Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor Katherine M.D. Dunbabin


The post-Homeric literary sources of the Greek period mention Aίθíoπες, inhabitants of a distant land, whose physical appearance differs from the Mediterranean somatic norm, but approximates that of peoples referred to in modern times as Black Africans. In the Roman era Aethiopes appear in the literary sources, perceived not only as distant strangers but also as persons familiar to the Roman experience. The sources also mention other peoples: Mauri, Libyes, and Indi, who are distinguished from Aethiopes, but are perceived as having some of the physical characteristics of Aethiopes. An evaluation of the archaeological evidence reveals the methods by which Roman artists conveyed difference from their somatic norm, and the problems they faced in their attempt to portray difference. An INTRODUCTION explains the aims of the thesis and reviews the modern literature. CHAPTER 1 sets out the methodological approach and summarises ancient literary testimony concerning Greek and Roman perceptions of Blacks. CHAPTER 2 provides an overview of relevant archaeological material of the Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman periods not included in the catalogue. CHAPTERS 3, 4, 5, and 6 deal with the iconography of the Black in the Roman period focussing on their appearance in thematic contexts (baths, spectable, domestic service, and mythology). Following the CONCLUSION, a CATALOGUE lists and describes 56 objects with museum, inventory number, provenience and bibliography. The selected representations date from the Late Hellenistic to the sixth century A.C. They appear in mosaics, sarcophagi, in sculpture, and in paintings from the Mediterranean, Egypt, North Africa, and continental Europe.

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