Black Achilles

The reissue of this Aeon Essay prompted a couple of thoughts.

First the Greeks, like the Egyptians, were surrounded by peoples of both darker and lighter complexion. To the North they had the startlingly white Northern barbarians and to the South there were Ethiopians and other dark skinned people. Since there is no point in fetishising a characteristic that you don’t yourself extremize, there was no reason for the Greeks to value whiteness. So it’s not surprising that they didn’t. But to say that this shows they were blind to race is preposterous. The very article which is attempting to make that claim is full of references by the Greeks to visible and other characteristics of other (often “lower”) cultures (including the whiteness of the Slavs, from whose treatment by the Romans the relationship between their name and that of the “peculiar institution” is, of course, derived).

Leave a Reply