Archive for Black Achilles

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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Further racist backlash against “Black Achilles”

In January Pharos documented a racist site commenting on the casting of David Gyasi to play Achilles in the BBC’s miniseries Troy: Fall of a City. The racist backlash against this casting has not, however, been confined to this one site. With Netflix streaming the miniseries in the US beginning on April 6th, we are updating our survey of racist commentary on the show. Pharos contributor Tim Whitmarsh has already written an excellent response to many of the arguments found on the sites below for Radio Times. Our responses are now available. Read More→

Racist reaction to David Gyasi playing Achilles in BBC/Netflix “Troy” Miniseries

David Gyasi, a London-born actor of Ghanaian descent, plays the role of Achilles in the BBC’s and Netflix’ miniseries Troy: Fall of a City. Implicitly racist reactions to this casting have appeared on social media and in the comments sections of press about the show. The topic has now been taken up on Stuff Black People Don’t Like, a site run by Paul Kersey, author of the book Whitey on the Moon, which attributes “the demise of NASA” to “the promotion of blackness and diversity, at the expense of the initial dream of exploring the stars.” [Update: Pharos has documented further examples of racist backlash against the casting.]
[Update: Pharos has published a series of responses from scholars to this backlash.] Read More→


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