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.
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.
"[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
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