fuckyeahalejandra replied to your post: Ancient Art Week! Various Roman Sculpt…

Are these sculptures of roman citizens or slaves?

The association of Black people with enslavement is an entirely modern invention, as in, chattel slavery in the Americas and the routine enslavement of black people in Europe did not exist in Rome. Roman slavery was NOT the same as chattel slavery, and it did not have anything to do with race as we know it today.

There is nothing about any of those artworks that indicates slave status.

This is what I’m talking about when I say that our modern attitudes and colonial-era histories 100% affect the way we view ancient artworks.

American schools teach “slavery then civil rights”, and that’s their “Black History” curricula, for the most part. That’s why I get responses like this. Because it seems like a large number of Americans see any Black person from before 1950 and think “slave”.

This is far from the first time someone has asked this, and it probably is far from the last time I will be asked. It’s my hope that people will really think about how we got to this point, and why it’s so necessary to explore how this degree of anti-blackness has been codified into our education system.

Figure 1: Images of figurines and their geographic origins. Images are shown in the same (random) order and numbered, as they were for the questionnaire study.

(1) Willendorf’s Venus (Rhine/Danube)

(2) Lespugue Venus (Pyrenees/Aquitaine)

(3) Laussel Venus (Pyrenees/Aquitaine)

(4) Dolní Věstonice Venus (Rhine/Danube)

(5) Gagarino no. 4 Venus (Russia)

(6) Moravany Venus (Rhine/Danube)

(7) Kostenki 1. Statuette no. 3 (Russia)

(8) Grimaldi nVenus (Italy)

(9) Chiozza di Scandiano Venus (Italy)

(10) Petrkovice Venus (Rhine/Danube)

(11) Modern sculpture (N. America)

(12) Eleesivitchi Venus (Russia)

(13) Savignano Venus (Italy)

(14) The so-called “Brassempouy Venus” (Pyrenees/Aquitaine)

(15) Hohle Fels Venus (SW Germany)

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The green lion devouring the Sun.

In alchemy, the green lion describes a chemical reaction but also represents a midpoint in a spiritual transformation; it symbolizes a step towards perfection. In mystical terms, it’s a step out of darkness (winter) towards some final transformation.

“I am who was the green and golden lion without cares; within me lie all the mysteries of the philosophers”, from Rosarium Philosophorum (c. 1550).


Byzantine jewelry completely opposes the church’s condemnation of excessive luxury.

But these pieces stand as a testament to Byzantine affluence, social habits, and technical achievements of their cosmopolitan culture.

Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections now open!


Necklace, 4th century. Marion, Cyprus, Greece.. Image courtesy of the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, no. Z.438.1
Bracelets, 9th–10th century. Constantinople, Turkey. Image courtesy of the Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki


Egypt: Dendera, the cosmos of Hathor

Enclosed within its rugged mud brick walls the temple precincts at Dendera seem to be an island left untouched by time. Particularly in the early hours of the morning, when foxes roam around the ruins of the birth house or venture down the steep stairs leading to the Sacred Lake. Stepping into the actual temple is like entering an ancient time machine, especially if you look up to the recently cleaned astronomical ceiling. This is a vast cosmos filled with stars, hour-goddesses and zodiac signs, many of which are personified by weird creatures like snakes walking on long legs and birds with human arms and jackal heads. On the columns just below the ceiling you encounter the mysterious gaze of the patron deity of the temple: Hathor. Deeper into the building (which dates from around 0 AD) is the crypt with the famous “light-bulb” reliefs where the golden statue of Hathor’s soul was kept. From there you can follow the route of a New Year procession to the roof of the temple where Hathor’s golden soul was rejuvenated by the rays of the sun on the first day of the Egyptian year.

Gold coin of the Parisii 

The Celts began making their own coins in the 200s b.c. when they received payment  from Hellenistic kings who employed Celtic warriors as mercenaries. The king weighs 6.8 grams and is about 2cm in diameter. 

Celtic, Europe (area of Paris), 2nd century BC. 

Source: Metropolitan Museum