Friday, June 24, 2011

What the Romans can teach us about refugees

Archaeologists working at the Roman legionary fortress at Hadrian's Wall have reportedly uncovered what they suspect is a refugee camp established for friendly tribespeople from north of the wall who were fleeing serious unrest in the early third century AD. These new discoveries, whether they really are ancient refugee camps or not, beg the question of quite what Roman attitudes towards refugees actually were, and how far they correspond (if at all) with modern sentiments towards displaced persons.

One would expect the Romans to have been relatively sympathetic towards refugees, especially in the light of their own supposed origins. A major element of their own mythical backstory centred on the wanderings of their legendary founder, the Trojan prince Aeneas, who with a small group of companions and close family had been the only survivors of the Greeks' apocalyptic destruction of his home city. Of course, the Romans were in good company in claiming refugee status in regards to their origins.

More at the Guardian