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Doing Justice to the Classics

White Supremacist Site celebrates Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Augustus Sol Invictus, who was the headline speaker at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and whom the SPLC and Pharos have previously documented, publishes a website called The Revolutionary Conservative. The site’s mission statement endorses violence against Muslims, including “reconquista,” and against those who protest hate groups. Articles on the site promote anti-semitic paranoia about Jewish influence over the media and banking. One of the organizations listed on their “confederates” page of “colleagues, peers, brothers-in-arms, and friends” is a call-in show that can be reached at the number 424-3-GO-NAZI. They also have a page for Thucydides’ account of Pericles’ “Funeral Oration.” 

The speech (Thucydides 2.35ff), given by the ancient Athenian politician Pericles in commemoration of those killed in the first year of the Peloponnesian war, appears on The Revolutionary Conservative’s “Historic Speeches and Documents” page alongside speeches that white nationalists celebrate for their promotion of xenophobia: a speech attributed to Pope Urban II calling for the first crusade (and the supposed origin of the slogan Deus Vult, “God Wills It,” frequently used by hate groups) and classical scholar Enoch Powell’s famous anti-immigration speech at a regional Conservative Party meeting in Britain.  This speech is known as the “Rivers of Blood” speech because in it Powell quotes Aeneid 6.87: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, ‘I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’”

Thucydides’ version of Pericles’ speech is posted without interpretation or comment but it seems likely that the editors believe the speech provides an ancient rallying cry for those who share The Revolutionary Conservative’s goals of “the restoration of the American republic, and the defense of Western Civilization.” They may particularly admire some of the militaristic and nationalist sentiments in the speech: Thucydides has Pericles praise the past military valor of the “native” ancestors of the citizens, insists on the superiority of Athens’ constitution to that of other states, and celebrates its current military superiority over its adversaries.

The editors of The Revolutionary Conservative used Spartan helmets in the image to align their site with neo-fascist appropriations of Spartan culture

There are various ironies in their use of this speech on a xenophobic site. One is that Pericles praises Athens for its openness to foreigners and dismisses the criticisms of those opposed to that openness: “We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality.” Another is that the speech was posted to the site by an editor who is a woman and who has written almost 100 (racist, anti-semitic, xenophobic) articles for the site: in a famously misogynistic moment in the speech Pericles says that the greatest glory for a woman is to be “least talked of among men.”

Finally, the image that introduces the speech portrays Spartan helmets  in front of the Seal of the United States. These helmets are incongruous with the post because the speech is, in many ways, an anti-Spartan speech.  It was, after all, delivered when Athens was at war with Sparta, and much of Pericles’ praise of Athens in the speech makes a contrast (often implicit) with Sparta. It may be surmised that the editors of The Revolutionary Conservative used Spartan helmets in the image to align their site with neo-fascist appropriations of Spartan culture, a topic that Pharos has commented on previously.

See The Revolutionary Conservative’s post of Pericles’ Funeral Oration without visiting their site.

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