Biopolitics, Racialism, and Nationalism in Ancient Greece: A Summary View

The following is a brief summary of the ancient Greek theory and practice of biopolitics, racialism, and nationalism. These themes, which are so taboo in the West today, were integral to the Hellenic way of life at the founding of our Western civilization and of our unique tradition of civic self-government. I will also refer to some of the copious mainstream academic literature documenting this.

The Greeks believed that, despite their political divisions, they belonged to a common nation, defined by shared blood, language, religion, and culture. According to Herodotus, the Greeks were“one race speaking one language, with temples to the gods and religious rites in common, and with a common way of life” (Histories, 8.144). Patriotic Pan-Hellenic rhetoric – on the supreme value of Greece and the glory of sacrificing oneself to save Greece – is pervasive across centuries of Greek literature and political discourse.[1]

The Greeks had a primitive and unsystematic racial theory. They believed that peoples gradually acquired characteristics due to their environment (e.g. Ethiopians became black because of the heat) and that these traits became hereditary.[2] These observations certainly prefigure Darwin’s later evolutionary theory.

The Europeans north of Greece were generally considered barbaric and spirited, while Asians inhabiting Persia were considered effeminate and submissive. Barbarians were often thought incapable of civic self-government. The Phoenicians were sometimes perceived as having certain Semitic stereotypes (mercantile, dishonest, greedy, mercenary) but were also sometimes perceived as a fellow advanced people, comparably organized and capable in terms of trade, warfare, and civic self-government.

The Greeks did not talk about anything analogous to racial differences in IQ and it is often unclear to what extent they believed ethnic characteristics to be due to culture, geography and climate, or heredity. The Greeks were however certainly very struck by the physical differences of the few Blacks they encountered, producing pottery contrasting Caucasian and Negroid features, in styles rather reminiscent of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Greeks had a primitive theory and practice of eugenics. Following the practice of animal breeding and simple observation, the Greeks understood that human physical and psychological traits were at least partly hereditary. It was often said that men should choose the best women as wives so as to have the best children possible. Due to economic difficulties, infanticide through exposure was a cruel accepted practice, at the parents’ discretion. In Sparta and Rome, the killing of deformed children was mandatory, an exercise in negative eugenics.

Greek and Roman political and social assumptions were grounded in the ancestral Indo-European religion. This was a patriarchal and exclusionary ancestor cult, which made a religious duty of having children in order to perpetuate the familial religion. In his classic work The Ancient City: Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome, Fustel de Coulanges said of the religion:

If it ignores the duties of charity [i.e. no duties towards outsiders], it at least traces for man with an admirable clarity his familial duties. It makes marriage mandatory; celibacy is a crime in the eyes of a religion which makes the continuity of the family the first and the holiest of duties.[3]

The religion turned the family household into a sacred and inviolable sanctuary, under the authority of the father, obeyed by wife, children, and retainers, for the good of the family taken as a whole, including past and future generations. In short, reproduction and the family itself were seen as sacred and therefore of great religious significance.

The assumptions of the ancestral religion also became commonplace in non-religious contexts. A man’s happiness was equated with his descendants. Aristotle said: “That the fortunes of descendants and of all a man’s friends should not affect his happiness at all seems a very unfriendly doctrine, and one opposed to the opinions men hold” (Nicomachaean Ethics, 1.11).

This Indo-European familial religion and its assumptions were projected to the city-state as a whole, which was always a religious entity, every public act being accompanied by rituals. Coulanges says:

The comparison of [Indo-European] beliefs and laws shows that the primitive religion created the Greek and Roman family, established marriage and paternal authority, fixed the hierarchy of kinship, consecrated the right of property and the right of inheritance. This same religion, after having enlarged and extended the family, shaped a wider association, the city, and reigned in it as in the family.[4]

Hence, like the ancestral religion, the polis’ ideal of citizenship was exclusionary (serving only citizens, typically defined by blood), communitarian (all could be regulated/expected to sacrifice for the whole, with a citizen-soldier ideal), and reproductive (marriage was not for pleasure, but for children so as to perpetuate family and community; celibacy was often punished). Plato, probably expressing the traditional religious and political view, wrote: “Mankind is immortal because it always leaves later generations behind to preserve its unity and identity for all time: it gets its share of immortality by means of procreation. It is never a holy thing to voluntarily deny oneself this prize, and he who neglected to take a wife and have children does precisely that” (Laws, 721b–d). In seeking to regulate and improve the reproduction of the citizenry in the service of collective and eugenic goals, the Greeks were eminently biopolitical.[5]

The city-state meant for the Greeks the actual people (they always called themselves “the Athenians,” “the Spartans,” etc.), their ancestors, and their gods: “this explains the patriotism of the ancients, a vigorous sentiment which was for them the supreme virtue and that which all the others culminated in . . . Love of country is piety to the ancients.”[6] However, this patriotism was in political practice very much focused on the individual city, making its interests absolutely supreme, with little consideration for eventual imperial subjects, allies, or fellow Greeks in general.

These general observations are evident in the particular examples of Athens and Sparta. Periclean Athens limited citizenship to those with two full-blooded Athenian parents and adopted racial notion of citizenship, Athenians supposedly being racially pure and “sprung from the Earth” (autochtonous).[7] Under the law of Lycurgus, Sparta famously made military training, marriage, the rearing of children, and fighting for the fatherland into a systematically-organized way of life—a clear example of a group evolutionary strategy. Sparta was an ethnostate composed of two separate, non-intermarrying peoples: Spartans and Helot slaves, with strongly xenophobic attitudes about other Greeks which functioned to prevent foreign influences on their way of life. Both Athens and Sparta claimed to be defending Greek freedom (whether against Persian rule or against imperialism of fellow-Greeks).

The Hellenic way of life combined a high degree of civilization with the aristocratic, competitive, and warrior ethos of the Indo-Europeans, developed over the course of ceaseless struggle and expansion over millennia. This ‘Aryan’ ethos is what so appealed to Nietzsche: a people not animated by pity or guilt, nor trying to achieve impossible or fictional equality in an endlessly vain attempt to assuage those feelings, nor a people trying to make every person individually happy. Rather, Hellenic culture, driven by that aristocratic and competitive spirit, held up the ideal of being the best: the best athlete, the warrior, the best philosopher, or the most beautiful. This culture also held up the collective ideal of being the best as a whole society, for they understood that man as a species only flourishes as a community.

Inspired by the Hellenic experience, we can imagine an archeofuturist renewal of the Western peoples, when modern technology and science will be combined with this vital spirit, this communitarian ethos honoring excellence, that our race and civilization may forever flourish. The Greeks, adhering to a cyclical vision of history, were obsessed by how luxury, effeminacy, and decadence, the loss of ancestral traditions and manly virtue, doomed societies. Renewal cannot be decreed, but might unexpectedly occur from some sort of collapse, such as Civil War II in the United States. As ever, time will tell.

[1] See Lynette Mitchell, Panhellenism and the Barbarian in Archaic and Classical Greece (Swansea, Wales: Classical Press of Wales, 2007).

[2] Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004). Isaac’s work is typical of the intellectual movements documented by Kevin MacDonald in The Culture of Critique, insofar as he seeks to pathologize ancient Greek hereditarian observations and theories.

[3] Fustel de Coulanges, La Cité antique (Paris: Flammarion, 1984 [1864]), 143. Available online in English translation: Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome (Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books, 2001; originally published in 1862), 166.

[4] Ibid., 36.

[5] See Mika Ojakangas, On the Origins of Greek Biopolitics: A Reinterpretation of the History of Biopower (London/New York: Routledge, 2016).

[6] Coulanges, La Cité, 278-79.

[7] See Susan Lape, Race and Citizen Identity in Classical Athenian Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

15 replies
  1. ws
    ws says:

    not saying that I disagree with the revival of a communal ethos, but are the helots the best example to use in these kind of essays.

    Just from reading the history of the Spartan subjugation of the Helots, it does not exactly paint the Spartans in a good light. If you believe the texts, the war stared after a Spartan stole cattle from a Messanian, killed the Messanians son when he was sent to retrieve the cattle, which lead to the Spartan state demanding extradition. Of course there were other underlying causes, but enslaving a people for centuries, with the occasion culling of their strongest members, after an unjust war, does not make me want to identify with the Spartans.

    • Guillaume Durocher
      Guillaume Durocher says:

      Thank you for your comment! We certainly do not need a slave class today, when technology can automate most labor and the slaves would pose a perpetual threat. However, the Spartans and the Greeks in general had an ancient ethos putting excellence and *their group* first. Certainly that is something we have unhappily forgotten!

  2. Right man for the job
    Right man for the job says:

    When a teenager in a Catholic school, I read Coulanges with great interest and fervor, especially with his emphases that Christianity was unique to European man and that the entry of ancient Germans into Gaul was a slow process. Both perspectives can be reduced to biological activities…physical adaptations IN one’s environment.

    Christianity can only truly exist in the brains of racial/genetic EUROPEANS which is why early Jew Christianity petered out (no pun intended) in Asia minor and the Levant; the Semitic brain cannot adapt to notions of group unity glued together by love… merely read the grossly materialistic ‘Old Testament,’ a hodgepodge collection of materialistic, tribal stories about dysfunctional, loony Hebrew families. Marcion of Sinope (80?-160?), whose DNA we do not know, threw out the Semitic cruelties from Christian writings and proposed more basic, altruistic scriptures.

    The German-Gaul concern reflects a ‘racial mix’ approach which is I believe is borne out in earlier invasions. I always balked at the idea that the Cro-Magnons deliberatively slaughter the hapless Neanderthals. Anthropologists were projecting their semi-Marxist everything’s-conflict baloney onto situations which are completely unknown and always assuming somebody has to kill someone else. So Jewish! Current DNA research on contemporaries demonstrates that there was sexual interaction between them.

    Durocher’s idea that the Greeks ‘were obsessed by how luxury, effeminacy, and decadence, the loss of ancestral traditions and manly virtue, doomed societies” is no less true for Japanese thinking, and no less true for some other ethnicities. So much of today’s thinking is adapted to a sort of normal curve assumption, when in effect things like IQ might be skewed to the right! Perhaps the Durocherian ‘renewal” is occurs when things become skewed to the left. QED

    • Guillaume Durocher
      Guillaume Durocher says:

      Thank you for your comment! I am also quite attracted to Marcion, although I under the churches consider him a heretic. I do not know what to make of his movement and what its suppression says about the churches. Certainly the inclusion of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible was to have fateful consequences, particularly for the various, over-enthusiastic Anglo-Saxon sects…

      • Right man for the job
        Right man for the job says:

        Some years ago I acquired ‘The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book I (sects 1-46)’ [Brill, 1987] by Epiphanius (310/20 – 403). He wrote short accounts of heresies which existed in his day and in previous centuries; he was certainly a man with a mission! The writing is almost like something from an ancient National Enquirer, a tome filled with sexual sensationalism, vice, mayhem, perversion and insanity! It is difficult to contest all of the peculiar sects (this tome has only 46 of 80 such sects) since they have evaporated from history and may have been ethereal only for that period.
        Movements always generate suppressions because there is the basic conflict over donations and inheritance. Scholars make matters worse because they actually BELIEVE that the perpetrators are true believers. Hogwash! A quick example…Montanus form Phrygia. He was an ecstatic inspired by the Holy Ghost to preach the end of the world nonsense, telling the deluded that the end would come in two towns, one of which was his home (I wonder if his family were realtors since believers want to be there when the crash came). He had two female co-conspirators, Maximilla and Priscilla, who allegedly left their husbands to become prophetesses with Montanus. Did Montanus have something their husbands didn’t? Gimme a break! This was an ancient Peter Popov with two bored dames who cashed in on the scam. And the modern academic dupes see it as a ‘heresy.’ Many of the so-called heresies exposed by Epiphanius were likely free-love camps which spread lurid stories to increase their advertising value and hence recruitment for fresh meat. Such ‘heresies’ only last until the death or imprisonment of the founder.
        Marcion wanted to be pope as he was an apparent Type A personality which is not what the emerging Roman Church wanted or needed; equally horrible, Marcion was an often successful competitor for Christian attentions. The churches he and his followers founded lasted into the fifth century. The exclusion of the Jew Testament (i.e., OT) would certainly have left the Calvinist and other groups with a very, very limited purpose. I always loved the ‘heresy’ of Pelagius (360 – 418), British cleric and famed enemy of Hippo’s Augustine and Jerome. His heresy? No original sin and no real free will.
        The northern European neural brain configuration seldom can accommodate the idiocies of near eastern brains; thus the ultimate failure of Freudianism and other Yiddish fantasies. Apples and oranges. These fantasies give the predator Jew the opportunity to take over in a racially divided world.

      • m
        m says:

        “I am also quite attracted to Marcion, although I under the churches consider him a heretic.”

        Those interested, if they are not already familiar with them, might want to investigate the work of German historian Hermann Detering. Some that can be found on line, in English translations (along with the original German). Specifically his work dealing with Marcionite sourced Pauline material, as to authenticity. The church position, as I understand it, is that Marcion’s writings were interpolations of earlier church originals.

        Detering’s “The Original Version of the Epistle to the Galatians,” for instance, compares the church canonical to the probable Marcionite text (quoted by Tertullian and Origen, with reference to and against points made in Harnack’s critique of the so-called Tubingen school of higher criticism). For Detering, it is likely that the canonical texts are later interpolations of older Marcionite material:

        “The result of our textual critical investigation is that, compared with the canonical version, the Marcionite variants turn out to be the more ancient and more original ones. As shown by the analysis of both formal linguistic details and doctrinal content, the addition to the text or its modification, missing in Marcion’s version, did doubtlessly not belong to the original text. The differences observed rather suggest they be the work of a later editor.”

        Of course Marcion’s theological doctrine would be considered anti-Semitic, today.

    • James
      James says:

      Christianity, yes OT included, was never jewish. When you understand the statement “Edom is in modern Jewry not Israel”, things start to fall into place. Why else have been promoted miscegenation 24/7

      It is the generations of Adam after all.

      Isaiah 43:3
      Rev 13
      Deut 23:2

  3. T. J.
    T. J. says:

    The MSM is not being honest about Richard Russell (the man who stole a 76 seat airliner from Seattle/Tacoma airport)

    The entire act was done because he was sick of being bashed as a white male, and wanted to commit suicide in a way no minority would ever have the talent to.
    The MSM is being very misleading about what happened. They got two points right: He stole an airliner and died crashing it. Here’s what they did not dare say:
    He stole the plane to intentionally commit suicide with it. He wanted to commit suicide with it because he had been bashed to death as a white male and believed he was cheated out of his rightful career path (this is a reality for many white males now, he was probably not delusional about it.) He was talented with video productions, journalism, was a world traveler and a botanist. He was stuck as an airport grounds maintenance worker.

    No one knows where he got the skills but all the aerobatics were intentional and were announced by him before he did it. The MSM is not being honest about this and is saying his flight was chaotic. It was not, it was in fact well executed and intentional. He was followed by fighter jets throughout all but the first few minutes of a flight that lasted just short of an hour. He was running out of fuel, and with an engine starting to stall said “I am going to do a barrel roll, nose down, and call it a night”. And that’s exactly what he did, the plane crashed where he wanted it to because he maintained control to the end. The MSM is reluctant to say it this way. The are outright refusing to say it as it happened.

    So what we have here is a white male who snapped due to the current status quo that hands everything to minorities (deserved or not,) and went out in a blaze of glory to prove the superiority of the white race with the way he did it. There were strong undertones that the MSM is not touching, but some people figured it out and started posting things like: “White male kills himself by skillfully piloting an airliner and crashing it on purpose, while all the nogs can do is steal beer and play the knock out game.”

    Yes, the liberal left that is destroying white males on purpose badly needs its comeuppance, and therefore there’s no way in hell the MSM is going to be truthful about this story. They cannot be truthful because this guy died a martyr for white males who have been significantly robbed of all they have worked for in the name of phoney “diversity”, which is really just a war on Western civilization waged by leftist Jews. The Jews don’t give a damn about any minority that goes beyond how minorities can be used as weapons in a social war. Maybe this guy did not know who caused it all, and all he knew is that he got robbed, watching people with obviously lesser talent take his rightful place time after time after time. It drove him nuts, he snapped, and did this.

    • Barkingmad
      Barkingmad says:

      Amerika’s Dominique Venner? Our self-immolating monks?

      Anyway, I wonder just how many folks saw what was really happening.

    • Karen T
      Karen T says:

      John Gillespie Magee, Jr
      Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
      And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
      Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
      Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
      You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
      High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
      I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
      My eager craft through footless halls of air…
      Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
      I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
      Where never lark or even eagle flew —
      And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
      The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
      Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
      ………………I doubt thay they teach this poem in school’s anymore,

      • Barkingmad
        Barkingmad says:

        What a magnificent poem. However, I am sure that wherever it is taught, teachers won’t just allow the students to revel in it. No, they will do with this poem what they do with all poetry – go on at length about the sonnet form, the meter, “OK kids, find some of these literary devices…” That is how I came to despise poetry as taught in school. They couldn’t just leave it alone for us to experience according to our own essential nature.

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