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Pharos

Doing Justice to the Classics

Articles

How Classics Made its Way into the “Freedom Convoy”

This article is a collaboration between Pharos and Professor Katherine Blouin, who first documented this material. She is one of the editors of Everyday Orientalism, a publication that “reflect[s] on how history and power shape the way in which human societies define themselves through the ‘Other’”.

The “freedom convoy” was a Canadian protest that took place in several Canadian cities and border crossings and led to a month-long occupation of Ottawa in early 2022. Demonstrators opposed Canadian and American requirements that cross-border truck drivers be vaccinated against COVID-19. The protest was primarily initiated by an organization described by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as an “anti-public-health-mandate group,” but prominent leaders included anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and one former officer of a federal political party in Canada. Ordinarily we are only able to track the appropriation of Greco-Roman antiquity at such demonstrations if the demonstrators themselves invoke it publicly. But in the case of the “Freedom Convoy,” the work of public interest whistleblowers at DDoSecrets has revealed how those who privately support the convoy also take inspiration from the ancient world. 

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An All-White Dating Service and the Ancient World

White Date is an all-white dating website that “invite[s] descendants of Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Finno-Ugric, Baltic, and Italic folks worldwide [to] find a traditionally minded partner online.” Talia Lavin has written an extensive exposé about this site in her book Culture Warlords: My Journey into the Dark Web of White Supremacy, but even a glance at White Date’s front page reveals a predictable mix of thinly-veiled misogyny and racism, with messages such as “We follow classic roles, where strong men take the lead and graceful women play the game…wisely” and, “We are exclusive, not discriminatory. To learn about the difference, ask your local Country Club.” And although the site inclines toward a neo-Volkisch white supremacy that favors Vikings and Stonehenge as historical symbols, ancient Greece and Rome can be found on the site as well.

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The Fourth Year of Pharos: What is the Emotional Toll?

Curtis Dozier, Director of Pharos

The end of November marked the four-year anniversary of the launch of Pharos: Doing Justice to the Classics. Each year around this time I’ve published a retrospective about how the site has grown and evolved during the past year. Since I’ve already done some of that in my announcement of our new front page and land acknowledgement, I’m going to take a slightly different approach this year and try to address a question I’m often asked when I tell people about Pharos. It’s a question I’ve had trouble answering, in part because how I answer it defines the significance of this work. (Don’t worry, I’ve put a quick retrospective at the end of this post).

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Lepage Center Roundtable: “White Supremacy and Classical Athens: A Turning Point?”

On October 6th, 2021 Pharos Director Curtis Dozier joined Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Jackie Murray at Villanova University’s Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest for a roundtable discussion on the topic of “White Supremacy and Classical Athens.” The event was part of the center’s “Turning Points in History” series for 2021-22.

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Temple University Lecture: “Hateful Classicism: Greco-Roman Antiquity in the White Ethnonationalist Imagination”

Land Acknowledgement: Pharos is researched, written, and published online at Vassar College, an institution situated in the homeland of the Munsee Lenape people, who lived here for thousands of years before the arrival of European colonists. Please read more.


On September 22nd, 2021, Pharos Director Curtis Dozier delivered a lecture entitled “Hateful Classicism: Greco-Roman Antiquity in the White Ethnonationalist Imagination” at Temple University. The lecture summarizes the ways White Ethnonationalists use Greco-Roman antiquity to give legitimacy to white supremacist politics and assesses the challenge such appropriations pose for the discipline of Classical Studies.

A video of that lecture, along with an earlier presentation on “Teaching Race in the Ancient Mediterranean” by Professor Jackie Murray, is available on the Temple University Department of Classics’ Website.

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Greek Myth (Pharos Surveys of Appropriations)

This page collects examples of articles on prominent white supremacist websites that invoke Greek Myth in support of hateful politics. In connection with the recommendations on our “How to use Pharos in the Classroom” page and our recommended discussion questions, they are intended to spark discussion and further research about the ways that ancient history is used to legitimize hateful beliefs, and about the historical and ongoing complicity of the discipline of Classics in providing the basis for these beliefs through the promotion of an idealized and/or sanitized version of that past. We have provided links to PDFs of the articles extracted from the sites on which they appeared. Links to archived versions of these articles are available to instructors upon request at pharsoclassics@vassar.edu.

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“Praetorian Guard” protecting the Freedom to Undermine Democracy

The “1st Amendment Praetorians” are a group that describes itself as “protect[ing] the Republic and anyone who is willing to stand up on her behalf to voice their opinion or bring attention to something they’ve found, like voter fraud.” This reference to a persistent and racist lie about the 2020 election signals the this group’s commitment to conspiracy theories, and indeed, The Daily Beast recently reported that the “Praetorians” provided “security” for a gathering of QAnon Conspiracy theorists. It all sounds like a joke except that one of the people who they were defending, former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, all but called for a military coup in the United States. Meanwhile the group has currently attracted donations approaching $1,000 per month on Patreon. And there’s nothing funny about their use of the name of a Roman military force to legitimize their activities.

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Greco-Roman Antiquity, the Basis of White Identity

At the end of 2015, as the white supremacist “Alt Right” movement had begun to attract mainstream attention, one of its leaders, Richard Spencer, released a video that he wrote “expresses our fundamental values at NPI and Radix and our conception of identitarianism” (NPI is the white supremacist think tank that Spencer leads and Radix is its premier online journal). The video encourages viewers to claim and celebrate a white racial identity as a revolutionary act; a year after the release of this video Spencer summed up its message to an audience at Texas A&M University: “Have a goddamn identity…[it’s] the greatest challenge to the power structure that there is.” And the identity Spencer wants his viewers to adopt in one grounded in Classical antiquity.

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Ancient Orientalism in Modern White Ethnonationalism

The opening months of 2021 witnessed a surge in violence against Asian Americans, most visibly the murders of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, and Paul Andre Michels in Atlanta in March 2021. One result has been new attention to the history of anti-Asian racism and violence, particularly against women, in the United States. The ideas that justify violence against Asian people, however, have an even longer history, stretching back to ancient Greco-Roman perceptions of “the East,” as Nandini Pandey has shown. And these ancient ideas don’t just lurk at the root of modern racism but continue to be quoted as justification for racist ideas by contemporary white supremacists.

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