Ancient Greeks and Climate

But not in antiquity because of race. Ancient Greeks did not think in terms of race (later translators would put that word in their mouths); instead, Greeks thought of place. Africa meant Egypt and Libya. Asia meant Persia as far to the east as India. Europe meant Greece and neighboring lands as far west as Sicily. Western Turkey belonged to Europe because Greeks lived there. Indeed, most of the Greek known world lay to the east and south of what would become recognizable later as Europe. Mostly, Greek scholars focused on climate to explain human difference. Humors arising from each climate’s relative humidity or aridness explained a people’s temperament. Where the seasons do not change, people were labeled placid. Where seasons shift dramatically, their dispositions were said to display “wildness, unsociability and spirit. For frequent shocks to the mind impart wildness, destroying tameness and gentleness.” Those words come from Hippocrates’ Airs, Waters, and Places.

Nell Painter, The History of White People