Lucius Septimius Severus, African-Roman Emperor

While acknowledging that the Roman Republic/Empire was complex and long-lived enough to provide us with dozens of questionable parallels for any scenario, I think we can agree that they are always neat.

We do not know for certain whether or not Septimius Severus was black. That is itself significant. One historian writing three hundred years after his lifetime claimed that he was ‘dark’, and one or two portrait statues appear to show him with African features. But the vast majority of images that survive make him look like any other Roman emperor before him – his whiteness over-emphasised by the shiny white marble in which he was so often portrayed. This was not a black man claiming the imperial throne for himself. This was the Roman imperial machine turning a man of colour into an emperor more or less indistinguishable from all his predecessors. The machine was making sure that race did not show.

Shades of Obama?

(photo credit)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s