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Invention of the Barbarian

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course, Professor Edith Hall (King's College, London) explores how the Greeks saw themselves as distinct from their 'barbarian' neighbours, especially in the context of the Greco-Persian wars of the early 5th century BC. In the first module, we consider when it was that the Greeks began referring to non-Greeks as 'barbarians', as well as the key distinguishing features – to the Greeks, at least – between themselves and non-Greeks. After that, we think about the extent to which the term 'barbarian' is a useful concept for describing the whole range of non-Greeks that existed in the Classical period. In the third module, we think about the presentation of the Persians in Aeschylus' Persians, and ask what it can tell us about contemporary perceptions of 'barbarians', before moving on in the fourth module to consider to extent to which Medea's treatment in Euripides' Medea is predicated on the fact that she is a 'barbarian'.

About the Lecturer

Edith Hall is Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University. Her research focuses on ancient Greek literature and cultural history. Some of her major publications include Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy (OUP, 1989), Greek Tragedy: Suffering Under the Sun (OUP, 2010), Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind (Norton, 2014), and Aristotle's Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life (Penguin, 2020).