Getting Started on Questions of Skin Color in Antiquity

Stuff I’ve learned from Twitter and archived here for future reference.

First we’ll credit “v ness” and her response to attacks of a talented graphic artist representing Roman poets with dark skin:

My meagre contribution prompted some scholarly refs I want to save (image I posted was photographed and posted by Gareth Harney):

Armand D’ Angour quoted:

” I’m not too bothered, Caesar, to inspire your delight, Nor to determine whether, as a man, you’re black or white. Nil nimium studeo, Caesar, tibi velle placere, nec scire, utrum sis albus an ater homo.

Catullus 93

While all agree that the b/w allusion here likely does not refer to skin but politics or sexuality, this led Rebecca Futo Kennedy to recommend the following readings:

Dee, James H. “Black Odysseus, White Caesar: When Did “White People” Become “White”?” The Classical Journal 99, no. 2 (2003): 157-67. Stable JStor Link. No paywall link from USC.

Haley, Shelley. “Be Not Afraid of the Dark: Critical Race Theory and Classical Studies,” in Laura Nasrallah and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (eds.), Prejudice and Christian Beginnings: Investigating Race, Gender and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies, 4 Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2009: 27-50 No paywall PDF from Press.

Derbew, Sarah. “An investigation of Black Figures in Classical Greek Art” The Iris: Behind the Scenes at the Getty. 25 April 2018.

Kennedy, Rebecca Futo. “Colorlines in Classical North Africa” Classics at the Intersections: Random thoughts of a Classicist on ancient Greek and Roman culture and contemporary America by Rebecca Futo Kennedy. 8 October 2017.

Also see:

Snowden, Frank M. “Misconceptions about African Blacks in the Ancient Mediterranean World: Specialists and Afrocentrists.” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 4, no. 3 (1997): 28-50. Stable JStor Link.

More Black-Centered Resourced for Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Should another reading be listed here? Send it to me! I’d love to expand this post or link to other blogs/websites that collect these readings.

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