This is just another example of the overwhelmingly pervasive idea in our culture that no matter where or when you go in history, anyone who wasn’t Black and who SAW a Black person immediately thought, “Hey! Thisperson and everyone on earth who looks anything like them would make great slaves!” So…before we play remedial education, can we all take a moment to think about how horrible that is? That the idea of Black people=slaves is SO dominant that we project it into ancient history???
Okay, first of all, slavery in the Ancient Mediterranean was not the same as American chattel slavery. It was not race-based slavery. Your race had nothing to do with whether or not you were enslaved.
Basically, what you’re asking about (roughly) is the Hellenistic Era.
After Alexander the Great’s ventures in the Persian Empire, Hellenistic kingdoms were established throughout south-west Asia (Seleucid Empire, Kingdom of Pergamon) and north-east Africa (Ptolemaic Kingdom).
This resulted in the export of Greek culture and language to these new realms, and moreover Greek colonists themselves.
Equally, however, these new kingdoms were influenced by the indigenous cultures, adopting local practices where beneficial, necessary, or convenient. Hellenistic culture thus represents a fusion of the Ancient Greek world with that of the Near East, Middle East, and Southwest Asia, and a departure from earlier Greek attitudes towards “barbarian” cultures.
The Hellenistic period was characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization (as distinguished from that occurring in the 8th–6th centuries BC) which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa. Those new cities were composed of Greek colonists who came from different parts of the Greek world, and not, as before, from a specific “mother city”.
As explained above, what you would have had is a “melting pot” of many different languages, “races”, cultures, schools of art, ethnicities, et cetera.
The art of this period reflects that.
Greek architects and sculptors were highly valued throughout the Hellenistic world. Shown on the left is a terra-cotta statuette of a draped young woman, made as a tomb offering near Thebes, probably around 300 BCE. The incursion of Alexander into the western part of India resulted in some Greek cultural influences there, especially during the Hellenistic era. During the first century BCE., Indian sculptors in Gandhara, which today is part of Pakistan, began to create statues of the Buddha. The Buddhist Gandharan style combined Indian and Hellenistic artistic traditions, which is evident in the stone sculpture of the Buddha on the right. Note the wavy hair topped by a bun tied with a ribbon, also a feature of earlier statues of Greek deities. This Buddha is also wearing a Greek-style toga.
-Essential World History by Duiker, Spielvogel, p. 101
As for trade routed in the Ancient World, well. The Silk Road has existed for pretty much as long as the continents have been in their current configuration and populated by humanity. I’m not exaggerating-the prehistoric version of what became known as the Silk Road is known as The Steppe Road. The Silk Road ITSELF was established for trading purposes at least 2,000 years ago. Here’s a mockup of the Silk Road as it existed during the era you’re asking about:
Here are some Hellenistic Era Greek artworks that feature Black people. There is NO correlation in this era between a person being Black and a person being enslaved.
In general, Greek attitudes towards anyone with Black or dark brown skin were sort of ethnocentric, but not negative OR associated with slavery. After all, the idea of “white people” wouldn’t exist for another 1,500 years at LEAST.
Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks by Frank M. Snowden contains many, MANY invaluable interpretations and translations of primary sources that help to really explore attitudes and philosophies that the people in the time had about appearance, human difference, and personality traits. From page 86:
If you want something a bit more definitive, The Image of the Black in Western Art Vol. 1:From the Pharaohs to the Roman Empire explores the Greek and Roman preoccupation with physical type+personality traits as a form of PROTO-racism, but please note that nothing in their writing or art indicated the association of Blackness or Black skin with slaves or enslavement/enslavability:
"Race" as we have this concept today did not exist then. the "races" they are talking about have to do with ethnicity and culture, NOT skin color by necessity. In addition, the "proto-racist" writing is describing geographical origin and climate to correlate with personality type, with the “perfect balance” being conveniently, Greeks.
As for the beginnings of the Roman Empire, the above is wehre you’re pretty much starting from, and then you have EVEN MORE intermixing between peoples. Including the Emperor born in the Roman Province of “Africa”, Septimius Severus, who led a campaign of additional conquering there around 200 C.E.
He then of course sent tens of thousands of Roman soldiers up directly into Britain and Scotland, and there are extensive records of Black military legions at Hadrian’s Wall in the 3rd century. Incidentally, leading to a rather multicultural population in Roman York (England), which is also extensively documented (Ivory Bangle Lady, one of the richest women in that area at that time, was definitely of African descent).
This would have been the Roman Empire about 100-200 years before the time of Ivory Bangle Lady. Excavations in the area combined with the cutting edge of academia and science combined have this to say:
"We’re looking at a population mix which is much closer to contemporary Britain than previous historians had suspected," Hella Eckhardt, senior lecturer at the department of archaeology at Reading University, said. "In the case of York, the Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now.”
Isotope evidence suggests that up to 20% were probably long distance migrants. Some were African or had African ancestors, including the woman dubbed “the ivory bangle lady”, whose bone analysis shows she was brought up in a warmer climate, and whose skull shape suggests mixed ancestry including black features.
"We can’t tell if she was independently wealthy, or the wife or daughter of a wealthy man — but the bones show that she was young, between 18 and 23, and healthy with no obvious sign of disease or cause of death."
The authors comment: "The case of the ‘ivory bangle lady’ contradicts assumptions that may derive from more recent historical experience, namely that immigrants are low status and male, and that African individuals are likely to have been slaves. Instead, it is clear that both women and children moved across the Empire, often associated with the military."
Feel free to go tell your dad he’s full of it.