Introduction to Pharos

Pharos is a platform where classical scholars, and the public more broadly, can learn about and respond to appropriations of Greco-Roman antiquity by hate groups online. Our work has been profiled in The New Statesman, The Baffler, The New YorkerThe Nation, Ploughshares, and on the podcast History Talk: Origins.

Pharos is the ancient Greek word for “lighthouse” and commonly refers to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the first such beacon and the symbol of a city whose location at the crossroads between what we now call Europe and many other cultures made it for centuries the intellectual center of the Greco-Roman world.

  1. Pharos’ first purpose is to document appropriations of Greco-Roman culture by hate groups online. The civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome have always been attractive to European nationalist and racist movements, and in more recent years have been adopted by other so-called alt-right groups whose politics are aligned with older-style nationalism. Many people, including professional scholars of antiquity, are not aware that the cultures we study are being enlisted in support of these hateful and regressive ideologies. Posts tagged “Documenting Appropriations” raise awareness of this phenomenon.
  2. Our second purpose is to expose the errors, omissions, and distortions that underpin these groups’ interpretations of ancient material. We should not allow the historically ignorant and politically abhorrent to dominate representations of antiquity online. For each appropriation we document we invite specialists to critique the version of antiquity that these groups construct to support their views. We compile these responses in posts tagged “Scholars Respond.”
  3. Our third purpose is to articulate a politically progressive approach to the study of Greco-Roman antiquity. The material that we study is being employed in the service of oppressive and bigoted ideologies. Our field cannot survive, and our consciences should not abide, the dissemination of such a vision of antiquity to a broad audience. Pharos’ longer articles, tagged “Response Essays,” suggest how the study of antiquity may serve an inclusive and progressive politics. These essays draw on the published work of the many scholars who have articulated politically progressive approaches to our field in specialized publications. We aim to bring that research to a broader audience and situate it as a response to hateful appropriations of antiquity online.

Pharos’ responses and essays are not intended to change the minds of those who use antiquity to support their racist ideologies. They are intended, rather, to ensure that someone who turns to the web to learn about antiquity finds something other than the appropriations we are documenting. We hope, too, that our work will nourish those who love antiquity but are uncomfortable with the traditional association of its study with elitist and oppressive politics. You are not alone.

The strength of Pharos lies in its collaborative nature. Find out how you can support our work and get involved.

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