What role did racism and tribalism play in Ancient Greece?
This essay sets out to investigate the types and extent of racism and tribalism that existed in Ancient Greece. This is a topic over which there has been considerable debate. Most modern scholarship converges around the belief that racism in its modern form, which is largely concerned with biological, physiological and physiognomic factors, did not have much of a place in Ancient Greece. By way of method, this essay considers some of the main arguments put forward by scholars alongside several of the most important contemporary sources, such as Plato’s ‘Republic’ and ‘Laws’, and Aristotle’s ‘Politics’. The findings of this essay suggest that racism in the modern sense did not exist in Ancient Greece, but that there was rampant cultural discrimination. It has also emerges that analyses of this topic could benefit from clearer use of terminology; the words ‘race’ and ‘racism’ in particular cause ambiguity. Keywords: racism, tribalism, Ancient Greece, discrimination
This essay will consider the role that racism and tribalism (which will be used synonymously henceforth) played in Ancient Greece. A rigid definition of these terms will not be attempted, as differences in this respect deserve in-depth analysis. The first section will attempt to refute the notion that the ancient Greeks were ‘racist’ in the modern sense of the word. There will then be a consideration of some alternative propositions, such as Isaac’s (2004) ‘proto-racism’ thesis, and Bakaoukas’s (2005) conception of ‘cultural racism’. It will be argued in summation that racism did not play an important role in Ancient Greece, but that discrimination of other kinds was rife. Modern notions of racism, namely that there are ‘number of basic human types, each embodying a package of fixed physical and mental traits’, only began to develop in the 17th and 18th centuries, and possibly later (Biddiss 1979: 11)....
References: Bakaoukas, M (2005) Tribalism & Racism among the Ancient Greeks: a Weberian Perspective, Anistoriton Journal, vol. 9, section E0501 http://www.anistor.gr/english/enback/AGRacism.pdf [Accessed 21/12/2013]
Beard, M (2007) A Don’s Life: Racism in Greece and Rome, The Times Literary Supplement http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/2007/01/racism_in_greec.html [Accessed 20/12/2013]
Biddiss, M (1979) Images of Race, Leicester University Press
Bulmer, M. and Solomos, J. (ed.) (1999) Racism, Oxford University Press
Champion, C (2005) The Invention of Racism in Antiquity by Isaac, B. Reviewed in The International History Review 27, Scholia Reviews, 14 pp. 85-89
Green, P. (1992) Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B. C: A Historical Biography, University of California Press
Isaac, B. (2004) The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity
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