The Invention of Greek Ethnography
HAVING EXPLORED HOW DISCOURSES of identity and difference might have played out in localities ranging from the wilds of Scythia to the rugged landscapes of Calabria, zooming in and out alternately before a final excursus on the imagined centers of Delphi and Olympia, it is now time to return to discussion of the circumstances surrounding the emergence and subsequent circulation of stand-alone treatises devoted to a single land or people.1 While we have abundant evidence demonstrating that the practice of ethnography was widespread long before it became common to describe “foreigners” (of whatever kind) in prose, the emergence of these accounts still amounts to a significant development in the history of a wider ethnographic discourse that shifted effortlessly between hexameter poetry, vase painting, painted sculpture, and praise poetry. Although it is wholly unlikely that we will ever have sufficient evidence to fix the invention of Greek ethnography to a particular point in time and space, we do need to think more broadly about both the nature of this invention and its consequences. How much significance should be attributed to the textualization of ethnographic discourse and under what circumstances did it occur? What triggered this development and what impact did it have on the way in which groups and individuals thought about questions of culture and identity? How inclusive or exclusive was this new form of discourse and how did it relate to other media? Although some, if not all, of these topics have already featured in the preceding chapters, they each have some bearing on the overarching question as to whether scholars were ultimately correct in singling out the invention of
1 It has already been mentioned both that these could relate to Greeks and non-Greeks alike and that modern attempts to impose disciplinary boundaries upon this “undifferentiated sphere of early Greek prose” may owe more to contemporary mindsets than any ancient reality (O. Murray 2000, 330). See chap. 1, no. 115.