The Sea as a Connecting Force: Greek Seafarers and Indigenous Women Negotiating a Colonial Middle Ground

Hannah Kloster, Professor Rebecca Ammerman, Department of the Classics, Colgate University, 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton, NY 13346

The Mediterranean Sea, rather than separating those living on its shores, served to link its
different peoples together. Overseas settlements founded by the Greeks from the 8th century
BCE facilitated the spread of ideas, material culture, and contacts between different populations,
especially in Southern Italy. I will examine this interaction through the mythical, historical, and
archaeological records with a special focus on the relationships between Greek men and the
indigenous women they met on alien shores. The idea of seafaring stretches back in the Greek
imagination to its earliest myths. The tale of the Argonauts concerns the journey of the first ship,
the Argo, and the “abduction” of Medea from her home on the Black Sea. Medea exemplifies the
attitude of Greek men towards foreign women. Women, particularly foreign women, were met
with wariness. The primary sources concerning myths in which a foreign woman and a Greek
seafarer interact include the Argonautica and Odyssey. The historical sources on intermarriage
are few, but Herodotus does provide insight into the hybridization of communities, such as in the
Greek colony of Cyrene in North Africa. The archaeological record of Southern Italy documents
varied interactions between Greek settlers and the indigenous populations. While past
scholarship argued that the Greeks influenced the native populations, it is clear that the
indigenous population in these areas also influenced the Greeks. Although determining gender
and ethnicity from archaeological data is challenging, some evidence does point to intermarriage.
Ornaments of clothing at Greek settlements, for instance, suggest that Greek men married native
women who kept their way of dress. My research, which uses Middle Ground theory and models
of hybridization, explores the world view of the Greeks on intermarriage and opens selective
windows on its actual practice in Southern Italy.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Hannah Kloster

Institution: Colgate University

Type: Poster

Subject: Anthropology & Archeology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 1
Date/Time: Mon 1:30pm-2:30pm
Session Number: 2026