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Ancient Conspiracy Theories

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Ancient Conspiracy Theories

"A moral panic in classical Athens. Plots at the court of Alexander the Great. A mysterious cult from the east. This video explores three of the classical world's most notorious conspiracy theories." from video introduction

What Today’s Conspiracy Theories Have in Common with Ancient Ones

From the Knights Templar to the moon landings and QAnon, conspiracy theories are nothing new. Two USC Dornsife experts offer a look at what’s behind the original “fake news.”

hey’ve garnered considerable media coverage of late, but conspiracy theories are nothing new: they’ve grabbed people’s attention throughout history.

Residents of ancient Rome spread conspiracy theories by scratching graffiti on the city walls. In 1307, medieval French King Philip the Fair used them to sink the powerful Knights Templar by unleashing a storm of salacious — and untrue — rumors.

‘Conspiracies: Then and Now’

In the 20th century, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Apollo moon landings gave rise to numerous conspiracy theories.

Today we grapple with ones such as QAnon, the conspiracy theory spreading on social media that many fear is undermining democracy.

Two USC scholars see many parallels between medieval conspiracy theories and those that flourish online today. Professor Jay Rubenstein, the director of the Center for the Premodern World at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts And Sciences, and Professor Bob Shrum, director of USC Dornsife’s Center for the Political Future, note that some recent conspiracists have adopted concepts from the Middle Ages to advance their agenda.

For example, medieval prophets believed that a Jewish-born Antichrist would seize control of world events through nefarious means, much like QAnon believers today imagine Hungarian-born American billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros is manipulating world events.

Below, the two experts answer five questions about conspiracy theories..." from the article: What Today’s Conspiracy Theories Have in Common with Ancient Ones


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