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date: 06 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

‘Identity’ and ‘ethnicity’ are terms that overlap considerably in modern scholarship, as in the use of the phrase ‘ethnic identity’. It is perhaps the comfortable mixture of ‘authenticity’ and dispassionate sociological usage which has encouraged scholars of antiquity to believe that the concept of ethnicity is both precise and less subject to anachronistic overtones than a term such as ‘race’. The relative significance of blood (and occasionally blood purity), descent, language, and clothing is actively debated in the rich ancient discourses of what it was to be Roman, and the ‘meaning’ of the Roman citizenship itself expressed in such terms. From Greek perspectives, Romans could be very hard to place in the scheme of things: Polybius's assessment of Roman domination of ‘almost the entire world’ positions Romans' character with some subtlety between Greeks and barbarians. This article explores what Roman identity means and discusses the relationship between being ‘Roman’ and being ‘Athenian’, ‘Jewish’, or ‘Etruscan’.

Keywords: Romans, Greeks, identity, ethnicity, race, barbarians, citizenship

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