The Crowd and the Self in the Ancient Mediterranean by Arkady Kovelman

The Video is about the Crowd and the Self in the Ancient Mediterranean by Arkady Kovelman as part of a series of lectures by David N. Freedman who was a lecturer at the University of Michigan. Kovelman talks about the culture of masses as a primitive culture that led to the triumphant ending of the Roman Empire. The culture disappeared from the west after the First World War. Kovelman talks about the birth of the crowd. Change in the mind/change of the mentality of the common hero led to the emergence of the crowd (the audience). The change of mind of traditional people in one of the Roman Provinces in Egypt was caused by the birth of the crowd. The ordinary fork became the crowd receptive of popular teachings. These people were the recipients of the popular people including preachers. Kovelman (2014) suggests that people would flock into rooms of dances and other presentations. People started to flock into places where celebrity people presented. This led to vulgarization.

Kovelman suggests that the crowds that followed Jesus in the New Testament followed Jesus because if that would not have happened, Jesus would not have performed miracles. The crowd in new statement was numbered. It is a real crowd. However, in the Roman Empire and the Appolos, the crowd was not numbered, so it was not real crowd. According to Kovelman (2014), the crowd broke everything religious and sacred, and caused pornography, scatology and other non-sacred and non-religious issues. The birth of the audience, the birth of the crowd caused vulgar behaviours such as sexual immorality. The lecture suggests that when the crowd emerges, an individual loses all sense of self. An individual’s way of thinking changes, and he/she follows the whim of the crowd.

This lecture session was indeed a good way of explaining the birth and the effect of the crowd. The author believes that the birth of the crowd or the audience began in the Mediterranean, specifically in the Roman Provinces of Egypt. He succinctly differentiates the difference between the real crowd in the New Testament and the crowd that emerged in the Roman society. He makes it clear that the crowd that followed popular people and changed their way of thinking would cause vulgar behaviours due to the influence of the entire mentality of the individual. This perspective is in line with even earlier findings by other scholars and theorists. Le Bon (1897) suggested that once an individual is in a crowd, he is stripped of cognition and personal responsibility. The members of a crowd become empowered and become submissive to their animal instincts. As a result, behaviour spreads across the crowd in a process called contagion.

Kovelman draws his views from various philosophical and religious sources which all point to the same theme – change in the mentality of people as a result of the crowd. I think that to say self is influenced by crowds is true, because in every society people do things in a group of people that they could not have done on their own self. A popular person addressing a crowd is likely to influence the crowd, and every member of the crowd will end up behaving in the way of the crowd (Clark, 2006). The lecture gives me an opportunity to understand the effects of a crowd, and how self can be influenced by the audience.

I have learnt that the influence of the crowd can cause change to a person’s mentality. I have also understood the essence of losing one’s own self. Like the ancient Romans of the Mediterranean, every society can be changed by the populace, the crowd, and the audience. Collectivity is indeed a killer of self and morality.



Clark, A. C. (2006). Asconius: Commentaries on Speeches of Cicero. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kovelman, A. (2014). David N. Freedman Lecture. Accessed January 31, 2014 from   

Le Bon, G. 1897. The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. New York: The MacMillan

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