Greeks and Barbarians
How did the Greeks view foreign peoples? This book considers what the Greeks thought of foreigners and their religions, cultures and politics, and what these beliefs and opinions reveal about the Greeks.
The Greeks were occasionally intrigued by the customs and religions of the many different peoples with whom they came into contact; more often they were disdainful or dismissive, tending to regard non-Greeks as at best inferior, and at worst as candidates for conquest and enslavement. Facing up to this less attractive aspect of the classical tradition is vital, Thomas Harrison argues, to seeing both what the ancient world was really like and the full nature of its legacy in the modern. In this book he brings together outstanding European and American scholarship to show the difference and complexity of Greek representations of foreign peoples - or barbarians, as the Greeks called them - and how these representations changed over time.
The book looks first at the main sources: the Histories of Herodotus, Greek tragedy, and Athenian art. Part II examines how the Greeks distinguished themselves from barbarians through myth, language and religion. Part III considers Greek representations of two different barbarian peoples - the allegedly decadent and effeminate Persians, and the Egyptians, proverbial for their religious wisdom. In part IV three chapters trace the development of the Greek-barbarian antithesis in later history: in nineteenth-century scholarship, in Byzantine and modern Greece, and in western intellectual history.
Of the twelve chapters six are published in English for the first time. The editor has provided an extensive general introduction, as well as introductions to the parts. The book contains two maps, a guide to further reading and an intellectual chronology. All passages of ancient languages are translated, and difficult terms are explained.
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In current speech a dialect is now seen as a form of language which can be given a specific geographic or social definition . By contrast a language is seen as standardized and spoken over a wider area or by a larger group of people .
Finally , and perhaps most importantly , it has not been realized how crucial from a linguistic point of view were the decisions taken by the various oracles about the language they used in their responses . Delphi's choice of the epic ...
Barbaric languages , at a popular level , are compared to the twittering of birds ; Greek dialects are not similarly treated . ... The implication is that the Greeks have a ( real ) language in contrast with the barbarians who do not .
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General Introduction I
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