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Racism is viewed by many as a behavior that comes naturally to human beings. As such, it is said to have been very rampant in Ancient Greco-Roman Civilizations (AGRC). In addition, the presence of Africans in AGRC is minimal when referring to literature on this civilization. The mention of Africans is supported primarily by both conjecture as well as wishful thinking. In regard to these statements, this paper will draw on the text found in the book Blacks in Antiquity so as to either support what it purports or reject it. In particular, aspects of AGRC namely: literature, religion/mythology and military history will be the focus of the excerpt. The excerpt anticipates that the statement is in fact and that it is indeed true that blacks were not in any manner regarded based in their skin color in these society. The issue of racism was as such not rampant in these civilizations as the statement implies.
Greek and Roman literature makes few connections with regards to the presence of Blacks, Ethiopians in both Rome and Greece. Heredorian literature mentions the presence of a large number of Ethiopians residing in Greece both in the army of Xerxes as well as when describing Negroes figures present on the vases of Athens. Ephorus also made geographical references that implied that Greek residents had a good knowledge of the physical layout of Ethiopia something that could have been possible due to Ethiopians residing amongst them. The assumption derived from the text is that some of the Ethiopians who fought in Xerxes army remained in Greece.
Assumptions in texts claim that racism existed as most blacks in the societies were slaves. However it is important to note that the benefit of war was the taking of slaves of the defeated people. As such, the Ethiopians being captives, they stayed on as slaves in these societies. This has nothing to do with their skin color and as many non-Romans and non- Greeks there, they probably reached the country through the slave market. Ethiopians and Trogolodytes had a large trading center at Adulis where slaves would reach Egypt from. A sixth century A.D papyrus mentions of Ethiopian slave traders (Snowden, 1970, p. 184).
Amongst the classical literature, Aristotle makes one of the initial mentions of black people that seem to indicate the inconsequence of their color. This is found in the union between the Ethiopian father and the Greek mother which bore an offspring referred to as a mullatto. This race mixture lineage would soon be assimilated and thus eventually disappear, indicating a sense of racial tolerance. Modern experts in racism consider certain essential criteria in an effort to evaluate the position occupied by blacks in a society that is predominantly white. These criteria are not present in the literature. However, the text is able to highlight how the Ethiopians in Ancient Greco-Roman Civilizations were able to fare in areas such as religion, occupation, race mixture and social acceptance, areas central in these societies. The literature indicates that the Greco-Roman practices were in conformity with the Roman and Greek beliefs regarding the origin of the diversity in race. As such, a man's racial difference was inconsequential (Snowden, 1970, p. 185).
In addition, the literature indicates that a percentage of the Ethiopians in these civilizations came on commercial and diplomatic missions. Ethiopians and Blemmyes made up the ambassadors present in Constantine's palace. Those who were of noble blood were afforded offices of such dignity they had no wish to go back to their home countries. In addition, blacks who achieved much success in Egypt in turn were attracted to Rome or Greece just like other foreigners. The elite would also send their children to cultural centers such as Alexandria to be educated. The Eragamenes, rulers of Ethiopia during Philadelphus rule were all educated in Greek where they studied philosophy. This is justified by the findings of bronze statures representing boys of African origin, Egypt and beyond, as they perform scholarly tasks such as reading speeches in places like Alexandria. This further strengthens the notion of racial tolerance in these civilisations (Reilly, Kaufman, & Bodino, 2003, p.45).
There is no account by either the Romans or the Greek showing repugnance towards the race crossings and/or mixture between whites and non-whites in literature. Heredotus makes a comment that the mixing of Ethiopians and the Egyptians made the former a gentler people. Others like Plutarch do not condemn the race mixture between the Egyptians and Ethiopians. Records of blacks in these civilizations are to a large extent recorded without racial bias. In fact, depictions of marriages between whites and black do not make comments regarding interracial marriages. Archaeological as well as literary evidence points to a frequent crossing/breeding between the white and the black race. There is no resemblance of the present day structures that occur in racial mixture in any of the observations made regarding such unions, either taking of concubines or marriage (Snowden, 1970, p. 193).
The study of prejudice and racism against the black race indicates that the attitude religions hold for Negros is significant. The text focuses on two religions, that is, Christian and Isiac. These two have substantial information derived from classical antiquity. Ethiopians played an important role in the spread of Isiac, the predominant religion of Greco-Roman civilization. A fourth century A.D mosaic from Carthage depicts the Negro's role in the Roman North Africa religion. In its interpretation, a Negro seen standing at the forefront, dark compression and frizzly hair, nude with a scarf around the neck, is seen to perform an important role in the ceremony held in a Roman household. He is leading in the symbol of virtue in a religious triptych to the powers of Venus and Aion in an ancient and strange "voodoo" to invoke fertility in the household (Snowden, 1970, p. 192).
Early Christian such as apostle Paul as well as notable Greek writers emphasized on the inconsequence role of race in life and religion for that matter. In accordance to the apostle's teachings, there was no slave, Scythian, free man, barbarian, circumcised, uncircumcised, Greek or Jew in the church. Christ came for all people and was in all people. There is emphasis that God created man equally. As such, when men did not treat each other equally it was as a result of their negligence. The success of the traditional apostolic endeavors is highlighted by their penetrating reach to far places, including Africa. Matthew took Christ's teachings to Ethiopia. There is a reference in Jeremiah which states that the Ethiopian can change his skin no more than a leopard can his spots. This Christian imagery is reflective of the racial tolerance of the church at that time (Snowden, 1970, p. 199).
Both the Greeks and the Romans military had a thorough knowledge of the Ethiopians who resided south of Egypt. Augustus established military operations as well as diplomatic relations with the dark and black neighbors of Egypt residing in Ethiopia. There is a distribution of Roman coin in Ethiopia and other African countries beyond Egypt such as Kenya, Sudan, and Congo, which strengthens the Roman presence in the region. The Greeks and Romans were most familiar with Ethiopia during the Meroitic period. They also had an earlier association with the Napatan Dynasty. This Ethiopia had a strong military that enabled it to conquer Egypt. They also established diplomatic and diplomatic relations first with the Ptolemies and later with the Romans. These relations indicate mutual respect and racial tolerance by the Greco-Roman civilization (Snowden, 1970, p. 93)
Ethiopians played an important role in the Persian army during the expansion of the Persian Empire by Xerxes. This is depicted in the works of writer such say the poet, Salamis. He portrays them as the black horsemen and states that they were the army's messengers. This is an important reference which indicates that black people were treated as equals in the military and could rise to some important posts in the field (Reilly, Kaufman, & Bodino, 2003, p.46).
Blacks in Antiquity is able to oppose the notion that racism as a natural human condition which was prevalent in the ancient Greek-Roman civilization. His text is able to portray a persona of a black man living far away from home in a society that is predominantly. The evidence in his work is both archaeological as well as recorded in popular literature that we hold true today. His work shows that this society placed no significant consideration on race as and color as a source of prejudice thus discrediting the notion of racism being rampant in these societies (Snowden, 1970, p. 125).
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