Early in the archaic period of Greek history, Messenia was annexed and partially settled by its powerful neighbour, Sparta. Achieving independence in the fourth century BC, the inhabitants of Messenia set about trying to forge an identity for themselves separate from their previous identity as Spartan subjects, refunctionalising or simply erasing their Spartan heritage. Professor Luraghi provides a thorough examination of the history of Messenian identity and consequently addresses a range of questions and issues whose interest and importance have only been widely recognised by ancient historians during the last decade. By a detailed scrutiny of the ancient written sources and the archaeological evidence, the book reconstructs how the Messenians perceived and constructed their own ethnicity at different points in time, by applying to Messenian ethnicity insights developed by anthropologists and early medieval historians.
Nino Luraghi is Professor of the Classics at Harvard University, and has published widely on Greek history and historiography. Recent works include an edited volume entitled The Politics of Ethnicity and the Crisis of the Peloponnesian League (forthcoming) and Helots and their Masters in Laconia and Messenia (co-edited with S. Alcock, 2003).