Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience

Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience

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By (author) Frank M. Snowden

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  • Publisher: The Belknap Press
  • Format: Paperback | 390 pages
  • Dimensions: 316mm x 378mm x 20mm | 381g
  • Publication date: 1 July 1970
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass.
  • ISBN 10: 0674076265
  • ISBN 13: 9780674076266
  • Edition statement: Revised.
  • Illustrations note: 120 halftones, 1 table
  • Sales rank: 1,593,123

Product description

The Africans who came to ancient Greece and Italy participated in an important chapter of classical history. Although evidence indicated that the alien dark- and black-skinned people were of varied tribal and geographic origins, the Greeks and Romans classified many of them as Ethiopians. In an effort to determine the role of black people in ancient civilization, Mr. Snowden examines a broad span of Greco-Roman experience--from the Homeric era to the age of Justinian--focusing his attention on the Ethiopians as they were known to the Greeks and Romans. The author dispels unwarranted generalizations about the Ethiopians, contending that classical references to them were neither glorifications of a mysterious people nor caricatures of rare creatures. Mr. Snowden has probed literary, epigraphical, papyrological, numismatic, and archaeological sources and has considered modern anthropological and sociological findings on pertinent racial and intercultural problems. He has drawn directly upon the widely scattered literary evidence of classical and early Christian writers and has synthesized extensive and diverse material. Along with invaluable reference notes, Mr. Snowden has included over 140 illustrations which depict the Negro as the Greeks and Romans conceived of him in mythology and religion and observed him in a number of occupations--as servant, diplomat, warrior, athlete, and performer, among others. Presenting an exceptionally comprehensive historical description of the first major encounter of Europeans with dark and black Africans, Mr. Snowden found that the black man in a predominantly white society was neither romanticized nor scorned--that the Ethiopian in classical antiquity was considered by pagan and Christian without prejudice.

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Author information

Frank M. Snowden Jr., is Professor of Classics, Howard University.

Review quote

This book, by reason of its scrupulous, balanced scholarship and quietly reasoned argument, will be of lasting value not only to scholars but to anyone interested in questions of race and historical and social perceptions of race. -- Michael Thelwell Boston Globe The novelty of this book, the fruit of a lifetime's labor of love by a distinguished black classicist, lies in the exhaustive, impeccable scholarship with which it documents and illustrates its conclusion, that there is no evidence for racism or color prejudice in Greco-Roman antiquity. -- Paul MacKendrick American Journal of Philology Solid, important reading, and a landmark in the writing of history. [Snowden] skips secondary sources for the ancient evidence: writings, coins, epigraphs, papyri, pottery, etc. With data gleaned from these, he draws conclusions about the Ethiopian's (black's) place in the Greek, Roman, and early Christian eras, the white man's attitude toward him. What emerges from Snowden's painstakingly thorough study is that it was not a confrontation--that skin color was no obstacle to harmony in the ancient world. Publishers Weekly Professor Snowden has assembled an impressive amount of evidence of contacts which Greeks and Romans had with black Africans throughout the classical period; this evidence comes from archeological and literary sources, and in considering it, he has also combed much modern scholarship on individual bits of evidence. The result is a handbook which should prove useful to anyone who is at all interested in social or cultural attitudes in antiquity. Classical Philology Snowden has amassed an impressive amount of evidence proving that "Ethiopians" were not regarded mainly as slaves, but were also widely known as warriors, diplomats, athletes, and performers. -- Lorna Hahn Saturday Review One very effective way to expose the irrational in present-day attitudes is to recall the realities of the past. This is precisely what Frank Snowden has done in this book, a thoroughgoing, scholarly and beautifully illustrated study of the recorded contacts in the ancient world between the Greeks and Romans and that mysterious race of dark-skinned Africans whom they called the Ethiopians...The author is to be congratulated on having made manageable such a mass of pertinent information within the covers of one compact, extremely readable and timely book. -- Alan M. G. Little Washington Star

Table of contents

1. The Physical Characteristics of Ethiopians--the Textual Evidence Appendix: Names of Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman World 2. The Physical Characteristics of Ethiopians--the Archaeological Evidence Illustrations 3. Greco-Roman Acquaintance with African Ethiopians 4. Greek Encounters with Ethiopian Warriors 5. Roman Encounters with Ethiopian Warriors 6. Ethiopians in Classical Mythology 7. Ethiopians in the Theater and Amphitheater 8. Greco-Roman Attitude toward Ethiopians--Theory and Practice 9. Early Christian Attitude toward Ethiopians--Creed and Conversion Blacks in a White Society--a Summation Illustrations Notes Indexes