In the year 38 AD there was a massive pogrom in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, directed against the Jewish residents of the city. People were killed, synagogues were burnt and Jewish leaders were tortured in front of the masses in the theatre. While the Jews enjoyed several civic privileges which were given to them by the Romans, many other Alexandrians rejected the idea that they were equal and loyal citizens. The Jews refused to participate in the worship of the urban deities and the emperor because of their own religious laws. While the Jews were living side by side with their fellow Alexandrians in public life, their abstention from the Alexandrian religious life caused them to be seen as strangers who were not fully loyal to the interests of the city in which they had lived for decades.
When in the aftermath of the riots the emperor Claudius tried to resolve the dispute, he warned the Alexandrians and Jews to live harmoniously together, but also wrote to the Jews: ‘you live in a city which is not your own’.
Has Yoram Poot also kindled your interest in the full story behind the Alexandrian pogrom of 38AD? Please register here to secure your seat.
Sparta, one of the less documented ancient societies in Greece, was a sparkling and mysterious polis. When comparing Sparta with other city-states - like Athens for example - it becomes clear that Sparta was in many ways exceptional.
Perhaps the most significant feature that differentiated Sparta from Athens was its warrior-class. While the Athenians were enjoying the shade and drinking in the symposium, Spartan men were sprinkling with sweat under the burning sun. When the Athenians were discussing the order of the cosmos, Spartan men were envisioning their next invasion. When Athenian women were confined within the oikos, Spartan women were working on their muscles to compete with mighty cows. To give a slightly out-of-time quote of Napoleon, however, ‘an army marches on its stomach’. You might wonder how Spartan citizens managed not to starve to death if they were busy with physical training all the time. The answer lies in the shadow of Sparta’s warrior society. The lower class of Sparta, collectively named helots, was in charge of agriculture and trade to keep the Spartan society on track.
To avoid the occurrence of such revolts, Spartan young male citizens were trained to slaughter dangerous helots under the cover of the darkness, a practice known as the Krypteia. Allegedly, the Krypteia was the legendary institution aimed to balance and restrain the helots within the Spartan society.
Would you like to learn more about helots, these mysterious strangers in Sparta? Please register here to secure your seat in Shanshan Bai's presentation.
In ancient Rome, slaves had to walk a similarly fine line. Slavery was a harsh institution and lives were at risk since punishment was often severe; from flogging to crucifixion and from fighting wild animals in the arena to molten lead being poured down one’s throat. For a master, it was not a crime to kill his own slave. The slave was property and could be treated any way the master pleased. However, for the slave, there was a good chance of survival and even of gaining freedom. A slave could be physically and psychologically battered, and still hope for a brighter future. The circumstances were perfect for developing a Stockholm syndrome.
Interested in hearing more about Bas Teunissen's work on the Stockholm syndrome among slaves in the Roman empire? Please register here to secure your seat.
This blog is run by the students who organise the CMEMS Conference. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, one of the students will post a small sneak preview indicating the content of their conference presentation.