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Depictions of African blacks in Greco Roman Art

This research examines representative depictions of African blacks in the Greco-Roman art of the ancient Mediterranean world. The research will set forth the historiographical context in which images of blacks from Western antiquity have been analyzed and then, with reference to two specific art objects, show that the evidence of the objects themselves is that in the ancient period, the social status of black Africans was very much on a par with the social status of peoples with much lighter pigmentation and, while distinctive, was considered neither excessively inferior nor excessively superior by the mainstream culture.

Controversy surrounds the academic discourse of the status of black Africans in Greco-Roman antiquity. One view is that blacks as a whole were victims of slavery and white racism at the time and that this legacy continued to dominate the relationship between African and European peoples into the modern period. Patterson's view is that slavery indigenous to Africa and slavery experienced by black Africans in European societies had the effect of transforming blacks into nonpersons worthy only of contempt in popular imagination. His analysis of slavery in Africa is that ambitious slaves sought and "self-interested master[s] offered . . . reduction of the slave's marginality and his partial resocialization in the master's community" (Patterson A 23). The idea of resocialization, which is full inclusion in the dominant culture, is important for Patterson because it is to be distinguished from the norms of ancient European culture, wherein the dominant idea of slaves was that they were barbarians, hence permanently alien to the civilized (especially Roman) world, even if free. Patterson's analysis of the depictions of blacks by Greco-Roman artists is consistent with the idea that black slaves were alien to the mainstream Greco-Roman culture. He describes the depictions as little more than harsh caricatures, mostly "hideo...

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Depictions of African blacks in Greco Roman Art. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:19, June 26, 2019, from