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Example 1: Es sei ja doch die Heimat Staals ; er solle nicht der unschuldigen Stadt zur Last legen , was der Neid und das Böotentum einiger weniger ihm zugefügt . Es zieme sich nicht , alle um der Schuld weniger ...

(Source: Johann Kälin in "Franz Guillimann: ein Freiburger Historiker von der Wende des XVI. Jahrhunderts" (1904), p. 83 via google books )

Example 2: ... zumal die Kreuzotter , kündigt in den Offenbarungen ihres Seelenlebens die gleiche Verschwommenheit , dasselbe Aufgehen des Individuums im gemeinsamen Böotenthum an.

(Source: H. E. Linck in "Die Schlangen Deutschlands" (1855), p. 121 via google books )

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Boeotia is one of the ancient regions of Greece, north of Attica.

To ancient Athens, the Boeothians were considered the epitome of "rural, simple, crude and ignorant, even stupid"

Böotentum and "Böotisierung" (an expression used by Feuchtwanger in "Erfolg") thus means exactly that: Being stupid or taken over by stupids. The expression was only used in elevated writing (i.e. by people literate in ancient Greek) in the 18th and 19th century.

The same designation is still used today in French where béotien means philistine, primitive or uneducated.

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  • More generally, "beotia" is the Greek equivalent of the "plebes" in the Latin world. Or at least, it has become so in figurative modern language. As in : "You cannot trust the Beotia, it is an incultured crowd" means exactly the same as "You cannot trust the plebes" or... "you cannot trust the rabble " Nov 25 '21 at 10:19
  • @jeancallisti I wouldn't really say so. Plebs was a social status (originally: not of noble descent). boetia is not referring to social descent, but rather regional.
    – tofro
    Nov 25 '21 at 10:24
  • I would like to draw your attention to the sentence Or at least, it has become so in figurative modern language Nov 25 '21 at 10:35
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It's a bit of guesswork, but the Greek region of Boeotia comes to mind. According to the German Wikipedia page for Boiotien, the adjective "böotisch" was used derogatory to mean something like uneducated, untaught, coarse, uncouth, boorish.

In der griechischen Antike bedeutete (vor allem bei den Athenern) „boiotisch“ so viel wie "ländlich grob, ungebildet"; die Griechen nannten die Boiotier bisweilen gar "boiotische Schweine". Mit dieser Wortbedeutung ging "böotisch" auch in die gehobene deutsche Sprache des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts ein, etwa bei Lion Feuchtwanger, der die Figur Paul Hessreiter in seinem Roman Erfolg von der "Böotisierung" Münchens sprechen lässt.

Translation by me:

In ancient Greece, "boeotian" (especially used by Athenians) meant "rural uncouth, uneducated"; the Greek sometimes even called the Boeotians "boeotian pigs". With this meaning, "boeotien" found its way into the elevated German language of the 18. and 19. century, for example with Lion Feuchtwanger, who lets the character of Paul Hessreiter in his novel "Erfolg" speak about the "boeotification of Munic".

(I basically made up "boeotian" as well as "boeotification", because I can't find an existing or established version)

It would stand to reason to assume that "Böotentum" is from the same context. Judging by the quoted examples, it clearly seems to be derogatory, at least.

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To add a non-Feuchtwanger source, Brockhaus Konversationslexikon from 1894-1896, under Böotien:

Der See [Sumpfsee Kopaïs] übt einen üblen Einfluß auf das Klima des ganzen Landes aus, indem er häufig Fieber erzeugt und die Luft dumpf und schwer macht, ein Umstand, aus dem man im Altertum den Mangel an feinem Sinn und den Hang zur Schwelgerei herleitete, welche den Böotern besonders ihre Nachbarn, die Athener, zum Vorwurf machten.

Summarized: Böotentum is meaning a lack of sophistication and tendency for indulgence.

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