Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Sociology and Classics
Many Scholars have denied the presence of racial categorizing in European Antiquity. Though there was no institutionalized system of ‘racial oppression’ like we are familiar with in today’s society, I contend that there are cultural precursors of ‘race’ in the Greco-Roman world, otherwise known as ‘proto-race’. All societies have means to categorize people and put them into hierarchies - this is a major focus in the field of sociology. I propose that color-symbolic language was used to make distinctions amongst and between people; further that by analyzing the context within which these ‘color- words’ were referenced, it illuminates the importance of ethnic differentiation in the Greco-Roman world that became a veneer for ‘race’ as we understand it today. This paper is an exploration of early ethnic prejudice that uses both a symbolic interactionist perspective, as well as Michel Foucault’s conceptual framework of language as a vehicle for power, in order to analyze the color-symbolic language used in classical texts and the meaning that develops out of it.
Gill, Grace, "The Sin of Skin: Color and ‘Other’ in the Greco-Roman World". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2017.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/1000
Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity Commons, Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics Commons, Comparative and Historical Linguistics Commons, Discourse and Text Linguistics Commons, Inequality and Stratification Commons, Linguistic Anthropology Commons, Migration Studies Commons, Race and Ethnicity Commons, Sociology of Culture Commons
This is a secondary data analysis of existing work in the classics in order to deduce whether or not there was a proto-racial foundation that existed in the Greco-Roman world. Using a qualitative methodology in order to examine four main texts such as The Lausiac History, The Apophthegmata Patrum, Herodotus’ Histories, Hippocrates Airs, Waters and Places, as well as various other sources, this is an attempt to fill a gap that exists in the study of early ethnic prejudice and its relationship to ‘race’ and ‘racism’ as it is understood today.
This thesis uses the symbolic interactionist perspective, as well as Foucault’s conceptual framework of language as a vehicle for power, to analyze discourse and the meaning that develops out of it. Humans are social in nature and thus knowledge is the product of interaction. In this way, this ‘knowledge’ must be examined in light of the context within which it is being produced.