"The people with burned faces" : Greco-Roman anti-black racism and its modern effects
May 9, 2018
Department or Program
Anti-black racism is not a modern phenomenon. Instead, it existed as long ago as the ancient Greco-Roman world. Greek and Roman writers displayed racist attitudes in many works, and with various levels of explicitness. Authors including Aristotle, Diodorus, Ovid, and Martial demonstrated that their society held a coherent body of racial thought that consistently denigrated, scorned, mocked, and exotified black people. Given the importance the study of the “Classics” was given in the modern era, it is unsurprising to find that modern racists used ancient texts, theories, and practices to support and justify their own racism. While Jeffersonian apologies for slavery are now largely absent from scholarship, the newfound denial of the existence of ancient racism continues the harmful legacy of oppression. With the ancient world now being appropriated by white extremists, it is increasingly important to acknowledge the racist legacy of the ancient Greco-Roman world in order to be able to fight against racism.