IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture – “Race-mixing” and the Fall of Rome: how eugenics helped shape the modern study of classical antiquity, by Professor Denise McCoskey
October 25 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture by Professor Denise McCoskey (Miami University)
Since its emergence as a professional practice, the field of classics has often applied contemporary ideologies about race to study of the ancient world. This lecture will examine some of the specific ways the modern eugenics movement helped shape classical scholarship in the early twentieth century. Stemming from racial science and its attendant panic about “race-mixing” and “racial decline,” eugenics—a term derived from ancient Greek and meaning “well born”—proposed that selective breeding could be used to ensure the general “improvement” of human populations. While the influence of eugenics can be seen in many areas of classical studies of the time, as this lecture will demonstrate, it was especially prominent in the attempts made by classical scholars to explain what they considered ancient Rome’s precipitous “fall.” The dangerous legacy of such methods for interpreting classical antiquity will also be discussed, a topic that requires considerable reflection on the part of classical scholars given both the recent and unsettling re-emergence of racial science and the current use of Greek and Roman antiquity in a range of political narratives.
This lecture is free and open to all. Registration is not required to attend in person.