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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 390 pages
- 6-1/16 x 9-3/16 inches
- Belknap Press
From this author
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