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N.S. Gill

Were the Ancient Greeks Racist

By March 7, 2006

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A press release from Princeton University Press announces that The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, by Benjamin Isaac, will be coming out on March 29, 2006. Isaac is a professor of Ancient History at the University of Tel Aviv. The author claims that a close reading of the ancient texts, including Herodotus, Plato, and Aristotle, shows that there was a form of proto-racism in ancient Greece and Rome.

The 592-page work is described as massive and a heavily documented study. G.W. Bowersock is quoted on the release as saying, "A revolutionary work of immense relevance to the tensions of our contemporary globalized society."

Irene Hahn, Ancient/Classical History forum cohost and blogger at Roman History Books and More, points out that what's new is not the book, but the paperback edition.


January 24, 2008 at 10:17 pm
(1) John Markellos says:

It is a bit ironic to hear from an Israeli professor to say proto racism started in ancient Greece these are the facts:
1) Isreali (Hebrew) religious texts describe Jewish people as gods selected race. Their religion is followed and practiced almost word by word an undeniable fact noone can argue.
Jews not practicing Judaism although not convicted they are socially ostracised by their compatriots
2) Greeks after Alexander the
greats campaign dominated the then Jewish settlements and many jewish converted to greek lifestyle(sport athletics, art) and greek religious practices something that angered the religious Hebrew people and caused many violent risings that are still celebrated today as national Jewish holidays !

September 19, 2008 at 12:15 am
(2) Ionised says:

Im sorry, but the Jews didn’t even exist then… Sorry to burst your bubble =)

October 9, 2008 at 5:24 am
(3) nunubutton says:

lol, no, i hate to burst your bubble but the jew did exist back then… lol

August 21, 2010 at 6:52 am
(4) Meno says:

Ionised and nunubtton, tell this to Jews then… they claim to be an actual continuation and a living sect since the times of the Old Kingdoms of Judah and Israel. To say that Jews didn’t exist during that time is the same as stating that current Jewish religion is NOT the real continuation of Israelitism, since you both imply that they started to exist out of nothing from a certain period in history much after the time of biblical Israelites, you imply that current Jews and old Israelites are NOT the same people… I don’t disagree with this consequence of what you say, but you have to tell that to Jews then.

But the mistake that you Ionised and nunubutton committed is that you both interpret what John Markellos said both in a too literal way and also in an anachronistic fashion. You are mixing current Judaism with old Judaism, that really existed. Jews DID exist during Alexander’s time, since the kingdom of Israel had long been destroyed and only the kingdom of JUDAH existed. [W]here do you think that the word Jew comes from? From Judah. JEWS DID EXIST DURING THOSE TIMES, the was the name used to designate those who lived in the kingdom of Judah and who WERE descendants of the house of Judah… The name Jew did exist and was widely used for characterizing people who followed the Palestinian Abrahamic religion during from the extermination and destruction of the Kingdom of Judah on. If you don’t know, according to some sources of the Christian tradition, Jesus had a plaque fixed on top of his cross with the inscription ‘INRI’ written on it. It was supposed to be an acronym for: IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDORUM. IUDORUM means literally “of Jews” in latin.

The big question is: are these people all around who currently call themselves Jews real descendants of Israelites and the Jews from the Kingdom of Judah? Markellos, you are totally right in your positioning.

[Edited by Guide to remove expletives, etc.]

May 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm
(5) Robert Ferris says:

Clearly the Egyptian Book of Gates predates the Hellenistic civilization. In this the races of the world are depicted. They enter the afterlife in order. That seems discriminatory. Let’s also consider the history of the Hebrews. To Pharaoh, the Semitic Moses said, “Let my [enslaved] [whiter?] people go!” Benjamin Isaac is an idiot!

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