Dame Mary Beard on “Whiteness” in Antiquity

Dame Mary Beard on “Whiteness” in Antiquity June 14, 2020

Confession: Lately, I have been going on a “Mary Beard” binge, especially watching every online lecture she has given. If you are not familiar, she is Professor of Classics at Cambridge and a world renowned historian of ancient Roman literature.

I just watched her 2019 lecture on “Whiteness” in the Roman World, it was absolutely fascinating. She notes that some white supremacists today imagine some kind of white legacy going back to Greece and Rome. Beard questions that narrative and uses it as an opportunity to ask a few important socio-historical questions:

  • How did the Roman world “look” in terms of ethnic diversity?
  • How did they represent their “color” in art and sculptures?
  • Did the Romans ever discriminate based on race or ethnicity?
  • How should we depict ancient Roman people in art and film today?

As always, Beard is careful, insightful, and brilliant. I encourage you to watch all the way to the end. Obviously, this is a timely topic, and I am encouraged to see a Classics lecture so poignantly address modern questions and debates.


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