Did Ancient Greeks and Roman consider themselves as European?


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
According to Henri Pirenne, prior to the Islamic conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, European identity was much weaker, perhaps even non-existent. The Greeks and Romans were aware that Europe, Asia, and Africa were different places, but they also recognized that the Mediterranean Sea exerted a unifying effect on the three continents. In terms of material culture there was little difference between Egypt, Carthage, Greece, and Rome since goods available in one place were available throughout the Mediterranean world via trade networks. Prior to the Roman Empire there were non-material differences like language and religion. If you had asked an ancient Greek or Roman if they were a European, African, or Asian they would have said European, but that would not mean what it does today. It was common to find transplanted Europeans living in the Near East and North Africa. The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus and St. Paul were familiar with Greeks and Romans. In the 4th and 5th centuries there were some popes from North Africa. We don't know if they were Berbers or transplanted Romans.
Aug 2018
Southern Indiana
Most of Europe was in the hands of barbarian tribes so I doubt they associated themselves closely with them.
Mar 2018
Do you consider yourself as a blue-eyed man? (Let's assume you have blue eyes for the sake of argument)
Having blue eyes you would say yes, but the question is mostly meaningless. Yes, you are a man with blue eyes. But you feel no sense of kinship, or shared culture, or communal heritage, or in any sense a feeling of brotherhood with other people with blue eyes.

The Greeks and Romans would answer the same to your question. Yes, they lived in Europe, and so would agree that they were European. But they didn't think of themselves as being European or as that being at all a part of their identity.