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Deconstructing the Classical Age: Africa and The Unity of the Mediterranean World

Author(s): Maghan Keita


Source: The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 79, No. 2 (Spring, 1994), pp. 147-166
Published by: Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2717625
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DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL
AGE: AFRICA AND THE UNITY OF THE
MEDITERRANEAN WORLD

By
Maghan Keita*

In his controversial work, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom writes
of the student today:
In his innocence of the stories of Biblical or Greek and Roman antiquity, Raphael, Leonardo,
Michelangelo, Rembrandt and all the others can say nothing to him. All he sees are colors and
forms-modern art. In short, like almost everything else in his spiritual life, the paintings and
statues are abstract. No matter what modern wisdom asserts, these artists counted on immediate
recognition of their subjects and, what is more, on their having a powerful meaning for their
viewers. The works were the fulfillment of those meanings, giving them a sensuous reality and
hence completing them. Without these meanings, and without their being something essential to
the viewer as a moral, political, and religious being, the works lose their essence. It is not merely
the tradition that is lost when the voice of civilization elaborated over millennia has been stilled. It
is being itself that vanishes beyond the dissolving horizon.l [Italics added]

There is a great deal in Professor Bloom's work which one might find disagreeable.
One might begin with his assumption of a single tradition which has only been
transmitted through white, privileged males. His work opens this discussion because
it epitomizes some of the most salient elements of the discourse on "otherness" in
the latter part of the twentieth century. Because Professor Bloom is a classicist, his
ideas and opinions hold sway in the various disciplines which are attendant to Class-
ical studies, including history. There is, within Bloom's work, at least one point
which strikes a chord: "the voice of civilization elaborated over millennia has been
stilled." In that vein, the question which Bloom failed to ask must be asked: What
has been the role of racism in stilling the voice of civilization? That question is a
focus of this work.
Bloom seems to imply that modernity and modernization are twentieth century
achievements. It would prove useful to remind those who support this argument that
the modernity to which they so frequently refer with disgust had its beginning in the
very writers that Bloom loves to reference. It reached its pinnacle in the late eight-
eenth and early nineteenth centuries, ensconcing itself in the reign of Victoria. In
fact, that same modernity confronts us at the opening of the twenty-first century. It
finds conservatives, and not a few liberals, resorting to Victorian constructs. They
have reverted to arguments that are 150 years old. These are the same arguments

*
Maghan Keita is Assistant Professor and Director of African Studies at Villanova University,
Pennsylvania.
148 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

that bolstered the institution of slavery and which provided the rationales for mod-
ern imperialism.
However, in appreciation of the "voices of civilization elaborated over millennia,"
the argument presented here has less to do with a critique of arguments and ratio-
nales in support of slavery and imperialism, than it has to do with an analysis of the
materials of those distant millennia. Falling in line with Bloom's Closing of the
American Mind, this discussion focuses not only on the fact that students do not
study the works of "Biblical or Greek and Roman antiquity," but when they have
been studied, they have been taught incorrectly by "modernists" steeped in racist
theories and attitudes inherent in the age of "modern wisdom" which Bloom both
loves and hates.2
As essential feature of the "modernist's" argument has been the reference to race
or physical characteristics to define historical progress or regression. The use of race
as a pseudo-scientific measurement of a people's civility created an historiography
which deliberately precluded Africans, specifically, as participants in their own his-
tory, and in that of the world. As Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in 1964, Africa was
still awaiting history. Possibly, the most fortunate aspect of this attitude is that it
has not always been among us:
During the nineteenth century, race-thinking emerged for the first time as the central current in
western thought.... Racism . . .had roots in the biological thinking of the eighteenth century
but did not come to fruition or exert great influence until well along in the nineteenth.3

It was within this framework that Martin Bernal, author of the much debated work,
Black Athena, wrote that the notion of "purity" came into existence as a hallmark
of racist intellectualism. The new theorists of the period, including its historians,
argued that
to be creative, a civilization needed to be racially pure. Thus it became increasingly intolerable
that Greece . . . could be the result of the mixture of native Europeans and colonizing Africans
and Semites.4

These notions persist. They underline the current debate on diversity. Inherent to
their essential premises is a fact which both sides of the debate have failed to grasp
in general in their search for "purity": history is based on interaction (not "purity");
the geographical proportionsof the Mediterranean world were not so expansive as to
preclude such interaction, in fact, they encouraged it. And the Classical Age is re-
plete with material which substantiates this and gives a unity to the Mediterranean
world of the time.' In that vein, and in keeping with the concept of a World His-
tory, the notion of the Classical or Ancient Age, is used here to address "classical
development" as a global phenomenon. It is recognized that classical ages may, in
fact, for historiographical purposes, be identified and defined across a broad spec-
trum of time and space. In this work, the terminology is qualified in two ways. First,
by a dating of the period from roughly 1700 b.c.e. through 500 c.e. And second,
through the use of the phrase "Mediterranean world." Within the latter context, the
work speaks geographically to both the northern and southern shores of the Medi-
terranean Sea and its eastern and western extremes. The "Classical Age," as it is
presented here, is in keeping with Edith Sanders' designation that certain parts of
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 149

Africa were among the first civilizations of the West. So here, "West," "Classical,"
and "Mediterranean," become far more inclusive.6
This work is an analysis and critique of various ancient sources and what they
reveal about the unity of the Mediterranean world during the Classical Age. Its
contextual basis lies in the fact that the African, far from being separated from
Classical civilization, was, in fact, an intrinsic and integral part of it.7 The keys to
this examination are found in the approaches of two equally eminent scholars, a
classicist and an historian. Howard University Classicist, Frank Snowden, in his
works Blacks in Antiquity and Before Color Prejudice, has warned against attempt-
ing to use modern criteria to define historical categories; American historian and
historiographer, William Appleman Williams, in a similarly important dictum has
stated that the goal of the historian is not to remain in the present and write about
the past, but to go back to the past to gain a broader perspective and to overcome
the restrictions of our present intellectual limitations.8

THE GREEKS

Myth and Matter


It is no groundless generalization to say that mythology tells of the origins or at least what origi-
nally was. When it tells of a younger generation of gods, for instance the gods of Greek history,
these too signify the beginning of a world-the world the Greeks lived in under the rule of Zeus.9
There is no need to defend the relevance of Greek mythology to early philosophical thought. That
thought emerged from a primarily mythological background . . . and it also developed, at least
until Plato, in a cultural environment in which myths continued to be a dominant factor.'0

Clearly, mythology is crucial to any people's realization of who they are; crucial
to their self-identity, and to the development of their intellectual and philosophical
selves." An examination of Greek mythology and commentary are indicative of
what the Greeks thought of themselves and the world at large. In relation to myth
and origin, the sub-titles of Martin Bernal's Black Athena, "The Afroasiatic Roots
of Classical Civilization" and "The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985" have
been the source of considerable controversy given that Bernal states that Classical
civilization, as it has come to be known conventionally, is concocted on racial con-
ceptualization and omission.12 Bernal focuses on two pieces of Greek mythology
which describe the origins of two specific areas of Greece during the Classical pe-
riod. Bernal asserts that the origins of the peoples of these two areas are Africa and
Asia. This assertion is not difficult to come by when one reads sources such as
Herodotus and Diodorus, and the myths themselves.
Bernal's references are to the origins of Thebes (Boiotia) and Argos, both of
which were founded, respectively, by Kadmus (Cadmus) and Danaos (Danaus).
Diodorus writes that "Cadmus was from Egyptian Thebes" (hence some correlation
with the founding of Boiotian Thebes), and was responsible through his progeny, for
direct linkages between the principal Egyptian and Greek mythic figures and the
cults of Osiris and Dionysus.13 Herodotus tells us that:
The common Greek tradition is, that the Dorian kings as far back as Perseus, the son of Danae
(thus not including the god) are as they stand in the accepted Greek lists, and are rightly consid-
150 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

ered as of Greek nationality. ... If ... we trace the ancestry of Danae, the daughter of Aer-
isius, we find that the Dorian chieftains are genuine Egyptians. This is the accepted Greek version
of the Spartan royal house. . .14

Herodotus has been criticized on many counts for presenting positions such as this;15
however if one refers to the mythology,16 it becomes increasingly clear why such a
statement is made and how its veracity is supported by the image which the Greeks
had of themselves.17
As an example, there is the mythical personality of Danae, mother of Perseus.
Her genealogy is instructive of how the Greeks may have seen themselves and their
relation to Africa. Danae was the great granddaughter of Danaus, the founder of
Argos. The importance of Danaus begins before his immigration to Argos; Danaus
and his twin brother Aigyptos were, respectively, the kings of Libya and Egypt.
Some traditions also link them as siblings to the king of Ethiopia as well.18 In any
case, conflict between Aigyptos and Danaus and the disastrous marriages of their
fifty sons and fifty daughters led Danaus to flee his native land, with his fifty daugh-
ters and his only remaining son-in-law, for Argos. It is from this stock that Herodo-
tus and the Dorians trace the heritage of Danae.19
Danae is seduced by none other than Zeus. From this union comes Perseus who is
perceived by the Greeks to be the Dorian par excellent, the successor to the claims
of Argos, the epitome of the Peloponnesus, and the arch-typal mythic hero. This is
terribly significant when it is considered that Perseus is the great, great grandson of
the king of Libya, the great, great nephew of the king of Egypt, and that his great
grandmother and grandfather were directly descended from these lines.
The myth instructs us that Perseus became a champion through his destruction of
Medusa the Gorgon. Medusa's lair was situated in Libya.20 According to myth:
King Acrisius of Argos had only one child, a daughter, Danae. She was beautiful above all the
other women of the land . . . it was revealed to her that it was Zeus who had visited her . . . she
knew that the child she bore was his son . . his name was Perseus ....
Perseus . . . was young and proud ... he ... declared that he would give them a present better
than any there. He would go off and kill Medusa and bring back her head as his gift ... With a
single sweep of his sword he cut through her neck and . . . dropped it into his wallet.
On his way back he came to Ethiopia and alighted there. . . . Perseus found . . . that a lovely
maiden had been given up to be devoured by a horrible sea serpent. Her name was Andromeda
[daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus, queen and king of Ethiopia] .... Perseus saw her and on
the instant loved her. He waited beside her until the great snake came for its prey; then he cut its
head off just as he had done the Gorgon's. ... Perseus took Andromeda to her parents and asked
for her hand, which they gladly gave him.. Perseus and Andromeda lived happily ever after.
Their son Electryon, was the grandfather of Hercules.21

The delightful point here is the overwhelming allusion to Africa, the beauty of its
people, and its mythic importance. That importance is so transcendent that it is
trebled within the framework of the narrative: Perseus, descendant of the twin kings
of Libya and Egypt, marries into the house of Ethiopia and completes the triad
upon which rests the royal house of Sparta and the Peloponnesus.22The importance
of the myth of Perseus is that it provides the heroic dimensions by which the rest of
Greek champions are measured, and it gives geneaological legitimacy to those who
seek to be his heirs through their self appellation as "Danaans."
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 151

This is taken further in the myth(s) of Heracles. Greek mythology tells of several
Heracleses. The first, according to both Herodotus and Diodorus, an Egyptian of
"ancient" times, "nearer the first origin of mankind," performed wondrous feats
such as erecting the Pillars of Heracleses, fighting alongside the gods against the
giants, and ridding the earth of wild beasts.23 The second was a son of the grand-
daughter of Perseus, Alcmene, through her union with Zeus. Alcmene was also mar-
ried to her cousin, Amphitryon who was a grandson to Perseus as well. Overlooking
the semi-divine aspects of Heracles' lineage as Herodotus seemed to do (cf 13), The
Histories speak of Heracles' genealogy in this way:
Nevertheless it was not the Egyptians who took the name Heracles from the Greeks. The opposite
is true: it was the Greeks who took it from the Egyptians-those Greeks, I mean, who gave the
name to the son of Amphitryon. There is plenty of evidence to prove the truth of this, in particular
the fact that both the parents of Heracles-Amphitryon and Alcmene-were of Egyptian origin.24

Heracles emerges as one of the most popular of heroic Greek figures, and ironi-
cally, among the best known in the modern age.25 It is Heracles and his descendants
who lay further African claim to Greece and the Peloponnesus in their attempts to
reclaim their patrimony in the return of the Heraclids (the children of Heracles).
Bernal insists that the utilization of the term "Heraclids" on the part of the Dorian
invaders is their specific eponymic reference to an African past. This is done in
contrast to the conventional treatment of the Dorian invasions constituting a north-
ern, European, and therefore, white incursion into Mycenaen Greece, and the
Pelopennesus specifically. From this standpoint, the mythological treatment of the
Dorian invasions-the 'Return of the Heraclids'-is a reinforcement of the social
psyche of ancient Greece in its linkage to Africa; first by way of Mycenae with
Danaus and the succession of Perseus, and later with the Dorians, and their claim of
descent from Heracles.26

Homer
These themes of African interaction are played out further in the literature of the
Classical Age. Homer represents a case in point. In both The Illiad and The Odys-
sey, Homer makes specific reference to Africa, Africans, and by inference, Greek
genealogy in relation to Africa. Both works are filled with references to Africa by
way of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Libya. In The Illiad, the Achaians-the Greeks of
Mycenae-continuously refer to themselves as "Danaans," the descendants of
Danaus. Within the mythological and historical framework, they understood their
heritage, by way of Argos, to be Egyptian and therefore African.
Both The Illiad and The Odyssey open with specific and pointed references to
Ethiopia. In Book I of The Illiad, Thetis, mother of Achilles, is delayed in her
appeal to Zeus on behalf of the Achaians:
for Zeus went yesterday to Okeanos unto the noble Ethiopians for a feast, and all the gods fol-
lowed him; but on the twelfth day will he return to Olympus.27

Book I of The Odyssey, provides a similar depiction as the gods assembe to decide
the fate of Odysseus and find Poseidon absent from their deliberations:
152 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

But it happened that Poseidon went for a visit a long way off, to the Ethiopians; who live at the
ends of the earth, some near the sunrise, some near the sunset. There he expected a fine sacrifice
of bulls and goats and there he was, feasting and enjoying himself mightily .. .28

What is Homer implying in his reference to Africa? Is this simply a literary de-
vice, or does he, as Bloom insists, posit an intrinsic esteem and meaning with which
he attempts to inform the reader of the values of his world? Both Herodotus and
Diodorus would argue "Yes."
Ethiopians were held in high esteem by the Greeks. This respect is attributed to
what the Greeks regarded as several qualities inherent to Ethiopians, among them,
piety, justice and wisdom. One tradition holds that the Ethiopians were the oldest of
peoples, living where the sun rose and set. As an indication of their favor with the
gods, the sun "kissed" them. Hence, the blackness of their skin was an indication
that they were the most blessed of peoples of the Classical Age. According to Pro-
fessor Snowden's reading of the sources, the Ethiopians "pioneered" religion, and
were key to the origin and propagation of many of the customs which existed in
Egypt. The Egyptians, it was argued, were descendants of the Ethiopians.29So He-
rodotus' assertion that:
the names of nearly all the gods came to Greece from Egypt . . . for the names of all the gods
have been known in Egypt from the beginning of time. ... It was the Egyptians too who
originated, and taught the Greeks . . . ceremonial meeting, processions and liturgies. ... The
Egyptians were also the first to assign each month and each day to a particular deity, and to
foretell the date of a man's birth, his character, his fortunes, and the day of his death.... The
Egyptians, too have made more use of omens and prognostics than any other nation...30

This must be considered in light of the idea that many in the ancient world saw
the Egyptians, and numerous others, as descended from the Ethiopians. In part, this
heritage, based on longevity, provided the Ethiopians with an entre to the gods
which was regarded as beyond the imagined scope of association for any of the other
peoples of the region.31
Having said this, how are the Ethiopians identified? Again, Herodotus provides
some evidence for us in his description of the Colchians:
it is undoubtedly a fact that the Colchians are of Egyptian descent, I noticed this myself before I
heard anyone else mention it, and when it occurred to me I asked some questions both in Colchis
and in Egypt, and found that the Colchians remembered the Egyptians more distinctly than the
Egyptians remembered them. The Egyptians did, however, say that they thought the original Col-
chians were men from Sesostris' army. My own idea on the subject was based first on the fact that
they have black skins and wooly hair (not that that amounts to much, as other nations have the
same), and secondly, and more especially, on the fact that the Colchians, the Egyptians and the
Ethiopians are the only races which from ancient times have practiced circumcision.32

Diodorus Siculus is even more definitive:


Now the Ethiopians [i.e. the black peoples], as historians related, were the first of all men, and the
proofs of this statement, they say, are manifest. For they did not come into their land as immi-
grants from abroad but were natives of it. ...
And they [i.e. the Greek historians relied upon by Diodorus] say that they [i.e. the black peoples]
were the first to be taught to honor the gods and to hold sacrifices and processions and festivals
and other rites by which men honor the deity; and that in consequence their piety has been pub-
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 153

lished abroad among men, and it is generally held that the sacrifices practiced among the Ethiopi-
ans [i.e. the black peoples] are those which are the most pleasing to heaven ...
They say also that the Egyptians are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians [i.e. the black peoples],
Osiris having been the leader of the colony.. . . And the larger part of the customs of the Egyp-
tians are, they [i.e., the Greek historians] hold Ethiopian, the colonists still preserving their an-
cient manners .. .33

And Pliny relates this in his examination of climate and its effects on physical type:
We must next deal with the results connected with these heavenly causes. For it is beyond ques-
tions that the Ethiopians are burnt by the heat of the heavenly body near them, and are born with
scorched appearance, with curly beard and hair. .. .34

The term "Ethiopian" then becomes a generic used to describe the "black" or
"dark" peoples of Africa. Accordingly, it is used in conjunction with terms such as
"Libyan" and "Moor" to make the same distinction. The same would hold true for
the Egyptians who chart their genealogy from "Ethiopia" itself. "Ethiopian" and
the attendant terms become synonymous with African.35
What is clearly meant here, by declaration and implication is that the "Ethio-
pian," the "Egyptian," the "Libyan," and the "Moor" are not European-they are
African; African, if by virtue of no other fact than their interaction over an un-
determinant number of centuries, if not millennia. Snowden argues that the term
"Ethiopian" is to be used in much the same way as the modern term "black" and
the ascription which Herskowitz gives it and all its variations.36In that regard, the
physical mixture which has come to indicate "Libyans," "Numidians," "Moors"
and "Ethiopians" must be included in this definition of blackness. By extension,
given the indications of Sallust, Livy, Picard and others, a considerable portion of
the Carthaginian population proper and, of course its African dominions, were de-
cidedly black.

CARTHAGE

Carthage becomes the mythological, literary and historical link between the Hel-
lenic world, Africa and the Roman world. Myth holds that Carthage was founded
by Dido, a princess of Tyre, forced to flee the violence of her brother. Dido's mytho-
logical genealogy is interesting in that she is the daughter of the same Belus who
fathered Danaus and Aegyptus, and possibly Cepheus of Libya, Egypt and Ethiopia
respectively. Belus was not only reportedly the king of Tyre, but also the king of
Egypt as well.37
Vergil neatly incorporates Dido into his epic the Aenied and in the process legiti-
mizes the rise of the Roman state within the mythological constructs of the Medi-
terranean society of his day. Rome is given a genealogy which stems from the no-
blest peoples of the age and the region: the Greeks, the Trojans and the
Carthaginians. And each of these is linked in some fashion, directly and indirectly,
to Africa itself. Genealogy and linkage suggest an ongoing and continuous interac-
tion among these several groups of peoples up to and through the founding of Rome.
Again, the Aenied is strewn with references to Africa and Africans. And again,
conventional scholarship suggests that those references be ignored or "white-
154 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

washed." However, Vergil does employ the conventions of his time to indicate who
and what he thought the people he was writing of to be. The references to Africa
and Libya are too overt in terms of their specificity; and his use of terms and names
such as "Danaan," "Memnon," "Belus," "Garamantians" and the like, give greater
precision to his desire to make the appropriate mythological, literary, historical, geo-
graphic and demographic linkages in crafting his epic. The argument here is that
Vergil is bound by convention and attentive to it in terms of making his point. He
uses convention because it stresses for him who the Romans truly are in relation to
the rest of the Mediterranean world, whether black, white or otherwise they are part
of it.
In this regard, when Vergil relates that some of Dido's suitors are Libyan there
should be no surprise given the geographic and historical convention; nor should
there be any wonder whether they were black or white-they may, indeed, have
been both or a mixture of the two. The interpretation is acceptable because it is
known that "Libyans" varied in terms of their physical characteristics; it is also
acceptable because there was a Carthaginian acceptance, sometimes even encour-
agement, of intermarriage with Libyans, Numidians and Moors as well. This follows
the line laid down by the Picards:
In a colonial State with a very mixed population, the aristocracy prided itself on belonging to the
dominant race. Evidence of this is found on the stelae, where genealogies were set out with the
greatest care, together with the offices held by the family ancestors; Phoenician names were fondly
handed down from one generation to the next, the grandson usually taking his grandfather's
name.38 [italics added]

Particular attention should be given to the Picards' statement regarding a "very


mixed population" in reference to Carthage and their declaration in the next
paragraph:
The Carthaginians, like most Orientals, considered only the male line of descent to be important.
The greatest families willingly accepted marriage with foreigners ... Marriages were common
between Carthaginian nobles and Libyan princesses.... It is even possible that the Carthaginian
aristocracy admitted within their social circles the noble houses of other countries.39
The question of patrilineal descent notwithstanding and the desire to preserve the
"dominant race" a given, the Carthaginian assumptions and sensibilities concerning
race must have been considerably different from those held in the late seventeenth
through the twentieth centuries; especially, if the marriages of the aristocracy are
any indication. And certainly, it seems quite clear that the Carthaginian population
came to be defined in many ways by the infusion of indigenous blood which ran
through its veins.
According to Dio Chrysostom, it was, in part, these marriages in high places, and
their resulting alliances which "transformed the Carthaginians from Tyrians into
Africans .. ." during the reign of Hanno.40Yet one is well advised that the "very
mixed" nature of the Carthaginian population was not due, entirely, to the "cross-
cultural" marriages of the Carthaginian aristocracy. As R. Bosworth Smith points
out
all along the northern coast of Africa the original Phoenician settlers, and, probably, to some
extent, the Carthaginians themselves, had intermarried with the natives. The product was that
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 155

numerous class of Libyphoenicians which proved to be so important in the history of Carthaginian


colonisation and conquest .. .41

It is also known that well before the advent of Hanno, a good measure of Cartha-
ginian cultural norms was dominated by Egypt.42 It seems that Carthage clung to
its African roots as it set out to become the first city-state to claim empire. It is, in
fact, through the quest for empire that most students have become acquainted with
Carthage. The feats of Hannibal, crossing the Alps, laying seige to the Italian
country-side, at the very gates of Rome, have presented a mythic history which
suggested, at every turn, the presence of the African, if not in Hannibal himself,
then in the troops he commanded. In fact, it is the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural na-
ture of that command that first prompted inquiry into the cosmopolitan disposition
of Carthage proper. Stories of African mahoots on elephant-back, Libyan light in-
fantry, and Numidian cavalry prove too large for the singular imagination. The
implication is that there must be more to this than simply "story," fantasy, or fable.
Part of the task here is to make some meaning of this African presence within the
larger context of the Mediterranean world. By inverse deduction, it must be as-
sumed that the marriages of convenience which may have occurred within the upper
echelons of Carthage, and the various African states which surrounded it, carried
with them some arrangements for reciprocity in relation to defense and trade. This
is implied in the treaty of 201 b.c. and the sections concerning the "'Phoenician
Boundaries.' " It is also witnessed in the nature of the agreements between Carthage
and subject territories in which Carthage emerged from the position of tributary to
that of exacter of tribute; a tribute which must have included men for military
purposes.4
Before Carthage, the presence of the African in the military annals of the early
Mediterranean world was already well recorded. The epics and histories of the pe-
riod speak of them as does the artwork.44In the Carthaginian context, the use of
these men for military purposes-these "mercenaries", as they are now de-
scribed-must have had a profound impact on the development of the Carthaginian
state and statecraft and on the development of Carthaginian society and social for-
mation. Again, the marriages within the elite houses of Carthage attest to this as
does the emergence of a landed Carthaginian aristocracy whose power was based on
something other than military prowess and wealth accumulated through trade. The
"African" revolts which plagued Carthaginian history and the position held by the
Libyophoenicians must be indicative of how these people affected the development
of Carthage over time.46 Soldiers and peasants not classified as "Carthaginian"
proper need to be examined within the framework of what they contributed to the
maintenance of the Carthaginian body-politic.
Discussions of Carthage's African mercenaries and its own "Libyan" peasant
stock are oblique at best. The texts almost lead to the conclusion that the former's
only contribution is by way of their military prowess, while the latter made little or
no contribution at all, since they were "peasants." Yet, taking the military hierar-
chy which came to dominate Carthage as an example of socio-political economic
class, it becomes clear that the mercenaries and their multi-cultural, multi-ethnic
backgrounds manifested themselves in the very ways in which the Carthaginian of-
156 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

ficer corps was trained and the manner in which troops were deployed. The Picards
provide an insightful description of this:
The Carthaginians preferred to recruit their soldiers of fortune in the Barbarian countries of the
West. ... This method of recruitment was cheaper ... these half savages were completely out of
their element, in the regions where they were called to fight, and were generally too stupid to
think of forming conspiracies, they could not communicate from one group to another. The officer-
ing of these armies was carefully studied, and only the lowest ranks were supplied by the natives.
... All other officers were Carthaginians and they received the same sort of training as their
counterparts in European armies who were called upon to serve in native regiments. There were
Gallic specialists . . . whose knowledge led to the failure of the Lilybaeum plot. Others studied
the Libyans, the Iberians, or the Ligurians.4"

The implication here is that within the military strata itself, because of ethnicity
and specialization, were different sets of men, both enlisted (i.e. mercenary), and
officer (mercenary and Carthaginian), who reflected the nature of their specializa-
tion. For the Libyan mercenary (Libyphoenician?) there was the added possibility
of peasant relations which amplified the socio-political economic relations that
might otherwise exist between mercenary and client. In other words, the relation of
indigenous African soldiers and indigenous African peasants to the Carthaginian
state became clear during the Mercenary War of 240-237 b.c.47 This war illus-
trated, most vividly, the prudence of Carthaginian policy in attempting to recruit its
military from populations which had little relation to Carthage proper. It was, also,
probably indicative of the ruling classes' ability to underestimate the capabilities of
their subordinates and the amount of abuse and oppression those subordinates would
endure before applying themselves in a manner that might ameliorate their circum-
stances. In any case, the Mercenary War, and other military and peasant uprisings,
tied to the prodigious dependence of the Carthaginian war machine on its African
military personnel, demonstrate in many ways the manner in which Africans af-
fected the social and political economic formation of the Carthaginian state.

ROME

Carthage was not the only state of the region whose formation was directly af-
fected by Africans, nor was it the last. It seems safe to argue that the very nature of
empire in the Classical Mediterranean world presupposed the importance of Africa
and the need to have contact with it, if not to possess significant portions of it.
Rome, possibly better than any other state of the region, demonstrates that
importance.
It might be interpreted that from the very beginning Africa, more particularly
Egypt was at the heart of the Mediterranean quest for empire. Rome was
bequeathed Africa as a result of its struggle with Carthage over control of the west-
ern Mediterranean. By logic, control of the entire Mediterranean world could only
be achieved if Rome controlled Egypt as well. Using Carthage as the locus, Rome
expanded its administrative and military presence in Africa through the incorpora-
tion of significant segments of North African territory (the old Punic territories and
its subordinates) into its African provinces. In these territories, Rome was able to
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 157

achieve what Carthage had not (or had not been interested in achieving): the incor-
poration of certain segments of the African population into the Roman state. The
nature of their incorporation was defined by the character of their participation in
Roman governance.48The implication of this is that Rome, more than any of its
classical contemporaries, epitomized the cosmopolitan state, if only by virtue of its
size. It is a certainty that Africans of various hues and cultural background also
found themselves encompassed by that empire; and many found places of esteem
within it as they brushed shoulders on a day-to-day basis with other members of
Roman society.
Snowden argues that the African populations throughout the Mediterranean
world during the Classical period were numerically significant. The frequency with
which blacks were mentioned in the literature and their presence in the artistic
record of the era give the "few available figures .. .greater significance". Snowden
goes on to state that:
though obviously much larger in Egypt than elsewhere, the black population in other Mediterra-
nean areas, especially in northwest Africa and Italy, was probably also greater than traditional
estimates.49

Snowden concludes by stating that the African population of the Mediterranean


world was "at least large enough to satisfy what P.L. van den Berghe considers the
most necessary condition for the development of racism":
the presence in significant numbers of two or more groups that look different enough so that at
least some of their members can be easily classifiable.5?

For the purpose of this discussion, the most instructive dimension of Professor
Snowden's observations is the fact that Africans were well known and numerous
"especially in northwest Africa and Italy"-a major and critical part of the Roman
Empire. Rome came to know the African in essentially the same manner as had the
Persians, the Greeks, and the Carthaginians before them, by virtue of their men at
arms and the construction of a shared culture.
While the military aspect seems self explanatory, and will be explored in due
time, it is the concept of a "shared culture" which probably raises the most eye-
brows. Frobenius introduced the idea when he defined the culture of Africa from the
Mediterranean coast through the western Sudan region as "Syrtian." This was
based on his observation that a "West Africa city-founding ceremony" corresponded
"with the Roman ceremony and connects this whole group of cultures . . . with the
ancient world by way of the old Garamants of North Africa".6' [italics added] The
ceremonial aspects of the linkage is most important because it is through religion
that one sees the shared culture quite vividly.
A great deal of discussion has been spent in positing the African corollaries which
existed within the framework of classical Greek mythology. Equal space has been
given to the establishment of a general Greek mythological and historical genealogy
in accordance to the classical Greeks' perception of themselves. Given the Roman
derivatives of Greek cultural, and particularly mythological paradigms, it is sound
to argue that the Romans shared with the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Ethiopians of
Nubia and Kush, and to a lesser degree, the Carthaginians, common cosmological
158 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

concepts which aided in articulating who they were within the broader universe of
the Mediterranean world.62
Vergil deliberately chooses to articulate this point in his writing of The Aenied
and his selection of Aeneas as his protagonist. The fact that Aeneas is a Trojan
prince, a cousin to a prince of Ethiopia, and a consort to a princess of Tyre (and
Egypt) and the queen of Carthage, is of real significance in terms of Vergil's at-
tempt to construct a mythological genealogy for the Roman state and to justify its
actions within the Mediterranean world. Vergil's exertions are part of the establish-
ment of Rome as the legitimate heir to Hellenic culture and the validation of trans-
forming pan-Hellenism into a Pax Romana.
Aside from the literary and mythological continuities there are specific religious
practices within Rome, and the Empire in general, which make use of Ethio-
Egyptian custom and ceremony and in which Africans figure prominently as priests,
priestesses, and adherents within a physically diverse and multi-ethnic Roman state.
The cult of Isis is illustrative of the profusion of Ethio-Egyptian religious forms in
the Roman Empire. Snowden writes of the prominent role which Ethiopians held in
the diffusion of the cult in Rome proper and throughout the Italian peninsula. His
treatment of the worship of Isis implies that it was indigenous to Meroic Ethiopians
as part of their worship of four principal deities. Snowden goes on to state that in
their movement through out the classical world, Ethiopians took the Isiac cult with
them. Statues and frescoes in Rome and other Italian cities illustrate the activities
of the cult and the prominence of Ethiopians as leaders in the worship, and as wor-
shipers themselves. Remarking on a group of frescoes which illustrate the worship of
the cult, Snowden states:
The total impressionis one of blackAfrica-an exoticdancer. . Africanmusic,and rhythmical
clapping.The entirefrescobreathesthe samespiritas the Aricciareliefin whichthe Negroesand
Egyptiansappearand stronglysuggests that the artist intendedsome, if not all, of the dark-
skinnedfiguresas Negroes.63

Rome's first sustained contact with the African seems to have been a consequence
of the Punic Wars and the overwhelming African composition of Carthaginian ar-
mies. It is in light of military engagements that Roman/African contact grows. The
incorporation of Egypt into the Roman Empire through the exertions of Julius
Caesar, Mark Anthony, and finally Augustus, was attended by greater and greater
contact with diverse African populations. At the head of those groups were the Mer-
oitic Ethiopians who resisted Roman incursions into their territories and who in turn
raided Roman Egypt. Through their resistance, Africans were able to establish dip-
lomatic relations as well.54
Military confrontation and the diplomatic relations that it wrought became part
and parcel of post-Punic Roman relations with Africa. These are illustrated in the
works of prominent Roman authors such as Livy and Sallust. The analyses of sec-
ondary material also support this.ss The workings of embassies and the gradual in-
corporation of "allies" into the provincial structure of the Roman empire must have
witnessed and resulted in providing a significant number of Africans with entres to
the corridors of Roman power.56
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 159

Given the nature of Roman incorporation, i.e. the bestowal of certain levels of
rights and privileges upon subject peoples, it is plausible to believe that a number of
these Africans rose to positions of authority; certainly within the provincial de-
mesne, if not in Rome itself. The advancement of Africans into such positions would
in fact be part of the quid pro quo in regard to their cooperation with Rome. It
would also serve to safeguard the position of their territories and their respective
rulers by having people well placed within Roman bureaucracy and in the capital
itself.
Incorporation also meant that the military force responsible for the maintenance
of the empire also reflected the physical nature of the empire itself. As was the case
from Minoan times, Africans found themselves as integral parts of the Roman mili-
tary, and their presence would be recorded as far distant as Britain.57
It is most likely through military encounters, and later in military service to the
state, that the most plebeian elements of Roman society, black and white, met one
another. Their meetings are clearly depicted in the artwork and literature of the
age. Snowden makes us aware of this in his work Blacks in Antiquity, and in his
selection in the very important Image of the Black in Western Art. The African,
according to Snowden and others, became a daily referent of Roman life.58 And
while Snowden allows that a large number of Africans found their way to Rome as
slaves or prisoners of war, the sources also state, explicitly and by implication, that
many enjoyed life as free persons and as citizens of the state or one of its cities.59

Conclusions and Historiographical Note

From what is known of Rome, and the polities which preceded it, the cosmopoli-
tan nature of the state is clear. Rome was a multi-national, multi-ethnic imperial
structure with a vast array of peoples of varying physical types and colors. Within
that array, the African featured prominently. This is known from the extensive
amount of data that has been provided by the authors and artists of the period. If
this is the case, however, what have kept these voices silent for so long? For the
answer to this question a return to DuBois, Hansberry, Fredrickson, Bernal and
others proves useful: the necessities of an emergent capitalism forced into full drive
by a modern slavery based on physical type meant that the African had to be ex-
cluded from any discussion which focused on her/his contribution to the develop-
ment of the Classical world, and the West, at large. How could one justify slavery
and its brutality and at the same time laud those that one enslaved? That, in a
capsule, was at the heart of the resulting school of historiography. The need to avoid
confronting this question shaped the historiography of Africa's relation to the
Mediterranean world during the Classical Age.60
In that regard, the historiographical intent has been deliberate here. Wherever
possible, given the scope of the author's knowledge and the sources, classical texts
and interpretative literature that are regarded by those interested in the subject as
"canons" have been used to make the case. In that these works have become the
basis for much of what the modern academy thinks is known about the Classical
Age and the Mediterranean world, their use is premeditated. This has been done for
160 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

three reasons: 1) to illustrate that within the bonds of traditional textual material,
Africa and the African are pivotal to our understanding of the Classical Age and
the Mediterranean world; 2) to demonstrate what Dubois, Bernal, Fredrickson and
others have said about the impact of the development of racism and, therefore, its
attendant historiographies, on the basic perceptions of the period and the region;
and 3) to highlight that the classical record has already been explored by a signifi-
cant number of scholars whose work has been dismissed, not on its intellectual mer-
its, but solely because of the color of their skin.
Aside from the conclusions of conventional historiography, there is no overwhelm-
ing desire to "prove" the physical existence of the African in the Classical Age and
the Mediterranean world. In many ways such a task is too easy. The overwhelming
nature of the material evidence confirms that presence.
However, the magnitude of the impact of the African in the shaping of
"European" consciousness through the intellectual and moral tenor of the Classical
Age into which Africa was infused is vital to this or any other discussion of the
Mediterranean world during the ancient period. The records of the Classical Age
emphasize that the essential parts of Africa which composed the Mediterranean
world were one with the essential parts of Europe and Asia which constituted the
period. The African as an intellectual and moral paragon was fixed in the mind of
the peoples of the age. In fact, it can be argued that it is that fixture and its evolu-
tion, negative and positive, which is the legacy of Africa and its pivotal role in the
unity of the Mediterranean world. For good or ill, Africa cannot be excluded from
the historical development of the western world; nor can it be given some insignifi-
cant niche in which it might be buried so past sins might be denied. The ancient
record reveals Africa at the inception of the Classical Age and no amount of histo-
riographic gene-splicing will erase this conceptualization on the part of the ancients,
or the physical and intellectual interaction which it speaks to, or its importance in
light of our modern predicaments.
As children have been taught that there is significance in every line of Homer,
this holds equally true to those pertaining to Africa. In fact, in this day and age
Homer's words might hold more significance than most.
[H]e had a heraldwith him, a little older than he was; I will tell you what he was like. He was
dark-skinned,and curly-headed,and his name was Eurybates.Odysseuspaid
round-shouldered,
him greaterregardthan any of his companions,becausehe was an honestand faithfulman.8'

NOTES

1 Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1987), 63.
2
Frank M. Snowden, Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1983), vii-viii; 63-108. George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind,
(New York: Harper and Row, 1971), xi-xiii.
3
Fredrickson, Black Image, xi.
Bernal, Black Athena: The Afnasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (New Brunswick, N.J., 1987),
29.
6 In a reference to Leo Frobenius' Monumenta Africana, C. Kerenyi wrote that there was a "single
cultural stream which rising in the Mediterranean area, or even further east, reached as far as the west-
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 161

ern Sudan." This single cultural stream connects a "whole group of cultures" which Frobenius called
'Syrtian culture'. C.G. Jung and C. Kerenyi, Essays on the Science of Mythology, Princeton: Princeton
University Press (1969), 18.
6 Edith R. Sanders, "The Hamitic Hypothesis; its Origins and Functions in Time Perspective," Jour-
nal of African History, X, 5 (1969), 525.
7
Martin Bernal has been the most recent proponent of such an idea. His work is supported by those of
numerous scholars and authors of varying physical characteristics who share similar views. While their
works range in terms of their critical and scholarly acumen, they nonetheless come to similar conclusions:
there was an African presence throughout the Classical world and the ancients have documented it.
Martin Bernal, Black Athena.
8 Snowden,
Before Color Prejudice, vii-vii. In many ways I find myself indebted to Professor Snowden,
not the very least of which is his voluminous scholarship on the area under discussion. My contribution to
this discussion is extremely modest by comparison; its uniqueness, if it can be called such, is due to my
"Africanist" orientation, and my intention to illustrate how history informs and might inform the current
debates on diversity, Afrocentrism and the like. William Appleman Williams, History as a Way of
Learning, (New York: New View Points) (1973), 8.
9
Jung, Essays, 7.
10 G.S. Kirk, "On Defining Myth," in Alan Dundes, ed., Sacred Narrative. Readings in the Theory of
Myth, (Berkeley: University of California Press) (1984), 55.
1 Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, translated by James Strachey, New York: W.W.
Norton and Company, Inc. (1961). Freud implies the durability of mental processes (and possibly Jung's
idea of the importance of the "collective consciousness") when he states that "Perhaps we ought to
content ourselves with asserting that what is past in mental life may be preserved and is not necessarily
destroyed." 18.
12 Bernal, Black Athena. Bernal's notions are not new. These very same themes have been played out

over the last century by authors of African descent who have been dismissed by the Academy, primarily,
one must suspect, because of the issue of race. Conventional academic wisdom has sought to justify the
wholesale dismissal of this body of work on the grounds that it is "not scholarly." What is really ignored
here, however, is seminal thought which goes to the heart of what the peoples of the Classical Age had to
say about themselves. See Bernal, 433-438.
13 Diodorus Siculus, The
Antiquities of Egypt, translated by Edwin Murphy, (New Brunswick:Trans-
action Publishers, 1989), 28. Bernal follows the tradition which describes Cadmus as a prince of Phoeni-
cia, and thus "Asian" in terms of his origin. (See Thomas Bullfinch, Bullfinch's Mythology: The Age of
Fable, Garden City: Doubleday and Company, Inc. (1968), 96.) This is an interesting and important
point. The narratives continually shift back and forth between Africa and Asia (more specifically, the
Arabian peninsula). It seems that these shifts have tended to confuse a good number of scholars and has
limited their ability to render an exact location to these figures. Diodorus explains this dilemma wonder-
fully. He states that extensive Egyptian colonization "into all of the civilized world" attested for the
populations and rulers of Babylon, Argos, Colchis, "the Jews lying between Syria and Arabia" and the
Athenians as a partial listing. Antiquities, 34-35. Another suggestion might be to approach the locations
and the peoples on the basis which one assigns to historical progress in general, i.e., interaction. The data
of the period illustrate intense interaction for the Classical Age among all the peoples described here. At
the very least, an explanation for these multi-locational devices in relation to mythical figures can be
charged to the "borrowing" of culture, or if one wishes, Frobenius' assertion that what is seen here is a
"single cultural stream", is also a fitting analysis. For interpretations of African-Asian interaction for
later periods see Daniel Pipes, "Black Soldiers in Early Muslim Armies," The International Journal of
African Historical Studies, 13, 1 (1980), and Joseph Harris, The African Presence in Asia: The Conse-
quences of the East African Slave Trade, Evanston: Northwestern University Press (1971). Meaningful
extrapolations can be made from works such as these that provide indications of the interactions under
discussion here. The Bible is also illustrative of this interaction as well.
14 Herodotus, The Histories, translated by Aubrey de Selincourt, (New York: Penguin Books 1983),
406.
16 Ibid. In his 1970 "Introduction" to the Histories, A.R. Burns reviews Herodotus' limitations and
offers the following observation:
162 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

Herodotus was a great pioneer; and if what 'the Carians' and 'the Cretans' said about the Carian
origins-or what he understood Egyptian priests to be telling him about their history-cannot be
the whole truth, the fact that these stories were current is, after all itself a historical fact. [Italics
in the original] 10.
16 Just as with Herodotus, mythological veracity is also questionable. Edward Tripp takes great pains
to illustrate this in his entries on Ethiopia and Egypt in The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythol-
ogy, (New York: New American Library, 1974). Tripp writes:
The Greek historians and geographers knew Ethiopia (Aithiopia) as a land extending southward
from Egypt . ..along the Red Sea and beyond. The Ethiopia of mythology, however, seems to
have little to do with any actual land. [Italics added], 235.
Egypt . . . was the scene of many Greek myths . . . there seems to have been confusion in the
minds of Greek writers between Egypt and the Near East. (Similar confusion existed over the
whereabouts of Ethiopia). [Italics added], 217.
Tripp goes on to allude to the same difficulty of "locating" mythical personalities and places. Yet, what
should not be lost on the reader is the fact that the proximity of place suggests greater interaction and
the movement of personalities underscores this. One also needs to question whether the "confusion" to
which Tripp refers is that of Greek writers (and others of the period), or of modern translators, analysts,
historians, classicists, et al, who persist in using contemporary and conventional definition to define these
personalities and places. At the very least, the Greek "confusion" concerning things Ethiopian and Egyp-
tian might be indication of the extensive nature of both states and their peoples. Both these premises are
historically grounded.
17 Raffaele Pettazzoni is
particularly instructive here in his insistence that "myth is true history be-
cause it is sacred history." Myth elicits action and provides order; it becomes the focus through which
certain historical events are understood and relived. Raffaele Pettazzoni, "The Truth of Myth" in Alan
Dundes ed. Sacred Narrative, 102. Theodor H. Gaster adds to the discussion when he speaks of the
"particularizing symbol [as] an empirical point of focus" in Greek mythology. Gaster, "Myth and Story"
in Alan Dundes, ed., Sacred Narrative, 116. These ideas would seem to suggest that the Mediterranean
world was so contained, so integrative, so inextricable, that mythological symbol was easily transferable.
This is illustrated in the existence of the same or similar mythological forms in Ethiopia (Kush and
Nubia), Egypt, Carthage, Greece and Rome. The implication is that just as there was little difficulty in
the transference of mythological form, there was little difficulty in exchanging physical types, either.
They were all intimate parts of the known world.
18
Tripp, Handbook, 135; 156.
19
Herodotus, The Histories, 406.
20 Ibid., 346.
21
Edith Hamilton, Mythology, (New York 1940), 197-208. Bullfinch also offers a synopsis which
clearly articulates Andromeda's parentage:
Perseus, continuing his flight, arrived in the country of the AEthiopians, of which Cepheus was
king. Cassiopeia his queen, proud of her beauty, had dared to compare herself to the Sea-Nymphs.
Bullfinch's Mythology, 123. Bullfinch goes even further to corroborate Andromeda's physical appearance
through this observation: "Cassiopeia was an AEthiopian and consequently, in spite of her boasted
beauty, black." [Italics added] To support his point he quotes Milton's "Penseroso" on the issue:
Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon's sister might beseem
Or that starred AEthiop queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
The sea-nymphs and their powers offended.
Ibid., 124-125.
Tripp, Handbook, 458-459. Bernal, Black Athena, 84-89. Herodotus, Histories, 406.
22

23
Diodorus, Antiquities, 29-30. Homer, Histories, 146.
24
Herodotus, Histories, 146. Tripp, Handbook, 34-35; 276-277.
25
The contemporary popularity of Heracles and its irony should not be lost on the reader. From his
reincarnation as Steve Reeves to his metamorphosis as a cartoon character, he has evolved away from his
Libyo-Egyptian-Ethiopian roots to the fair haired, blue-eyed depiction of modern, conventional notions
rendered in popular culture.
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 163
26
Bernal, Black Athena, 21; 53, 75-82; 405. Tripp, Handbook, 295-298. Diodorus, Antiquities, cf.8,
8. C. Warren Hollister, Roots of Western Tradition, (New York, 1972), 68-69. T. Walter Wallbank, et
al, Civilization Past and Present, Glenview: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1976), 96. Mortimer Cham-
bers, et al, The Western Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 47-49. While the Wallbank
and the Chambers works represent a bit more sophisticated reading of the Dorian invasions, the three
texts listed above are characteristic of the treatment given to this period in Greek history and the emer-
gence of an Aryan, Indo-European force, which forever changes the history of the classical world. It is
worth noting that these interpretations of the "Aryan, Indo-European"connection suggest that the civili-
zation of Mycenaean Greece was something other than "European", in fact, Wallbank writes:
Yet while the Dorian invasion was an undoubted catastrophe, it was also vital to the ultimate rise
of a unique Hellenic . . . civilization that was not largely an offshoot of the Near East as was
Aegean civilization. [Italics added],
Civilization, 96.
27 Homer, The Illiad, translated by Andrew Lang, Walter Leaf and Ernest Meyers (New York: The

Modern Library, 1950), 13.


28
Ibid., 11.
29
Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 109. Snowden argues that Herodotus' picture of Ethiopians was
"important for its influence in molding the Greek image of Ethiopians not only in his day but later". 105.
30
Herodotus, Histories, 149-150; 152; 159.
31
Herodotus writes of the cultural and physical affinities of the Ethiopians, the Egyptians, the Colchi-
ans and the Ammonians. He also speaks of two types of Ethiopians, distinguishable only by the texture of
their hair. Histories, 146; 167. Bernal goes on to state that "Egyptian civilization is clearly based on the
rich Predynastic cultures of Upper Egypt and Nubia, whose African origin is uncontested." Black
Athena, 15. By extrapolation, it has been argued that various other "black" or "dark" peoples of the
Mediterranean region are not related to "Ethiopians" proper (i.e. to Africans). These would include the
Libyans, the Moors, the Numidians, the Berbers, and the Tuareg, to name a few. What most authors fail
to mention are the cultural affinities shared by peoples of the same group which have blurred physical
differences among the peoples in question. Therefore, Strabo could talk about the Moors ("Mauri") as "a
large and prosperous Libyan tribe" and he could also mention the Gaetulians as Libyans (The Geogra-
phy of Strabo, translated by Horace L. Jones, London: William Heinemann LTD, 1932), 157-159. The
Picards, in Life and Death in Carthage, mention the hereditary relation between Numidians and Liby-
ans. 279-289. Herodotus wrote of "Libyan Ethiopians" as did Orosius; Ptolemy wrote of "black Gaetuli"
and "white Ethiopians". See Snowden Blacks in Antiquity, 1-14, and Before Color Prejudice, 7-11.
Clearly what these references speak to are physical and cultural affinities which reach beyond contempo-
rary understandings of "race" and "culture."
32
Herodotus, Histories, 167.
33 Diodorus of
Sicily: English translation by C.H. Oldfather, London: Leob Classical Library (1935),
II, 91, quoted in Basil Davidson, African Civilization Revisited, Trenton: Africa World Press, Inc. 1991,
61-62.
34
Pliny, Natural History, translated by H. Rackham, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958, II,
321. Also XXII, 295.
35 Snowden states that "'Aithiops' (Aethiops)" was "the most common generic term in the Greek and
Roman world applied to blacks from south of Egypt and from the southern fringes of northwest Africa.
. ." More specific terms such as "Libyan," "Numidian," "Moor" and "Egyptian" are representative of
racial mixture between African and European, African and Asian, or all three. Snowden, Before Color
Prejudice, 7-17; 41. Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 3-14. W.E.B. DuBois, The World and Africa (New
York: International Publishers 1946), 99; 101; 107-108; 122. DuBois speaks specifically of "brown Moors
and black Numidians," 141.
36 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 7-11. Grace H. Beardsley, The Negro in Greek and Roman Civiliza-

tion (New York: Russell & Russell, 1929), xi-xii; 4-5.


37
Tripp, Handbook, 135; 200.
38 Gilbert Charles Picard and Colette Picard
Daily Life in Carthage, translated by A.E. Foster, (New
York: McMillan Company, 1961), 82. Gilbert Charles Picard and Colette Picard, Life and Death in
Carthage, translated by Dominique Collon, (New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., 1969), 47; 207; 263.
Picard also mentions the adoption of the Libyan burial custom of painting the bodies of the deceased red.
164 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

In establishing the linkages among the various peoples of North Africa, including the Carthaginians, it
should also be noted that those linkages were underscored by Masinissa, king of Numidia, in his attempt
to claim for himself a Libyan genealogy. Picard, Life, 280.
39
Picard, Daily Life, 82-83.
40 Picard,
Life, 88. Through out his work, Picard provides what many others might call "poetic" allu-
sion to Carthage and Carthaginians as "African": "Carthage . .. the African metropolis"; "His [Hanni-
bal's] features do reveal some 'African' characteristics". It can be argued that these are much more than
simple poetic asides; more than literary license. They seem to pertain to the fact that in spite of a general
insistence to see Carthage and the Carthaginian as European, the historical, mythological, geographic,
demographic and artistic records speak to Carthage's African-ness. Picard, Life, 45; 88; 140; 230.
41 R. Bosworth Smith,
Carthage and the Carthaginians, New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.
(1908), 19.
42
Picard, Life, 41; 43-44; 49; 108-115; 157. Picard refers to religious custom, architectural style, and
trade and defense specifically as points where Egyptian and Carthagenian interests overlapped. Also see
Picard, Daily Life, 37-39. Warmington writes of the early Phoenician relation with Egypt: "for the first
thousand years of their history, they were intimately bound to Egypt." B. H. Warmington, Carthage,
(London: Robert Hale Limited, 1960), 16; 23.
43 Picard, Life, 266; 64-65; 88-89. Picard, Daily Life, 82-84. Warmington, Carthage, 40-41; 52-53. To
be sure, as Picard writes, the idea of "reciprocity" should not be confused with an "equality" in terms of
the exchange of goods and services. These peoples still rested beyond the pale of Carthaginian aristoc-
racy, and any in the society who termed themselves as "true" Carthaginians descended from Tyre. How-
ever, the fact remains, in myth as well as in history, that part of the Carthaginian ability to endure was
based upon the alliance it was able to build in Africa on the basis of some sense of reciprocity. Even as
the state neared its destruction, its hope for survival was hinged on which of a number of gambits might
materialize in relation to its African allies.
44
The most comprehensive picture is provided by Snowden in Blacks in Antiquity. The works makes
reference to the major pieces of classical literature and art which depict African men-at-arms in the
greater Mediterranean world.
45
Picard, Life, 125. Smith goes on to state of the Libyphoenicians: "equidistant from the Berbers on
one hand, and from the Carthaginians proper on the other, and composed of those who were neither
wholly citizens or wholly aliens, [they] experienced the lot of most half-castes, and were alternately
trusted and feared, pampered and oppressed, loved and hated, by the ruling state." Carthage and the
Carthaginians, 19. While Warmington argues that the Libyphoenicians are in fact Phoenicians who had
gone "native" rather than vice versa, he still attributes some distance to them and their Carthaginian
masters as ascribed by Smith. Carthage, 70; 72; 73. Picard by the same token agrees with Smith: the
Libyphoenicians are "Phoenicianized Libyans", and therefore given the hierarchical strictures of Cartha-
ginian society might well have been on its margins. Life, 95. Yet Smith, the Picards and M. Taradell's
conclusions lead us to further speculation on the very important role of the Libyophoenicians in the
expansion of Carthaginian empire under Hanno. From the Greek version of Hanno's report, Warmington
cites:
The Carthaginians decreed that Hanno should sail beyond the Straits of Gibraltar and found
colonies of Libyphoenicians. He should set sail with sixty fifty-oared ships, men and women to
number 30,000 and food and other essentials. Carthage, 62.
Are "Phoenicianized" Libyans responsible for a major portion of Carthage's African colonization? What
role do they play in the European expansion of Carthage? The answers to these questions have real
implications for discussion concerning the nature of the empire and the socio-political economic impact of
these peoples upon it.
46
Picard,Life, 204.
47
Ibid., 203-208. Of the numerous mercenary uprisings and peasant revolts of Carthaginian history
this one may have had the greatest impact in illustrating the pivotal role which African soldiers and
peasants played in determining the destiny of the Carthaginian state. Warmington, Carthage, 40-43; 125.
48 Norman R. Bennett,
Africa and Europe (New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc. 1983), 17-
21. Picard, Daily Life, 62-63.
49
Snowden, Before Color Prejudice, 67-68.
DECONSTRUCTING THE CLASSICAL AGE 165
50 Ibid., 66. Snowden uses this
point to illustrate the modern genesis of racism. He concludes the
section by noting, "still, intense color prejudice did not arise", 67. Also see Snowden, Blacks in Antiq-
uity, 186-188.
51
Jung and Kerenyi, Essays, 18.
62 The Classical sources are already clear on this. They include Herodotus and Diodorus as well as

other classical works and authors cited in secondary materials. Bernal and Snowden offer evidence as
well which use religion not only as a link but as a reinforcing agent over time and through different
cultural dimensions. One of the most interesting aspects of this argument rests on the observations of
Carthaginian religious culture and the assertions on the one hand that the "Semitic/Punic" religion was
strong and insinuated itself into the African countryside and on the other that it had already been in-
fused itself with the same African inspired derivations that had emerged from the Ethio-Egyptian con-
struct and were a vibrant part of Greek and Roman worship and ceremony. See Warmington, Carthage,
129-131. Picard, Life, 49; Daily Life, 70-80. One of the most amusing elements of the Picards' work
alludes to the discovery of the sarcophagus from Sainte-Monique which may be representational of a
priestess of the Carthaginian religion. The Picards reveal the prejudices of their historiography when they
state:
When this effigy was discovered, it was thought to represent the priestess buried there, clothed in
her sacred robes. Unfortunately the urn contained nothing more exciting than the bones of an
aged Negress. [Italics added](76)
Of course, the implication is that "aged Negresses" cannot have been priestesses within the context of
Carthaginian religion as it is conventionally constituted.
63 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 190; 189-193.

64 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 130-135.

66 Livy, The War with Hannibal, translated by Aubrey de Selincourt (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books

Inc., 1968). Sallust, Jugurthine War, translated by S.A. Handford (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books,
Inc., 1972). The works of the Picards, Smith and Warmington offer clear pictures of the relations carried
on by the Numidians, the Moors and the Libyans with the Romans in relation to their destinies and that
of Carthage.
66 Sallust leaves little doubt as to who these "Africans" were. In the Jugurthine War, he emphasizes

what other authors have said of the physical composition of North Africans:
the Numidians, as well as the Moors who lived west of them, belonged mostly to the race from
which the Berbers are descended. ... 29.
According to Sallust, the Numidians were Numidians because of the union between the Persians who
"by intermarriage . . . gradually coalesced with the Gaetulians. It was the union between Medes,
Armenians and Libyans, Sallust argues which produced the Moors. 55, 111, 113. Among the Gaetulians
and the Libyans, Jehan Desanges reminds us that there was "considerable evidence of the presence of
blacks" to the extent that the "Maur and the Garamante were often looked upon and thought of as being
half black." "The Iconography of the Black in Ancient North Africa" in Image of the Black, 246; 268.
Pliny the Elder should also be consulted on this account as well. Natural History, II, 249-255.
67 Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 142-143. Snowden provides a synopsis of African participation in

Roman military campaigns. His listing extends the length of the Empire. Sallust provides corroboration
for the use of African troops in his depiction of Moorish cavalry deployed by both the Romans and the
Numidians. Jugurthine War, 132; 142-143.
68 Snowden, Blacks, 101-120; 156-195. The Image of the Black.

69 Pliny the Younger, The Letters of the Younger Pliny, translated by Betty Radice (Baltimore: Pen-

guin Books 1963), 262-263. Pliny, in letters to the Emperor Trajan, requested and received citizenship
for his therapist Arpocras, an Egyptian. Given the Emperor's reply, it would seem that the granting of
citizenship to subjects of the Empire was not a rare occurrence, though it was a difficult one to obtain.
This instance is indicative of the fact that Africans could be and were granted status and citizenship
within the Empire.
60 In his "Foreword" to
Africa and the World, W.E.B. DuBois wrote:
Since the rise of the sugar empire and the resultant cotton kingdom, there has been consistent
effort to rationalize Negro slavery by omitting Africa from world history, so that today it is almost
universally assumed that history can be truly written without reference to Negroid peoples. (New
York: International Publishers, 1969), vii.
166 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY

Addressing the question of "Racism in the Early Nineteenth Century," Martin Bernal summarizes his
argument in a section entitled "What Colour Were the Ancient Egyptians," " the Egyptian problem' ":
If it had been scientifically proved that Blacks were biologically incapable of civilization, how
could one explain Ancient Egypt-which was inconveniently placed on the African continent?
There were two, or rather three solutions. The first was to deny that the Ancient Egyptians were
black; the second was to deny that the Ancient Egyptians had created a true civilization; the third
was to make doubly sure by denying both. The last has been preferred by most 19th- and 20th-
century historians. Black Athena, 241. (Italics added)
61 Homer, The
Odyssey, 218.