? A classic example that illustrates this problem is the often-noticed fact that in many languages ​​the self-designation originally meant nothing more than "human" for each individual community. This interesting fact can be interpreted in three very different ways. On the one hand, one can see in it the expression of an original universalism, which, against the background of the identity of part and whole, brings with it a very far-reaching, tendentially comprehensive integration potential. That would be the optimistic interpretation. On the other hand, the origin of total exclusion could also be established in this pars-pro-toto principle, insofar as the equation of the particular belonging of the individual with his 'humanity' makes the stranger and non-belonging only part of the 'environment'. That would be the pessimistic interpretation. Both interpretations follow a symmetrical way of thinking, insofar as they either assume the equality of all people (universalism) or their equally distributed difference (particularism) as a rule. It seems more appropriate, however, to see the linguistic equation of group and humanity in the context of the recognizable interest of many cultures in declaring their particularity to be something universally valid. This view is unusual in that it presupposes an asymmetrical relationship in the perception between peoples as the rule: at the core of every particular identity there is a universal claim and, especially from a historical perspective, it is repeatedly shown that communities have universal validity for certain aspects of their way of life speak up and try to enforce them against others. 18 II. Slaves and Barbarians: Racism in Antiquity? Perception of oneself and others in the ancient world When cultures generalize, increase their influence or impose on others, and when they are successful over a longer period of time, we speak of advanced cultures. The Sumer Empire in Mesopotamia, early Egypt and ancient China are among the earliest advanced cultures that also developed a script and forms of state order. There were also the Minoan, Mycenaean and Phoenician cultures in the Mediterranean, the Hittites and Persians in the Middle East or the Nubian Empire in Africa and the first advanced cultures of Mexico. The Greek city-states are considered to be the cradle of European cultural history, from which the Hellenic culture emerged, the legacy of which the Roman Empire eventually inherited. But when one speaks of these ancient high cultures, empires and state structures, one should not misunderstand their supposed homogeneity. A visitor from the present would probably consider them to be far more “multicultural” than today's societies. A multitude of ethnically, religiously and culturally very different groups lived together in these realms, and if one group (or religion, culture, etc.) was persecuted and oppressed during a certain phase, it was possible that it would become state in another phase Gained power - without fundamentally changing the political order as such. In other words, the modern principle: 'one state - one people' was completely unknown to antiquity. Most of the ancient high cultures, however, developed an institution that repeatedly gives cause to suspect a racist dimension in the socio-political systems of this epoch: slavery. For us modern times, slavery and racism are often almost identical. But can this perspective be easily transferred to ancient history? Or was slavery a legitimate institution in antiquity, which found the general approval of those affected and therefore did not need any further, racist justification? Self-perception and perception of others in the ancient world 19 The well-known - but on the whole rare - slave revolts of antiquity, such as the rising of the Helots against Sparta (464 BC) or the famous revolt of the, show that the slaves by no means always consented to their situation Spartacus against Rome (73–71 BC) In both cases the slaves fought against the current form of their oppression. But they fought neither for their equality nor against a specially degrading ideology. Most importantly, they did not fight slavery as such. The majority of slaves in ancient Greece and Rome came from regions where slavery was also practiced. In addition, the slaves were the most “multicultural” section of the population in the ancient world, so that from their point of view there was hardly any connection between their enslavement and their respective ethnic and cultural origins. Having to lead an existence as a slave was mostly the result of a lost war and not a specific affiliation. And finally, in large parts of the ancient world, slavery was indeed a legitimate form of rule, insofar as it met with the widespread approval of at least a large part of the ruled. Accordingly, only a few ancient texts have survived that theoretically justified, justified or had to explain slavery as an institution. It was part of the ancient self-image in a similar way to the existence of class differences in modern societies. It looks a little different when one looks at the images of enemies and foreigners that the Greeks and Romans designed with a view to those peoples on the edge of their areas of influence, from which they recruited not a few of their slaves after battles they won. Here the fundamental question of whether or not the foreigner belonged was at the center. The decisive term in this context, coined by the Greeks and adopted by the Romans, was 'barbarian'. In ancient Greece it functioned in an almost paradigmatic way as an "asymmetrical counter-term" (Reinhart Koselleck) to the Greeks' self-designation as "Hellenes". 20 II. Slaves and Barbarians: Racism in Antiquity? 'Barbarians' and 'Hellenes' behaved asymmetrically to one another in that, taken together, they formed a universal pair of terms that in principle encompassed all people, but their binary subdivision was not based on an overarching criterion (such as women and Men differs). Rather, the distinction itself was a categorical one: 'Hellene' was a proper name, designation of a particular cultural affiliation, while 'barbarian' (which originally meant 'incomprehensible') served as a generic term for all other possible forms of cultural affiliation. It is this asymmetry of the pair of terms that needs to be kept in view when one considers their normative charge, for example in the concrete descriptions of the Mediterranean peoples, as they have been handed down to us by many prominent authors of antiquity. The oldest motif of this normative interpretation of the pair of terms adhered entirely to its asymmetrical structure: the distinction between Hellenes and barbarians was initially identical to the distinction between culture and its absence, between law and lawlessness, between order and disorder. It was only in the Greek historiography and philosophy from Herodotus and Thucydides to Plato and Aristotle that further, more detailed representations of barbarians or individual barbaric peoples can be found as cruel and wild, cowardly and cunning, depraved and animalistic - a semantic field from which ours emerge the current use of the terms “barbaric” and “barbarism”. Even if there were some positive, sometimes even admiring depictions of the barbarians, the normative devaluation of non-Greek cultures was the rule. Above all, it was Aristotle who theoretically systematized this perception by declaring the strangeness of the barbarians to be a phenomenon of nature and at the same time deriving a political order from it: In his view, the barbarians were by nature inferior and therefore by nature alone Bondage created - born slaves. With the perception of oneself and others in the ancient world 21 barbarians, he advised Alexander the great, one should treat animals like animals. At this point at the latest, one might think, we have a distinctly racist logic of the justification for exclusion and oppression in front of us. In fact, as in many other areas, Aristotle gave some fundamental impulses and formulated influential figures of thought for the later genealogy of the racial discourse. This included not only the theoretical equation of barbarians and slaves, i.e. the interlinking of political-spatial and social exclusion, but also the first attempt to explain the physical differences between the peoples through climatic conditions - an idea that was used by scholars, among others was enthusiastically taken up again in the 18th century. In spite of all this, however, one cannot speak of the birth of racism from the spirit of antiquity. The disparaging perception of non-Greek cultures and the glorification of one's own was part of the Greek world perception in general. Just as Aristotle systematically described and categorized the arts and forms of government or animals and plants, so he did the same with people and peoples. And just as there are many strange things in his natural history-anatomical writings from today's perspective, one can also consider his ethnography to be unjust and misguided today. In the ancient context, however, it represented nothing other than a dividing order of the empirical world, in the framework of which the barbarians had a certainly subordinate but at least a fixed place. In their existence, and precisely in what distinguished them from the Greeks, the barbarians were recognized as human beings, as strangers and other human beings - and neither Aristotle nor any other Greek would ever have thought that a world without barbarians was a better one World would be. They were also viewed at most in specific situations, but never fundamentally as a threat, endangerment or even as a disease. The asymmetry of the pair of terms Hellene / barbarian prevented such thought patterns from the outset, insofar as the idea of ​​a threat to one's own through the foreign 22 II. Slaves and barbarians: Racism in antiquity? requires a minimum of prior symmetry and compatibility. In addition, the recourse to nature and naturalness in ancient thought had a different meaning than our current concept of naturalization or biologization. Explaining human characteristics as natural characteristics is always partly determined by the prevailing understanding of nature. For Aristotle, the concept of nature (physis) had little to do with our modern understanding of nature as the fundamentally external and other of man-made culture. Rather, Aristotle established that understanding of nature as the inner "essence" of things (created by man or not), as we sometimes still mean it today when we - in a decidedly non-scientific sense - ask about the "nature" of a thing. For Aristotle, physis was the principle of self-realization and the manifestation of the reason for existence of something, the development of its form in the sense of its purpose. This principle applied to the individual plant as well as to the Athenian state or even to the physis of the barbarians. Only if one ignores such contexts of meaning and generally the peculiarities of the ancient modes of perception, carelessly backprojects modern conceptions and tries to recognize them in every form of exclusion or enmity, one can speak of racism in ancient times. But if one realizes that such comprehensive phenomena as the institution of slavery or the barbarian discourse drew their plausibility and legitimacy from other world views than those that were later connected with the concept of race and modern racism, it makes sense to acquit antiquity as a whole from a generalized suspicion of racism. That does not mean leaving them out of the history of racism. Rather, it is a matter of asking the question of the origins of racism in a new way: it is not relevant whether there was racism “already” in antiquity, but rather in terms of self-perception and external perception in the ancient world 23 which particular phenomena and contexts are During this period, elements emerged that played a role in the later formation and development of racism. In spite of the defense just formulated, this also includes some of the Aristotelian ideas from which modern times later composed “their” racism and legitimized it in terms of educational history. With regard to the practical forms of exclusion and defamation in antiquity, it must be emphasized that the ancient cultural and state structures, not least because of their own multiculturalism, did not have any systematic exclusion of individuals or groups on the basis of physical or ethnic characteristics. Here, too, there were exceptions, but overall in antiquity hardly anyone seemed to have been bothered in a politically relevant way by skin color or other “racial characteristics” or by the cultural peculiarities of foreign peoples. The Roman Empire, too, after conquering the entire Mediterranean region including the Hellenic states, maintained a pronounced system of “cultural self-administration” of the subjugated in the once subjugated areas, which was only replaced by military oppression in the event of direct resistance. The Romans hardly considered their conquests as racial or cultural struggles in which the ethnic and cultural peculiarities of the hostile peoples are important or even their own culture is at stake. Their ethnographers described the non-Roman cultures in a classically asymmetrical way of thinking either as potential possessions or as barbarians. Seeing the existence of foreign cultural communities within the borders of the empire as a danger to one's own culture was as alien to the Roman self-image as it was to the Greek. That only changed in late antiquity, with Christianization and the beginning of the division of the Roman Empire. Above all in the course of the increasing pressure to which the empire was exposed on its northern borders, a certain tightening of the representations and descriptions can be seen. 24 II. Slaves and barbarians: Racism in antiquity? recognize barbarian exercises beyond these limits. At the same time there is a tendency to place greater emphasis on one's own culture, which had to be protected from the intrusions of the Germanic and Eastern European peoples. The increasingly realistic danger of such external incursions called into question the previously underlying asymmetry in the relationship between Rome and the rest of the world. What was required now was a new, explicit justification of one's own superiority, that is, the emphasized emphasis on the difference between Roman culture and barbaric bad habits in the horizon of their possible dilution.This, in turn, was not only at the expense of “fairness” when looking at the barbarians “lurking” at the borders, but also at the expense of the inner cultural diversity of the old empire and led to an increasingly clearer homogenization of the political and cultural self-image. The role of the Jewish and Christian religions The long-term decisive topic, however, at which the classic, asymmetrical forms of perception of cultural difference began to dissolve, was religion. Here the Jews played a special role first and foremost. Not only because they defended themselves more vehemently than other peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean against Roman rule and revolted against Rome several times until their final expulsion from Jerusalem in 135, but also because they attacked in their occupied homeland as well as in the diaspora adhered to the rites and customs of their monotheistic faith, the idea of ​​which they were chosen at the same time forbade them to adopt foreign cultural customs. In this way, Judaism confronted the classical cultures, and especially the Roman ones, with a different, alternative, but equally decidedly asymmetrical model of self-perception and perception of others. At the beginning it was emphasized that all cultures always combine their particularity with a claim to general validity. But this can be done in different ways and to different extents. BB 2 14808728_IT_bwi-2424_Geulen_2a The Role of the Jewish and Christian Religions 25. In a different but similarly significant way compared to Greek or Roman culture, Judaism was distinguished by the fact that it made the peculiarity of its own people vis-à-vis all others a basic maxim of cultural and religious self-understanding as well as of dealing with other cultures. Judaism is thus at the same time an excellent example of the fact that an asymmetrical structure of self and external image does not necessarily have to result in the conquest, colonization or suppression of foreign cultures. Rather, this asymmetry and exclusive idea of ​​the chosenness of Jewish culture contributed to maintaining and developing it over centuries of the diaspora without subjugating non-Jewish cultures or denying them their right to exist. On the other hand, it was not least this passive claim to exclusivity that often brought Judaism into competition with the respective hegemonic cultures. The next religion that emerged from a Jewish sect and whose monotheistic claim to universal validity the Roman Empire had to grapple with in order to finally adopt it was Christianity. Persecuted into the 3rd century, Emperor Constantine granted Christians full religious freedom at the beginning of the 4th century. In Neoplatonism the classical cults and beliefs did stir again, but less than a century after the last persecution, Christianity was well on the way to becoming the dominant religion in the Roman world. At the same time, the empire split, the Romans increasingly began to withdraw from Central and Western Europe, and the Teutons and Goths advanced. In Christianity, since the missionary journeys and letters of Paul, a new concept, which until then was alien to antiquity, took the place of the idea of ​​being chosen in the Jewish faith: universalism. Instead of being a special religion of a community that stood out from the rest of humanity, 26 III. Gentiles, Jews and Heretics: Racism in the Middle Ages? Christianity as the true religion in the principle of all people. This invention of universalism by a new, initially quite insignificant religious community had decisive consequences for the history of perception of cultural difference and thus also for the history of the development of racism, which extended well into modern times. Although this new Christian universalism by no means completely dissolved the asymmetry in the perceptions of oneself and others, it made them work in a new way and produce completely different effects. This was also expressed in new counter-terms, which were just as decisive in the Middle Ages as the concept of barbarians in classical antiquity: pagans, Jews and heretics. III. Gentiles, Jews and Heretics: Racism in the Middle Ages? The forms of collective self-perception and perception of others in the Middle Ages were, like medieval history in general, characterized primarily by the dualism of ecclesiastical and secular power. These were often in competition with one another, but were mostly thought of as complementary parts of an overall order. In addition, there were the receptions and effects of ancient philosophy as well as Jewish and Islamic tradition. In the long term, folk-cultural and pagan traditions also shaped the system of ecclesiastical and dynastic social order. For the question of forms of racism in the Middle Ages, however, the development of Christian thought from the Church Fathers to the beginning of the modern age plays a decisive role. Until the 4th and 5th centuries, radical universalism, as founded by Paul, was decisive for the perception of self and others in the early Christian congregations. It was based on the idea of ​​a fundamental new beginning,