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The concept of the noble savage, however, can be traced to ancient Greece , where Homer, Pliny, and Xenophon idealized the Arcadians and other primitive groups, both real and imagined.

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Louis C. K. vs. Stefan Molyneux: The Noble Savage

The fact is, as Ter Ellingson shows, the humanist eighteenth century actually avoided the term because of its association with the feudalist-colonialist mentality that had spawned it years earlier. The Noble Savage reappeared in the mid-nineteenth century, however, when the "myth" was deliberately used to fuel anthropology's oldest and most successful hoax.

Ellingson's narrative follows the career of anthropologist John Crawfurd, whose political ambition and racist agenda were well served by his construction of what was manifestly a myth of savage nobility.