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Xenophanes, an Ionian Greek philosopher who lived in the fifth century BC, was amused to note that different peoples believed that the gods look like themselves: “Our gods have flat noses and black skins, say the Ethiopians. Cohen’s observations above) say our gods have red hair and hazel eyes.” Indeed, a fourth century BC fresco of a Thracian woman, found in the Ostrusha Mound in central Bulgaria, shows distinctly red hair and European features. 700 BC) called Troy the “land of fair women.” According to the Roman historian Diodorus Sicilus, who lived in the first century BC, the Egyptian god Set had “reddish hair,” a color that was “rare in Egypt, but common among the Hellenes.” Plutarch (46–120 AD) tells us that while the Theban general Pelopidas (d.
364 BC) was campaigning in central Greece, he had a dream in which a ghost urged him to sacrifice a red-haired virgin if he wished to be victorious in the next day’s battle.
There were two racial types in ancient Greece: dark-haired whites and fair-haired whites, as well as gradations in between.
The earliest known inhabitants were of the former type.
The Romans had their own name for this goddess, Venus, and likewise her “cult images” were ubiquitous and “painted with pale-coloured flesh and golden-blonde hair” (see Joanna Pitman’s Phidias’ masterwork, the Athena Parthenos, stood in the Parthenon for nearly 1,000 years until it was lost, probably in the 5th century AD.
Linear B, which began to dominate Cretan culture around 1500 BC, has been deciphered and found to be an early form of Greek.Neither the Minoans nor the Pelasgians spoke Greek — the linear A inscriptions of the Minoans have still not been deciphered — so the Greek language must have arrived with the light-haired conquerors who migrated from the north, most likely from the middle Danube River Valley.According to Greek national myth, the Hellenes were descended from Hellen (not to be confused with Helen of Troy), the son of Deucalion.Yes, the Greeks painted their statues, but the originals were not dark.Praxiteles’ Aphrodite, from the Greek city of Knidos, was the most famous and most copied statue in the ancient world. Experts have determined from microscopic paint particles that Aphrodite was painted blonde.In this case they point to what classical scholars have long believed was a series of Hellenic descents upon mainland Greece and the Aegean islands.The first Hellenes to arrive were the Ionians and Aeolians; then a few centuries later, the Achaeans, and finally the Dorians.Likewise, in his , or “Maiden Songs,” the seventh century BC Spartan poet Alcman, praised the beauty of Spartan female athletes, with their “golden hair” and “violet eyes.” He also wrote of Spartan women with “silver eyes,” meaning light gray.The seventh-century BC Greek poet Archilochus praises the “yellow hair” of one of his lovers, and Sappho — also of the seventh century BC — writes of her “beautiful daughter, golden like a flower.” (see “Whiting Out White People,” AR, July 2010), complains that “not a few Westerners have attempted to racialize antiquity, making ancient history into white race history.” She points out that the Greeks often painted their marble statues — “the originals were often dark in color” — that the paint wore off over time, and Europeans mistakenly concluded from the white marble that the Greeks were white.Most classical historians today are silent on the subject.For example, Paul Cartledge, a professor of Greek culture at Cambridge, writes about his specialty, Sparta, for educated but non-academic readers, yet nowhere that I can find does he discuss the racial origins of the Spartans.