Rethinking the Other in Antiquity

Princeton University Press
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Prevalent among classicists today is the notion that Greeks, Romans, and Jews enhanced their own self-perception by contrasting themselves with the so-called Other--Egyptians, Phoenicians, Ethiopians, Gauls, and other foreigners--frequently through hostile stereotypes, distortions, and caricature. In this provocative book, Erich Gruen demonstrates how the ancients found connections rather than contrasts, how they expressed admiration for the achievements and principles of other societies, and how they discerned--and even invented--kinship relations and shared roots with diverse peoples.

Gruen shows how the ancients incorporated the traditions of foreign nations, and imagined blood ties and associations with distant cultures through myth, legend, and fictive histories. He looks at a host of creative tales, including those describing the founding of Thebes by the Phoenician Cadmus, Rome's embrace of Trojan and Arcadian origins, and Abraham as ancestor to the Spartans. Gruen gives in-depth readings of major texts by Aeschylus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and others, in addition to portions of the Hebrew Bible, revealing how they offer richly nuanced portraits of the alien that go well beyond stereotypes and caricature.

Providing extraordinary insight into the ancient world, this controversial book explores how ancient attitudes toward the Other often expressed mutuality and connection, and not simply contrast and alienation.

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About the author

Erich S. Gruen is the Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics (emeritus) at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans and Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 1, 2010
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9781400836550
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / General
History / Historiography
History / Social History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Erich S. Gruen
The interaction of Jew and Greek in antiquity intrigues the imagination. Both civilizations boasted great traditions, their roots stretching back to legendary ancestors and divine sanction. In the wake of Alexander the Great's triumphant successes, Greeks and Macedonians came as conquerors and settled as ruling classes in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. Hellenic culture, the culture of the ascendant classes in many of the cities of the Near East, held widespread attraction and appeal. Jews were certainly not immune. In this thoroughly researched, lucidly written work, Erich Gruen draws on a wide variety of literary and historical texts of the period to explore a central question: How did the Jews accommodate themselves to the larger cultural world of the Mediterranean while at the same time reasserting the character of their own heritage within it? Erich Gruen's work highlights Jewish creativity, ingenuity, and inventiveness, as the Jews engaged actively with the traditions of Hellas, adapting genres and transforming legends to articulate their own legacy in modes congenial to a Hellenistic setting. Drawing on a diverse array of texts composed in Greek by Jews over a broad period of time, Gruen explores works by Jewish historians, epic poets, tragic dramatists, writers of romance and novels, exegetes, philosophers, apocalyptic visionaries, and composers of fanciful fables—not to mention pseudonymous forgers and fabricators. In these works, Jewish writers reinvented their own past, offering us the best insights into Jewish self-perception in that era.
Benjamin Isaac
There was racism in the ancient world, after all. This groundbreaking book refutes the common belief that the ancient Greeks and Romans harbored "ethnic and cultural," but not racial, prejudice. It does so by comprehensively tracing the intellectual origins of racism back to classical antiquity. Benjamin Isaac's systematic analysis of ancient social prejudices and stereotypes reveals that some of those represent prototypes of racism--or proto-racism--which in turn inspired the early modern authors who developed the more familiar racist ideas. He considers the literature from classical Greece to late antiquity in a quest for the various forms of the discriminatory stereotypes and social hatred that have played such an important role in recent history and continue to do so in modern society.

Magisterial in scope and scholarship, and engagingly written, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity further suggests that an understanding of ancient attitudes toward other peoples sheds light not only on Greco-Roman imperialism and the ideology of enslavement (and the concomitant integration or non-integration) of foreigners in those societies, but also on the disintegration of the Roman Empire and on more recent imperialism as well. The first part considers general themes in the history of discrimination; the second provides a detailed analysis of proto-racism and prejudices toward particular groups of foreigners in the Greco-Roman world. The last chapter concerns Jews in the ancient world, thus placing anti-Semitism in a broader context.

James E. Crisp
In Sleuthing the Alamo, historian James E. Crisp draws back the curtain on years of mythmaking to reveal some surprising truths about the Texas Revolution--truths often obscured by both racism and "political correctness," as history has been hijacked by combatants in the culture wars of the past two centuries. Beginning with a very personal prologue recalling both the pride and the prejudices that he encountered in the Texas of his youth, Crisp traces his path to the discovery of documents distorted, censored, and ignored--documents which reveal long-silenced voices from the Texan past. In each of four chapters focusing on specific documentary "finds," Crisp uncovers the clues that led to these archival discoveries. Along the way, the cast of characters expands to include: a prominent historian who tried to walk away from his first book; an unlikely teenaged "speechwriter" for General Sam Houston; three eyewitnesses to the death of Davy Crockett at the Alamo; a desperate inmate of Mexico City's Inquisition Prison, whose scribbled memoir of the war in Texas is now listed in the Guiness Book of World Records; and the stealthy slasher of the most famous historical painting in Texas. In his afterword, Crisp explores the evidence behind the mythic "Yellow Rose of Texas" and examines some of the powerful forces at work in silencing the very voices from the past that we most need to hear today. Here then is an engaging first-person account of historical detective work, illuminating the methods of the serious historian--and the motives of those who prefer glorious myth to unflattering truth.
Erich S. Gruen
The interaction of Jew and Greek in antiquity intrigues the imagination. Both civilizations boasted great traditions, their roots stretching back to legendary ancestors and divine sanction. In the wake of Alexander the Great's triumphant successes, Greeks and Macedonians came as conquerors and settled as ruling classes in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. Hellenic culture, the culture of the ascendant classes in many of the cities of the Near East, held widespread attraction and appeal. Jews were certainly not immune. In this thoroughly researched, lucidly written work, Erich Gruen draws on a wide variety of literary and historical texts of the period to explore a central question: How did the Jews accommodate themselves to the larger cultural world of the Mediterranean while at the same time reasserting the character of their own heritage within it? Erich Gruen's work highlights Jewish creativity, ingenuity, and inventiveness, as the Jews engaged actively with the traditions of Hellas, adapting genres and transforming legends to articulate their own legacy in modes congenial to a Hellenistic setting. Drawing on a diverse array of texts composed in Greek by Jews over a broad period of time, Gruen explores works by Jewish historians, epic poets, tragic dramatists, writers of romance and novels, exegetes, philosophers, apocalyptic visionaries, and composers of fanciful fables—not to mention pseudonymous forgers and fabricators. In these works, Jewish writers reinvented their own past, offering us the best insights into Jewish self-perception in that era.
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