Populating the <i>Imaginaire</i>

Joseph E. Skinner

in The Invention of Greek Ethnography

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199793600
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199979677 | DOI:

Series: Greeks Overseas

Populating the Imaginaire

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This chapter leaps backward and forward through imagined space, like the mind of the archetypal well-traveled man in Homer’s Iliad or, perhaps more famously, the mind of Odysseus, who “saw the cities of many men and knew their minds.” Its purpose in doing so is simply to populate the ethnographic imaginaire, highlighting the breadth and diversity of knowledge relating to a variety of foreign peoples in the years prior to the Persian Wars. Taking Homeric imaginings as a starting point (Cyclopes/Phaeacians), it swoops in from the northernmost margins of the oikoumenē, traversing in turn the imagined territories of the Hyperboreans, one-eyed Arimaspians, Scythians, and Amazons, before encountering the many tribes of Thrace From here it turns to western Asia Minor and the Levant (Phoenicians/Lydians) before relocating once more to the sun-scorched realm of the Ethiopians. It then moves on to Egypt, followed by brief excurses on past and present populations variously associated with lands less foreign: the (seemingly ubiquitous) descendants of Pelasgos and the inhabitants of Arcadia. By compiling what is effectively a gazetteer of some of the major categories of foreign peoples of whom knowledge is attested, the chapter paves the way for discussion of the interlocking systems of knowledge and understanding that provided both the material and the means by which groups and individuals were able to “position” selectively either themselves or others.

Keywords: Cyclopes; Phaeacians; Hyperboreans; Arimaspians; Scythians; Amazons; Thracians; Arcadia; Phoenicians; Lydians

Chapter.  24323 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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