The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (OPUS) by Paul Cartledge

By Paul Cartledge

Who have been the classical Greeks? Paul Cartledge examines the Greeks by way of their very own self-image, quite often because it used to be offered by means of the supposedly goal historians - Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon. The Greeks have been the inventors of historical past because it is known at the present time, simply as they're the cultural ancestors of the West in such a lot of alternative ways. but their historiography remained rooted in fable. The psychological and fabric context of a number of the innovations of Greek success that are rightly precious this present day - particularly democracy, philosophy and theatre, in addition to historical past - used to be usually deeply alien to state-of-the-art state of mind and appearing. the purpose of this booklet is to probe absolutely that success, mostly utilizing a customary Greek mode of conceptualization - polarity or binary competition. It explores extensive how the dominant - grownup, male, citizen - Greeks sought, with constrained luck, to outline themselves unambiguously in polar competition to a complete sequence of "others" - non-Greeks, ladies, non-citizens, slaves and gods. Colin Burrow is co-editor of the "Key subject matters in historic heritage" sequence.

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It was above all against a variety of Sophistic readings of the culture-nature polarity that Aristotle pitted his own constructions, which supposedly were grounded in the best communis opinio. The problem of dual symbolic classification, however, does -15- not only have an ancient history. It is no less a matter for dispute within contemporary cultural or cognitive anthropology. ) What is seriously at issue here is whether, as some versions of Lévi-Strauss's structuralism appear to hold, all cultures operate at their deepest levels in a dualist way.

It is with such binary polarities of Classical Greek thought and culture that the present study will be principally concerned. Shortly after the last War Simone de Beauvoir gave Levinas's altérité a wider currency in her now classic Le Deuxième Sexe ( 1949). But in English at least it remained a sufficiently alien import for de Beauvoir's English translator ( 1953) to feel the need to apologize for using the seemingly outlandish term 'alterity'. ) of 'culture'--entered the mainstream of English-language social thought.

I have much sympathy with the impulse behind this interpretative strategy. Its laudable intention is to defamiliarize the ancient Greeks and so to knock them off the pedestal on which our Roman, Renaissance, Enlightenment, or Romantic forebears once placed them as being essentially like us, only earlier, and thus anticipating and legitimating fundamental characteristics of our culture, in contradistinction to other contemporary ancient peoples (the Phoenicians, for example, or the Egyptians). Perhaps, too, such a move is particularly helpful in sensitizing us to the underlying assumptions of what must otherwise strike us as repellent features of Greek mentality and culture: how, for instance, could a giant thinker like Aristotle, founder of western logic and political sociology, entertain for a moment the considered views he did in fact hold on the nature of women (Chapter 4) and slaves (Chapter 6)?

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