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Doing Justice to the Classics

Juvenal made to support modern homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny

Those Who Can See is a site that promotes “Human Biodiversity”/”HBD”, a euphemism used by racists for [pseudo]scientific racism. It also appropriates Greco-Roman antiquity in support of its racist, xenophobic, and misogynist agenda. A post that takes its title “O Tempora, O Mores” from Cicero’s first Catilinarian oration uses the Roman satirist Juvenal, the poet Martial, and the philosopher Seneca to portray several Obama-era progressive policies as evidence for America’s decline: President Obama’s announcement in 2012 that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, Obama’s implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, and the Military Leadership Diversity Commission’s recommendation in 2011 that women be allowed to serve in combat roles in the US Military.

The author claims that Juvenal “scathingly critiqued [Rome’s] vices” and pairs complaints from that poet’s Satires with news reports about Obama-era policies, but is apparently unaware that Juvenal’s poems attack the hypocrisy and irrationality of the person denouncing vices as much as they critique those vices.

On the topic of same-sex marriage the post takes from Juvenal’s second satire rants selected to be familiar to contemporary homophobes: attacking a “man who is now arraying himself in the flounces and train and veil of a bride,” complaining that “people will wish to see [same-sex weddings] reported among the news of the day,” and declaring that “these would-be brides have one great trouble: they can bear no children wherewith to keep the affection of their husbands; well has nature done in granting to their desires no power over their bodies.” There is also a quote from Epigram 10.65 of Martial. The post says this poem is “typically berating an effeminate man” but does not specify what this is “typical” of (of Martial? of Latin poetry?).

The post then turns to President Obama halting deportations and granting temporary work visas to those who immigrated as children. It quotes “Juvenal’s horror at watching his beloved Rome sink (in his mind) under a sea of foreigners, Easterners mostly but worst of all the loathesome [sic] Greeks.” This horror is articulated, according to the post, in Juvenal’s third satire, where the speaker refers to “the dregs of Greece” and “the scum of Antioch’s streets,” calling them “a flattering, cringing, treacherous, artful race” coming from places that “daily pour their starving myriads forth.” This is paired on Those Who Can See with a passage from a piece by classical scholar Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review describing the “Caribbean look” of immigrants living in poverty in California, “no different from what I have seen in the Third World.” The post appends to this a passage from Seneca’s “Consolation to his mother Helvia” describing the motivations of the many people who come to Rome. This Senecan passage does not, unlike the others, appear to reflect any prejudice against immigration and in fact Seneca’s point to his mother is that she should not be dismayed at her own exile because so many people voluntarily leave their homelands.

The post invokes Juvenal’s misogynist sixth satire in relation to women serving in military combat roles. In this poem the speaker asks “How can a woman who wears a helmet be chaste? She’s denying her sex, and likes a man’s strength. But she wouldn’t want to turn into a man, since we men get so little pleasure.”

The post ends with a final quotation from Juvenal’s sixth satire about “women acting like men,” whom the poem’s speaker calls “monsters” as a result of their “luxury” and “the evils of a long peace.” In contrast, “poverty made Latin women chaste in the old days, hard work and a short time to sleep and hands calloused and hardened with wool working” and they “kept their humble homes from being corrupted by vice.”

Read Those Who Can See’s post “O Tempora, O Mores” without actually visiting the site.

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