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Dave Bloke

Blacks in Roman Britain

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apparently there is quite a todo over in the twittersphere about whether there were blacks in Roman Britain. The row has blown up after the So-Called BBC showed a cartoon about Roman Britain featuring a black man. This, it is claimed, is supposed to be Quintus Lollius Urbicus, who came from what the lefties are calling Algeria - although no such country existed at the time. the So-Called BBC claimed this was a "typical" Roman family.

A few problems struck me with the lefties arguments that this shows Britain's ancient racial diversity.

Quintus came from an area has undergone a number of waves of migration since he was around including an conquest by Germanic tribes. He is described as a Berber but they go from Mediterranean looking people to moderately darked skinned, although one of the historians at the center of the row says he may have been of Roman descent.

Quintus was part of a colonial force that brutally put down lowland Scottish tribes. Maybe the Algerians should be offering us an apology for this crime and offering reparations. Indeed any so called "blacks" in Britain at that time would have been soldiers working for the Roman invader, not migrants over for the benefits. Not exactly an advert for the benefits of immigration :-).

I bet there were no blacks around after the Romans pulled out, not that it matters much either way. I'm minded to recalled Ed Balls "so what" line.

Pre Rome there was trade between the Phoenecians and Cornish so there was certainly no shortage of contact between various parts of the world.

 

Edited by davidg

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The meat of this is essentially Nassim Taleb arguing with Mary Beard.

This is Talebs take on it

https://medium.com/incerto/something-is-broken-in-the-uk-intellectual-sphere-7efc9a1f154a

The TLDR summary is that the genetic evidence shows that the "African" Romans were Mediterranean people who'd settled in North Africa.

And this is his view on how his disagreement with Mary Beard has been viewed on Twitter.

Mary has assembled a virtue signalling army led by JK Rowling

 

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4 minutes ago, SpectrumFX said:

The meat of this is essentially Nassim Taleb arguing with Mary Beard.

This is Talebs take on it

https://medium.com/incerto/something-is-broken-in-the-uk-intellectual-sphere-7efc9a1f154a

The TLDR summary is that the genetic evidence shows that the "African" Romans were Mediterranean people who'd settled in North Africa.

And this is his view on how his disagreement with Mary Beard has been viewed on Twitter.

Mary has assembled a virtue signalling army led by JK Rowling

 

Christ they can outdo us lot at derailing threads. O.o

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Taleb's response is excellent. Everyone in Europe is afraid of speaking out for fear of losing their job due to a howling mob of lefties. French historian Georges Bensoussan spoke out about anti antisemitism among French muslims on a TV programme. Left wing militant groups (who are very organized and well funded) complained and the French justice (also riddled with lefties) prosecuted Bensoussan for racism; this is the usual occurrence if anyone dares discuss anything about immigration, the idea is to shut down any debate with spurious trials. The court found Bensoussan not guilty.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Bensoussan_(historien)

Edited by davidg

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Yeah, but what was the LGBTQ makeup of the Roman Army, I really think this needs to be brought out of the historical closet as a pressing issue.

I fear historical norms have been distorted by the Victorian predjudices of Britains educational institutions and their intellectual establishment closed shop.

Edited by Chewing Grass
dyslexia / dislessia

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Surely the Roman discrimination was between citizens and non citizens / barbarians / slaves 

I wish we had a time machine to send a few sjw's to Roman times 

I don't think they would have faired to well 

 

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Were there black people in Roman Britain  ?.

The answer is probably yes.

Were  there many of them ?

The answer is probably no

In fact there were relatively few Romans of any description in 'Roman' Britain outside of London and the major military centres

Most of the population dwelt in the countryside and lived in circumstances not unlike their ancestors before the Roman invasion.

The picture of a country full of Roman Villas as depicted on TV is a bit of a myth. Most such structures date from the 3rd century BC. In fact for much of the Roman occupation most Britons lived in their traditional round houses

https://www.britishmuseum.org/PDF/british_museum_roman_britain.pdf

As for 'African' influence this was probably at its height in the late Second Century AD when Lollius Urbicus and Clodius Albinus   were governors. 

Clodius Albinus' claim to fame was that he was one of the usurpers who bid for the Imperial throne after the assassination of Commodus and his successor Pertinax. He was defeated by another 'African' usurper Septimius Severus who went onto campaign in northern Britain

Most Africans in Roman Britain would have been part of the Roman military and civilian administration. They were therefore the on the side of the Roman military industrial complex and their job was to police (oppress ?) the British colonial subjects and extract their the surplus wealth on behalf of the imperial government via taxes. However, their role in this process was probably pretty minor given that most of the Roman soldiers serving in Roman Britain seem to have been recruited in Gaul, the Low Countries and the Rhineland particularly in later centuries. The African who had the biggest impact on Roman Britain was Septimius Severus whose campaigns against the northern British and Caledonian tribes have been described by some modern scholars as verging on the genocidal  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-20579219

When Roman rule ended in Britain one suspects that the involvement of most Africans went with it.

The odd person from North Africa does turn up in the early history of Anglo-Saxon history such as Adrian who was Abbot of the Benedictine monastery founded by St Augustine in Canterbury. He is described by the Venerable Bede as being a Berber

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_of_Canterbury

Once Islam swept across North Africa then it ceased to be part of the Christian world and there don't appear to have been many contacts with Africa after that time until the Crusader era . Most evidence indicates black people do not reappear in British life until the time of the Tudors. 

 

Edited by Flirtygirty

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1 minute ago, SpectrumFX said:

My favourite bit of the exchange was this:

 

 

I'm not too impressed by this "how many books have you read" attack. I would expect better from Mary Beard, sounds like someone unsure of her position. Here is Mary Beard's article

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/roman-britain-black-white/

In which says says the So-Called BBC were wrong to describe the mixed race family as "typical". She then admits she knows virtually nothing about the ethnic makeup of Roman Britain but does some hand waving about Normans in some kind of distraction tactic. She basically seems to agree with Taleb.

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5 minutes ago, Flirtygirty said:

Were there black people in Roman Britain  ?.

The answer is probably yes.

Were  there many of them ?

The answer is probably no

In fact there were relatively few Romans of any description in 'Roman' Britain outside of London and the major military centres

Most of the population dwelt in the countryside and lived in circumstances not unlike their ancestors before the Roman invasion.

The picture of a country full of Roman Villas as depicted on TV is a bit of a myth. Most such structures date from the 3rd century BC. In fact for much of the Roman occupation most Britons lived in their traditional round houses

https://www.britishmuseum.org/PDF/british_museum_roman_britain.pdf

As for 'African' influence this was probably at its height in the late Second Century AD when Lollius Urbicus and Clodius Albinus   were governors. 

Clodius Albinus' claim to fame was that he was one of the usurpers who bid for the Imperial throne after the assassination of Commodus and his successor Pertinax. He was defeated by another 'African' usurper Septimius Severus who went onto campaign in northern Britain

Most Africans in Roman Britain would have been part of the Roman military and civilian administration. They were therefore the on the side of the Roman military industrial complex and their job was to police (oppress ?) the British colonial subjects and extract their the surplus wealth on behalf of the imperial government via taxes. However, their role in this process was probably pretty minor given that most of the Roman soldiers serving in Roman Britain seem to have been recruited in Gaul, the Low Countries and the Rhineland particularly in later centuries. The African who had the biggest impact on Roman Britain was Septimius Severus whose campaigns against the northern British and Caledonian tribes have been described by some modern scholars as verging on the genocidal  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-20579219

When Roman rule ended in Britain one suspects that the involvement of most Africans went with it.

The odd person from North Africa does turn up in the early history of Anglo-Saxon history such as Adrian who was Abbot of the Benedictine monastery founded by St Augustine in Canterbury. He is described by the Venerable Bede as being a Berber

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_of_Canterbury

Once Islam swept across North Africa then it ceased to be part of the Christian world and there don't appear to have been many contacts with Africa after that time until the Crusader era . Most evidence indicates black people do not reappear in British life until the time of the Tudors. 

 

Very interesting post.

What SJW's don't seem to grasp is that most sensible people aren't against immigration providing that people are coming to UK with a job secured and able to support themselves. In addition most sensible people think that immigrants should integrate and as the old saying goes....when in Rome do as the romans do. If that was the current scenario I wouldn't have voted for Brexit. IMO the EU is about the destruction of nation states and globalisation with free movement of people getting housed/fed and to hell with the consequences.

As for that Rowling woman. Just because she got lucky and her books, not great IMO, made her a multi millionaire she seems to think it gives her the right to preach to everyone. I doubt mass immigration is interfering with her privileged lifestyle. Can't stand her.

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41 minutes ago, Malthus said:

Surely the Roman discrimination was between citizens and non citizens / barbarians / slaves 

I wish we had a time machine to send a few sjw's to Roman times 

I don't think they would have faired to well 

 

Citizens and non citizens and slaves upto the time of Caracalla who granted Roman citizenship to all the free inhabitants of the Empire

Thereafter the distinction was between 'honestiores' (ancient one percenters) and humiliores (everyone else) 

Edited by Flirtygirty

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1 hour ago, davidg said:

apparently there is quite a todo over in the twittersphere about whether there were blacks in Roman Britain. The row has blown up after the So-Called BBC showed a cartoon about Roman Britain featuring a black man. This, it is claimed, is supposed to be Quintus Lollius Urbicus, who came from what the lefties are calling Algeria - although no such country existed at the time. the So-Called BBC claimed this was a "typical" Roman family.

A few problems struck me with the lefties arguments that this shows Britain's ancient racial diversity.

Quintus came from an area has undergone a number of waves of migration since he was around including an conquest by Germanic tribes. He is described as a Berber but they go from Mediterranean looking people to moderately darked skinned, although one of the historians at the center of the row says he may have been of Roman descent.

Quintus was part of a colonial force that brutally put down lowland Scottish tribes. Maybe the Algerians should be offering us an apology for this crime and offering reparations. Indeed any so called "blacks" in Britain at that time would have been soldiers working for the Roman invader, not migrants over for the benefits. Not exactly an advert for the benefits of immigration :-).

I bet there were no blacks around after the Romans pulled out, not that it matters much either way. I'm minded to recalled Ed Balls "so what" line.

Pre Rome there was trade between the Phoenecians and Cornish so there was certainly no shortage of contact between various parts of the world.

 

 

I think the "so what" line is correct along with it being a case of "what's new about that" and "tell us news not history".  

Art as well as movies have shown some blacks with the Romans in Roman times all over the place (and with other groups) so it's reasonable to assume there would be a few in Britain at the time. 

Having a small number in those times doesn't prove anything one way or another in terms of diversity - it's a total red herring and waste of time argument.  

In those days I bet nobody thought a small number was in any way remarkable and they wouldn't go around shouting look how diverse we are - although they might well have complained a bit about the number of Romans arriving which some would say would a more reasonable thing to compare with for UK 2017.

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@Flirtygirty Taleb's assertion is that Berbers were Mediterranean and close to Romans in looks.

I've never heard the term Berber before this row kicked off, and haven't looked it up myself to"fact check" him xD

But if he's right then presenting known Berbers as  Sub-Saharan African in appearance is politically correct, rather then factually correct.

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9 minutes ago, SpectrumFX said:

@Flirtygirty Taleb's assertion is that Berbers were Mediterranean and close to Romans in looks.

I've never heard the term Berber before this row kicked off, and haven't looked it up myself to"fact check" him xD

But if he's right then presenting known Berbers as  Sub-Saharan African in appearance is politically correct, rather then factually correct.

This is a Berber friend of mine (sorry video grab), you couldn't tell her from Italian.

sherine.jpg

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1 hour ago, SpectrumFX said:

@Flirtygirty Taleb's assertion is that Berbers were Mediterranean and close to Romans in looks.

I've never heard the term Berber before this row kicked off, and haven't looked it up myself to"fact check" him xD

But if he's right then presenting known Berbers as  Sub-Saharan African in appearance is politically correct, rather then factually correct.

There was an article on this in one of the learned publications where genetcists have discovered that the Berbers were unrelated to Sub-Saharan africans and were effectively isolated from them for a huge period of time.

This has not gone down well with the out-of-africa lot, unfortunately when all the texts that they studied at university were written DNA analysis was not even pipe-dream.

I will have a look through myhistory to find it....

Will have to go back to June, but this was interesting in July https://www.slashgear.com/ancient-human-ghost-species-revealed-by-saliva-protein-21492446/

Can't find it, however genetics and DNA analysis is getting very interesting.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ancient-greece-scientists-crack-dna-sequence-cradle-western-civilisation-first-time-1633212

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/baby-tooth-found-siberian-cave-unveils-secrets-ancient-humans-200000-years-ago-1629826

Edited by Chewing Grass

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26 minutes ago, Economic Exile said:

Very interesting post.

What SJW's don't seem to grasp is that most sensible people aren't against immigration providing that people are coming to UK with a job secured and able to support themselves. In addition most sensible people think that immigrants should integrate and as the old saying goes....when in Rome do as the romans do. If that was the current scenario I wouldn't have voted for Brexit. IMO the EU is about the destruction of nation states and globalisation with free movement of people getting housed/fed and to hell with the consequences.

As for that Rowling woman. Just because she got lucky and her books, not great IMO, made her a multi millionaire she seems to think it gives her the right to preach to everyone. I doubt mass immigration is interfering with her privileged lifestyle. Can't stand her.

The point that most of the debate on this subject misses is that north Africa was a lot more 'Roman' than Britain throughout the classical era. After the defeat of the Phoenician colony of Carthage (the Roman name Poeni for Carthaginians is the giveaway)  some  leading Roman senatorial families moved  their operations to north Africa on mass to exploit the wealth of the new conquest. The area produced lots of senators, some governors and the Severan dynasty.  By contrast throughout the Roman  era there is no evidence that a single Briton sat in the Roman senate. That is quite a startling fact given that the neighbouring province of Roman Gaul produced a lot of senators in the imperial era. It suggests Britain was very much on the edge of the empire and that its local inhabitants were not plugged into the power structures of imperial governmmnt . The fact that most of the surviving visible remains are military structures like Hadrians wall suggests that outside the south east Romanisation never got that far . By contrast North Africa is stuffed with surviving ruins of towns and civilian structures which indicate it was at the core of the empire. This is hardly surprising in that the Roman Empire was essentially centred on the Mediterranean not  Continental Europea, a historical fact  that the propagandists for the EU prefer to ignore 

 

Edited by Flirtygirty

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2 minutes ago, Flirtygirty said:

The point that most of the debate on this subject misses is that north Africa was a lot more 'Roman' than Britain throughout the classical era. After the defeat of the Phoenician colony of Carthage (the Roman name Poeni for Carthaginians is the giveaway)  some  leading Roman senatorial families moved  their operations to north Africa on mass to exploit the wealth of the new conquest. The area produced lots of senators, some governors and the Severan dynasty.  By contrast throughout the Roman  era there is no evidence that a single Briton sat in the Roman senate. That is quite a startling fact given that the neighbouring province of Roman Gaul produced a lot of senators in the imperial era. It suggests Britain was very much on the edge of the empire and that its local inhabitants were not plugged into the power structures of the empire. The fact that most of the surviving visible remains are military structures like Hadrians wall suggests that outside the south east Romanisation never got that far . By contrast North Africa is stuffed with surviving ruins of towns and civilian structures which indicate it was at the core of the empire. This is hardly surprising in that the Roman Empire was essentially centred on the Mediterranean not  Continental European, a historical fact  that the EU prefer to ignore 

 

Very interesting and informative again!

I believe history is controlled by those with power to suit agendas. View mainstream accounts of history as a skeptic these days. 

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I had a flick through the argument on tls.  I found it interesting in that there were pages of arguments about 'blacks in Roman Britain' with details on which countries which people were from, famous black Romans, references to texts where someone had met a Black person, etc, but with barely a mention on the proportions -- which is the information that would have actually put the point in perspective.  I was reminded of the joke about people in a balloon asking where they were, where one person says 'where are we' and the answer is 'in a buoyant structure at 50 feet altitude' (and then they say 'oh you must be an engineer' or a lawyer or something) -- ie, they think they're answering the question, but actually they're arguing over semantics, that the actual information of value is missing, and that the fact that it is missing is completely obvious to everyone else, but seemingly not to them.

The other thing that got me was someone saying (can't remember who) that the 'black Roman depicted in the cartoon was just an illustration -- it wasn't meant to be taken literally'.  I got really cross about this -- they've got a chance to make an educational point and they're sending disinformation.  I bet that if children were asked 'what proportion of the population in Roman Britain were non-white' they'd say something like 5% (ie, less than now, but massively higher than reality).  

[as a sort-of-equivalent point, my daughter has been studying WWI, and they've been working on conditions in the trenches and the sheer horrors of the deaths.  At the end of her study I asked her two questions -- how long did soldiers spend in the trenches, and what proportion of solders died in WWI.  Her answers -- a couple of years and about half.  So, all of the push of the horrors of the war actually gave her a massively distorted picture of the actual situation in WWI.  I get the impression that this sort of 'for illustrative purposes' approach is rife.  Oh, and it appears that actually having an understanding of how long soldiers spent in the trenches and what the actual death rate was is irrelevant, as she's a star pupil in history (despite my best efforts)]

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19 minutes ago, SpectrumFX said:

@Flirtygirty Taleb's assertion is that Berbers were Mediterranean and close to Romans in looks.

I've never heard the term Berber before this row kicked off, and haven't looked it up myself to"fact check" him xD

But if he's right then presenting known Berbers as  Sub-Saharan African in appearance is politically correct, rather then factually correct.

I am using the term 'African' and 'black' quite loosely as we don't know much about the ethnic origins of the Roman 'Africans in Britain .

What people need to consider that  quite a few senior Roman 'African' families actually originated in Italy and that Roman Africa had been part of the Roman world for at least two centuries before the Roman finally conquered Britian.

As I mentioned earlier one should also not forget that Carthage was a Phoenician colony and that Latin writers refer to them as 'Poeni'.

All the evidence suggest that the North African littoral was part of the Roman and Mediterranean world. It probably had some contact with sub Saharan Africa but essentially most of the traffic and cultural interchanges went the other way 

 

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I have very little to add to @Flirtygirty's excellent post above.

The only tweak I would make is:

Quote

The vast majority Most of the population dwelt in the countryside and lived in circumstances not unlike their ancestors before the Roman invasion.

I recall one lecturer estimating that the maximum number of proper Romans (i.e. Italians) in Britian at any time would have been 20,000.

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1 minute ago, Frank Hovis said:

I have very little to add to @Flirtygirty's excellent post above.

The only tweak I would make is:

I recall one lecturer estimating that the maximum number of proper Romans (i.e. Italians) in Britian at any time would have been 20,000.

Out of a population of how many? Mary Beard doesn't seem to know despite being a Roman specialist but estimates of 500,000 to 1 million seem possible at the time of invasion. I guess Mary hasn't heard of Wikipedia where they give these estimates

Quote

Roman Britain had an estimated population between 2.8 million and 3 million people at the end of the second century. At the end of the fourth century, it had an estimated population of 3.6 million people, of whom 125,000 consisted of the Roman army and their families and dependents.[87]

Source given is Joan Alcock BA MA DipEd PhD, FSA.

Lets say, generously, 1% of the Roman army was African. That means 0.05% of the Roman population was black.

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