I've heard rumors of some sort of massive discourse over at the AIA conference about completely separating the academic community from Roman Reenactment due to "widespread white supremacist motivations" for reenactment.

I want to talk about this. (1/?)
I'm going to tag @eranudturan in this from the start because I want his opinion as both a PoC and a non-European reenactor, but I've been thinking about this all day and have some thoughts I want to express and would like to hear feedback on. (2/?)
Reenactment as a whole very much has imperialist roots. The earliest reenactments basically started as 18th century recreations of battles and tourneys, often associated with festivals hosted by lords. Renaissance festivals also have athe same roots in their origins. (3/?)
The hobby mostly originates in Britain, with some crossover into other parts of Europe. Reenactment in America, however, actually developed mostly separately from the British and European communities. It almost purely stems from Civil War veterans. (4/?)
Civil War veterans (Union and Confederate) in the late 19th and early 20th century started having anniversary meetups, and began recreating battles they fought at. They weren't the only ones - Indian Wars and Zulu Wars veterans also started doing it at about the same time. (5/?)
Their children started to carry this on, and it was really the 1961 Civil War centennial Battle of Antietam celebration that kicked off reenactment as a serious hobby worldwide. It grew quickly into other eras from there, but Roman hadn't shown up yet. (6/?)
So while the rest of reenactment has its history laden primarily in white supremacy and imperialism, Roman reenactment surprisingly mostly does not. Attempts at recreation Roman military costume and displays of Roman military tactics go back to the 19th century... (7/?)
With various well-endowed early archaeologists and historians, the U.S. Naval Academy, and others all partaking in such demonstrations, but these were largely one-and-done events. Roman Reenactment truly doesn't begin until the founding of the Ermine Street Guard in 1972. (8/?)
I don't have the resources to explicitly go into the motivations of the individuals who founded it, but the society was founded as part of a restoration project for two town halls in Witcombe and Bentham village. As far as I am aware, it doesn't have ties to the (9/?)
origins of other eras of reenactment, although its founders very well could have had seen and wanted to do something similar to other-era reenactors in the growing hobby were doing. Again, I don't have the resouces to fully investigate it. (10/?)
This one unit basically started Roman Reenactment as a thing for all of Europe, and eventually it came across the Ocean with a man named Matthew Amt, who is undoubtedly the man who made Roman and Greek reenactment in the United States a thing. (11/?)
Amt's background comes not from other areas of reenactment, but Cosplay, the SCA, and LARP. Now we can talk about white supremacy in those subcultures too, but I'm not terribly read up on them and it's largely irrelevant to Matt and his motivations. (12/?)
Matt was a guy who wanted to take what people were starting to do for Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, and apply it to Ancient Greece (and later Rome), but with real historical research. And he got his footing with the help of the first European groups, including the ESG. (13/?)
From the get-go, Roman Reenactment, particularly in the U.S., was different. Its focus wasn't really on glorifying a "lost cause" or "western civilization," or at least it wasn't in the same way (it has slowly progressed as Academia has slowly progressed). (14/?)
Instead it was largely founded for Experimental Archaeology, research, and reconstruction. This doesn't mean Roman reenactment doesn't have problems with white supremacy or imperialism (it certainly does) but it wasn't founded on those issues like other eras were. (15/?)
(Caveat: I can't be sure about Byzantine reenactment's precise origins (other than that it comes from Australia), as I would have to talk to Dr. Timothy Dawson and Peter Beatson first. But I can assure you that neither of them have white supremacist motivations.) (16/?)
Now that I've made this particular point, I want to move on to how it *does* have issues with this, and this namely comes from the type of people attracted to reenactment, which can vary widely, and so can their motivations. But there is a definite pattern. (17/?)
Generally speaking, the more someone wants to fight in reenactment, the more they tend to have far-right or alt-right leanings. However that doesn't always apply, and I'm going to use Bohurt vs. HEMA as the example here, because there's a correlation between these. (18/?)
I am not trying to disparage Bohurt or my friends who do Bohurt in any way here. However, generally speaking the people who do Bohurt seem to not have much interest in the actual history and research behind medieval combat, compared to those who partake in HEMA. (19/?)
Bohurt lacks the martial arts mentality that I've encountered with HEMA practitioners, at least here in the United States. And its members tend to be... "testosterone junkies" who want to jump straight into the action. That doesn't mean all of them are alt-right, but (20/?)
There's a definite correlation between the kind of people who do Bohurt and the prevalence of people with right-wing leanings in Bohurt. I'm not going to jump to conclusions about an area of psychology I'm not educated in, but I've noticed an anecdotal correlation between (21/?)
The amount of effort and thought people want to put into research and dedication to the historical aspect of something, and their political leanings. And this isn't to say there aren't alt-right or problematic HEMA practitioners - but in my limited HEMA experience I've (22/?)
Yet to personally encounter a large group of people with alt-right or far-right or even just generally right-wing leanings. It's a group of people who want to fight, but their motivations for doing it are totally different. I think this same divide applies to reenactment. (23/?)
Reenactment groups always tend to draw the attention of the alt-right and NeoNazi organizations because the hobby is overwhelmingly European and overwhelmingly has origins in Imperialism (or the "Lost Cause" in the case of Civil War). The fact of the matter is that (24/?)
The same 19th century roots for methods of thought and entire disciplines of history are co-opted by these organizations and political movements - hence why Academia also has issues with them. And they have weeded their way into Roman reenactment. (25/?)
In the United States, there are only a few individuals I personally know of who I am uncomfortable with showing up at events in the Roman community. There's one group that effectively dominates all US reenactment right now, which is XIIII Gemina. (26/?)
XIIII Gemina bans political discussion at all events, although sometimes alcohol consumption takes that barrier down late at night. The amount of drama in that organization due to this past year has increased somewhat though, because it has a broad spectrum of members. (27/?)
Again, all but maybe one or two people I've ever encountered in that group, however, I worry about. Most of their ~200 members can sit down around a campfire and have real, thoughtful discussion. I don't know, however, how much 2020 has changed that. I've seen a lot of (28/?)
My friends spiral from "normal conservatives" down the alt-right rabbit hole since late 2019. People I once was able to persuade to see different viewpoints or consider something differently intentionally blinded themselves. I suspect this may have happened to some (29/?)
XIIII members, although the core group doesn't really seem to suffer from this problem or otherwise keep any political views they may hold completely off the internet and away from events - which as far as I'm concerned, is fine enough. This situation, however, isn't (30/?)
Representative of all groups. This isn't a Roman group, but the well-known Wulfheodenas reenactment group, the leading experts in early Anglo-Saxon and Vendel culture reenactment and archaeology, frequently and actively make announcements disavowing extremism and racism. (31/?)
Their group is targeted constantly by the alt-right and others trying to co-opt Anglo-Saxon or Vendel culture for British political movements. But their group makes it very, very clear they in no way want any part of that, and what they educate people on oft contradicts... (32/?)
Those far-right narratives directly, because it's all directly in cooperation with the leading academics in the Anglo-Saxon field. On the other hand, however, Roman reenactment in Eastern Europe seems to be EXTREMELY problematic. (33/?)
I am not going to name names purely because it will draw undue attention and drama to myself. However, many Roman Reenactors coming out of Eastern Europe in particular are alt-right or far-right and are extremely nationalistic, sometimes with white supremacist narratives. (34/?)
Their brand of nationalism often pollutes what they teach and represent as reenactors and reconstructors of the past. One can talk about the "British School" and "Italian School" of historical reconstruction (that's a whole other thing), but one can also arguably talk (35/?)
about a "Balkans school" or even a "Post-Soviet state" school, dominated by strange brands of ethno-nationalism. The same kind that intertwines with the strange and bunk scholarship we see come out of these regions. (36/?)
So, to conclude this part of my rant, yes, there are elements of U.S. and European groups that have blatant white supremacist or Imperialist/Colonialist or otherwise ethnonationalistic views. A lot of people are sometimes blind to it, in the exact same way (37/?)
Many white, suburban Americans are unwittingly blind to being racist or supporting institutionalized racism (like I used to be myself). Many of these people just need education and a deconstruction of what has created their worldviews. Many are too far gone. (38/?)
However, to begin my next point, reenactment has moved *with* scholarship and academia over the past 40 or 50 odd years. As Classics scholarship and academia has started to deconstruct its problems, reenactors have too. This is due to broader social movements. (39/?)
The world of Academia cannot simply sit by and just say Reenactors are heavily motivated by white supremacy and imperialist ideologies without being hypocrites. Because as we all know from recent events, Academia, particularly Classics, has these same problems. (40/?)
Both Academia and Reenactment are modernizing and "decolonizing" due to broad social pressure and broad social changes. They can both move slower or faster than the general scope of these changes, depending on leadership and other factors. (41/?)
The direction modern reenactment groups are going, however, seems to generally be keeping pace with Academics in becoming more inclusive and deconstructing old racist or colonialist views of the past. And this brings me back around to motivations. (42/?)
I think it's important we talk about and take a look at why people of color, or women, or LGBTQIA+ people have a hard time wanting to become classicists or Roman reenactors, and how Roman reenactment might be the avenue to fix that problem. (43/?)
Now obviously, that's a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY complex problem caused by everything from K-12 education to economics to blatant racism or biased institutional systems or all sorts of other things. (44/?)
However I think it's pretty clear that all of those factors come together to create one narrative minorities receive. That it's simply "not part of our history." Obviously, as a white male American, I can't be sure about this, and maybe this is purely an anecdotal bias. (45/?)
So obviously, if anything I've said here (or anywhere else is wrong), feel free to correct me and engage me in discussion - I'm always open to learning and hearing correct and educated views and facts. (46/?)
But from my perspective, this seems to be a barrier to greater inclusivity in classics and reenactment. It's a "marketing problem." Obviously many are working to fix this, but I think reenactment can directly be that vehicle. (47/?)
As others have pointed out - a lack of visual representation of people who were a part of these cultures is a big issue. The Roman Empire was a mediterranean civilization, but how many Tunisians do Roman reenactment? How many Turks do Byzantine? (48/?)
The community has always followed the same traditional "western civilization" narrative (which disavows half of Roman history itself) that Academia has, so it has from the beginning admittedly given itself in an exclusive portrayal of Roman history as "Western" history. (49/?)
Academia and reenactment also both have a financial barrier. But starting Roman reenactment is, fundamentally, a fraction of the cost of a classics PhD. Combine that with the fact many groups have the tools already to get people past that barrier by loaning equipment. (50/?)
Reenactment is a visual, interactive, and hands-on representation in a way that a text book or even a history channel program is not. Putting reenactors on a history channel program, however, can have a massive impact on the public view. (51/?)
This gives people a much more personal connection to history, to "Classics", in a way that being in a classroom or watching a documentary does not. It means it can be a vessel to draw in previously excluded groups. Then you platform the top-of-the-line portrayals. (52/?)
An audience directly seeing and interacting with reenactors who have a much better representative cross section of classical civilization (Persia, China, Greece, Carthage, Rome, etc.) will break down those barriers faster than any federal grant program ever can. (53/54).
If any academics or reenactors or sociologists or whoever have stuff to add (or correct), I'd like to hear your views.

But fundamentally, if the original rumor is true, dissociating academia from Roman reenactment I think is the opposite of the solution. (54/54)

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More from @EvanSchultheis

25 Jan
I really cannot believe I have to keep repeating this because people apparently know nothing about the KOTOR IP.

A "Knights of the Old Republic" game cannot be developed by any company other than Bioware without revoking the KOTOR IP from Bioware.

#StarWars #kotor #SWTOR
"Knights of the Old Republic" is its own IP that was transferred from Bioware to Obsidian in 2004 and then from Obsidian back to Bioware in 2006/2007 to start development of SWTOR. Bioware Austin, which is still making "The Old Republic" content, is still the holder of that IP.
These rumors are wrong, and you can prove it solely for that reason. Unless Lucasfilm shuts down SWTOR (which has not happened and is not expected to happen for at least 2 more years) and revokes the KOTOR IP, the only company that can make a KOTOR game is Bioware.
Read 4 tweets
11 Jan
Alright, I just finished "Light of the Jedi" by Charles Soule, and I have some thoughts on it, both as a scientist, historian, and Star Wars fan. I'm mostly coming at this from an Old Republic fan viewpoint.

The first thing I want to look at is the tone, because anything else is really nitpicky and the fundamental themes of the story are really the main basis for comparison. So I'm looking at this from a few angles, the big one being it claiming to be a "Star Wars Arthurian Romance."
For those that know anything about the actual Arthurian Romances, they fundamentally focus on diverging from Arthur as the main character, which one can conceptually argue this book does, diverging from the Skywalkers as a main character and focusing on other Jedi.
Read 41 tweets
27 Nov 20
This one was also one I advised on. The only real inaccuracy, in this piece is the decoration on the tunic (which I recommended they either decorate the sleeves and tighten the cuffs or remove all decoration.) Every other piece here is datable to the 5th century.
The sword fittings are all from Nydam 1d, and although hourglass hilts (Behmer Type-V) are primarily a North/Baltic sea phenomenon, we have plenty of evidence for extensive recruitment from this region under Aetius.
The strap end is an Amphora-type, which are pretty common in the 4th-5th centuries. Bohme has a specific typology breaking them down, with the one here being based on an example from Lauriacum.
Read 9 tweets
13 Nov 20
Greetings all and welcome to part 3: "But I don't want any of that, I'd rather... I'd rather, just, sing!"

Part 1:

Part 2: Image
And the reference, for those who don't get it:
Read 47 tweets
12 Nov 20
Hello everyone and welcome to this part 2 of "what is wrong with this image."

For context, here is part 1, which will be important to the rest of this:

Threadreader for those who want it:
threadreaderapp.com/thread/1326642… Image
We're gonna start with where we left off with what @mikeaztec28 mentioned: should Aetius even be in standard military attire?

This is the Diptych of Flavius Constantius Felix, 428 AD. Felix held the same title as Aetius: Magister Utriusque Militae, until he was executed. Image
Felix's dress is a lot different in this image from Aetius' on the Monza Cathedral Diptych. It's bureaucratic in form, consisting of a Stikharion (a Delmatikion with two vertical clavii) over a Kamision with a consular Trabea worn over it. Image
Read 23 tweets
11 Nov 20
So first of all, congrats to Dr. Wijnendaele on his paper. But that's not why I'm retweeting this.

I'm retweeting this because art like this is why reenactors are important. Because things like reconstructing clothing is actually important but almost nobody pays attention to it.
And this piece is a great example of how lack of research affects pop culture depictions (e.g. Hollywood) which then in turn colors the knowledge and perceptions of artists, which then goes back and affects the ones doing historical pieces.
So let's take the deep dive: What is wrong with this image?

First for context, this is an image of the assassination of Aetius in 454 AD. the three figures are Aetius, the eunuch Heraclius, and Valentinian III.

I guess we'll work through the figures left to right.
Read 33 tweets

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