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date: 20 June 2021

p. 494. Herodotus as ethnographerlocked

p. 494. Herodotus as ethnographerlocked

  • Jennifer T. Roberts


‘Herodotus as ethnographer’ explains how Herodotus's natural curiosity led him to pioneer a new field that would greatly broaden his fellow Greeks' understanding of the human community and eventually lay the foundation of a new field for European anthropologists: ethnography. The notion that cultural norms varied over time and space was hotly contested in Herodotus's day. It all boiled down to nomos versus physis. The Greek word nomos embraced several different ideas: legal enactment, socially reinforced norm, value, custom, and habit. The physis (nature) champions saw some things as right, others as wrong, and considered this distinction eternal and nonnegotiable. In The Histories, Herodotus shows us the primacy of reverence for varying nomoi.

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