Greece, India, and Race among the Victorians

Partha Mitter

in African Athena

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199595006
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731464 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Greece, India, and Race among the Victorians

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)


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The paper traces the process leading to the repudiation of the Afroasiatic roots of Greek civilization in the 19th century. Comparative philology, physical anthropology and biology melded language, physical features and culture to create the myth of an original white Aryan race. This racial doctrine was encapsulated by Gobineau: physical beauty (Apollo Belvedere) determined language, culture and intelligence; racial inequality in physical strength, intellect and morality was inherent. Social Darwinism proclaimed that European global domination was proof of the survival of the fittest. The paper finally takes the case of India, the hub of the Aryan Myth. Max Müller located India within Hegelian world history: though they were the original Aryans, Indians failed to progress unlike Europeans. Colonial writers constructed further racial binaries in India – Aryan versus Dravidian or Turanian – two antagonistic races forever separated by colour, cranium, caste and culture, an idea authoritatively employed by James Fergusson in his study of Indian architecture.

Keywords: Race; Biology; Comparative Philology; Aryan; Dravidian; Social Darwinism; Indian architecture

Chapter.  6189 words. 

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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