Health as a Criterion in Ancient Ethnological Schemes

Authored by: Eran Almagor

The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worlds

Print publication date:  December  2015
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415738057
eBook ISBN: 9781315686622
Adobe ISBN: 9781317415701


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Not surprisingly, we find the label ‘healthy’ (hugieinos, salubris) among the traits that mark ethnic groups in antiquity. 1 The stress on this quality is deeply rooted in the stereotypes various societies espouse, contrasting ‘good’ and ‘bad’ peoples, and dividing ‘Us’ from ‘Them’. 2 Accordingly, some (psychological or bodily) diseases and illnesses are portrayed as afflicting certain groups in particular and not others, thereby serving to demarcate societies. This concept of health as a criterion of ethnic diversity in the ancient mindset, which marks groups to which members belong and to which they do not in ethnological schemes, is the concern of this chapter. 3 The discussion is less engaged with the ontological division of the known inhabited world to the well and the sick and the scientific explanations for it, but rather with the significance of this very division. If this chapter deals with causal effects that create the condition of health or disease it is only in so far as this change does not involve nature and climate zones but rather the intervention of man against environment.

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