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Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience Paperback – January 31, 1970

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674076266 ISBN-10: 0674076265

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Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience + Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks + The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Here's a book to raise the spirits of anyone of African descent who feels that he or she has nothing to do with the making of Western civilization. Frank M. Snowden Jr., a world-renowned scholar on ancient Greece and Rome who taught at Howard and Georgetown Universities, details with encyclopedic and painstaking scholarship and research the undeniable presence of Africans in the Greco-Roman world. "The experiences of those Africans who reached the alien shores of Greece and Italy constituted an important chapter in the history of classical antiquity," he writes. Using evidence from terra cotta figures, paintings, and classical sources like Herodotus and Pliny the Elder, Snowden proves, contrary to our modern assumptions, that Greco-Romans did not view Africans with racial contempt. Many Africans worked in the Roman Empire as musicians, artisans, scholars, and generals as well as slaves, and they were noted as much for their virtue as for their appearance of having a "burnt face" (from which came the Greek name Ethiopian). --Eugene Holley Jr.

Review

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. (Michael Thelwell Boston Globe)

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. (Paul MacKendrick American Journal of Philology)

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. (Publishers Weekly)

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. (Classical Philology)

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. (Lorna Hahn Saturday Review)

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. (Alan M. G. Little Washington Star)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (January 7, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674076265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674076266
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Baltic Books on September 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Snowden is not an Afro-centric writer, he is a well qualified professor of classics, an accredited expert in his field.
"Blacks in Antiquity" presents a comprehensive history and analysis of ancient Ethiopian "black" culture. In the 18th and 19th centuries, some American anthropologists and theologians have attempted to rewrite Ethiopian history to show this advanced culture as one not truly black. The roots of that go into the very heart of the origin of western racism in Colonial America and can be found to affect our implicit views of race even today.
Snowden shows from historical, textual and archaeological evidence that the Ethiopians were indeed a "black" race. He also establishes their position of respect and complete equal acceptance with other ancient cultures of the time. In essence, it shows, while perhaps not explicitly stating it, that racism is a much more recent invention than many have supposed-- especially those hold to a "Black curse" or "inferiority" theory in physiology or theology.
If you want a volume that presents evidence in a straight foward and empirically supportable manner, this is an excellent choice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on December 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Frank M. Snowden, Jr. (1911-2007) was an American Professor Emeritus of Classics at Howard University, and one of the foremost authorities on blacks in classical antiquity. He also wrote books such as Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks.

He writes in the Preface to this 1970 book, "I have attempted to set forth the facts as precisely as possible on the basis of the ancient evidence---literary, epigraphical, papyrological, numismatic, and archaeological. The material has been presented topically, each topic chronologically as far as practicable when such an arrangement was necessary for the most effective presentation of my findings."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"Long ago E. Babelon observed that a comparison of different classical monuments depicting the Negro would demonstrate that the ancients were portraying no uniform type. He believed that a comparative study would be interesting from an anthropological view and would result in an identification of different groups of Ethiopians and subdivision of these groups." (Pg. 23)
"Unfortunately the plays involving Ethiopian themes or topics have been lost and are known only through fragments, titles, and the depictions of vase painters. The fragmentary evidence is sufficient, however, to indicate that as early as Aeschylus Ethiopians were presented as black, and speaking a different tongue, and as living in Africa." (Pg. 156)
"In the modern world the crucial test of the white man's acceptance of the Negro is the attitude toward miscegenation.
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22 of 32 people found the following review helpful By carsonja@egr.msu.edu on January 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
Snowden seems to really know what he's talking about. To someone as ignorant in the subject as I was, it was a great read to learn all about the contact between the ancient Africans and Greeks. The pictures and explanations of artifacts are especially interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Todd Clepps on April 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
I love this book, i keep on rereading this book all the time.It is a very informative and very insightful book
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By Lace on October 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very enlightening book. I wish I could have thanked Snowden.
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