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Rethinking the Other in Antiquity
Erich S. Gruen

Book Description | Table of Contents
Introduction [in PDF format]


"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


"This erudite and lucid treatment of the limits of tolerance and open-mindedness toward the Other in ancient Greece, Rome, and the Jewish world deals with a topic central to our evaluation of any society. The book will be an all-important source of information and will stimulate renewed discussion of the moral standards of the ancients in their attitudes toward foreigners. This absorbingly written work will lead to a reconsideration of questions regarding ethnic identity in the ancient Mediterranean world."--Benjamin Isaac, Tel Aviv University

"Gruen has produced an original and learned book that gives fresh insight into the complex issues of race in the ancient world and offers a more nuanced understanding of the interactions of ancient cultures that will hopefully enable us all to view the interactions between cultures in today's world with greater sensitivity."--David Potter, University of Michigan

"Did ancient Greeks regard Persians and Egyptians as servile 'barbarians,' by way of indicating their own superiority? Did Romans believe that Carthaginians were essentially perfidious, Gauls and Germans primitive, Jews weird and despicable? With deep learning and a graceful style, Gruen shows that these modern generalizations are wide of the mark, and that ancient attitudes toward foreigners were nuanced and by and large positive. The book invites us to inquire whether scholars have projected onto the classical world a sense of ethnic 'otherness' more characteristic of our own."--David Konstan, Brown University

"Greeks often referred to other peoples as 'barbarians,' while Romans considered themselves destined to rule the world, and viewed many of their subjects and adversaries (Greeks, Jews, Persians) with distrust or contempt. 'Otherness' can seem an ineradicable element of Greek, Roman, and Jewish thought. But Erich Gruen urges us to 'rethink the Other,' arguing with his customary verve and erudition that ancient attitudes were more nuanced than has often been supposed."--Christopher Jones, Harvard University

"This is an excellent and timely book on an important topic. Gruen persuasively argues that the model of the Other does not work for antiquity. Instead of consistently negative stereotypes he finds complexity and nuance, negative stereotypes being balanced by positive images, a willingness to acknowledge foreign influence on one's own culture, and, particularly striking, widespread desire to claim kinship relationships."--Stanley M. Burstein, professor emeritus, California State University, Los Angeles

"Gruen offers a defense of many prominent cultures--including the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Jews, Gauls, and Carthaginians--against overextended charges of polarizing worldviews of each other. He looks at hundreds of examples and finds that the ancient sources' discussions of difference also recognize sameness, borrowing, relatedness, and indebtedness. The entire book is magnificently documented. The range of scholarship is very impressive."--Donald Lateiner, Ohio Wesleyan University

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File created: 4/21/2017

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