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Old February 20th, 2010, 02:53 PM   #1

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Black Africans in the Roman Empire

The threads recently started in the Ancient History forum by an apparent Afrocentrist got me to thinking about this...

I know that the Romans were well aware of the existence of black Africans. But, were any black tribes incorporated into the Empire's African provinces? If I understand correctly, the Numidians and Libyans had more Semitic-type features. And Egypt, and the city of Carthage and the surrounding region, were peopled by a combination of non-black Africans and the descendants of Semitic, Greek, and Roman colonists and merchants.

To the direct south of Egypt there was a black kingdom - called Meroe, I believe - and surely the Romans must have had some relations with them, or at least knowledge of them. But what I am wondering is were there any black tribes in the Empire; if you were to have taken a walk on the streets of Rome or some other major metropolis of the Empire, could you have expected to see any black people?

I know that this is a touchy subject, but if this thread degenerates into an argument about "race", etc. I would ask a moderator to close it. I have used the term "black African" loosely, but I believe everyone knows what I mean.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 03:44 PM   #2

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

There is a school of thought that says that the Ancient Egyptians were Black. Certainly some of them they were.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 04:08 PM   #3

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

id guess that black african tribes would be few and far between, if they existed in the empire, but i wouldnt put black african individuals out of logic, though, again, they would probably be few and far between
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Old February 20th, 2010, 04:12 PM   #4

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

Wasn't Mauritz (leader of a legion, later a Saint, and possibley an Emperor, though I don't know on this last point) black?

This is drawn from a vague memory of a documentary many years ago. I am quite prepared to have got my facts mixed up on this one.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 07:21 PM   #5

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

When I read this I took it the opposite way to your meaning, were there black Africans in Rome. Certainly, there were Chinese, Indians and definately black Africans setting up shop and living in the city itself as well as the rest of the empire and Romans were in turn visiting these homelands themselves for tourism, diplomacy, trade and exploration.

However the Romans never invaded and conquered any part of black Africa, the closest they got was the borders of Nubia.
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Old February 20th, 2010, 08:35 PM   #6
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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

tHIS IST NOT 100 % RIGHT,so dont qoute me on this.
I veiwed a program documentary on aboute the Roman empire,most of the actors were Roman looking butt there was att least one-two African actors showing inn the documentary.
For the documentry too showe African actors inn a Roman period program,there muste have been some period documents stating & proving that the Romans & Europe had minor majoity of Africans living inn Roman & Europe,other wise,why woulde the Documentry have Africans as Romans inn Europe?

If you dont understande,there ist no racist comments,I was talking about ,there may be some period documents stating that there was a small portions mojoity of Africans withe the Romans.
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Old February 21st, 2010, 01:39 AM   #7

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

The historic problem of "black" or sub-Sahara Africa is the Sahara desert. It was such a formidable geographic feature it might as well have been a gigantic mountain range or an ocean. It isolated the peoples of the sub-continent from engaging with other peoples except at the extreme west and east regions near Carthage and Egypt. It wasn't until after the Arab/Muslim Conquests that the isolation began to relent just a bit, at least in the north.

The peoples who were isolated from contact with other cultures, such as the peoples of the sub-continent, the Americas, and the south Pacific as well as the arctic extremes, did not develop - through no fault of their own - to the extent that other peoples did who were engaged with other cultures. It was a matter of geography.

I realize "afrocentrists" feel it necessary to make certain claims. This goes back to Martin Bernal's "Black Athena" (he was actually a China scholar who switched to studying the Bronze Age in order to rewrite history to serve an activist agenda.)

I have no doubt there were individual Africans who acquired prominence in the Mediterranean Roman environment. However, I doubt there were trading "posts" for them nor for Indians or other Asians. The Romans certainly traded with other regions of the world, but it was not a "global" economy in the sense that trading settlements were established, at least in the western Med.

I'm just trying to be objective. I think it's a heck of a lot better, rather than trying to prove an equitable development in the past, to look to the future and start building on it from the present, rather than trying to rewrite history. Unfortunately many folks share the error that establishing a past "precedent" ensures some sort of present "confidence." But two wrongs don't make a right, and someone might come along later and expose the error.

I realize I haven't directly addressed the thread's question. But the Sahara desert was such a formidable and isolating feature it is primary (IMO) in any discussion of the involvement of sub-Saharan peoples in regions outside Africa.
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Old February 21st, 2010, 05:43 AM   #8

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

It depends upon what year one is talking about.

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Old February 21st, 2010, 08:08 AM   #9

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

Originally Posted by Salah ad-Din View Post
; if you were to have taken a walk on the streets of Rome or some other major metropolis of the Empire, could you have expected to see any black people?
Nubian slaves for example.
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Old February 21st, 2010, 10:35 AM   #10

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Re: Black Africans in the Roman Empire

Has everyone forgotten Abyssinia (it was called Ethiopa then)?

The inhabitants of Ethiopia were and are a Nilotic people, and they're black. They traded with Mediterranean peoples, and I have no doubt some of their traders reached Rome.
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