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Recruitment of low-class people in populist movements

Reader comment on item: Military Slaves: A Uniquely Muslim Phenomenon

Submitted by Orestis Lindermayer (Greece), Jun 19, 2003 at 06:15

Military slavery is a powerful study. It shows that low-class people can be and are often recruited in socioreligious movements, like the endless revitalizations of Islam over the past 1 500 years. It is paradoxical and fascinating that such people internalize their slavery to such an extent that they become the most fervent representatives of the ideology which has enslaved them. The expansion of Islam in new territories over the centuries is the most dramatic case.

However, Christianity has played - and continues to play - a similar role. I have in mind the Greek world, which was enslaved by the Romans during the last two centuries BC. Then, in the 4th century AD, the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion. The Romans forced the Greeks to convert to Christianity under penalty of death. Gradually, these Grecophone or Greek-speaking Christians demonized 'Greekness' and became the most fervent representatives of both Christianity and Romanness! It is only after the invasion of the European Enlightenment in the 19th century that the Grecophone 'Romeoi' re-adopted the 'Greek' self-identification (which, however, remains ambivalent here).

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