Shrewsbury School

Classical Society Lecture

Tuesday 4 February 2020

On Friday 31st January, the Classical Society hosted a talk on ‘Skin Colour in the Ancient World’, given by Professor Tim Whitmarsh from Cambridge University.

Pupils studying Latin or Greek or Classical Civilisation – and in some cases a combination of these – learned about what the attitude of Greeks was towards non-Greeks and how skin colour was portrayed in artefacts such as ancient Greek pots; a stark white face essentially denoted a woman, whereas the chromatic opposite - pitch black - indicated a male form, and these differences did not indicate race per se.

Professor Whitmarsh spoke about there being little evidence of racism as we know the term today. Greeks were, however, prejudiced against other races, but this was not based on skin colour; Greeks, in short, regarded themselves as being superior in intellect and culture to all others!

The talk provided real food for thought for the audience and posed some pertinent questions to our pupils who live in a multi-ethnic society.

Many thanks to Professor Whitmarsh for braving the A14 and M6 on a Friday afternoon.

Paul Fitzgerald
Head of Classics

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