Greeks v barbarians January 31, 2011
Greece primarily associated with their polis, Greece as a secondary. Were concerned with
what makes us Greeks when the cities all warred with each other?
All spoke the same language with different dialects. Panhellenic institutions, Olympics.
Hesiod attempted to create a panhellenic theogony showing unified religious belief and
practice more or less. Internal unifiers.
External factor – defining themselves against non Greeks. More similar to each other than
to the “others” of Asia.
What defines the foreigner?
Location, location, location! Hellespont – “Greece bridge” body of water that separates the
landmass of Greece and Asia. Greeks = Europe, barbarians= asian. Even this was not
definite as there were many Greeks living in asia minor along the coast of turkey. Language
was a big difference, a translator was needed for discussions with Lydians. “barbaroi” =
sounds like bar bar bar language. Cultural differences including Persians being run by
monarchs. Believed to reflect opinions and beliefs. Less clearcut than the Greeks like to
believe. Greek alphabet from Phoenicians in Asia minor for example. A lot of overlap.
Important differences were cultural to Greeks, not racial. Refers to “genos” which is racial
but it was meant to refer to culture not physical features. They were well aware of the
different races but explained them away ie etheopians were darker because they must live
closer to the sun. What mattered were the culture as they represented beliefs.
Persian wars 490-480 BCE
Before the Persian war there is very little ethnocentrism. In Homer’s Iliad the Trojans
(Asians) were portrayed as decent people, with values, sympathetic, etc. By the classical
period of literature that changed. Became very negative stereotypes of Persians. Persians
were reperesented as weak, effeminate, slavish, to contrast with the strong manly free
Greeks. Persians invade Greece but the Greeks force them back. After the Persian war
Greece becomes a major leader in the political world of the time. Unified the Greeks. Not
about military superiority but rather a cultural superiority as the Persians had a better
military so it had to be the cultural differences that allowed them to succeed.
To preserve the memories of the war and to show why this has happened. Theme is conflict
and contact between the 2 cultures. Acknowledges both Greeks and Persians astonishing