Strange Creatures: Anthropology in Antiquity
Bloomsbury Academic, 2006 M06 8 - 185 pages
Traces the anthropological and ethnological theories of the ancient Greeks and Romans from the creation of the world to the invention of the Americas. In ancient Greek and Roman thinking, whether the world is flat or spherical it will have imaginary boundaries and liminal areas where the norms of nature and culture are thought to break down. Analogies are constantly drawn between 'primitive' peoples at the 'edges of the world' and 'primitive' people in prehistory. Distance, both in time and space, leads to difference, and the idea that strange things happen out there or happened back then dominates Greek and Roman thinking on other cultures. This book examines ancient ideas of the creation of the world, the beginnings of life and origin of species, humans and animals, utopias and blessed islands, and 'barbarian' cultures beyond the Mediterranean world, before going on to trace the influence of ancient anthropological and ethnological thought on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.We begin with primordial chaos and end with the invention of the Americas, taking in on the way many strange creatures, among them the noble or ignoble savages of Britain, Gaul and Ireland, the Man-faced Ox-creatures of Empedocles, the Dog-heads of India, the Amazons, Centaurs, Columbus, and the Tupinamba of Brazil.
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Since we deemed the parts of Asia lying to the North worthy of description , we do
not think it unseemly to record what is said about the Hyperboreans . For those
who have written about historical legends , Hecataeus and certain others say ...
the rest of Asia still hold good in Scythia , is ridiculed , and we see Darius '
expedition from the Scythians ' point of view ; an arrogant and hopelessly foolish
attempt to impose civilised Persian values on the Scythians . 12 So the Scythians
ownership of this wealth . And so the heavenly and mundane realms unite in
Paradise . Hugo of Saint Victor makes this clear : Asia has many provinces and
regions whose names and location I shall set forth briefly , beginning with
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The Origin of Life and the Origin of Species
Ancient Theories of Prehistory and the Evolution of Society
Blessed Islands and Blessed Lands
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