The Values and Virtues of Greeks

Very often this label was used in ignorance, and it served to make as big a distance as possible in Greek minds between those who were within its extended territorial reach, and those who were beyond it. In short, all that was culturally good and proper, and admirable was Greek, and all that the barbarian cultures represented was depicted in opposite terms. In modern language, we would call this a stereotype, and then, as now, there was some truth in this stereotype, but it was by no means the full story. This paper explores the way that Greeks define and depict themselves and the barbarians through various artifacts including literature, painting, and sculpture. It covers the values and the virtues of Greek and of the barbarian as seen from the Greek point of view, both positive and negative, as demonstrated through actions and outward appearance.Hall points out that there were hundreds of tragedies written for fifth-century Athenian theatre and that more than half of them introduce barbarian characters, choruses and locations, even when there is no need for these details in the main plot: Supernumerary foreign characters or choruses, and the ubiquity of allusions to the other, inferior, world beyond Hellas, therefore provide evidence that barbarians were a particular preoccupation of the Greek tragedians. 1 Hall identifies two main areas of difference between Greeks and barbarians. The first is political, thanks to the Greek commitment to democracy as a form of government for a modern state: Greeks are democratic and egalitarian. the barbarians are tyrannical and hierarchical2 although thisconveniently overlooks the fact that Greek wealth and leisure to depended upon a large underclass of slaves who were mostly non-Greeks.