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Series:

Edited by Emily Varto

The chapters in Brill’s Companion to Classics and Early Anthropology explore key points of interaction between classics and anthropology from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Ancient Greece and Rome played varying roles in early anthropological thinking, from the observations of colonial officials and missionaries, through the ethnography and evolutionary ethnology of the late nineteenth century, and into the professionalized social sciences of the twentieth century. The chapters illuminate these roles and uncover an intellectual history of fission and fusion, exposing common interests and opposing methodologies, shared theories and conflicting datasets, close collaborations and adversarial estrangements. In augmenting and reevaluating this history, the volume offers a new and nuanced picture of the early formative relationship between the two disciplines.

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Franco De Angelis

Abstract

Anthropology influenced how classicists understood ancient culture contact long before it returned to do so in the last two decades. Recognizing such earlier links between anthropology and classics allows us to understand how and why classical scholars in the century spanning 1850 to 1950 developed the core concepts and questions that they did in their studies of ancient culture contact. This chapter specifically explores the process by which New and Old World Classical natives came to be identified as Other.

The relationship between classics and anthropology has usually been viewed as classicists contributing to the formation of early anthropology. However, the two fields interacted much more than this, with anthropology impacting scholarly accounts of Old World cultural development. This impact is either considered minimal or non-existent, being restricted at best to Old World prehistory and serving as a nostalgic reminder of how much separated the superior Europeans and their descendants in the New World from the less technologically advanced societies they were encountering around the world and that had existed in the past. The one-sided perspective encouraged by contemporary colonialism led to the convenient overlooking of two impacts of New World frontiers on their Old World metropolitan centres. First, in America, anthropologists expanded their studies by including the immigrants from southern and eastern Europe who settled alongside the northern European founders. Second, the colonizers of the New World colonized their home countries in the Old World by regarding their lower classes as the equivalent of Amerindians or Africans who needed to be raised to the national standard established by their central governments. Anthropology impacted how Americans and Europeans viewed themselves in the present and brought home the idea of the Other existing not only abroad but also on European soil.

At the same time as anthropology, natives, and acculturation became formal fields of study worldwide in the period between the two world wars, so did classical scholarship seem to turn toward negative attitudes vis-à-vis ancient natives, which were characteristic of contemporary portrayals of the Other. A review of the major works of English-language scholarship from George Grote to Thomas Dunbabin mirrors these developments—growing comparisons between New and Old World frontiers—which culminated in the creation of the Classical Other. These intellectual developments established the interpretive framework within which classical scholarship largely operated until it came to be debated at the close of the twentieth century.

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Sandra Blakely

Abstract

The mystery cult of the Great Gods of Samothrace has repeatedly provided a testing ground for the intersection of classics and anthropology. The models generated through social science frameworks, however, show no immediate connection to the material remains of the cult and deep responsiveness to the contexts of their authors. Two case studies from the nineteenth century offer a fresh hypothesis for the heuristic value of these models. Schelling (1815) and Rossignol (1863) write from different continental traditions and chronological eras. Schelling serves as a guide to the forces shaping German anthropology in the early nineteenth century, when Romantic perspectives cast down an epistemological gauntlet to balance scientific methodology with the drive for transcendence, and to find in the rites the earliest vestiges of human religiosity. Researchers used Indo-European linguistics to bridge Greek myth with German folk tradition, resulting in an identification between the Kabeiroi and Germanic dwarves which has been among the most long-lasting models for the gods of the rites. Rossignol wrote in late nineteenth-century Paris: his models for the rites reflect both the intellectual frameworks and the social activism of contemporary French anthropology. Recent models of cultural evolution had established pyrotechnology as the dividing line between savagery and civilization, and Parisian iron workers were reshaping the political and visual network of the city. Rossignol saw the metallurgy of the island’s daimones as evidence that the rituals celebrated the upward evolution of mankind: what grain was to Eleusis, or wine to Dionysus, metallurgy was to Samothrace. Both the German and the French hypotheses are built on the mythological record of the rites and provide an histoire de mentalité which simultaneously highlights and helps to diminish the distance between ancient initiates and modern investigators. This is a value entirely different from the histoire événementielle which is the natural concomitant of archaeological and epigraphical study.

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Ailsa Hunt

Abstract

Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century anthropologists had a penchant for sacred trees, which were valued because they were believed to illustrate some of the earliest stages of human religious thinking and behaviour. In particular, sacred trees were understood to show us primitive animistic responses to the natural world, responses which, scholars such as Tylor claimed, were the basis of all forms of religious action. Tree worship thus found itself characterized in this scholarship as quintessentially primitive, animistic and also materialistic. Indeed, this Protestant-centric scholarship insisted on framing tree worship as deludedly primitive because its focus was a material tree. Although these scholars fleshed out their interest in sacred trees with examples from several ancient cultures, as well as contemporary “savage” cultures and contemporary folklore, Roman culture was esteemed for its illustration of tree worship. This chapter explores why Roman sacred trees held such a special position in the imagination of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century anthropologists. It examines their Protestant-centric presentation of Roman religion as both deeply primitive and materialistic, through its alignment with Roman Catholicism. In particular, tree worship was framed as a phenomenon akin to Catholic idolatry, while both tree worship and idolatry were presented as examples of “fetishism”. The chapter reveals how these scholars privileged certain “arboreal figures” in Latin literary texts, especially Ovid; girls like Daphne who metamorphose into trees, the similar fate of Polydorus, the arboreal figures of the dryads and hamadryads, and the story of the tree-attacker Erysichthon all prove central here. Examining the early anthropologists’ lauding of Roman religion and its sacred trees, we gain insight into how their use and abuse of the classics shaped their scholarship. The chapter ends by reversing this focus and reflecting on the impact that the anthropologists’ arboreal enthusiasm has had on classical studies today.

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Melissa Funke

Abstract

Colour terms in ancient Greek, specifically those used in Homer and archaic lyric poetry, have long played an integral part in the comparative work of linguistic anthropologists who study the words used for colours. Goethe, reacting to Sir Isaac Newton’s work on the spectrum, postulated that the Greeks of Homer’s time had defective vision. Around the time of the appearance of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, William Gladstone offered a similar thesis based on the limited vocabulary for colour in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and work in this vein continued with Magnus (1877). This chapter examines the application of this early work on Greek colour terminology to early work in the discipline of cultural linguistics. It investigates the shift from the nineteenth-century connection between vision and terminology (e.g. Geiger 1871 and Marty 1879) to the employment of colour terms, their number and use, as a means of determining what cultural linguists identified as the evolutionary status of a language in the first half of the twentieth century. Berlin and Kay employed this process in Basic Color Terms (1969), in which they used Homeric Greek as a comparandum to establish where modern languages sit on the evolutionary spectrum. This chapter pays special attention to how work by classicists on Greek colour terminology led to theories dealing with the historical development of language and the problematic nature of treating Homeric Greek as a dialect on par with Somali or Korean. It begins with the work of Goethe, Gladstone, Geiger, and Magnus, contextualizing with the science of colour and vision, then moves to the origins of cultural linguistics, before continuing to work by classicists on colour terms in the early twentieth century. Finally, it explores the place of Homeric Greek colour terminology in Berlin and Kay’s work on the evolution of colour terms, considering why Homeric Greek occupies a significant place in the overall study of colour terms.

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William Michael Short and Maurizio Bettini

Abstract

This chapter examines the relationship between classics and anthropology as relates to cross-cultural comparison. Despite an ancient pedigree, scholarly comparison of the classical cultures to one another (or to other cultures) has remained circumscribed. Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729–1812), who advocated understanding “the spirit of that time, its representations and relations and all its contemporary connections to things”, has been all but forgotten. German Altertumswissenschaft rejected the “savage” comparativism of James George Frazer, William Warde Fowler, William F. Jackson Knight, and Herbert Jennings Rose as haphazard and superficial. This history probably explains the lack of any real comparative method in even the most “anthropological” classical scholarship in recent decades: J.-P. Vernant and Florence Dupont, for instance, noticeably eschew that “comparative sociology” identified by Radcliffe-Brown as the essence of anthropology—not to mention large-scale intercultural comparisons along the lines of Lévi-Strauss’ Mythologiques. Some scholars, however, purposefully juxtapose Roman culture and Greek culture, with the possibility then of comparing these cultures with others both ancient and modern. Rather than predetermine the meaning of any specific cultural configuration by placing it alongside supposedly analogous representations, this “new comparativism” actively constructs meaning through juxtapositions and comparisons of what is different between cultures (see Detienne 2007; 2008). To illustrate this approach, this chapter compares metaphorical linguistic expressions in Greek and Latin, arguing that it is possible to tease out significant differences not only in how speakers of these languages conceived of certain experiences but also in their attitudes and values towards—and thus behaviours and practices in respect of—those experiences. Here, metaphors of “making a mistake” are discussed to suggest that Latin’s “wandering” metaphor has not only widespread semantic effects but also identifiable effects on culture more broadly conceived.

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Eliza Gettel

Abstract

This chapter explores how the anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor integrated evidence from the ancient world into his most well-known work Primitive Culture (1871) and how his ideas about culture influenced early theories of Romanization. Tylor’s study of classics shaped how he entered one of the preeminent anthropological debates of his time: what is “culture” and do cultures progress towards civilization, degenerate towards savagery, or do both at different times? He famously defined culture as a holistic concept consisting of belief, art, laws, morals, etc., and he promoted an evolutionary theory of culture, which viewed cultures as progressing from a savage to civilized state with ‘survivals’ that could persist across stages. His evolutionary and more material ideas about culture, which drew on classical scholarship as well as ancient Greek and Latin texts, were broadly influential and, in turn, shaped the development of scholarship about the ancient world. Here, F. J. Haverfield and R. G. Collingwood—both based in Oxford around the same time that Tylor was—serve as case studies for the legacy of Tylor’s theories in so-called Romanization studies. Haverfield’s notion of a superior, comprehensive Roman culture that unilaterally spread throughout the provinces and his idea that aspects of ‘native’ culture could survive both seem in dialogue with Tylor’s ideas. More explicitly, Collingwood’s writings indicate that he was familiar with Tylor’s work and that he added nuance to Tylor’s ideas in promoting his own fusion model of Romanization. Tylor’s progressive theory of culture, refracted through Haverfield and Collingwood as well as more recent scholars, has a legacy in today’s studies of cultural change in the Roman provinces. Excavating the history of the term can, therefore, help us refine current approaches to questions raised in these studies.

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Daniel Noah Moses

Abstract

In this chapter, Moses argues that Lewis Henry Morgan’s anthropology integrates values and ideas that he first encountered in the work of his favourite classical Roman poets. Long before he had ever heard of Charles Darwin, Morgan was immersed in Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, a panoramic explication of natural and social evolution and the poems of Horace. As an advocate of social evolution, Morgan hit against the biblical narrative of human origins and revived a paradigm bequeathed to him by ancient Greece and Rome. He moved further away from the Calvinist Protestantism of his birth toward what might be called a revised Epicurean or ancient perspective, which is also the modern secular point of view. Moses argues that just as the classical philosophers and poets used the “barbarians” they encountered as foils in their own social critiques, Morgan used Native Americans to launch a critique of the same triumphant commercial civilization that he both celebrated and prospered from. For Morgan, the Iroquois and other “primitive” peoples preserved the wisdom that drew him as a young man to his Latin poetry and then to anthropology. Moses thus explores the lifelong relationship Morgan had with Lucretius and Horace, and how the ethos expressed by these poets regarding definitions of wealth and the life well lived is at the core of Morgan’s worldview and scholarly work.