Anthropology of Ancient Greece


A reading and discussion course tracing the abundant and profitable use made since the early 20th century of anthropological method in the study of ancient Greece.  Weekly readings (all in English, translated where necessary) usually mate a classic work of anthropology with a work on Greek religion, history, literature, or culture which makes use of the method presented in that work.   Among the readings by Classical scholars there is particular emphasis on the “Paris School” of Vernant, Detienne, and Vidal-Naquet. 

Topics include:

  • Evolutionism (Frazer with Jane Harrison on Greek religion)
  • Durkheim on religion (with Jane Harrison on Greek religion)
  • Gift-giving (Mauss and L. G. Mitchell on gift-giving in Greek interstate relations; van Wees)
  • Pollution (Douglas with Robert Parker on miasma)
  • Structuralism (Levi-Strauss with Detienne on Greek spices and religion; Vernant)
  • Structuralism and space (Levi-Strauss with Vidal-Naquet)
  • Social Drama (Turner with Barry Strauss on the conflict of generations during the Peloponnesian War)
  • Honor (Pitt-Rivers and Campbell with Gabriel Hermann and the controversy about violence over honor in Classical Athens)
  • Feud (Black-Michaud and D. Cohen on Athenian courts)

Requirements are reading and discussion, reports on works the rest of the class have not read, and a longer paper applying anthropological method to a topic of the student’s own choosing, which need not be classical (an excellent paper was once received applying Victor Turner’s Social Drama to the origins of the US Civil War).

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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