Skip to main content

Memories of Odysseus

Frontier Tales From Ancient Greece

The conception of the Other has long been a problem for philosophers. Emmanuel Levinas, best known for his attention to precisely that issue, argued that the voyages of Ulysses represent the very nature of Western philosophy: "His adventure in the world is nothing but a return to his native land, a complacency with the Same, a misrecognition of the Other." In Memories of Odysseus, François Hartog examines the truth of Levinas’ assertion and, in the process, uncovers a different picture. Drawing on a remarkable range of authors and texts, ancient and modern, Hartog looks at accounts of actual travelers, as well as the way travel is used as a trope throughout ancient Greek literature, and finds that, instead of misrecognition, the Other is viewed with doubt and awe in the Homeric tradition. In fact, he argues, the Odyssey played a crucial role in shaping this attitude in the Greek mind, serving as inspiration for voyages in which new encounters caused the Greeks to revise their concepts of self and other. Ambitious in scope, this book is a sophisticated exploration of ancient Greece and its sense of identity.

266 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Ancient Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

History: History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Philosophy: History and Classic Works


“It is possibly the most interesting  book on the ancient world I have read in the past ten years. . . .On every page there are subtlety and wisdom, in every section new insights, and the whole is permeated with a critical sympathy, critical sadness, even, for a people trying to remember where they have come from and how they might get back. . . . Anyone who wants to teach students about ‘Eurocentrism’ and Egypt, the invention of Barbarians, the invention of the Hellenistic period, and the reception of Greeks by Rome should start here, but the same might well apply to students of pastoral . . . of the history of the noble savage . . . of the Other <I>tout court<I>. . . . If he manages seamlessly to move from Plato to Bossuet to Momigliano, that is because he imagines them as part of one same tradition, a tradition of which he is himself a part, an erudite, clever and elegant tradition, which engages with older authors instead of merely using them. . . . Hartog provides a masterclass in how to use alterity in history.”

James Davidson | TLS

“Hartog continually dazzles the reader with the range of his reading and with the ways in which he draws connections and links between seemingly disparate material; he has an impressive ability to bring out hitherto unnoticed nuances from ancient texts. . . . The book is a sustained and stimulating inquiry into cultural identity, alterity, and memory through the figure of the traveler. . . . Readers also interested in understanding how the issue of travel opens onto questions of identity, otherness, and cultural memory, and poetic anthropology should read this book.”

Phiroze Vasunia | Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“This book is notable for its breadth, ranging through centuries and across cultures to visit a fascinating array of authors struggling to define Greek identity as it emerges through contact with other cultures. . . . The book’s sheer scope and breakneck pace are exhilarating, and much joy comes from the company, the scenery, and the feeling of being in thrall to a master. Hartog does remember Odysseus.”--, American Historical Review

Louise Pratt | American Historical Review

“Traditional Classicists will find themselves often challenged, intrigued, and illuminated by Hartog’s anthropological foray into the question of Greek identity and the “otherness” of the world that surrounded it. . . . An enlightening analysis of historical, philosophical, and literary texts that is informed by an anthropological perspective.”

Leon Golden | Electronic Antiquity

Table of Contents

Foreword: Odysseus in Auschwitz
Paul Cartledge
Introduction: Travellers and Frontier-men
1. The Return of Odysseus
A voyage and a return journey
The return to Ithaca
The voyages of a name
2. Egyptian Voyages
Seeing Egypt
Greek views
Egypt, the first civilizing power?
From Thrice Greatest Hermes to Champollion
3. The Invention of the Barbarian and an Inventory of the World
Barbarians and Greeks
Representing the world
Centre and extremities
Viewing the world from Alexandria
4. Greek Voyages
The voyages of the elder Anacharsis and frontiers forgotten
Frontiers within, or ordinary kinds of discrimination
The limits of Arcadia
Alexander between Rome and Greece
5. Roman Voyages
The voyages of Polybius
The voyages of Dionysius of Halicarnassus
The voyages of Strabo and Aelius Aristides
Conclusion: Memories of Apollonius and the Name of Pythagoras

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press