Ancient history is not colonialism – WSJ
Is there room for ancient history in the Ivy League? A group called Decolonization at Brown doesn’t think so. He demands that the university demolish the statues of two Roman emperors, Caesar Augustus and Marcus Aurelius, on the grounds that they “celebrate ongoing colonialism in the United States and idealize white and Western civilization, both of which continue to harm Brown today ”. as four of the decolonizers put it in an op-ed for the student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald.
It’s absurd. White supremacy did not emerge until the 17th century, when modern science gave birth to theories about human races. The legacy of the emperors represents some of the greatest virtues of civilization.
And the Roman Empire did not have much in common with the modern Colonial Empire. Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, established Pax Romana, a two-century period of peace and stability among the peoples of the empire. This peace was secured by conquest, but Roman subjects were citizens with all the rights and duties that this entailed, unlike modern colonialism. It ensured that the ultimate power of government rested with the Roman Senate, legislative assemblies and executive magistrates. “When the dictatorship was offered to me, in my presence and in my absence, by the people and the Senate,” he wrote, “I did not accept it. These actions find modern echoes in postwar (and anti-colonial) Pax Americana and the checks and balances of the US Constitution.
Marcus Aurelius was known for his philosophical works which drew on his leadership experience. His writings encourage living in the present, non-judgment, and self-control. His best-known book is “Meditations”, a founding text of Stoic philosophy. His ideas gave birth to the Ethics of Virtue, a normative theory that emphasizes wisdom, courage, justice and temperance.
Marcus was also a skilled warrior and military commander, leading the Roman Empire to numerous victories against the Germanic tribes. The Romans viewed these white North Europeans as physically strong but culturally inferior warriors, with their brutal and violent ways, just as white colonizers millennia later would view their subjects.