Diodorus Siculus - (Bibliotheke historike, V.32.7) - Homosexuality and the Weerdinge Bog Men
hell ya bro
goddess-bound said: Hi, i don't know if this is too early for you, but is there any record of free black people in Roman times, specifically pre-empire? My father was saying that it was "very unlikely" for it to have been, but i think otherwise.
This is just another example of the overwhelmingly pervasive idea in our culture that no matter where or when you go in history, anyone who wasn’t Black and who SAW a Black person immediately thought, “Hey! Thisperson and everyone on earth who looks anything like them would make great slaves!” So…before we play remedial education, can we all take a moment to think about how horrible that is? That the idea of Black people=slaves is SO dominant that we project it into ancient history???
Okay, first of all, slavery in the Ancient Mediterranean was not the same as American chattel slavery. It was not race-based slavery. Your race had nothing to do with whether or not you were enslaved.
Basically, what you’re asking about (roughly) is the Hellenistic Era.
After Alexander the Great’s ventures in the Persian Empire, Hellenistic kingdoms were established throughout south-west Asia (Seleucid Empire, Kingdom of Pergamon) and north-east Africa (Ptolemaic Kingdom).
This resulted in the export of Greek culture and language to these new realms, and moreover Greek colonists themselves.
Equally, however, these new kingdoms were influenced by the indigenous cultures, adopting local practices where beneficial, necessary, or convenient. Hellenistic culture thus represents a fusion of the Ancient Greek world with that of the Near East, Middle East, and Southwest Asia, and a departure from earlier Greek attitudes towards “barbarian” cultures.
The Hellenistic period was characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization (as distinguished from that occurring in the 8th–6th centuries BC) which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa. Those new cities were composed of Greek colonists who came from different parts of the Greek world, and not, as before, from a specific “mother city”.
As explained above, what you would have had is a “melting pot” of many different languages, “races”, cultures, schools of art, ethnicities, et cetera.
The art of this period reflects that.
Greek architects and sculptors were highly valued throughout the Hellenistic world. Shown on the left is a terra-cotta statuette of a draped young woman, made as a tomb offering near Thebes, probably around 300 BCE. The incursion of Alexander into the western part of India resulted in some Greek cultural influences there, especially during the Hellenistic era. During the first century BCE., Indian sculptors in Gandhara, which today is part of Pakistan, began to create statues of the Buddha. The Buddhist Gandharan style combined Indian and Hellenistic artistic traditions, which is evident in the stone sculpture of the Buddha on the right. Note the wavy hair topped by a bun tied with a ribbon, also a feature of earlier statues of Greek deities. This Buddha is also wearing a Greek-style toga.
-Essential World History by Duiker, Spielvogel, p. 101
As for trade routed in the Ancient World, well. The Silk Road has existed for pretty much as long as the continents have been in their current configuration and populated by humanity. I’m not exaggerating-the prehistoric version of what became known as the Silk Road is known as The Steppe Road. The Silk Road ITSELF was established for trading purposes at least 2,000 years ago. Here’s a mockup of the Silk Road as it existed during the era you’re asking about:
Here are some Hellenistic Era Greek artworks that feature Black people. There is NO correlation in this era between a person being Black and a person being enslaved.
In general, Greek attitudes towards anyone with Black or dark brown skin were sort of ethnocentric, but not negative OR associated with slavery. After all, the idea of “white people” wouldn’t exist for another 1,500 years at LEAST.
Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks by Frank M. Snowden contains many, MANY invaluable interpretations and translations of primary sources that help to really explore attitudes and philosophies that the people in the time had about appearance, human difference, and personality traits. From page 86:
If you want something a bit more definitive, The Image of the Black in Western Art Vol. 1:From the Pharaohs to the Roman Empire explores the Greek and Roman preoccupation with physical type+personality traits as a form of PROTO-racism, but please note that nothing in their writing or art indicated the association of Blackness or Black skin with slaves or enslavement/enslavability:
"Race" as we have this concept today did not exist then. the "races" they are talking about have to do with ethnicity and culture, NOT skin color by necessity. In addition, the "proto-racist" writing is describing geographical origin and climate to correlate with personality type, with the “perfect balance” being conveniently, Greeks.
As for the beginnings of the Roman Empire, the above is wehre you’re pretty much starting from, and then you have EVEN MORE intermixing between peoples. Including the Emperor born in the Roman Province of “Africa”, Septimius Severus, who led a campaign of additional conquering there around 200 C.E.
He then of course sent tens of thousands of Roman soldiers up directly into Britain and Scotland, and there are extensive records of Black military legions at Hadrian’s Wall in the 3rd century. Incidentally, leading to a rather multicultural population in Roman York (England), which is also extensively documented (Ivory Bangle Lady, one of the richest women in that area at that time, was definitely of African descent).
This would have been the Roman Empire about 100-200 years before the time of Ivory Bangle Lady. Excavations in the area combined with the cutting edge of academia and science combined have this to say:
"We’re looking at a population mix which is much closer to contemporary Britain than previous historians had suspected," Hella Eckhardt, senior lecturer at the department of archaeology at Reading University, said. "In the case of York, the Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now.”
Isotope evidence suggests that up to 20% were probably long distance migrants. Some were African or had African ancestors, including the woman dubbed “the ivory bangle lady”, whose bone analysis shows she was brought up in a warmer climate, and whose skull shape suggests mixed ancestry including black features.
"We can’t tell if she was independently wealthy, or the wife or daughter of a wealthy man — but the bones show that she was young, between 18 and 23, and healthy with no obvious sign of disease or cause of death."
The authors comment: "The case of the ‘ivory bangle lady’ contradicts assumptions that may derive from more recent historical experience, namely that immigrants are low status and male, and that African individuals are likely to have been slaves. Instead, it is clear that both women and children moved across the Empire, often associated with the military."
Feel free to go tell your dad he’s full of it.
My gods. I’ve done more than a little research into Aztecs and never even saw a mention of codices.
Well, yeah. The Spanish burned them. They burned all the Aztec books. Even that isn’t an Aztec book, it’s basically a supervised copy made in the same style.
The Aztec libraries were burned purposely to erase Aztec history, suppress rebellion, and eliminate “pagan” religious and cultural practices. Once the people who remembered them died, those practices were lost forever.
The only thing that remains are descriptions of Aztec society created by or supervised by the Spanish.
All the manuscripts in Nahuatl were made under the supervision and with annotations by Spanish Missionary Priests. You can read more about it here, although note that even this website claims the Aztec manuscripts were “less complex” than their predecessors’, the the Mixtec, even though they just pointed out, all the unadulterated Aztec books were burned.
You know what they also burned? The great Aztec medical codices. When the Spanish first arrived, even they acknowledged the superiority of Aztec medicine. They had a seriously intense pharmacopoeia. They had advanced surgical techniques. The personal physician to the king of Spain even went to Mexico to study from Aztec physicians for seven years. And then they decided to lolconquer everything and there is so much stuff that’s been lost it’s not even funny.
you can get a sort of idea here, but notice how the article claims there’s “no bias”. It’s also a seriously gross display of colonialism apologia. But you can read about the content of the copied book.
same happened with a lot of maya writing. basically everything that wasn’t actually carved into a rock was purposefully destroyed by the spanish governors on the grounds that the books were either useless or a source of witchcraft. there are only three significant surviving maya codices, which is part of the reason why it was so fiendishly difficult to decode the written language, and why some aspects are still untranslated. the other reason is because modern translators were forced to rely on a massively inaccurate alphabet/translation book that was originally comissioned by diego de landa, the spanish bishop who caused most of the problems in the first place.
i remember when i was studying this, diego de landa seemed like like a total bastard of disney villainesque proportions. he tried to suppress maya culture by destroying all the books, then spread propaganda about maya people eating babies and shit like that, and then wrote this extremely inaccurate “translation” book which for centuries was one of the main sources used when attempting to translate mayan glyphs. it wasn’t as if mayan was a “dead language” back in the 16th century, anyway. if diego de landa hadn’t made such a concerted effort to stamp out all the “un-christian” aspects of maya culture, it would have been relatively easy to translate written mayan with the help of living maya people who spoke and read mayan. we’re not talking egyptian hieroglyphs here.
but once the mayan books were destroyed, the only source was de landa’s book, which was packed with propaganda and (as far as i recall) attempted to translate mayan on a purely phonetic basis. and a phonetic translation of spoken mayan is not very helpful when translating written mayan, because the script is an unusual mixture of syllabic and logographic (ie, symbolic) glyphs. pretty much any spoken language can be written phonetically in Latin script to help europeans quickly learn how to speak it, but the same cannot be said of written languages. OBVIOUSLY. particularly when the nature of mayan writing would be very difficult to understand for a 16th century person who isn’t a linguist and who has only ever read spanish and latin.
[n.b. i should add that when i say “mayan language” i’m referring to the version of Yucatec Mayan that was used in the 16th century, which would have been easy to translate at the time. modern yucatec mayan has obviously evolved over the past 400 years, and is written using latin script. the first mayan telenovela started last year, i think. there are also a variety of different types of “ancient” mayan because, you know, language isn’t static, and things vary from area to area. but it would have been far easier to translate the various written examples of mayan languages with the help of more “modern” (ie, 16th century) mayan writing, almost all of which was eliminated by the conquistadors, thus turning mayan into a ~mysterious code~.]
mayan language is a textbook example of a total colonial nightmare. for upwards of three centuries the written language baffled linquists and codebreakers, but it wasn’t because it was ~lost to the mists of time~ or whatever, it was a direct result of the conquistadors deciding that the entirety of maya language and culture was “witchcraft” and had to be destroyed.
when i die i want to be buried wearing a pair of sunglasses so that a few decades down the line i will also be a cool skeleton
26,473 notes. 26,473 people identified with this statement. if even half that many people actually did this, can you imagine how confused future archaeologists would be
"In the end of the twenty-first century, a new grave good phenomenon spread rapidly in a global, decentralized fashion. In the relevant burials, the deceased would be buried with a pair of non-functioning spectacles fastened to their face; in many cases, the pair was anchored quite firmly into the skull (as-Sabah 2839), as though to make sure that it would not come off if the burial was disturbed.
"The significance of this grave good arrangement is unknown. The glasses vary wildly. One adolescent skeleton was found buried with a pair that chemical analyses indicate was bright pink at the time of burial and made of plastics common in twenty-first century excavations, and carved with an anthropomorphic image of a cat on one corner (Bao 2836). Another example was a finely manufactured pair, affixed with post-mortem stapling to a middle aged man’s skull, which had been plated with gold and had several small diamonds affixed, although much of the gold had come unfastened from the core in the intervening time (Jensen 2841). The main thing that all the glasses have in common is that, in contrast to the rarer, functional eyeglasses buried with a few individuals in previous years — presumably those who had used them in life, as spectacles were a common early method of vision correction (Zhang 2833) — the lenses are plain tinted glass. Their primarily function seems to have been to obscure the vision of the wearer.
"The reasoning for burying the dead with these items has been speculated on widely without much consensus. The most popular theory is that it is related to early twenty-first century cynicism; at the same time as the beginning of cynicism’s century-long dominance of serious philosophy and beginning just before the first Data War and escalating throughout it, many ceased to put faith in old religious ideas of a just world and peaceful afterlife and returned to less optimistic versions of their faiths. The glasses may have been meant to shield the wearers in the afterlife by limiting their visions and knowledge of it (Gonzoles 2840) an idea that was known to exist at the time and would develop further in the Cult of the Hammer and Cross, among other similar groups that dominated religious beliefs following the collapse of major world powers in the later half of the twenty-first century (Werlinich 2837)."