Book Review: Wandering Greeks: The Ancient Greek Diaspora from the Age of Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great by Robert Garland.

AuthorTalbert, Bart
PositionBook review

Garland, Robert. Wandering Greeks: The Ancient Greek Diaspora from the Age of Homer to the Death of Alexander the Great. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. xxi + 319 pages. Hardcover, $35.00.

Robert Garland, a Professor of the Classics at Colgate University, investigates the Greek diaspora from roughly the beginning of the eighth century BC through the end of Alexander the Great's reign in 323 BC. Garland seeks to answer key questions concerning why the Greeks moved about the Mediterranean as they did. He explores the mental and physical challenges they faced, and the overall impact wandering had on their sense of identity. Garland maintains that Greek movements, either forced or voluntary, continued after the colonization surge of the early Archaic period and "were central to the survival, viability, and (it necessarily follows) phenomenal success of their societies" (p. 197). He believes that their need to be mobile bred a spirit of adaptability in the Greeks and encouraged "pan-hellenic institutions." Wandering--whether to increase trade, land holdings or power, or to escape famine, political oppression or conquest--was central to what it meant to be Greek.

The author begins by discussing the limitations that the scarcity of sources placed upon his study as well as the parallels and differences in ancient and modern responses to migration. For instance, Garland discovers that foreigners were not trusted, were not afforded freedom of speech, and were viewed as a threat to the stability of civilized society. Also, exiles were viewed as a threat to their former city because they yearned for bloody civil war and the overthrow of the governing faction that had expelled them. Garland also points out that the best minds in Greek antiquity showed virtually no concern for the welfare of the wanderer, man or woman, and a woman alone on the road would have had no chance of survival. The author further observes that most states in Greece had what can be referred to as a "large exportable proletariat" and that there were many causes of movement, war and political strife ("stasis"), being the most common. He finds that mass deportations due to stasis often "functioned as a valuable safety valve in that it relieved political pressure" and avoided slaughter which might lead to the weakening of the state and invite foreign invasion (p. 80).

Methods popular in the interdisciplinary field of Migration Studies are employed here by examining the...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT