These days I’m reading a fascinating book on Roman History called SPQR. And I’ve discovered Roman History is full of lessons for today’s world.
As a small token, a line from Plautus, a Roman writer, that appeared in some of his books.
Demophilus wrote this, Plautus barbarised it.
As Mary Beard, the author of SPQR, explains, the sentence was a clever challenge.
For people of Greek origin, it was a way to mock Romans, that didn’t bring anything new.
But to Romans, it suggested that maybe Greeks could consider Romans the same way Romans considered others: barbarians.
And on that path of “maybe we are barbarians to those whom we consider barbarians”, it connected with the “us vs them” in a different book. Our brain is probably shaped to group people. People can be “us” regarding one category and “them” regarding other. But when thinking in terms of “them”, it’s difficult to establish a connection.
They are the enemy. They are the barbarians.
In a world of increasing division-on-its-way-to-chasm, we are barbarians to those we consider barbarians
First published here