Greeks & Barbarians

Under Construction

greek-persian duel

Greek fighting a Persian, Attic Red-Figure kylix, ca. 5th c.


This course will explore the centuries-long encounter between the Greeks and various non-Greeks, or “barbarians.” In particular, we will examine how the Greeks perceived other societies, how they were influenced by them, and how the Greeks portrayed them in their own literature. We begin with the influence of Near Eastern societies on early Greek religion, art, literature, and culture, and then turn to Herodotus and the Greek clash with the Persian Empire. Next we turn to the Greek encounter with Egypt, and the fascination and obsession Egyptian civilization held for many Greek intellectuals. From there we will look at the conquests of Alexander and the Hellenistic Period, when the Greeks found themselves as conquerers and overlords of their near eastern neighbors. We will conclude our examination of the Greeks and the East by examining the romantic and exotic elements of the East in Greek fiction. Finally, we will turn the Greek encounter with the Romans, beginning with conquests of the mid-2nd century and the historian Polybius, and concluding with some of the Greek intellectuals of the second sophistic. 


Oral Reports: Each student will be responsible for giving an oral report on an assigned scholarly article or book chapter. These reports should last for about ten minutes, and should answer the following questions: 
  What is the author’s argument/thesis? 
  What ancient evidence does the author employ? 
  What methodology does the author use? 
  What previous scholarship does the author use? 
  What previous scholarship does the author rebut? 
  What are the larger implications of the author’s scholarship for understanding the relations of Greeks and Barbarians? 

  And most importantly, 
  What do you think? 

Papers: Three short (5-6 pages) papers on topics of the student’s choice but related to the topics and readings of the previous weeks, due [dates to be determined]. Before writing each paper, you must meet with me to discuss your topic and bibliography. Online sources such Wikipedia are not acceptable for these papers, but online versions of printed sources, such as the journals on JStor, are. Please consult the following pages for more information: 
Bibliographic resources for ancient history 
Formatting guidelines 
Grading policies

Participation: For the richest class experience everyone needs to contribute even on days when you are not presenting an oral report. Discussion questions will be made available via the course page for most classes, but feel free to raise other issues related to the evidence and topics of the day. I will try and let the discussions develop on their own, but if you find you are having trouble taking part please come and see me. 

Exams: There will be an in-class midterm and a final exam. Both will consist of essay questions. A study guide will be available for the final. 

Reading Materials 

Required Texts: 
Hadas, Moses. Heliodorus: An Ethiopian Romance. ISBN 0812216725
Sélincourt, Aubrey de, trans. Herodotus: The Histories. ISBN 9780140449082
Turner, Paul, trans. Longus: Daphnis and Chloe. ISBN 0140440593. 

Other texts will be made available online via the syllabus below or through handouts. 

Preliminary Syllabus

Week 1: Bronze Age Encounters 
  Eastern influences on Minoan and Mycenaean society and culture 
  Trade and commerce in the Bronze Age 

Week 2: The Near East and Archaic Greece 
  Trade and Colonization in the Near East 
  The Alphabet 
  The Orientalizing Period 
  Eastern Influence on Greek Religion - Hesiod 

Week 3: The Clash of East and West Part 1 
  Herodotus and the beginning of history 
  Early Greek views of Persia and Bablyon 
  Early Ethnography - how do the Greeks attempt to understand “barbarians” 

Week 4: The Clash of East and West Part 2 
  Eastern ways of warfare 
  The Persian Wars 
  Barbarians on stage - Aeschylus’ Persians 

Week 5: Egypt and Greece Part 1 
  Herodotus in Egypt - Egyptomania? 
  The Greeks in Egypt - Naucratis 
  Egyptian influences on Early Greece 

Week 6: Egypt and Greece Part 2 / Paper 1 due 
  Egypt as the cradle of civilization 
  Egypt as the classical “other” 
  Greek Philosophers and Egypt - Plato’s Timaeus, Isocrates’ Busiris, etc. 

Week 7: Clash of East and West Redux 
  Pan-hellenic crusade? 
  Alexander the Great and the culture and beliefs of Persia 
  Unity of Mankind??? 

Week 8: The Ptolemies in Egypt 
  Ruling a conquered people - the Enteuxis Papyri, other documents from Egypt 
  The Ptolemies and Egyptian religion - assimilation and propaganda 
  Egypt as classical “other” revisited 
  Egyptian resistance to the Greeks 

Week 9: The Seleucids in Asia 
  Ruling a conquered people 
  Spreading Greek culture to the natives 
  Barbarian resistance to the Greeks 

Week 10: Hellenistic history and Ethnography 
  Barbarian History - fragments from Manetho, Berossus 
  Ethnography - Excerpts from Diodorus 1, 2, 3 

Week 11: The Romance and Exoticism of the Barbarians / Paper 2 due 
  Excerpts from Heliodorus, An Ethiopian Tale 
  The Barbarian in Art from the Hellenistic period on 

Week 12: The western Barbarians: Greeks and Rome 
  Rome: Barbarians, or? 
  Polybius and presenting Rome to the Greeks 
  Greek culture and its impact on Rome - Plutarch’s Life of Cato the Elder 
  Greek art and the Romans 

Week 13: Graeca Capta: Greeks under the Roman Empire Part 1 
  The Roman impact on Greece - Hadrian, etc. 
  Excerpts from Dio Chrysostom, Aelius Aristides on Rome 

Week 14: Graeca Capta: Greeks under the Roman Empire Part 2 / Paper 3 due 
  Longing for the past: Daphnis and Chloe and the Greek Novel