Keeping Just One Cloak
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Categories: Ancient, Modern, Not an expert

Keeping Just One Cloak

An oil painting of men, women, and children with wooden packs and small bundles of goods making their way across a pass.
In 1837, the remaining Protestants living in the Zillerthal in eastern Tyrol were ordered to convert to Catholicism or leave. Mathias Schmid (d. 1923), “Vertreibung der Zillerthaler Protestanten im Jahr 1837/Letzer Blick in die Heimat,” 1877. In Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck; catalogue number Gem 3718. Photo by author, October 2015.

Xenophon, Hellenica 2.3.6 (tr. Rex Warner)

The people of Samos were now completely blockaded by Lysander. At first they refused to come to terms, but when Lysander was on the point of a general assault, they came to an agreement that every free man should be allowed to leave, keeping just one cloak; everything else was to be surrendered. On those conditions they left the city.

Gloss: Agreements like this were ubiquitous in the ancient world. The attackers knew that some of them would die if they stormed the city, and that keeping inhabitants who did not want to live under the new regime could be dangerous, so letting the defenders abandon their property and leave had advantages. The defenders knew that if they fought to keep the attackers out and failed most of them would be killed or maimed or enslaved. Because large garments usually cost about a month’s income for an average family, just how many the exiles could bring with them was a deathly serious point of negotiation; in another passage of Xenophon a Persian governor shows his liberality by giving shipwrecked sailors not one garment apiece but two. For people born in Canada, exile has become a dim memory since the age when Ottawa struggled with the local Metis and First Nations to control the Canadian prairies, and the world where a single garment was an expensive piece of property is the stuff of half-remembered songs.

Eliza Griswold, “Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?”, The New York Times, 22 July 2015 (link) c/o The Scholar’s Stage

No one came for Diyaa and Rana. [The rebels] hadn’t bothered to search inside their ramshackle house. Then, on the evening of Aug. 21, word spread that [the rebel movement] was willing to offer what they call ‘‘exile and hardship’’ to the last people in Qaraqosh. They would be cast out of their homes with nothing, but at least they would survive. A kindly local mullah was going door to door with the good news. Hoping to save Diyaa and Rana, their neighbors told him where they were hiding.

Diyaa and Rana readied themselves to leave. The last residents of Qaraqosh were to report the next morning to the local medical center, to receive ‘‘checkups’’ before being deported from the Islamic State. Everyone knew the checkups were really body searches to prevent residents from taking valuables out of Qaraqosh. Before [the rebels] let residents go — if they let them go — it was very likely they would steal everything they had, as residents heard they had done elsewhere.

I hope that after my words and pictures above, this passage does not need any more glossing.

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