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No names specified (2006)

Horsepower and donkeywork: Equids and the ancient Greek imagination

Classical Philology, 101(3 & 4):185-246; 307-358.

Griffith investigates what the Greeks of the Archaic and Classical periods did with, and thought about, the horses, donkeys and mules with which they spent so much of their time. He asserts that ancient Greek ideologies and modes of performance were bound up very closely with equine behavior and symbols.

In Part I of this essay, Griffith has been accepting, more or less at face value, the ancient Greek structural division between the equids (noble horse vs. servile ass)--a division that is still quite widely held in the modern West, it seems--while granting to the mule, in a provisional kind of way at least, the convenient intermediate place "between" them. But so far from constituting a comfortable "middle class" or "golden mean" that might tidily reconcile opposites and provide a zone of practical and imaginary normality to which ordinary Greeks could relate, this equine middle term turns out instead to be in many respects quite awkward and unsettled. If mules did indeed constitute a middle (equine) class, the Greeks apparently were not comfortable thinking of them as such. Furthermore, the mystique of the noble horse itself turns out, on closer inspection, to be invested with several curious contradictions and ambivalences that both result from, and contribute further to, a striking pattern of gender and class confusion that is, Griffith suggests, highly revealing of Greek social attitudes and institutions.

ISSN: 0009837X
by Bibuser last modified 2009-02-25 11:33
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