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’.
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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.
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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.