Enslaving the Children: Populist Politics and the Recipe for Savage Consensus

During the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian Democracy deliberated on and voted for the killing of men and the enslavement of women and children. To ask why is not an idle historical musing.

Thucydides, 5.116.4

“The [Athenians] killed however many of the Melian men were adults, and made the women and children slaves. Then they settled the land themselves and later on sent five hundred colonists.”

οἱ δὲ ἀπέκτειναν Μηλίων ὅσους ἡβῶντας ἔλαβον, παῖδας δὲ καὶ γυναῖκας ἠνδραπόδισαν. τὸ δὲ χωρίον αὐτοὶ ᾤκισαν, ἀποίκους ὕστερον πεντακοσίους πέμψαντες.

5.32

“Around the same period of time in that summer, the Athenians set siege to the Scionaeans and after killing all the adult men, made the women and childen into slaves and gave the land to the Plataeans.”

Περὶ δὲ τοὺς αὐτοὺς χρόνους τοῦ θέρους τούτου Σκιωναίους μὲν Ἀθηναῖοι ἐκπολιορκήσαντες ἀπέκτειναν τοὺς ἡβῶντας, παῖδας δὲ καὶ γυναῖκας ἠνδραπόδισαν καὶ τὴν γῆν Πλαταιεῦσιν ἔδοσαν νέμεσθαι·

This was done by vote of the Athenian democracy led by Cleon: Thucydides 4.122.6. A similar solution was proposed during the Mytilenean debate. Cleon is described by Thucydides as “in addition the most violent of the citizens who also was the most persuasive at that time by far to the people.” (ὢν καὶ ἐς τὰ ἄλλα βιαιότατος τῶν πολιτῶν τῷ τε δήμῳ παρὰ πολὺ ἐν τῷ τότε πιθανώτατος, 3.36.6)

3.36

“They were making a judgment about the men there and in their anger it seemed right to them not only to kill those who were present but to slay all the Mytileneans who were adults and to enslave the children and women.”

περὶ δὲ τῶν ἀνδρῶν γνώμας ἐποιοῦντο, καὶ ὑπὸ ὀργῆς ἔδοξεν αὐτοῖς οὐ τοὺς παρόντας μόνον ἀποκτεῖναι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοὺς ἅπαντας Μυτιληναίους ὅσοι ἡβῶσι, παῖδας δὲ καὶ γυναῖκας ἀνδραποδίσαι.

In his speech in defense of this policy, Cleon reflects on the nature of imperialism and obedience. Although he eventually failed to gain approval for this vote which was overturned, his arguments seem to have worked on later occasions.

Thucydides, 3.37

“The truth is that because you live without fear day-to-day and there is no conspiring against one another, you think imagine your ‘allies’ to live the same way. Because you are deluded by whatever is presented in speeches you are mistaken in these matters or because you yield to pity, you do not not realize you are being dangerously weak for yourselves and for some favor to your allies.

You do not examine the fact that the power you hold is a tyranny and that those who are dominated by you are conspiring against you and are ruled unwillingly and that these people obey you not because they might please you by being harmed but because you are superior to them by strength rather than because of their goodwill.

The most terrible thing of all is  if nothing which seems right to us is established firmly—if we will not acknowledge that a state which has worse laws which are unbendable is stronger than a state with noble laws which are weakly administered, that ignorance accompanied by discipline is more effective than cleverness with liberality, and that lesser people can inhabit states much more efficiently than intelligent ones.

Smart people always want to show they are wiser than the laws and to be preeminent in discussions about the public good, as if there are no more important things where they could clarify their opinions—and because of this they most often ruin their states. The other group of people, on the other hand, because they distrust their own intelligence, think that it is acceptable to be less learned than the laws and less capable to criticize an argument than the one who speaks well. But because they are more fair and balanced judges, instead of prosecutors, they do well in most cases. For this reason, then, it is right that we too, when we are not carried away by the cleverness and the contest of intelligence, do not act to advise our majority against our own opinion.”

διὰ γὰρ τὸ καθ᾿ ἡμέραν ἀδεὲς καὶ ἀνεπιβούλευτον πρὸς ἀλλήλους καὶ ἐς τοὺς ξυμμάχους τὸ αὐτὸ ἔχετε, καὶ ὅ τι ἂν ἢ λόγῳ πεισθέντες ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἁμάρτητε ἢ οἴκτῳ ἐνδῶτε, οὐκ ἐπικινδύνως ἡγεῖσθε ἐς ὑμᾶς καὶ οὐκ ἐς τὴν τῶν ξυμμάχων χάριν μαλακίζεσθαι, οὐ σκοποῦντες ὅτι τυραννίδα ἔχετε τὴν ἀρχὴν καὶ πρὸς ἐπιβουλεύοντας αὐτοὺς καὶ ἄκοντας ἀρχομένους, οἳ οὐκ ἐξ ὧν ἂν χαρίζησθε βλαπτόμενοι αὐτοὶ ἀκροῶνται ὑμῶν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξ ὧν ἂν ἰσχύι μᾶλλον ἢ τῇ ἐκείνων εὐνοίᾳ περιγένησθε.

πάντων δὲ δεινότατον εἰ βέβαιον ἡμῖν μηδὲν καθεστήξει ὧν ἂν δόξῃ πέρι, μηδὲ γνωσόμεθα ὅτι χείροσι νόμοις ἀκινήτοις χρωμένη πόλις κρείσσων ἐστὶν ἢ καλῶς ἔχουσιν ἀκύροις, ἀμαθία τε μετὰ σωφροσύνης ὠφελιμώτερον ἢ δεξιότης μετὰ ἀκολασίας, οἵ τε φαυλότεροι τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τοὺς ξυνετωτέρους ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πλέον ἄμεινον οἰκοῦσι τὰς πόλεις.

οἱ μὲν γὰρ τῶν τε νόμων σοφώτεροι βούλονται φαίνεσθαι τῶν τε αἰεὶ λεγομένων ἐς τὸ κοινὸν περιγίγνεσθαι, ὡς ἐν ἄλλοις μείζοσιν οὐκ ἂν δηλώσαντες τὴν γνώμην, καὶ ἐκ τοῦ τοιούτου τὰ πολλὰ σφάλλουσι τὰς πόλεις· οἱ δ᾿ ἀπιστοῦντες τῇ ἐξ ἑαυτῶν ξυνέσει ἀμαθέστεροι μὲν τῶν νόμων ἀξιοῦσιν εἶναι, ἀδυνατώτεροι δὲ τὸν1 τοῦ καλῶς εἰπόντος μέμψασθαι λόγον, κριταὶ δὲ ὄντες ἀπὸ τοῦ ἴσου μάλλον ἢ ἀγωνισταὶ ὀρθοῦνται τὰ πλείω. ὣς οὖν χρὴ καὶ ἡμᾶς ποιοῦντας μὴ δεινότητι καὶ ξυνέσεως ἀγῶνι ἐπαιρομένους παρὰ δόξαν τῷ ὑμετέρῳ πλήθει παραινεῖν.

Image result for ancient greek slavery

The Cause of All Great Wars

To follow up yesterday’s post about Helen’s Consent

Athenaios, Deipnosophists, 13, 10, 560b

“[It is clear] that the greatest wars also happened because of women. The Trojan War happened because of Helen; the Plague because of Chryseis; Achilles’ rage because of Briseis; and the War called the Sacred War, as Duris claims in the second book of his histories, by another married woman from Thebes who was kidnapped by some Phocian. This war also lasted ten years and in the tenth when Philip allied himself with the Thebes it ended. Then the Thebans took and held Phokis.”

… ὅτι καὶ οἱ μέγιστοι πόλεμοι διὰ γυναῖκας ἐγένοντο· ὁ ᾽Ιλιακὸς δι᾽ ῾Ελένην, ὁ λοιμὸς διὰ Χρυσηίδα, ᾽Αχιλλέως μῆνις διὰ Βρισηίδα· καὶ ὁ ἱερὸς δὲ καλούμενος πόλεμος δι᾽ ἑτέραν γαμετήν, φησὶν Δοῦρις ἐν δευτέραι ῾Ιστοριῶν, Θηβαίαν γένος, ὄνομα Θεανώ, ἁρπασθεῖσαν ὑπὸ Φωκέως τινός. δεκαετὴς δὲ καὶ οὗτος γενόμενος τῶι δεκάτωι ἔτει Φιλίππου συμμαχήσαντος πέρας ἐσχεν· τότε γὰρ εἷλον οἱ Θηβαῖοι τὴν Φωκίδα.

Herodotus, 1.2-4

“This is how the Persians say that Io came to Egypt—and not the story the Greeks tell—and this was the first transgression. After that, they claim some Greeks—and they can’t name them—went to Tyre and kidnapped Europê, the daughter of the king. These men would have been Cretans. At this point, the score was even. But then the Greeks were at fault for a second crime. For the Greeks sailed in a great ship to Aia, the Kolkhian, city and to the river Phasis.

Once they finished why they went there, they left, but they also kidnapped Medea, the king’s daughter. When the king sent a herald to Greece demanding recompense for the abduction and asking for his daughter to be returned, the Greeks answered that they would give nothing to the Kolhkians since they had not received anything for the abduction of Io.

In the next generation after that, they say that Priam’s son Alexandros, once he heard about these things, wanted to steal a wife for himself from Greece because he was absolutely certain he would face no penalties since the earlier men hadn’t. When he kidnapped Helen as he did, it seemed right at first for the Greeks to send messengers to demand her return and recompense for the abduction. When the Greeks made these demands, the Trojans brought up the abduction of Medeia and the fact that the Greeks were demanding from others the very things they themselves were not willing to give or repay.

Up to that point of time, the whole matter was only kidnapping on either side. But the Greeks were more to blame after this since they were the first to lead an army to Asia before anyone led one against Europe. As the Persians claim, they believe it is the work of unjust men to kidnap women, but the act of fools to rush off to avenge women who have been abducted. Wise men have no time for raped women, since it is clear they they would not have been abducted if they had not been willing themselves.

They claim that the men of Asia make no big deal when women are abducted while the Greeks, all because of one Lakedaimonian woman, raised a great army, went to Asia, and destroyed Priam’s power. Since that time, they consider Greece their enemy.”

οὕτω μὲν Ἰοῦν ἐς Αἴγυπτον ἀπικέσθαι λέγουσι Πέρσαι, οὐκ ὡς Ἕλληνές, καὶ τῶν ἀδικημάτων πρῶτον τοῦτο ἄρξαι. μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα Ἑλλήνων τινάς οὐ γὰρ ἔχουσι τοὔνομα ἀπηγήσασθαι φασὶ τῆς Φοινίκης ἐς Τύρονπροσσχόντας ἁρπάσαι τοῦ βασιλέος τὴν θυγατέρα Εὐρώπην. εἴησαν δ᾽ ἄνοὗτοι Κρῆτες. ταῦτα μὲν δὴ ἴσα πρὸς ἴσα σφι γενέσθαι, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα Ἕλληνας αἰτίους τῆς δευτέρης ἀδικίης γενέσθαι: [2] καταπλώσαντας γὰρμακρῇ νηί ἐς Αἶαν τε τὴν Κολχίδα καὶ ἐπὶ Φᾶσιν ποταμόν, ἐνθεῦτεν, διαπρηξαμένους καὶ τἄλλα τῶν εἵνεκεν ἀπίκατο, ἁρπάσαι τοῦ βασιλέος τὴν θυγατέρα Μηδείην. [3] πέμψαντά δὲ τὸν Κόλχων βασιλέα ἐς τὴν Ἑλλάδα κήρυκα αἰτέειν τε δίκας τῆς ἁρπαγῆς καὶ ἀπαιτέειν τὴν θυγατέρα.τοὺς δὲ ὑποκρίνασθαι ὡς οὐδὲ ἐκεῖνοι Ἰοῦς τῆς Ἀργείης ἔδοσάν σφι δίκαςτῆς ἁρπαγῆς: οὐδὲ ὤν αὐτοὶ δώσειν ἐκείνοισι.

δευτέρῃ δὲ λέγουσι γενεῇ μετὰ ταῦτα Ἀλέξανδρον τὸν Πριάμου, ἀκηκοόταταῦτα, ἐθελῆσαί οἱ ἐκ τῆς Ἑλλάδος δι᾽ ἁρπαγῆς γενέσθαι γυναῖκα, ἐπιστάμενον πάντως ὅτι οὐ δώσει δίκας. οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐκείνους διδόναι. [2]οὕτω δὴ ἁρπάσαντος αὐτοῦ Ἑλένην, τοῖσι Ἕλλησι δόξαι πρῶτὸνπέμψαντας ἀγγέλους ἀπαιτέειν τε Ἑλένην καὶ δίκας τῆς ἁρπαγῆς αἰτέειν. τοὺς δέ, προϊσχομένων ταῦτα, προφέρειν σφι Μηδείης τὴν ἁρπαγήν, ὡς οὐδόντες αὐτοὶ δίκας οὐδὲ ἐκδόντες ἀπαιτεόντων βουλοίατό σφι παρ᾽ ἄλλωνδίκας γίνεσθαι.

μέχρι μὲν ὤν τούτου ἁρπαγάς μούνας εἶναι παρ᾽ ἀλλήλων, τὸ δὲ ἀπὸτούτου Ἕλληνας δὴ μεγάλως αἰτίους γενέσθαι: προτέρους γὰρ ἄρξαι στρατεύεσθαι ἐς τὴν Ἀσίην ἢ σφέας ἐς τὴν Εὐρώπην. [2] τὸ μέν νυνἁρπάζειν γυναῖκας ἀνδρῶν ἀδίκων νομίζειν ἔργον εἶναι, τὸ δὲἁρπασθεισέων σπουδήν ποιήσασθαι τιμωρέειν ἀνοήτων, τὸ δὲ μηδεμίανὤρην ἔχειν ἁρπασθεισέων σωφρόνων: δῆλα γὰρ δὴ ὅτι, εἰ μὴ αὐταὶἐβούλοντο, οὐκ ἂν ἡρπάζοντο. [3] σφέας μὲν δὴ τοὺς ἐκ τῆς Ἀσίης λέγουσιΠέρσαι ἁρπαζομενέων τῶν γυναικῶν λόγον οὐδένα ποιήσασθαι, Ἕλληναςδὲ Λακεδαιμονίης εἵνεκεν γυναικὸς στόλον μέγαν συναγεῖραι καὶ ἔπειταἐλθόντας ἐς τὴν Ἀσίην τὴν Πριάμου δύναμιν κατελεῖν. [4] ἀπὸ τούτου αἰεὶἡγήσασθαι τὸ Ἑλληνικὸν σφίσι εἶναι πολέμιον.

Note: much of the language in this passage referring to abduction and kidnapping could also be translated as rape. I left the language more anodyne to reflect what seems to be Herodotus’ own dismissal or ignorance of the women’s experience.

File:Helen of Sparta boards a ship for Troy fresco from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii.jpg
Helen boards a boat: House of the Tragic Poet, Pompei

Keeping Annals and Founding Rome

Servius Danielis, Aeneid, 1, 373

“The Annals were gathered in this way: the pontifex had a whitened tablet for each year on which he kept written the names of the consul and the rest of the magistrates and below which he typically kept notes of anything worthy of remembering which happened at home or abroad and at sea or on land on a daily basis. Ancient authorities edited the annual records kept with this care and they named them after the pontifices who assembled them, the Annales Maximi.”

ita autem annales conficiebantur: tabulam dealbatam quotannis pontifex maximus habuit, in qua praescriptis consulum nominibus et aliorum magistratuum digna memoratu notare consueverat domi militiaeque terra marique gesta per singulos dies. cuius diligentiae annuos commentarios in octoginta libros veteres rettulerunt eosque a pontificibus maximis, a quibus fiebant, Annales Maximos appellarunt.

Festus, Sextus Pompeius, On the Meaning of Words, p. 266 M. (= p. 326, 35 L.)

“Alcimus says that Romulus was the son born to Tyrrhenia and Aeneas and that Alba was Aeneas’ granddaughter from her, whose son, named Rhodius, founded the city of Rome.”

Alcimus ait, Tyrrhenia Aeneae natum filium Romulum fuisse, atque eo ortam Albam Aeneae neptem, cuius filius nomine Rhodius condiderit urbem Romam.

Peter Paul Rubens - Aeneas in the Underworld.jpg
Peter Paul Reubens “Aeneas in the Underworld”

The Rise and Fall of Republican Rome as Stages in a Life

Seneca the Elder, Historical Fragments, 1 [=Lactant. Inst. Div. 7.15.14]

“Seneca outlined the periods of Roman history in “life-stages”. The first was her infancy under the king Romulus, who parented Rome and educated her. Then there followed a childhood under various kings thanks to whom the city grew and was shaped by many practices and institutions. Then, while Tarquin was king and Rome began to become more adult, it could not endure servitude and, once the yoke of arrogant rule was thrown off, preferred to heed laws instead of kings.

Once the Roman adolescence ended with the close of the Punic war,  it began to show the full strength of adulthood. For, when Carthage was subdued, that city which was an ancient rival for power, Rome extended her hands over the whole earth, both land and sea until every king and nation had bent to her power.

But, since there was no reason left for wars, Rome began to use her strengths poorly and wore herself out. This was the first step of old age: when Rome was wounded by civil wars and suffering from internal evil, she returned again to the practice of individual rule, as if she had devolved into a second infancy. Thus she lost the freedom which she defended when Brutus was its agent and champion and grew weak in old age, as if she had not the strength to support herself unless she could use the ‘cane’ of kings.”

Seneca Romanae urbis tempora distribuit in aetates; primam enim dixit infantiam sub rege Romulo fuisse, a quo et genita et quasi educata sit Roma, deinde pueritiam sub ceteris regibus, a quibus et aucta sit et disciplinis pluribus institutisque formata. At vero Tarquinio regnante, cum iam quasi adulta esse coepisset, servitium non tulisse, et reiecto superbae dominationis iugo maluisse legibus obtemperare quam regibus, cumque esset adulescentia eius fine Punici belli terminata, tum denique confirmatis viribus coepisse iuvenescere. Sublata enim Carthagine, quae diu aemula imperii fuit, manus suas in totum orbem terra marique porrexit, donec regibus cunctis et nationibus imperio subiugatis, cum iam bellorum materia deficeret, viribus suis male uteretur, quibus se ipsa confecit. Haec fuit prima eius senectus, cum bellis lacerata civilibus atque intestino malo pressa rursus ad regimen singularis imperii recidit quasi ad alteram infantiam revoluta. Amissa enim libertate, quam Bruto duce et auctore defenderat, ita consenuit tamquam sustentare se ipsa non valeret nisi adminiculo regentium uteretur.

Bust of an elderly Roman man, marble 40BC, Albertinum, Dresden

Harming the Athenians

Thanks to Dimitri Nakassis for sending me this passage

Thucydides. 7.27

“Thirteen hundred peltasts, Thracian swordsmen from the Dii tribe, also came to Athens the same summer. They were supposed to have traveled to Sicily with Demosthenes. Because they were rather late, the Athenians decided to send them back to Thrace where they came from. For it seemed too expense to retain them for the Decelean War since they each were earning a drachma a day.

Since Decelea was first invested by the whole enemy army in that summer and later was held by the garrisons coming from different cities coming in turn to ravage the land, it was causing great harm to the Athenians. Indeed, this undermined Athenian affairs first by loss of property and then by the death of men.

Previous attacks were brief and did not keep the Athenians from deriving benefit from their land the rest of the time. But once they were continually invested in Attica and they were sometimes attacking in force and at other times using a single garrison attacking the country and pillaging to supply itself. The Spartan king Agis was also present and he was no slacker in prosecuting the war.

The Athenians were greatly harmed; they were deprived of their whole land. More than twenty thousand slaves freed themselves and a great number of these were craftspeople. All of the sheep and pack animals perished. And the Athenian horses, because the cavalry was deploying every day to attack Decelea and guard the land, either went lame because of working on rocky ground or they were wounded.

ἀφίκοντο δὲ καὶ Θρᾳκῶν τῶν μαχαιροφόρων τοῦ Διακοῦ γένους ἐς τὰς Ἀθήνας πελτασταὶ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ θέρει τούτῳ τριακόσιοι καὶ χίλιοι, οὓς ἔδει τῷ Δημοσθένει ἐς τὴν Σικελίαν ξυμπλεῖν. [2] οἱ δ᾽ Ἀθηναῖοι, ὡς ὕστεροι ἧκον, διενοοῦντο αὐτοὺς πάλιν ὅθεν ἦλθον ἐς Θρᾴκην ἀποπέμπειν. τὸ γὰρ ἔχειν πρὸς τὸν ἐκ τῆς Δεκελείας πόλεμον αὐτοὺς πολυτελὲς ἐφαίνετο: δραχμὴν γὰρ τῆς ἡμέρας ἕκαστος ἐλάμβανεν. [3] ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἡ Δεκέλεια τὸ μὲν πρῶτον ὑπὸ πάσης τῆς στρατιᾶς ἐν τῷ θέρει τούτῳ τειχισθεῖσα, ὕστερον δὲ φρουραῖς ἀπὸ τῶν πόλεων κατὰ διαδοχὴν χρόνου ἐπιούσαις τῇ χώρᾳ ἐπῳκεῖτο, πολλὰ ἔβλαπτε τοὺς Ἀθηναίους, καὶ ἐν τοῖς πρῶτον χρημάτων τ᾽ ὀλέθρῳ καὶ ἀνθρώπων φθορᾷ ἐκάκωσε τὰ πράγματα. [4] πρότερον μὲν γὰρ βραχεῖαι γιγνόμεναι αἱ ἐσβολαὶ τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον τῆς γῆς ἀπολαύειν οὐκ ἐκώλυον: τότε δὲ ξυνεχῶς ἐπικαθημένων, καὶ ὁτὲ μὲν καὶ πλεόνων ἐπιόντων, ὁτὲ δ᾽ ἐξ ἀνάγκης τῆς ἴσης φρουρᾶς καταθεούσης τε τὴν χώραν καὶ λῃστείας ποιουμένης, βασιλέως τε παρόντος τοῦ τῶν Λακεδαιμονίων Ἄγιδος, ὃς οὐκ ἐκ παρέργου τὸν πόλεμον ἐποιεῖτο, μεγάλα οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἐβλάπτοντο. [5] τῆς τε γὰρ χώρας ἁπάσης ἐστέρηντο, καὶ ἀνδραπόδων πλέον ἢ δύο μυριάδες ηὐτομολήκεσαν, καὶ τούτων τὸ πολὺ μέρος χειροτέχναι, πρόβατά τε πάντα ἀπωλώλει καὶ ὑποζύγια: ἵπποι τε, ὁσημέραι ἐξελαυνόντων τῶν ἱππέων πρός τε τὴν Δεκέλειαν καταδρομὰς ποιουμένων καὶ κατὰ τὴν χώραν φυλασσόντων, οἱ μὲν ἀπεχωλοῦντο ἐν γῇ ἀποκρότῳ τε καὶ ξυνεχῶς ταλαιπωροῦντες, οἱ δ᾽ ἐτιτρώσκοντο.

It would be edifying to write a history of the Peloponnesian War from the perspective of the slaves on either side. At the very least, a selection of all the passages which mentioned slavery and enslaved peoples would change the way we think of the war.

Note from Charles F. Smith on perseus.edu

πλέον  δύο μυριάδες : Boeckh, P. E. p. 55, reckons the number of slaves in Athens in the most flourishing period at 365,000, so that the number here given does not seem incredible.

From wikipedia

 

 

Blessed Isles and Denial: Some Etymological Notes

Photios, Lexikon, Μακάρων νῆσος

“the Isle of the Blessed. The Acropolis of Boiotian Thebes in ancient times, according to Armenidas.”

Μακάρων νῆσος· ἡ ἀκρόπολις τῶν ἐν Βοιωτίαι Θηβῶν τὸ παλαιόν, ὡς ᾽Αρμεν<ί>δας.

Hesychius s.v. βουλεψίη

“Boulepsiê: This word is in Xanthos. For he says that when they give birth to a male, they gouge out his eyes with their own hands.”

βουλεψίη· ἡ λέξις παρὰ Ξάνθωι. λέγει δὲ τὰς ᾽Αμαζόνας ἐπειδὰν τέκωσιν ἄρρεν, ἐξορύσσειν αὐτοῦ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοχειρίαι.

BNJ 453 F 1a (=Etym. Magn. S.v. ῞Αρνη)

“Arnê: A nymph and nurse of Poseidon. The nymph Sinoessa is also named Arnê, reportedly, because when she received Poseidon from Rhea to raise him, she denied it (aparnêsato) when Kronos came asking about him. For this she was called Arnê [denial]. That’s the account of Theseus in the third book of his Korinthian Affairs.”

῎Αρνη· νύμφη, τροφὸς Ποσειδῶνος. εἴρηται δὲ καὶ ῎Αρνη ἡ νύμφη Σινόεσσα καλουμένη, ὅτι τὸν Ποσειδῶνα λαβοῦσα παρὰ τῆς ῾Ρέας ἐκτρέφειν, πρὸς τὸν Κρόνον ζητοῦντα ἀπηρνήσατο, καὶ ἐντεῦθεν ῎Αρνη ὠνομάσθη. οὕτω Θησεὺς ἐν Κορινθιακῶν τρίτωι.

Hieronymus Löschenkohl Joseph II. im Elysium.jpg
Hieronymus Löschenkohl (1753–1807): Ankunft Josephs II. in Elysium, kolorierter Stich, 1790

In Honor of Labor Day: Collective Action and the Maturation of Rome

Livy 2.32 Secessio Plebis, 449 BCE

“A fear overcame the senators that if the army were dismissed, then secret assemblies and conspiracies would arise. And thus, even though the draft was made by a dictator—because they had sworn a consular oath they were still believed to beheld by this sacrament—they ordered the legions to depart the city on the grounds that the war had been renewed by the Aequi. This deed accelerated the rebellion.

At first, there was some interest in the murder of the consuls (to absolve them of their obligation); but when they then learned that no crime would release them from their oath, they seceded on to the Sacred Mount across the Anio river, which is three miles from the city, on the advice of a man named Sicinus.  This story is more common than the one which Piso offers—that the secession was made upon the Aventine hill.

There, the camp was fortified without any leader with a trench and wall quietly, as they took nothing unless it was necessary for their food for several days and neither offended anyone nor took offense. But there was a major panic in the city and because of mutual fear all activities were suspended. Those left behind feared violence from the senators because they were abandoned by their own class; and the senators were fearing the plebians who remained in the city because they were uncertain whether they stayed there or preferred to leave. How long could a mass of people who had seceded remain peaceful? What would happen after this if there were an external threat first? There was certainly no home left unless they could bring the people into harmony; and it was decided they must reconcile the state by just means or unjust.”

  1. timor inde patres incessit ne, si dimissus exercitus foret, rursus coetus occulti coniurationesque fierent. itaque quamquam per dictatorem dilectus habitus esset, tamen quoniam in consulum uerba iurassent sacramento teneri militem rati, per causam renouati ab Aequis belli educi ex urbe legiones iussere. [2] quo facto maturata est seditio. et primo agitatum dicitur de consulum caede, ut soluerentur sacramento; doctos deinde nullam scelere religionem exsolui, Sicinio quodam auctore iniussu consulum in Sacrum montem secessisse. trans Anienem amnem est, tria ab urbe milia passuum. [3] ea frequentior fama est quam cuius Piso auctor est, in Auentinum secessionem factam esse. [4] ibi sine ullo duce uallo fossaque communitis castris quieti, rem nullam nisi necessariam ad uictum sumendo, per aliquot dies neque lacessiti neque lacessentes sese tenuere. [5] pauor ingens in urbe, metuque mutuo suspensa erant omnia. timere relicta ab suis plebis uiolentiam patrum; timere patres residem in urbe plebem, incerti manere eam an abire mallent: [6] quamdiu autem tranquillam quae secesserit multitudinem fore? quid futurum deinde si quod externum interim bellum exsistat? [7] nullam profecto nisi in concordia ciuium spem reliquam ducere; eam per aequa, per iniqua reconciliandam ciuitati esse.

The secessio plebis was repeated at key times in Roman history and became a fundamental instrument to force the ruling (and moneyed/landed) class to make political compromises with the larger number of citizen soldiers upon whom the city (and the Republic) depended for its safety (and, really, existence). Modern labor strikes are not directly related to this Roman action–they developed with the rise of the Industrial state. In a short analogy, labor is to capital as the army was to the Roman state.

Labor unions are, in my ever so humble opinion, probably the last possible bulwark against not just the corporatization of higher education but also against the completion of our anglo-american metamorphoses in to technology-driven plutocracies. (And it may be too late.) But I take the limited coverage in our presses as a sign that such subjects are threatening to the very media corporations that deny collective bargaining to their ‘workers’ in the gig economy. 

Caesar, Civil War 1.7.5-7

“Whenever in the past the senate has made a decree asking officers to make sure that the republic meet no harm—and in this wording the senatus consultum is also a call to arms for the Roman people—it has been made under the condition of evil laws, a violent tribune, or during a secession of the plebs when they had occupied the temples and mounts. [Caesar] explained that these examples from an earlier age were paid for with the fates of Saturninus and the Gracchi. (At that time none of these things were done or even considered. No law was suggested; no assembly was called; no secession was made.)

quotienscumque sit decretum darent operam magistratus ne quid res publica detrimenti caperet, qua voce et quo senatus consulto populus Romanus ad arma sit vocatus, factum in perniciosis legibus, in vi tribunicia, in secessione populi, templis locisque editioribus occupatis. 6Atque haec superioris aetatis exempla expiata Saturnini atque Gracchorum casibus docet. (Quarum rerum illo tempore nihil factum, ne cogitatum quidem. Nulla lex promulgata, non cum populo agi coeptum, nulla secessio facta.)

Cicero, Republic II.58

“For that very principle which I introduced at the beginning is this: unless there is equal access in a state to laws, offices, and duties so that the magistrates have sufficient power, the plans of the highest citizens have enough authority, and the people have enough freedom, the state cannot be guarded against revolution. For when our state was troubled by debt, the plebeians first occupied the Sacred Mount and then the Aventine.”

Id enim tenetote, quod initio dixi, nisi aequabilis haec in civitate conpensatio sit et iuris et officii et muneris, ut et potestatis satis in magistratibus et auctoritatis in principum consilio et libertatis in populo sit, non posse hunc incommutabilem rei publicae conservari statum. nam cum esset ex aere alieno commota civitas, plebs montem sacrum prius, deinde Aventinum occupavit.

 

Cicero, Republic II.63

“Therefore, because of the injustice of these men [the decemviri], there was the largest rebellion and the whole state was transformed. For those rulers had created two tables of laws which included most inhumanely, a law against plebeians wedding patricians, even though marriage between different nationalities is permitted! This law was later voided by the plebeian Canuleian Decree. The [decemviri also pursued their own pleasure harshly and greedily in every exercise of power over the people.”

ergo horum ex iniustitia subito exorta est maxima perturbatio et totius commutatio rei publicae; qui duabus tabulis iniquarum legum additis, quibus, etiam quae diiunctis populis tribui solent conubia, haec illi ut ne plebei cum patribus1 essent, inhumanissima lege sanxerunt, quae postea plebei scito Canuleio abrogata est, libidinoseque omni imperio et acerbe et avare populo praefuerunt.

Here is the opening summary from Brill’s New Pauly on the secessio plebis (2006: von Ungern-Sternberg, Jürgen)

“Roman tradition terms as secessio (from Latin secedere, ‘to go away, to withdraw’) the remonstrative exodus of the Roman plebeians from the urban area delimited by the pomerium on to a neighbouring hill. This action was on a number of occasions the culmination of confrontation between the patricians ( patricii ) and the plebs . The first secessio in particular may have been instrumental in the formation of a self-conscious plebeian community under the leadership of at first two, later apparently five people’s tribunes ( tribunus plebis ), to whose protection all plebeians committed themselves by a lex sacrata (‘law subject to the sanction of execration’)”

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