27 January, 2021

Holocaust Memorial Day - Remembering Hadrian

Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th of January is to remind the world of the victims of National Socialism racists theories, that led to the death of millions.  In addition to the systematic killings of groups whose perceived to be racially, morally or physically inferior, millions starved to death in their own homes.  It was driven by the Great Lie that Germany had lost the First World War due to being stabbed in the back, principally by the Jews.

Human existence has always been beset with dangers and uncertainties, not least our own mortality, and the need to find order in the chaos of events in our environment.  Traditionally, Religion, Politics and even Science have proffer simple solutions for simple people living in a complex world.

In the USA, a contemporary example of millions of people convinced by alternative facts and fuelled by traditional notions of racial superiority and entitlement has yet to fully play out.

Lying, misinformation and misdirection are basic skills set for politicians, this, together with the exploitation of  fear, hatred and jealousy complete the political toolkit. Normally, in a democracy, these are directed towards the distribution of money, however, in a dictatorship, given politicians near absolute power, they can be directed at individual and groups of people.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Great men are almost always bad men..." 

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton MP

Which brings us to Hadrian, famous for his Wall and other achievements, and regarded as  one of the five Good Emperors.  His perceived virtue was in not killing more than a handful of his fellow aristocrats on his accession to the throne; he is a positive brand in away that Adolf Hitler is not.

His reign was relatively peaceful, but what is evident from the archaeology, is that the Wall,  but analysis of his Wall indicates a it was a disaster which precipitated violent insurrections,  leaving the native population  and the army severely depleted.

However, his violent repression of the Jews towards the end of his reign is much better documented, brought on by the building of a pagan temple on the Temple Mount.  As the Historian Cassius Dio tells us that 580, 000 Jews were killed, with in addition a unknown number dying from starvation, illness or being burnt to death in the destruction of over a 1000 settlements.   The Romans, like the Nazis were systematic, efficient and thorough in their holocausts.  Unremarkably, the destruction of the Jews in AD 132-5 has done little to dent the reputation of Hadrian - 

May his bones be ground to dust. 

[Ancient Jewish curse].

Footnote: A small unintended consequence of the holocaust was Gerhard Bersu, an archaeologist who escaped Nazi Germany shortly before the war, and whose excavation at Little Woodbury was an exemplar for UK archaeology reports. although sadly, future generations sought to reproduce his results rather than his methodology