Race, Racism, and Ancient History. The Greeks and Romans are credited with inventing some of the earliest recognizable forms of modernity, such as rationality, democracy, progress, philosophy, law, roads, and art and architecture. Should racism also be included among their inventions? In this seminar course, we will critically investigate two main questions: 1) Did the Greeks and Romans invent race and racism? 2) What impacts have race and racism had on modern scholarship relating to ancient history? The course will range widely beyond the Greeks and Romans to include other peoples, such as Egyptians, Ethiopians, Scythians, Phoenicians, Jews, and Persians, whose ancient histories have been affected by questions of race and racism whether in relation to Greeks and Romans or on their own.
Some of the related topics, themes, and questions include the following, but are not restricted to them. How did ancient Greeks and Romans express their identities and differences with others? Were the ancient Greeks and Romans inherently superior to their contemporaries? Did the Greeks precede the Phoenicians in opening up the settlement of the central and western Mediterranean? Did the Greeks have much to teach and little to learn from others in these interactions? Why is the art of Greece treated as better than the art of the Greeks in the West? What colour were Greek and Roman statues? How has ancient Egyptian civilization been used to explain the rise of civilization outside of Egypt? Did skin colour matter when the Roman Empire granted full citizenship to all free men and women in AD 212? How and why did modern societies use (or abuse!) antiquity in the service of their present issues and concerns? How have modern ideas of race and racism shaped the study of the ancient past?
Students will be exposed to the latest readings and thinking about these topics and will be offered the opportunity to engage in scholarly debates and present their own research findings.