Rethinking the Other in Antiquity

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Choice
[Gruen] is at his best when he dissects Greco-Roman perceptions of the Jews and the Jewish reception of Greco-Roman culture and accommodation with the world of the goyim.
Chronicle Review
Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, by Erich S. Gruen, out this month from Princeton University Press, like all excellent scholarship massages the mind in useful new directions. . . . Gruen's mission . . . is to unpack the contrary story, far less told: 'that Greeks, Romans, and Jews (who provide us with almost all the relevant extant texts) had far more mixed, nuanced, and complex opinions about other peoples.' In the main text and many useful footnotes of this info-packed but never boring study, Gruen accomplishes that.
— Carlin Romano
Anthropology Review Database
Anthropologists should seriously consider Gruen's case, and it would be wonderful if this appreciation of and openness to different peoples and cultures could somehow enter into contemporary politics and culture.
— Jack David Eller
ARCTOS
Rethinking the Other is an extremely valuable departure from a scholarly viewpoint that has threatened to become ossified of late, and as such is very worthwhile to everyone involved in the study of ancient conceptions of foreignness and belonging.
— Antti Lampinen
New Republic
[T]he range of research, and the depth of thought, are extraordinary. Gruen has taken on a massively important subject, and he has brought a genuinely new perspective to the scholarly conversation.
— Emily Wilson
New Republic - Emily Wilson
[T]he range of research, and the depth of thought, are extraordinary. Gruen has taken on a massively important subject, and he has brought a genuinely new perspective to the scholarly conversation.
Chronicle Review - Carlin Romano
Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, by Erich S. Gruen, out this month from Princeton University Press, like all excellent scholarship massages the mind in useful new directions. . . . Gruen's mission . . . is to unpack the contrary story, far less told: 'that Greeks, Romans, and Jews (who provide us with almost all the relevant extant texts) had far more mixed, nuanced, and complex opinions about other peoples.' In the main text and many useful footnotes of this info-packed but never boring study, Gruen accomplishes that.
Anthropology Review Database - Jack David Eller
Anthropologists should seriously consider Gruen's case, and it would be wonderful if this appreciation of and openness to different peoples and cultures could somehow enter into contemporary politics and culture.
ARCTOS - Antti Lampinen
Rethinking the Other is an extremely valuable departure from a scholarly viewpoint that has threatened to become ossified of late, and as such is very worthwhile to everyone involved in the study of ancient conceptions of foreignness and belonging.
Journal of Roman Studies - Joseph Skinner
Erich Gruen's Rethinking the Other in Antiquity is a book that, for one reason or another, desperately needed to be written, ideally by someone possessing G.'s authoritative command of the vast array of sources indicative of ancient knowledge of, and interest in, foreign peoples. . . . The result is a provocative, wide-ranging and thoroughly engaging volume that is both beautifully produced—with copious footnotes, helpful indices and handsome book-jacket featuring a (highly apposite) janiform vase—and (very) reasonably priced. The latter is fortuitous since it will automatically become a set text for courses touching on ancient self-conception and relations with foreign peoples and mandatory reading for anyone researching these and cognate fields.
European Legacy - Eric Adler
Rethinking the Other in Antiquity amounts to a major reassessment of an important topic. In light of the voluminous evidence Gruen assembles, it seems untenable to contend that Greek, Roman, and Jewish views of other cultures can be reduced to self-serving stereotypes and denigrations. Hopefully his book will help usher in more nuanced and charitable perspectives.
From the Publisher
Shortlisted for the 2012 Runciman Award, Anglo-Hellenic League

"[T]he range of research, and the depth of thought, are extraordinary. Gruen has taken on a massively important subject, and he has brought a genuinely new perspective to the scholarly conversation."—Emily Wilson, New Republic

"[Gruen] is at his best when he dissects Greco-Roman perceptions of the Jews and the Jewish reception of Greco-Roman culture and accommodation with the world of the goyim."Choice

"Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, by Erich S. Gruen, out this month from Princeton University Press, like all excellent scholarship massages the mind in useful new directions. . . . Gruen's mission . . . is to unpack the contrary story, far less told: 'that Greeks, Romans, and Jews (who provide us with almost all the relevant extant texts) had far more mixed, nuanced, and complex opinions about other peoples.' In the main text and many useful footnotes of this info-packed but never boring study, Gruen accomplishes that."—Carlin Romano, Chronicle Review

"Anthropologists should seriously consider Gruen's case, and it would be wonderful if this appreciation of and openness to different peoples and cultures could somehow enter into contemporary politics and culture."—Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

"Rethinking the Other is an extremely valuable departure from a scholarly viewpoint that has threatened to become ossified of late, and as such is very worthwhile to everyone involved in the study of ancient conceptions of foreignness and belonging."—Antti Lampinen, ARCTOS

"Erich Gruen's Rethinking the Other in Antiquity is a book that, for one reason or another, desperately needed to be written, ideally by someone possessing G.'s authoritative command of the vast array of sources indicative of ancient knowledge of, and interest in, foreign peoples. . . . The result is a provocative, wide-ranging and thoroughly engaging volume that is both beautifully produced—with copious footnotes, helpful indices and handsome book-jacket featuring a (highly apposite) janiform vase—and (very) reasonably priced. The latter is fortuitous since it will automatically become a set text for courses touching on ancient self-conception and relations with foreign peoples and mandatory reading for anyone researching these and cognate fields."—Joseph Skinner, Journal of Roman Studies

"Rethinking the Other in Antiquity amounts to a major reassessment of an important topic. In light of the voluminous evidence Gruen assembles, it seems untenable to contend that Greek, Roman, and Jewish views of other cultures can be reduced to self-serving stereotypes and denigrations. Hopefully his book will help usher in more nuanced and charitable perspectives."—Eric Adler, European Legacy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691148526
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010
  • Series: Martin Classical Lectures Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi Acknowledgments xiii Introduction 1

PART I. IMPRESSIONS OF THE "OTHER"
CHAPTER ONE: Persia in the Greek Perception: Aeschylus and Herodotus 09
Aeschylus' Persae 09
Herodotus 21
Some Visual Representations 40

CHAPTER TWO: Persia in the Greek Perception: Xenophon and Alexander 53
Xenophon's Cyropaedia 53
Alexander and the Persians 65

CHAPTER THREE: Egypt in the Classical Imagination 76
Herodotus 76
Diodorus 90
Assorted Assessments 99
Plutarch 111

CHAPTER FOUR: Punica Fides 115
The Hellenic Backdrop 116
In the Shadow of the Punic Wars 122
The Manipulation of the Image 132
The Enhancement of the Image 137

CHAPTER FIVE: Caesar on the Gauls 141
Prior Portraits 141
The Caesarian Rendering 147
CHAPTER SIX: Tacitus on the Germans 159
Germans and Romans 159
Interpretatio Romana? 169

CHAPTER SEVEN: Tacitus and the Defamation of the Jews 179
The Question 180
Tacitean Irony 187

CHAPTER EIGHT: People of Color 197
Textual Images 197
Visual Images 211

PART II. CONNECTIONS WITH THE "OTHER"
CHAPTER NINE: Foundation Legends 223
Foundation Tales as Cultural Thievery 224
Pelops 227
Danaus 229
Cadmus 233
Athenians and Pelasgians 236
Rome, Troy, and Arcadia 243
Israel's Fictive Founders 250

CHAPTER TEN: Fictitious Kinships: Greeks and Others 253
Perseus as Multiculturalist 253
Athens and Egypt 265
The Legend of Nectanebos 267
Numidians and the Near East 272

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Fictitious Kinships: Jews and Others 277
The Separatist Impression 277
The Bible's Other Side 287
Ishmaelites and Arabs 299
Jews and Greeks as Kinsmen 302

CHAPTER TWELVE: Cultural Interlockings and Overlappings 308
Jews and Greeks as Philosophers 308
Jewish Presentations of Gentiles 325
Phoenicians and Greeks 341
Roman Adaptation and Appropriation 343

Conclusion 352
Bibliography 359
Index of Citations 385
Subject Index 403

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