KAM Africans in Early Europe

Africans In Early Europe

Contrary to popular notions, the first encounter of Africans and Europeans spans centuries before the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Africans and Europeans have shared the same continent since the most ancient times. Africans have been portrayed in European art as monsters and gods, slaves and conquerors, servants and kings, sorcerers and saints. They have been seen in prehistoric France, early Britain, ancient Greece, Rome, Islamic Spain and more. Below are just a few accounts of Africans in Early European history.

1897BC Egyptian king Sewosret colonizes Greece: founds Athens (Legend)
202BC Carthaginian Hannibal defeats Rome
256BC-253AD Thousands of Africans serve in Roman army
711-1492AD Islamic North and West Africans and Arabs invade and rule Spain
827AD Moors begin invasion of Sicily and Rome

It is generally accepted that the earliest evidence of anatomically modern man come from the African continent. These migrants soon spread out across the Earth. It is not until around 60,000 years ago that some of these inhabitants begin undergoing drastic phenotypic change thus branching off into the many different physical "racial types" we see today. The first homo sapiens sapiens enter Europe around 40,000BC replacing existing Homo neanderthalis types by 28,000BC. (Photo and Information courtesy of Europe in Prehistoryand Nature Magazine

The Ancient Mediterranean

The ancient Mediterranean has long been home to Africans. In ancient Greece Africans figured prominently into many aspects of society and contact between the two groups was frequent. Black types can be found as early as Minoan Crete and are mentioned frequently in later Grecian writings. The Greek historian Herodotus stated, "Almost all of the names of the gods came into Greece from Egypt...The Egyptians were the first to introduce solemn assemblies, processions, and litanies to the gods, all of which the Greeks were taught to use." The relationship of several Greek deities to African deities has long been noted. Examples include the following: Athena to Neith; Hermes to Thoth; Hesphatus to Ptah. It is also Herodotus who tells us of the legend which lists the Egyptian king Sewosret (Seosteris I, II, or III) as the colonizer of Greece and founder of Athens. Alexander the Great, like many of his fellow Greeks, had a great respect for African religion. After his conquest of Egypt, he sought the advice of the oracle of the African god Amen. Thereafter he denounced his own father, Phillip of Macedonia, and proclaimed himself the son of Amen. He even went so far as to have his body buried in the Egyptian city he built for himself, Alexandria. Here he is pictured wearing the ram horns of Amen on a silver coin dated around 300BC. (Photo and Information courtesy of Black Spark, White Fire by Michael Poe , Blacks in Antiquity by Frank Snowden, and Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization by Anthony T. Browder)

The presence of Blacks in the ancient Mediterranean figure significantly into the mythology. Quite a few important figures are designated the title "Ethiopian" within Greek texts. These include Andromeda, heroine of the Perseus myth, and Memmnon of the Illiad saga. Pictured above is another such figure, the sorceress Circe of the Odyssey. Here she is seen offering a magic potion to Odysseus (Ulysses). The painting is displayed upon a Grecian vase dated back to the 5th century BC. Circe's niece was Medea, the sorceress responsible for helping Jason secure the legendary Golden Fleece. (Photo and Information courtesy of Blacks in Antiquity by Frank Snowden)

Islamic Spain

In 711AD Spain was invaded by Islamic invaders who would rule there for the next hundred years. These invaders would build lasting monuments and influence the culture of Europe in the area of science, medicine, literature and music for centuries to come. Among these invaders were Arabs, Berbers and West Africans (Almoravid period). The latter types would be called by Europeans, Moors. Just what racial grouping these Moors belonged to is a perplexing question. In most modern texts, the Moors are regarded as white Mediterranean-type tribes who existed in North Africa at the time. Black Africans are discounted from these Islamic invaders, except perhaps in the role of a few minimal slaves. However the answer to the Moorish racial makeup is by no means so simple. According to the old versions of the Oxford English Dictionary, the Moors, as early as the Middle Ages and as late as the 17th Century, were "commonly supposed to be black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for Negro." However more modern texts, such as Webster's New World Dictionary, identify Moors as "a member of Moslem people of mixed Arab and Berber descent." This deletion of "black" or "Negro" from the term Moor is generally recent. According to historian Wayne Chandler, "Although the term Moor has been put to diverse use, its roots are still traceable. Circa 46BC the Roman army entered West Africa where they encountered black Africans which they called "Maures" from the Greek adjective 'mauros,' meaning dark or black." Though the word "Moor" originally seems to have been meant to indicate Blacks, it in time came to be applied to Muslims in general, especially the Berbers. During the European Renaissance explorers, writers and scholars began to apply the term Moor to Blacks in general. Pictured above are Black Moorish noblemen playing chess while being waited upon by white and black servants. This European work is dated at 1283AD. (Photo and Information courtesy of Blacks in Antiquity by Frank Snowden, Golden Age of the Moor ed. by Ivan Van Sertima, Black Brittanica by Edward Scobie and National Geographic Magazine)

In the Arab literature there is little mention of the word Moor. Rather the term Berber is used to describe these non Arab peoples who occupied the Maghrib (Islamic North Africa west of Egypt). The term Berber may have been derived from the Latin "barbari," a forerunner to the English "barbarian." Webster's New World Dictionary states that the term Berber refers to, "any of a Moslem people living in North Africa." Though this definition is extremely vague, the stereotypical idea of a Berber often depicted in literature and the media are of Caucasoid Semitic types. Anthropologist Dana Reynolds contends that the Berbers emerged as the result of admixture between non-African populations who moved into the Maghrib during the second millenium BC and the more ancient African indigenous inhabitants. This would account for the variance noted among the Berbers even in ancient times. According to Roman documents, among the Berbers were the "black Gaetuli and black-skinned Asphodelodes." Procopius in the 6th Century, in comparing another North African racial group to the Moors, states that they were "not black-skinned like the Moors."Harold A. MacMicheal pointed out that African Blacks such as the Tibbu and Tuwarek, resembling the ancient Nigiritians of the Sahara, are Lamta Berbers by origin. The Haratin of Morocco and Mauritania have also been called "Black Berbers." The Berber clans that were most instrumental in the Moorish conquest of Spain were the Nafza, Masmuda, Luwata, Hawwara, Zanata, Sanhadja and Zugwaha. Writing of the women of the Berber clan the Sanhadja confederation a Muslim scholar states, "Their color is black, though some pale ones can be found among them." It would seem that no monolithic racial type fits the Berbers. In the European Romance of El Cid some of the Berber women are described. A "black Moorish woman" named Nugaymath Turquia is said to lead a contingent of 300 Black Moorish "Amazons." They are described as "negresses" with their heads shaven, leaving a topknot. They are members of the Almoravid Dynasties which occupy Spain in 1086AD. Though not homogenous, the Almoravids held a heavy Black population which is not surprising as they originate in southern Morocco and Northern Senegal in western Africa. In all probability most Moors were probably North African Berbers of various phenotypic make-up. Yet the deemed "black-a-moors" among their number, even if a minority, left a lasting impact in the medieval European psyche. Pictured above is a veiled Berber Moibt Themin warrior; typical of the Almoravid types which dominated Spain in the 11th Century. (Photo and Information courtesy of Golden Age of the Moored. by Ivan Van Sertima- articles by Dana Reynolds, Runoko Rashidi and Wayne Chandler)

A case which shows the strong link that developed in Europe between the word "Black " and "Moor" is that of non-Muslim Moors. A host of non-Muslim figures are also described as Black and Moorish. These included the Black St. Maurice (pictured above) whose name translates as "like a Moor." St. Maurice, the Knight of the Holy Lance, is regarded as the greatest patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire. Rumored to be a Roman commander of Egyptian descent, Maurice is said to have gained sainthood after refusing to have his legion massacre a Christian uprising. Worshipped as early as 460AD, St. Maurice has had numerous artworks and structures---even a castle---dedicated to him. The existence of nearly three hundred major images of the Black St. Maurice have been catalogued, and even today his worship is seen within numerous cathedrals in eastern Germany. Other non-Muslim Moors include the semi-legendary Sir Morien, known as "the Black Knight" of King Arthur fame and Sir Pallamedes. (Photo and Information courtesy The Golden Age of the Moor ed. by Ivan Van Sertima and The Image of the Black In Western Art by Ladislas Bugner)

The legacy of Blacks in Europe lasted well beyond the Islamic period. They appear frequently in literature, iconography and historical writings. Following the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, many can be found throughout Europe. Over a million Moors, of various ethnic and racial types, settled in France. Others moved into Holland. Of interest is the story of a Moorish orphan in the Netherlands by the name of Zwarte Piet. This mythical black boy was sometimes associated as a helper to the equally mythical Sinterklaas (Santa Claus). By 1507 there were numerous Moors at the court of King James IV of Scotland. One of them was "Helenor in the Court Accounts, possibly Ellen More, who reached Edinburgh by way of the port of Leith and acted a principal role in 'the turnament of the black knight and the black lady,' in which the king of Scotland played the part of the black knight." Ellen More incidentally is also called "Black Elen." There were at least two other Black Moorish women of the royal court who held positions of some status as they are said to have held maidservants and expensive gowns. There is also mention of a "Nageir the More." In 1501 one of the King's Minstrels was Peter the Moryen or Moor who is described as Black. Frederick II (1197-1250), of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, maintained a close relationship with the remaining Moors in Sicily. He retained a Moorish chamberlain who was constantly at his side. Though breaking the Muslim powerbase in the region, he also solicited their aid in his struggle with the papacy. After resettling conquered Muslims on the Italian mainland at Lucera, the monarch was said to have recruited an elite guard of 16,000 Moorish troops, many of them no doubt Africans. Within Sicily there was even a structure named, "The Gate of the Blacks." Pictured above is a statue of a Black Norman Knight (St. Maurice?)from the 14th Century. (Photo and Information courtesy of Black Britannica by Edward Scobie ,The Image of the Black in Western Art by Ladislas Bugner, and Golden Age of the Moor ed. by Ivan Van Sertima)

The Renaissance and Beyond

Pictured here is Allesandro De Medici, the Duke of Florence who lived from 1510-1534. Allesandro was of biracial parentage, his mother being an African serving woman (not a slave) and the seventeen year old Cardinal Giulio de Medici who later became none other than Pope Clement VII. On being elected Pope in 1523, Cardinal Giulio was forced to relinquish the lordship of Florence but he appointed a regent for his thirteen year old son Alessandro who had just been created Duke of Penna, and a nephew, Ipollito. Historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom Alessandro states that Allesandro wielded great power as the first duke of Florence. He was the patron of some of the leading artists of the era and is one of the two Medici princes whose remains are buried in the famous tomb by Michaelangelo. As Cocom states, "The ethnic make up of this Medici Prince makes him the first black head of state in the modern western world." (Photo and Information courtesy of Blurred Racial Lines- article by by Mario de Valdes y Cocom)

Pictured above is Alexandar Sergeievich, Russian poet and author who founded the literature of his language with epic and lyric poems, plays, novels, and short stories, was born in Moscow on May 26, 1799. His African lineage stemmed from his great grandfather Ibrahim Petrovich Gannibal. Gannibal was given as a personal gift to the Tsar Peter the Great and though functioned merely as a page, became a type of son to the Russian Emperor and an important figure in the royal court. The Queen of Poland was said to be his Godmother. Alexandar Pushkin followed well in his grandfather's footsteps of noteriety. In 1817 he joined the ministry of foreign affairs in St. Petersburg where he became a member of an underground revolutionary group. In 1820 he was exiled to the Caucasus for his seemingly anti-Tsarist work, Ode to Liberty. Nevertheless, Pushkin continued to hold official governmental posts and in that same year published the lengthy poem Ruslan and Ludmila which earned him a reputation as "one of Russia's most promising poetic talents." In an unfinished romance, The Negro (or Blackamoor) of Peter the Great, Alexander Pushkin attempts to create a biography of his great-grandfather. For his political ideologies he was dismissed from government service in 1824 and banished to his mother's estate. His banishment ended in 1826 after a pardon from Tsar Nicholas I. In his normally flamboyant posture, Pushkin died in a duel defending his honor from a scandal over his young wife and her suggested rival lover. Of him the Encyclopedia Encarata writes, Pushkin provided a literary heritage for Russians, whose native language had hitherto been considered unfit for literature. His lyric poetry and his simple, vivid prose were invaluable models for the writers who followed him. For this Pushkin has often been called, "the father of Russian literature." (Photo and Information courtesy of Blurred Racial Lines- article by by Mario de Valdes y Cocom and Encyclopedia Encarta)

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