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BP Jonsson wrote:

> As for Greek _barbaros_ I'm not so sure it implied cultural as opposed to
> linguistic contempt: the Greeks could feel admiration for Egyptians and
> Persians, yet they were by definition _barbaroi_.  Yet the extent of Greek
> self-righteousness in *linguistic* matters was probably abysmal:

You're right that linguistic contempt and sheer ignorance played a part (there's
another part of Herodotus's _Histories_  where he mentions off-hand that all
Persian names end in a sigma, which is true only in their Greek transliterations)
but it went beyond language, though.  _The Histories_ is virtually brimming over
with moralizing about how the Persians transgressed certain fundamental rules
of the cosmos when they crossed over into Europe.  The entire work is, in fact,
a piece of hyperpatriotic apologetics designed to justify the peculiar Greek notion
of liberty as _eleutheria_, or political autonomy for the polis and for the handful
of citizens who ran it.  His point boils down to:  the Greeks were noble and brave
but poor, while the Persians were wealthy beyond measure, decadent and, most
importantly, hubristic, and that the Greeks won because of their greater moral
virtue (because of all possible sins, the gods hate hubris the most). His explanation
for the fall of Croesus and the Lydian Empire, a non-Greek but highly hellenized
culture in Asia Minor, falls along exactly the same terms.  These faults are, crucially,
seen as inherent in the culture that gave rise to them, because, as Aristotle later
made explicit in his _Politics_, the Greeks thought that some races were born to
be free, and other born to be slaves (literally -- "douloi")*.  The Greeks, naturally,
belonged to the former group, and the Persians, as part of that whole "oriental
despotism" myth the Greeks believed in, to the latter.  _The Histories_ was without
a doubt a seminal work in European historiography, but that doesn't mean it, or the
culture that produced it, was culturally *neutral* in any real sense.

*(This serves both as Aristotles rationalization of the institution of slavery and
as his reason for why, going along with Herodotos, the Greeks could maintain
their _eleutheria_ but the Persians, during Aristotles's time, could not.  For me,
I can see in this no other reading than an innate cultural biggotry on their part.)

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Tom Wier <[log in to unmask]>
ICQ#: 4315704   AIM: trwier
"Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero."
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