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CL7034 Greeks and Barbarians

Module Organiser: Dr Shane Wallace
Duration: One Term (2018-19 Jan-Apr)
Contact hours: 22 (1 x 2-hour seminar p.w.)
Weighting: 10 ECTS
Assessment: Written assignment

How did the Greeks view non-Greek cultures? This module will explore the long tradition of cross-cultural interaction between Greeks and non-Greek ‘barbarians’ from Homer to the Hellenistic period. Questions of identity and ethnicity will be raised throughout and focus will continually placed on the means by which Greek identity was simultaneously enforced by yet adaptive to engagement with non-Greek ‘barbarians’. The seminars within this module will draw upon a wide variety of literary, archaeological, numismatic, art-historical, epigraphic, and papyrological sources.


  • To introduce students to the depth and sophistication of Greek interactions with and perceptions of non-Greek cultures.
  • To explore Greek influence on non-Greek cultures and non-Greek influence on Greek culture.
  • To examine the different ways and contexts in which the ancient Greeks defined self and other.
  • To engage with ancient Greek ethnographic writing on its own terms.
  • To query the application of modern conceptions of ethnicity and identity to ancient evidence.

Working Methods

The module will be taught through a series of two-hour, student-led seminars. Reading lists and projects will be assigned each week.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Present a sophisticated knowledge of Greek engagement with non-Greeks cultures.
  • Trace how the Greek conception of non-Greek cultures developed over time.
  • Analyse critically modern readings of the past, particularly ideas of orientalism and otherness.
  • Engage in independent research and formulate an original argument.
  • Present their ideas effectively in both written and oral form.
  • Integrate and analyse numerous different types of evidence and assess critically their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Introductory Reading

  • E. Bridges, E. Hall, & P.J. Rhodes (eds.), Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars: Antiquity to the Third Millennium (Oxford, 2006)
  • P. Cartledge, The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others, 2nd edition (Oxford, 2002)
  • E. Gruen, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity (Princeton, 2010)
  • E. Hall, Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy (Oxford, 1989)
  • T. Harrison Greeks and Barbarians (Edinburgh, 2002)
  • L. Mitchell, Panhellenism and the Barbarian in Archaic and Classical Greece (Swansea, 2007)
  • E. Said, Orientalism (New York and London, 1978)
  • K. Vlassopoulos, Greeks & Barbarians (Cambridge, 2013)

Last updated 20 August 2018