Archive for May 2018

Scholars Respond to Racist Backlash against Black Achilles, Part 3: What Makes a Homeric Hero a Hero?

This is Pharos’ third post responding to racist criticism of the BBC/Netflix miniseries Troy: Fall of a City, in which a black actor plays Achilles. Our first post discussed Greek attitudes toward Africans in order to show that ancient audiences would have had no problem with a black Achilles, and our second post addressed the Iliad’s description of Achilles’ hair in order to show that the text does not definitively exclude a black Achilles. This post argues that the BBC’s decision to cast a black man to play Achilles should be understood as a modern extension of ancient epic’s flexibility in the representation of heroes. Read More→

Scholars Respond to Racist Backlash against Black Achilles, Part 2: What did Achilles look like?

This is Pharos’ second post responding to the racist criticism of David Gyasi being cast to play Achilles in the BBC/Netflix miniseries Troy: Fall of a City. Pharos documented that criticism here and here, and the first part of our response addressed ancient Greek attitudes toward Africans.

Racist commentators accuse the miniseries of erasing the white racial identity of Achilles by casting a black man to play him. As evidence for this racial identity, they claim that the Homeric epics describe Achilles as having blonde hair. We set aside the obvious point that one should not invest too much in the supposedly “true” hair color of a mythical person. In what follows we assess evidence for how ancient audiences would have understood these descriptions of Achilles’ hair to show that it is not possible to base a racial theory on the color terms used in the Homeric epics to describe Achilles’ hair. Read More→

Scholars Respond to Racist Backlash against Black Achilles, Part 1: Ancient Greek Attitudes toward Africans

In February of 2018, the BBC broadcast an eight-part miniseries, Troy: Fall of a City, that told the story of the Trojan War. Netflix later released the miniseries in the United States. The casting of David Gyasi, a British-born actor of Ghanaian descent, to play Achilles provoked a storm of racist criticism on social media and racist sites. There has been less controversy around other characters played by black actors, such as Zeus, Athena, Aeneas, Patroclus, and Nestor. Soon after the show started airing in the UK, Pharos contributor Tim Whitmarsh wrote a refutation of many of the racists arguments being made, which he followed up recently with a more detailed critiquePharos, too, documented the racist backlash against the show and over the coming days will report on the responses we received from specialists working on Greek epic. The volume and complexity of the response was such that we have decided to split our response into several posts.

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Misogynist argues that Rape of the Sabines established “Female Privilege”

Purple Motes is the personal blog of a contributor to the misogynist site A Voice for Men whose work Pharos has documented previously. Perversely subtitled “a journal of whimsy and hope,” Purple Motes frequently invokes Greco-Roman antiquity in support of its particular breed of misogyny: exposing the supposed anti-male bias of the contemporary world and all the ways women enjoy special privileges. For example, a post from 2016 entitled “Sabine Women win Pyrrhic peace for Roman men argues that the Rape of the Sabine Women was beneficial for the women involved and established the foundations of discrimination against men that “Men’s Rights Activists” claim persists into the present day. Read More→


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