Are these sculptures of roman citizens or slaves?
The association of Black people with enslavement is an entirely modern invention, as in, chattel slavery in the Americas and the routine enslavement of black people in Europe did not exist in Rome. Roman slavery was NOT the same as chattel slavery, and it did not have anything to do with race as we know it today.
This is what I’m talking about when I say that our modern attitudes and colonial-era histories 100% affect the way we view ancient artworks.
American schools teach “slavery then civil rights”, and that’s their “Black History” curricula, for the most part. That’s why I get responses like this. Because it seems like a large number of Americans see any Black person from before 1950 and think “slave”.
This is far from the first time someone has asked this, and it probably is far from the last time I will be asked. It’s my hope that people will really think about how we got to this point, and why it’s so necessary to explore how this degree of anti-blackness has been codified into our education system.
Ancient Art Week!
Various Roman Sculptures
Out of the many works of art that survive from Roman times, some only exist as fragments. I wanted to share some of these fragments with you all because I think a lot of people underestimate just how many images of Romans of color exist.
Some of these are from Roman Egypt, some are copies of Greek originals, some are actually small vases or perfume bottles, but each one has been determined to be a Black person by the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University and included in their Image of the Black in Western Art collection.
On the heels of the conversation (controversy?) yesterday about Sleeping Black Man and some of the questions asked that may not have been answered (or have answers), I wanted to showcase how diverse these pieces are, and how different from each other they look. They come from all walks of life, are of various ages, and each one seems highly individual, rather than of a type. Some may be portraits. Some may be intended as caricatures or amusing pieces, like the old man sticking out his tongue.
Roman terracottas were produced everywhere from England to Egypt, and each area has its own distinct styles.The small bottles, called unguentariums or balsamariums, are debated within academic circles as to what they were actually used for. The marbles are most likely portraits, but usually descriptions or textual analogs for individual sculptures don’t survive.
1. Bust of a black man or woman with tight corkscrew curls, painted eyes, and slightly open mouth. Roman, 2nd half II century A.D. Marble. Napoli, Museo Nazionale.
2. Head of an Egyptian man with a large lump on top of his head, which is shaved except for a braid (?) hanging down the back. Roman, early IV century A.D. Marble. Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore.
3. Head of a black youth with tight curls and slightly open mouth (nose and chin damaged). Roman, n.d. Gray Basalt, 20 cm. Napoli, Museo Nazionale.
4. Bust of a black man; part of top and back of head missing. Roman, Imperial Period. Bronze, 8.6 cm. London, Collection of Herbert James Powell Bomford.
5. Balsamarium in form of a bust of a black youth wearing a necklace. Roman, n.d. Bronze, 13 cm. Musée national du Louvre, Département des Antiquités grecques et romaines.
6. Statuette fragment: Head of a black man or woman with a diadem encircling a voluminous coiffure. Roman, 1st. Century B.C.E. Terracotta. Cittá del Vaticano, Musei Vaticani, Museo Gregoriano Egizio.
7. Head of an old man sticking out his tongue. Roman, n.d. Terracotta. Houston, Texas, Menil Foundation Collection.
8. Head of a laughing man wearing a smooth beret. Roman, 1st. Century B.C.E. Terracotta, 3.9 cm. Houston, Texas, Menil Foundation Collection.
9. Statuette (fragment): Head of a black man with puffed-out cheeks. Roman Egypt, n.d. Terracotta, 4.2 cm. London, British Museum, Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
10. Statuette fragment: head of a child. Roman, n.d. Terracotta, 3.4 cm. Houston, Texas, Menil Foundation Collection.
When I was in Ninth Grade, I won a thing.
That thing, in particular, was a thirty dollar Barnes & Noble gift certificate. I was still too young for a part-time job, so I didn’t have this kind of spending cash on me, ever. I felt like a god.
Drunk with power, I fancy-stepped my way to my local B&N. I was ready to choose new books based solely on the most important of qualities…BADASS COVER ART. I walked away with a handful of paperbacks, most of which were horrible (I’m looking at you, Man-Kzin Wars III) or simply forgettable.
One book did not disappoint. I fell down the rabbit hole into a series that proved to be as badass as the cover art promised (Again, Man-Kzin Wars III, way to drop the ball on that one). With more than a dozen books in the series, I devoured them. I bought cassette tapes of ballads sung by bards in the stories. And the characters. Oh, the characters. I loved them. Gryphons, mages, but most importantly, lots of women. Different kinds of women. So many amazing women. I looked up to them, wrote bad fiction that lifted entire portions of dialogue and character descriptions, dreamed of writing something that the author would include in an anthology.
This year I decided in a fit of nostalgia to revisit the books I loved so damn much. I wanted to reconnect with my old friends…
…and I found myself facing Mary Sues. Lots of them. Perfect, perfect, perfect. A fantasy world full of Anakin Skywalkers and Nancy Drews and Wesley Crushers. I felt crushed. I had remembered such complex, deep characters and didn’t see those women in front of me at all anymore. Where were those strong women who kept me safe through the worst four years of my life?
Which led me to an important realization as I soldiered on through book after book. That’s why I needed them. Because they were Mary Sues. These books were not written to draw my attention to all the ugly bumps and whiskers of the real world. They were somewhere to hide. I was painfully aware that I was being judged by my peers and adults and found lacking. I was a fuckup. And sometimes a fuckup needs to feel like a Mary Sue. As an adult, these characters felt a little thin because they lacked the real world knowledge I, as an adult, had learned and earned. But that’s the thing…these books weren’t FOR this current version of myself. Who I am now doesn’t need a flawless hero because I’m comfortable with the idea that valuable people are also flawed.
There is a reason that most fanfiction authors, specifically girls, start with a Mary Sue. It’s because girls are taught that they are never enough. You can’t be too loud, too quiet, too smart, too stupid. You can’t ask too many questions or know too many answers. No one is flocking to you for advice. Then something wonderful happens. The girl who was told she’s stupid finds out that she can be a better wizard than Albus Dumbledore. And that is something very important. Terrible at sports? You’re a warrior who does backflips and Legolas thinks you’re THE BEST. No friends? You get a standing ovation from Han Solo and the entire Rebel Alliance when you crash-land safely on Hoth after blowing up the Super Double Death Star. It’s all about you. Everyone in your favorite universe is TOTALLY ALL ABOUT YOU.
I started writing fanfiction the way most girls did, by re-inventing themselves.
Mary Sues exist because children who are told they’re nothing want to be everything.
As a girl, being “selfish” was the worst thing you could be. Now you live in Narnia and Prince Caspian just proposed marriage to you. Why? Your SELF is what saved everyone from that sea serpent. Plus your hair looks totally great braided like that.
In time, hopefully, these hardworking fanfiction authors realize that it’s okay to be somewhere in the middle and their characters adjust to respond to that. As people grow and learn, characters grow and learn. Turns out your Elven Mage is more interesting if he isn’t also the best swordsman in the kingdom. Not everyone needs to be hopelessly in love with your Queen for her to be a great ruler. There are all kinds of ways for people to start owning who they are, and embracing the things that make them so beautifully weird and complicated.
Personally, though, I think it’s a lot more fun learning how to trust yourself and others if you all happen to be riding dragons.
Mary Sues exist because children who are told they’re nothing want to be everything.
A girl making herself the hero of her own story is a radical act. Stop shaming girls for doing it. Stop shaming yourself for it.
Right? This was posted by a conservative blog acting like it’s a bad thing, but…our bloated defense budget is a bit less bloated, and we’re feeding more poor people. OH NO HOW AWFUL.
Do these people read that Bible they love to trot out? Swords into plowshares was a feature, not a flaw.
Last month, when Glenn Ford was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the state of Louisiana “gave him a $20 debit card for his troubles.” That, plus the four cents he had left in his prison account, was all he had.
How do you build up the material accumulations of a lifetime overnight? How do you do it with no money? Where do you even begin?
Ford’s friend John Thompson had a clever idea: Do what millions of Americans do when they are hoping that other people will buy them a whole bunch of stuff. Build an Amazon registry.
The Amazon Wish List is here.
Read the whole piece here.
Just bought this dude something off his wishlist. You should too.
Asking about how qualified someone is in academia always brings to mind how a hairdresser discovered how Roman hairstyles were done when many thought the portrait styles were just idealized fancy.
Stephens, a hairdresser based in Baltimore, took a trip to the Walters Art Museum back in 2001 and learned about the intricate hairdos worn by Vestal Virgins so she could duplicate them herself. But she ended up delving further into the fashion and art history books than she’d anticipated. Four years later, Stephens made a phenomenal discovery that she says “essentially changed the field of classical hair studies.”
While reading Roman literature, she stumbled across the term “acus” which has been translated to “hairpin.” But Stephens’ experience with embroidery sparked the theory that these ancient hairdos were actually created using a needle and thread — which was pretty convincing. Her findings were published in the 2008 edition of the Journal of Roman Archaeology.
"That quote everyone was referencing for centuries, but no one took it literally until I came along," she said. “Maybe that was the naivety in me.”
When she’s not cutting, coloring and highlighting at Studio 921 Salon and Day Spa in Baltimore, Stephens is practicing what she preaches by recreating ancient Roman hairstyles at home. Her YouTube channel includes tutorials featuring background on the women who wore these intricate hairdos, insight on their hair textures, the types of styling tools used and how they’d maintain these looks.
But of course HOW DARE SHE QUESTION THE “ACCEPTED FACTS”, RIGHT?
Y’all help I can’t stop watching these ancient roman hairstyling vids.
1. dang they had crazy hair ok?
2. SEW THAT HAIR
3. Who thought up these hairstyles like seriously it was some sort of party where they tried to build houses with hair or something
4. Someone thought this hairstyle up. Now Janet Stephens recreates it. At the end of the vid she even shows how to do those weird curl crowns that look like headbands but nope it’s hair.
SERiously!!!! I think people are underestimating just HOW COOL THIS IS:
THERE ARE SIMPLE ONES, TOO!
^ I would even do that!