Wandering Greeks: The Ancient Greek Diaspora from the Age of Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great

Wandering Greeks: The Ancient Greek Diaspora from the Age of Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great

Language: English

Pages: 344

ISBN: 0691161054

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Most classical authors and modern historians depict the ancient Greek world as essentially stable and even static, once the so-called colonization movement came to an end. But Robert Garland argues that the Greeks were highly mobile, that their movement was essential to the survival, success, and sheer sustainability of their society, and that this wandering became a defining characteristic of their culture. Addressing a neglected but essential subject, Wandering Greeks focuses on the diaspora of tens of thousands of people between about 700 and 325 BCE, demonstrating the degree to which Greeks were liable to be forced to leave their homes due to political upheaval, oppression, poverty, warfare, or simply a desire to better themselves.

Attempting to enter into the mind-set of these wanderers, the book provides an insightful and sympathetic account of what it meant for ancient Greeks to part from everyone and everything they held dear, to start a new life elsewhere--or even to become homeless, living on the open road or on the high seas with no end to their journey in sight. Each chapter identifies a specific kind of "wanderer," including the overseas settler, the deportee, the evacuee, the asylum-seeker, the fugitive, the economic migrant, and the itinerant, and the book also addresses repatriation and the idea of the "portable polis." The result is a vivid and unique portrait of ancient Greece as a culture of displaced persons.

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Ionian poleis on their hit-­list. It soon became evident that resistance was hopeless. Just as the Persians were poised to capture the city, however, their Median general Harpagus promised to leave the Phocaeans alone on condition that they agreed to destroy one wall tower and one house—­a symbolic token of their submission to Persian rule. Playing for time, the Phocaeans requested a day to debate his proposal. Harpagus agreed, and in the meantime they hastily put on board ship all their women,

Some time after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War a democratic coup in Megara led to the deportation of the oligarchs (Thuc. 4.66–­74). Initially the oligarchs fled north to Plataea where, as we just saw, they were allowed to reside temporarily (3.68.3). When the Spartans destroyed it a year later, however, the oligarchs returned to the Megarid. They took possession of Pegae, a port on the Corinthian Gulf, from which they made raids into Megarian territory. Since the Athenians were also

from the pass at Thermopylae but they had reneged on their promise and retreated to the Isthmus of Corinth, some 40 miles to the southwest of Athens. So now the Athenians had to evacuate their entire population, about 150,000 in total. This was in accordance with the advice that Delphi had given them in the form of two separate oracles (Hdt. 7.140.2, 141.4): “Leave your homes and the high peaks of your wheel-­like city and flee to the ends of the earth.” “Don’t wait for the cavalry and the huge

city permanently, should the Greek coalition decide to abandon Attica and retreat to the Isthmus of Corinth. No surviving source tells us anything about the evacuees after the Battle of Salamis, and we do not know when they actually returned to their homes. The Athenians were not the only ones to evacuate their city in advance of the Persians. So, too, did the Plataeans and Thespians, who fled south en masse to the Peloponnese (D.S. 11.14.5). No doubt many other Greek peoples who inhabited cities

become a better historian (5.26.5). Of course, being an exile like Thucydides with wealth and status is a very different experience from being a common refugee. From the perspective of a Greek and indeed Roman historian (a number of whom incidentally went into exile) refugees and other homeless individuals just didn’t merit writing about; or to put it more accurately, they merited a brief mention at most. No historian was particularly interested in recording the sufferings of the undifferentiated

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