The Galatian Suicide


This is one of my favorite sculptures from the Hellenistic period, called “The Galatian Suicide.” It depicts a Galatian warrior hopelessly gazing back at the advancing army, only moments after taking the life of his wife and seconds before he takes his own. Apparently death was welcomed over what was to come. Though it was originally commissioned by the King of Pergamum in the second century BCE after his defeat of the Galatian army, Rome adopted it, along with many other statues depicting the humiliation of the Galatians/Gauls/Celts, and dispersed them throughout the empire. This highlights an imperial maxim: every empire needs a radical Other to dominate, subjugate, and humiliate. Just as the Greeks had the Persians, so the Romans had the Galatians. This binary ‘good vs evil’ schema integrated perfectly into the ancient philosophical school that claimed ” the majority of things in the world are in pairs” (per Aristotle).

Superior / Inferior
Man / Woman
Great / Small
Natural / Unnatural
Civilized / Barbarian
Lawful / Lawless
Light / Darkness
Straight / Crooked
Powerful / Weak

The Romans found themselves securely fastened on the left column (Superior, manly, lawful, civilized, etc.) and located their enemies, the Galatians, on the right (inferior, womanly, lawless, unnatural, barbarian, etc.). The perverted system of binary relationships allowed the Romans to morally map the world into an Us vs Them schema, where Rome’s peace and wellbeing (pax romana) was contingent upon the vanquishing of the Other.

Who are the vanquished ones in the American Empire? America’s political, military, and economic stability depend on the subjugation of which nation, people group, or class?
Who are the Galatian suicides of the 21st Century?


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