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Doing Justice to the Classics

Sallust and Juvenal Made Prophets of Racial Decline

Tomislav Sunić sits on the board of directors of the white nationalist American Freedom Party and is a prolific writer and frequent lecturer at white supremacist conferences. In a transcript of one such speech published on The Occidental Observer, Sunić argues that “in view of the large-scale racial replacement of European peoples by the masses of non-European peoples, the old European world seems to be now preordained not to a transient decadence, but rather to a terminal decadence.” His analysis uses ancient Rome, which he calls the first of the “series of decadences [Europe] has encountered over its history,” as an explanatory model for the causes and effects of this supposed decline. The example of Rome, he claims, shows that “once a nation’s heritage, including its heredity, is forgotten or compromised, society begins to fall apart as was observed in Rome and as we can see every day in Europe now.”

Part 2 of Sunić’s essay

Born in Zagreb in 1953 to a family that was persecuted by the Yugoslavian government, Sunić emigrated to the United States, earned a Ph.D. in Political Science and through his anti-Communist activism established himself as a white supremacist intellectual able to straddle, linguistically and philosophically, the American and European contexts. Accordingly he has close ties with both Kevin MacDonald, who wrote the introduction to one of Sunić’s books, and to Alain de Benoist in Europe, whose work Sunić has translated into English. The speech discussed here was delivered in 2019 at a meeting of a Swiss neo-Nazi group called “Résistance Helvetique,” whose logo incorporates a French-language version of the white supremacist slogan known as the “fourteen words.”

The speech’s title, “When is the final decadence coming?”, reflects two related beliefs that are fundamental to white supremacy: first, that “Western Civilization” is in decline, and second, that white people face an existential threat as a result of this decline.

Sunić’s attraction to Sallust may well stem from their shared hostility to what they perceive to be existing power structures

Sunić attributes the supposed decline of Europe to the “decline of racial consciousness, which in turn makes miscegenation look like a new and respectable way of life.” In this he follows the work of one of the founders of modern race pseudo-science, Arthur de Gobineau, whom Sunić quotes as arguing that “decadence is caused by the loss of racial consciousness, making a people accept false altruism, forcing it to open up the gates of its city to its former enemies, causing it to embrace members of another race, and spurring it, little by little, to indulge in miscegenation and finally accepting its own death.” But Sunić finds even older confirmation of this racist theory in the works of the Roman writers Sallust and Juvenal, whom he claims had understood and described the same supposed decadence in ancient times.

Sallust, Sunić writes, records that the Romans cultivated “fear of the enemy” (metus hostilis) “during their wars against the Gauls and Carthaginians” as “the main shield for their racial preservation, their virtue, their virility, as well as a solid awareness of their ancestral lineage,” but that following those conquests, the Romans “quickly forgot the unifying power of communal spirit” and “creeping fashion of miscegenation with a taste for interbreeding with members of non-European tribes resulted in the loss of their collective memory — a first sign of decadence.”

It is true that Sallust refers to metus hostilis as a force that “preserved the good morals of the state” and that “when the minds of the people were relieved of that dread, wantoness and arrogance naturally arose, vices which are fostered by prosperity.” And Sunić quotes a famous passage in which Sallust rants that in late Republican Rome “avarice destroyed honour, integrity, and all other noble qualities.” But Sallust was a member of an anti-aristocratic faction in the Roman civil wars whose political purposes were served by painting the Roman aristocracy as degenerate and morally bankrupt.

Is it any wonder that such nostalgia for conflict inspires a renewal of such violence?

Sunić takes Sallust as an authoritative source for the fact of a decline of morals in ancient Rome, but Sunić’s attraction to Sallust may well stem from their shared hostility to what they perceive to be existing power structures. In Sallust’s time this meant oligarchic power. For Sunić it means “white European politicians extending welcoming invitations to migrants” and “put[ting] on display daily…a new negative identity…as a psychological ersatz for former White racial identity, which, from now on, is either scorned or discarded.”

It’s not just the “European and American political class” that Sunić believes promotes “white self-denial.” In line with the common white supremacist belief that popular culture also promotes anti-white ideas Sunić also complains that “contemporary media and cinema” cultivates “the present obsession with the extra-European other,” resulting in a “apprenticeship program of negative identity among many young Whites mimicking diverse non-European cults.” As ancient evidence for this process Sunić turns to the xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic satires of Juvenal, whose use by racists Pharos has previously documented, in which Sunić finds descriptions of “oriental con men who came to Rome from afar and introduced into the ancient Roman mores the fashion of zoophilia and pedophilia and other vices.” He illustrates this with Juvenal’s complaint in the third satire that (in Dryden’s translation) “the scum of Greece [is] transplanted here, receiv’d like gods” and that “the sacred shades and founts are hir’d by banished Jews”. From the sixth satire he gravitates to Juvenal’s charge that a man should expect his wife to give birth to African children, so enamored are they with what Sunic describes as “sexual perversions imported to Rome by Asian and African newcomers.” It is convenient for Sunić that Juvenal articulated ideas so similar to his own. Whether Juvenal’s portrait of Rome irredeemably corrupted by foreign “scum” reflects historical fact is another question.

Sallust and Juvenal they’re easy allies for Sunić, as long as their “Classical” status is allowed to convince us that they were right about fact of decline and the reasons for it

Even as Sunić finds an analogue to the supposed decline of contemporary European culture in ancient Rome, he implicitly gestures toward a solution to that decline that ancient people once knew but later abandoned: violent resistance. The Romans, Sunić believes, had the same enemies as contemporary Europeans: “Phoenicians, Jews, Berbers, Numidians, Parthians and Maghrebians, [who were] considered hereditary enemies by the Romans” before decline supposedly set in. Sunić is incredulous that European leaders today “embark daily on neurotic hugging sessions with Afro-Asian and Muslim nationals against whom their forefathers had waged savage wars of survival from the eighth century in Western Europe until the eighteenth century in Eastern Europe,” and that “White Europeans, little by little, are visually getting accustomed to such a new racial recomposition of their homelands” when “only a few decades earlier” they “would have considered surreal and morbid any such idea of racial change followed by unbridled altruism, and would have been willing to fight it by all means available.” Is it any wonder that such nostalgia for conflict, paired with apocalyptic visions of white extinction, inspires a renewal of such violence?

One thing that Sunić has right is that Roman writers like Juvenal and Sallust wrote a lot about the decline of Rome. They probably believed it was happening in their times with as much certainty as he does in ours. So they’re easy allies for him, as long as their “Classical” status is allowed to convince us that they were right about fact of decline and the reasons for it. But what would Roman history look like to us if we treated writers like Sallust and Juvenal the way we ought to treat writers like Sunić, not as intellectuals with profound insight into the nature of their civilizations but as biased partisans using fear and hatred to serve their own political ends?

To avoid generating traffic for The Occidental Observer we have linked above to archived versions of parts 1 and 2 of Sunić’s speech. The original articles can be found here and here.

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