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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A similar idea seems also to lie behind Herodotus ' tale of the humiliation of the
Spartans by the Arcadians . There is a thread running through the various books
of Herodotus ' Histories of oriental tyrants who behave irrationally and suffer ...
Here the Arcadians function as the noble savage - foil to the tyrannical behaviour
of the Spartans , now characterised in classic oriental terms , just as the
Scythians provide the foil for Darius later in book 4 . Such noble savage lands
139 ) ; the Scythians are accused of being responsible for the invasion by their
attacks on Asia just as the Spartans accuse the Athenians ( 4 . 118 and 8 . 142 ) .
16 . See Hartog , 1988 , 173 - 5 . 17 . See Hartog , 1988 , 188 - 92 . 18 . Trans .
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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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