Green Man from Norwich Cathedral. Source: Wikipedia

Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worlds

Environmentalism covers the ancient idea that environments and climate influence our mentalities. New book offers an introduction to the history of this set of beliefs smouldering behind such concepts as racism, ethnicity and folk.

The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worlds
Edited by Rebecca Futo Kennedy, Molly Jones-Lewis
Routledge 2016


The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worlds explores how environment was thought to shape ethnicity and identity, discussing developments in early natural philosophy and historical ethnographies. Defining ‘environment’ broadly to include not only physical but also cultural environments, natural and constructed, the volume considers the multifarious ways in which environment was understood to shape the culture and physical characteristics of peoples, as well as how the ancients manipulated their environments to achieve a desired identity. This diverse collection includes studies not only of the Greco-Roman world, but also ancient China and the European, Jewish and Arab inheritors and transmitters of classical thought.

In recent years, work in this subject has been confined mostly to the discussion of texts that reflect an approach to the barbarian as ‘other’. The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worldstakes the discussion of ethnicity on a fresh course, contextualising the concept of the barbarian within rational discourses such as cartography, medicine, and mathematical sciences, an approach that allows us to more clearly discern the varied and nuanced approaches to ethnic identity which abounded in antiquity. The innovative and thought-provoking material in this volume realises new directions in the study of identity in the Classical and Medieval worlds.


Introduction, “Identity and the Environment” by Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Molly Jones-Lewis

I. Ethnic Identity and the Body

1. Airs, Waters, Metals, Earth: People and Land in Archaic and Classical Greek Thought, Rebecca Futo Kennedy

2. The Ecology Of Health in Dicaearchus and Agatharchides, Clara Bosak-Schroeder

3. The Invention and Purposes of Racial Deformity, Robert Garland

4. Ethnicity in Writers of Physiognomica, Max L. Goldman

5. Health as a Criterion in Ancient Ethnographic Schemes, Eran Almagor

6. 12th century European Environmental Medicine and Ethnic Stereotyping, Claire Weeda

7. Reception of Greek Climatic Theory in Medieval Jewish Science, Abraham Melamed

II. Determined and Determining Ethnicity

8. Colonisation, nostos and the foreign environment in Xenophon’s Anabasis, Rosie Harman

9. The World in a Pill: Local Specialties and Global Remedies in the Greco-Roman World, Laurence Totelin

10. Vitruvius, landscape and heterotopias: how ‘otherspaces’ enrich Roman identity, Diana Spencer

11. Tribal Identity in the Roman World: The Case of the Psylloi, Molly Jones-Lewis

12. Animals, Identity, and the Environment, Jared Secord

13. Who Reads the Stars? Origen’s Critique of Astrological Geography, Kathleen Gibbons

14. Climate and Courage, Georgia Irby

15. Nationality, Religious Belief, Geographical Identity, And Sociopolitical Awareness In Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Astrological Thought, Shlomo Sela

16. The Lost Origins of the Daylamites and the Construction of a New Ethnic Legacy for the Buyids, Christine Baker

III. Mapping Ethnicity

17. Location and Dislocation in Early Greek Geography and Ethnography, Philip Kaplan

18. The Terrain of Autochthony: Shaping the Athenian Landscape in the Fifth-Century BCE, Jacqueline Clements

19. Modelling Ethnicity: Patterns Of Ethnic Evaluation In The Indian Records Of Alexander’s Companions And Megasthenes, Daniela Dueck

20. These happy people: Arabia Felix and the astrological oikoumene of Claudius Ptolemaeus, Joanna Komorowska

21. ‘Ugly as Sin’: Monsters and Barbarians in Late Antiquity, Maja Kominko

22. “Their lands are peripheral and their qi is blocked up”: The uses of environmental determinism in Han (206 BCE–220 CE) and Tang (618–907 CE) Chinese interpretations of the ‘barbarians,’ Shao-yun Yang

23. The Races of ‘India’ in the Early Ages of Reconnaissance, Galia Halpern


Professor Rebecca Futo Kennedy is Associate Professor of Classics and Women’s and Gender Studies at Denison University and Interim Director of the Denison Museum.

Molly Jones-Lewis is Lecturer in Ancient Studies at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.


Green Man from Norwich Cathedral. Source: Wikipedia







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