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The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity Hardcover – February 22, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2004

"This is a big book on an important subject."--Choice

"The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity pores over substantial textual evidence to confirm that both the ancient Greeks and Romans possessed nationalistic tendencies. . . . Isaac's book is seriously academic and will long remain an essential standard tool for debate."--Sean Kingsley, Times Higher Education Supplement

"[An] important book. . . . [A]nyone concerned with racism, and more generally with the moral complexity of our civilization, will be profoundly educated by Isaac's magisterial and ethically lucid study."--Paula Fredriksen, The New Republic

"The author's magisterial and comprehensive command of the sources and the modern academic literature lends his thesis authority. He thoughtfully summarizes his arguments and conclusions from time to time. His line of thought is clear and his language is straightforward."--Ralph Amelan, The Jerusalem Post

"The principal aim of this massive, heavily documented study . . . is to establish that racism, like so many other articles of European mental furniture, was first given shape and substance by the fifth-century Greeks. . . . [Benjamin] Isaac's accessible, ground-breaking study is a timely and important work."--Margaret H. Williams, Journal of Jewish Studies

"This is a hugely learned and provocative book. . . . Benjamin Isaac is a classical scholar, and his experience of twentieth-century anti-Semitism has both made him uniquely alive to his topic, and led him to look for the 'roots' of one particular type of racism in classical antiquity."--Christopher Jones, Scripta Classica Israelica

"This is the first serious scholarly work to confront the problem of race and racism in Greco-Roman antiquity. . . . [Benjamin] Issac has deflated once and for all any easy suppositions about the modern origins of one of humankind's bitterest legacies."--Brent D. Shaw, Journal of World History

"The 563 pages of this book represent an academic tour-de-force, showing vast knowledge of ancient sources from Herodotus to late antiquity, and an equally impressive mastery of early modern scholarship from the sixteenth century onwards, drawing out many links between ancient and modern thinking."--David Noy, Journal of the Classical Association of Canada

"The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity is a compelling work that has been written with so much clarity, precision and erudition that it is almost impossible not to accept the author's views. It is also one of those books that will definitely change the way we look at the ancient world, a world that invented not only 'logos', democracy and philosophy, but also the art of using pseudo-scientific arguments in order to justify the worst ways of dealing with other men. Last but not least, Isaac establishes that considering racial discrimination in its earliest forms is a good way of gaining 'a better understanding of their contemporary forms,' since such prejudices continue to be at the root of most hatreds (and most wars) that are devastating today's world. For these reasons, this book is essential for anyone interested in the topic of racism."--Christian Delacampagne, Patterns of Prejudice

Review

A revolutionary work of immense relevance to the tensions of our contemporary globalized society. Enormous in scope, erudition, and importance, it is lucidly written and can easily be appreciated by any historically minded reader.
(Glen W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 563 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691116911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691116914
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,432,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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24 of 35 people found the following review helpful By P. Stern on November 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an exceptionally stimulating book. The level of erudition on display -- the sheer range and volume of material that Isaac has subjected to analysis -- is staggering. Though there is some repetition, Isaac's style is clear and his conclusions are forcefully argued. He helpfully prints most of the ancient sources in the original, so that those with even a smattering of Latin and Greek can see how he is reading his evidence.

Three features made the book a success. The first is isaac's effort to articulate a definition of racism to apply to the ancient world. While one may quibble with his definition, it is consistently thought-provoking; for me, this alone was worth the price of admission. The second is Isaac's tracing of "proto-racist" thought developed in antiquity as it was picked up by early modern and enlightenment thinkers. Indeed, one wonders if there is another book to be written spelling out the transmission of these ideas to the modern era. The third is Isaac's treatment of the interplay between proto-racism and ancient imperialism. He provides a fascinating new perspective on imperialism that can usefully be considered alongside such recent (and very different) contributions as Susan Mattern's "Rome and the Enemy" (Berkeley, 1999).

Highly recommended.
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