This work considers what the ancient Greeks thought of foreigners and their religions, cultures and politics, and what these beliefs and opinions revealed 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 n-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. As such the book shows the complexity of Greek representations of foreigners - or barbarians , as the Greeks called them - and how these changed over time. The book first looks 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 19th-century scholarship, in Byzantine and modern Greece, and in western intellectual history.
Thomas Harrison is Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Liverpool.