Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: How Rome Did Immigration

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: How Rome Did Immigration

Article excerpt

Last week it was suggested that the questions asked of London mayor Sadiq Khan had nothing to do with racism, but more with multiculturalism. As St Ambrose could have said, 'If you live in Rome, live in the Roman way; if elsewhere, as they do there.'

Until the large-scale irruption of Germanic tribes fleeing the Huns in the 4th century AD, eventually ending the Roman empire in the West, Romans had been fairly relaxed about immigrants, temporary or permanent. Many came under compulsion: hostages, prisoners of war and slaves, this last group keeping wages low across a range of service industries. Rome itself actively welcomed foreign doctors and teachers, while lawyers, diplomats, the power-hungry and soldiers smelled advantage there.

Craftsmen, from sculptors to makers of luxury goods, flooded in, as did commodity traders (grain, wine, oil, etc). Foreign actors, dancers and sportsmen (e. …

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