Monday, January 09, 2006

About Hannibal's Race...

What an issue!

There are two decidedly staunch camps that I've become very familiar with as I worked on and then publicized Pride of Carthage. One camp says that Hannibal was black, an African, and should therefore be considered an African hero. He was based in Africa; therefore he is of Africa. These folks would say that it's our continuing racist society that either wants to 1) deny that Hannibal was African or 2) choose to accept it, but then go on to demonize him because of it.

The other camp says that Hannibal wasn't black. They argue that he and his people were Phoenicians. They might've had a colony based in North Africa, but that doesn't mean they mixed with the locals. And even if they did mix with the locals the North Africans weren't really "black", so African-Americans have no reason to claim him as their own. Folks from this camp are inclined to 1) be real Hannibal fans or 2) still choose to demonize Hannibal, because even if he was Phoenician he was still not European, more a threat to Western Civilization than a participant in its growth.

My book does not enter this debate with hard and fast agenda. At least, that's the way I see it. I'm not sure that all the interest in this really has much to do with who Hannibal truly was. It's about the myriad ways we're still hung up on race in the Twenty-First Century. I mention these two "camps", but I should also point out that I'm not talking about scholars and academics here. These vocal proponents on either side are mostly just folks from the general public. This is, in many regards, a popular debate, not an academic one. If I have an agenda it's to render on the page the true racial complexity of the Second Punic Wars, including - but not limited to - highlighting Carthage's African characteristics.

In most regards I take the original sources at face value. It's these old dead guys that I base my story on because they're the best sources we have and because their version is filled with racial/ethnic complexity. Carthage did have a Phoenician element, sure. This can be seen in their earlier naval and trading prowess, and in their religious pantheon. But Carthaginians also intermarried with North Africans, and had been doing so for hundreds of years. The ancients, like Livy and Polybius, point out many marriages at the highest level of Carthaginian society. These were often arrangements meant to strengthen ties with Numidian and Libyan allies. If the Carthaginian aristocracy was doing it why would anybody claim the lower classes weren't mixing and mingling freely? And, significantly, the Romans themselves called the Carthaginians by a name from which we derive the term Punic. It's a word coined to name the particular combination of Phoenician and African cultures that Carthage was. It doesn't mean Carthage was completely either. But it certainly names it as indelibly both. Remember also that when Publius Scipio triumphed over Hannibal he was given an honorific name that essentially meant "Conqueror of Africa". So, in many ways, the Romans themselves had no qualms about acknowledging Carthage's African identity.


So what do I think personally? I think that Carthage (and Hannibal) was a child of two nations. There is an undeniable Phoenician influence. But there is also a foundation in African soil, blood and customs that is at least equally important, maybe more. I say maybe more because throughout the Second Punic War many African tribes joined Hannibal in his fight. I don't recall any mention of other Phoenician states having much of anything to do with it. So my answer is one based in the complexity of the situation. I'm content with embracing the uncertainty inherent in that, and I think it's more than a bit unfortunate that more people in our society can't do the same. Black and white. Conservative and Liberal. Good and evil... It seems we're trained to think only in absolutes. The world, however, never works in absolute terms; that's part of why we're always handicapped in trying to make sense of it from within our ideological boxes.

But the question people really have and often ask me is more mundane... They want to know whether I'd prefer a Vin Diesel or Denzel Washington a Hannibal movie? I'm not sure that Vin Diesel could pull it off because of the complexity inherent in bringing such a dynamic figure to the screen. Maybe he could, though. And Denzel, although he certainly has the gravitas, is too old to play the twenty and thirty-something general Hannibal was through the war. Both these things come to mind for me before we even get to the race question.


Usually this answer doesn't satisfy people. It's not really what they were asking. What they really want to know is do I support a black or white Hannibal? The answer is "No". No, I don't support a "black or white" Hannibal. I don't see Wesley Snipes as Hannibal in the same way I don't see Brad Pitt. (I don't think Brad Pitt should be playing a Greek hero either. Believe me, my indignation at racial misrepresentation is multi-faceted.) Either extreme is misguided. As with so much around Hannibal the truth is somewhere in between. It's gray. It's brown. It could even be tan, but the truth isn't black or white. The person who could best bring Hannibal to the screen must first have the charisma, the strength, the intelligence, the skills to embody his arrogance and his brilliance and portray with empathy a man blessed and cursed by his own destiny. Such an actor isn't easy to find, and shouldn't be searched for only after passing a complexion test.

On the issue of a complexion test... I do believe that people who want to deny Hannibal blackness are being unfairly selective in their use of this racial terminology. No matter what Hannibal was he was a man with brown skin. The ancients make it entirely clear how strange and barbaric white-skinned, blond haired people were considered. The Celts and Gauls from Northern Italy northward were spoken of disparagingly by Romans and Greeks in part because of their unnatural whiteness. White, blond, tall: these were the characteristics of barbarians. So Hannibal, being south of Rome and from African soil, was at the very least a brown-skinned man, much more familiar and respected in the ancient world.

Now, I am also a brown skinned man. (I'm actually sadly pale right now, it being a New England winter and all that. But still, you can tell.) I'm of mixed blood, black and white and with other indeterminate influences thrown in. But few people would call me anything but black if they saw me walking down an American street. As has often been stated, a drop of African - a drop of black - makes you all black. I do think it's too precious, then, for people to call a person of any and all shades of brown a Black Person here in America, but then to deny other brown, African people a claim to blackness when it suits them.

I'm quite sure that if Hannibal dropped down on to the streets of any American city, put on modern clothes and walked the sidewalk... He might well look like somebody that our culture would most readily define as a black man. I think that because we'd see a brown-skinned man with curly hair, burnished by the Mediterranean sun. Remember, we tend to have a very wide spectrum in terms of what we call black in America. It doesn't matter where along that spectrum he ultimately sits. If he's on it at all that man walking down the street would be defined by one or two words, labeled, identified, preliminary judged. That, unfortunately, is what all the debate is about. It's not about the Hannibal of more than two thousand years ago. It's about us, right here and right now.

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72 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do people disregard the fact that the Phonecians were black? With the bit of knowledge, it should cancel out an idea that Hanibal was anything other than black.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's laughable that people fail to acknowledge the fact that the Phoenicians themselves were a mix of Indo-African stock. So if they "mingled" with North Africans a fairly dark complexion would be the result of that "mingle."

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was Lebanese. Not white, and not a monkey. And black people who have a disparraged history are trying to claim the only thing they think might be their salvation to higer self-esteam. No matter what a silly african schollar writes here or a jewish media mogul puts in a movie I will always know the truth and think of them in a very less than flattering way of being sheerly stupid.

9:26 PM  
Blogger David Durham said...

Well... Like I said, the race question always inspires differing opinions, be they informed or not. If I chose to I could delete the post that seems to call black people monkeys and that appears to call me a "a silly african schollar", but I'd rather leave it as revealing of the issue I was addressing in the first place.

I'll quote myself... "It’s about the myriad ways we’re still hung up on race in the Twenty-First Century. I mention these two “camps”, but I should also point out that I’m not talking about scholars and academics here. These vocal proponents on either side are mostly just folks from the general public. This is, in many regards, a popular debate, not an academic one."

I still think that's the truth. I don't feel much need to debate whether or not Hannibal was Lebanese. Nor will I put too much effort into wondering whether the author of that post might be disparaging me in an effort to shore up his own "self-esteam". Whatever.

For you the reader: there are plenty of books out there; read them and come up with your own thoughts. I wouldn't mind if you read my book too, but I'm only a novelist and books are only books. The truth, in any finite form, surely escapes us all.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no doubt that Hannibal was black. This was revealed by one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. J.A. Rogers was a meticulous researcher who revealed Hannibal's true ethnicity. Here is what he looked like:
http://members.tripod.com/~Abyssinia/Africa/Hannibal.html

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On November 15, 218 B.C., Hannibal, a full-blooded 'Negro,' marching through conquered territory in Spain and France, performed the astounding feat of crossing the Alps. With only 26,000 of his original force of 82,000 men remaining, he defeated Rome, the mightiest military power of that age, who had a million men, in every battle for the next fifteen years. Hannibal is the father of military strategy. His tactics are still taught in the leading military academies of the United States, Enland, France, Germany and other lands.

PROOF:

Hannibal is usually depicted as a white man, but his coins in the British Museum and the Museo Kercheriano, Rome, show him to have been an African of purest type with rings in his ears. Col. Hennebert, perhaps the leading authority on Hannibal, declares that none of the several differing portraits now exhibited as Hannibal is he, "We do not possess any authentic portrait of Hannibal," he says. (Histoire d'Annibal, Vol. I, p. 495, Paris, 1870). These coins were struck by Hannibal while he was in Italy. In the absence of other information the most logical argument is that they bore his own effigy, the more so, as the several kinds of them bear the same likeness. Above all, let us remember that he was an African

For other Little Known Black Facts Go Here:

http://www.users.fast.net/~blc/blac2.htm

Here are the coins made in Hannibal's honor:

http://www.nok-benin.co.uk/prev-articles/royal_6.htm

1:58 PM  
Blogger David Durham said...

Glad to see people throwing in their thoughts on this issue, and glad to check out the websites and sources mentioned.

I'll tend to stick with my original comments on the issue, which means that I'm all for acknowledging Hannibal's Africaness, while at the same time acknowledging that we can't know anything as a certainty. The Romans, unfortunately, did too good a job of eventually destroying all things Carthaginian. They made sure we'd have little to go on as we try to understand Hannibal and the culture he came from.

I've certainly seen many representations of Hannibal over the years, each one different, each one a variation on his ethnicity. Personally, I take them all as interesting, but never as conclusive. If there's one thing I've learned in the process of writing and publishing a book on the Punic Wars it's that every time somebody lays down the facts (the dates, the reasons, the names, the details) they're going to differ from the what the person before them said, and differ from what the next person says, and so on... That's why I wrote Pride of Carthage as a novel instead a scholarly work. I sifted my way through the variety of sources and came up with a fictional version of things that works for me, that lives a breaths on the page, answering a few questions, asking a few, and hopefully entertaining also.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot find this museum in Rome.
Please send the link to this museum. I would like to see the coins.

Thanks.

5:20 PM  
Blogger David Durham said...

Hello. I just did a quick search for that museum also. Didn't find a link that takes you right to it, but I did notice that the spelling mentioned above was a little off. It looks like the name is actually "Museo Kircheriano".

1:33 PM  
Anonymous brendan said...

david,
i've read in wikipedia that at the battle of Cannae, Hannibal killed 80 senators. is this true, and if so.. what in the world would 80 senators ALL be doing there at the same time?

4:28 AM  
Blogger David Durham said...

Brendan,

Interesting that you asked about the senators. Yes, I've heard that number of 80 senators quite often. I guess in this day and age it is hard to imagine our senators going off to war. At present, there's like, what? one senator with a child on active duty in Iraq? I guess we've gotten used to the notion that those that decide to go to war rarely fight in those same wars.

Not so with the Romans, though. Remember this is still the days of the Roman Republic. They were still very much in a citizen-soldier mode of thinking. Roman pride and honor dictated that every male be willing to take up arms when an enemy appeared. It would've been hard, I think, to secure much stature without some military service. There was, essentially, a new warring season each year, and battle was a way to prove yourself a worthy man and citizen.

On a slightly more cynical note I'd add that the Romans went into the battle at Cannae feeling very confident. They were fielding a massive army. They were confident in their consuls and sure that the time had finally come to defeat Hannibal. That being the case, what senator would want to miss the oppurtunity to thereafter brag about his exploits on the day? It makes sense that they'd feel they had to be there.

Of course, we now know how ill-fated the day turned out to be - from the Roman standpoint at least.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I dont think he was black, probably some Semitic type. We shouldnt forget that his mother was an Iberian noble and his wife too, so I dont think that he looked that much different from them. But mingling of Barca family with some sub-saharan Africans is also possible

That coin in Kircheriona is a hoax, AFAIK Hannibal had only one coining die and he looks much different there. Visit that museum personally if you dont believe.

Well, pretty strange arguing about the identity of man so long dead :)

2:08 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hello Anonymous,

(This thread has more "anonymous" posters than any other thread.)

Personally, I'm not arguing with anyone. I agree that it's ancient history, and no matter how hard we try to believe absolutes we're not going to be right about it. The truth - whatever it really was - is long gone.

I don't recall coming across anything that said Hannibal's mother was Iberian. If I had I would've been happy to include that, but I mostly recall his mother being a blank. Since he was born in Carthage and since his father had not yet headed for Spain I thought it reasonable that Hamilcar's wife be North African.

Hannibal's wife, on the other hand, was said to have been Iberian. That's exactly what she is in my novel. She's an important character in the book, really, with her own scenes.

I've said it before - and people that have read my book know it to be true - but part of what I love about the Punic Wars is the multi-ethnic/polyglot character of it. It included so many peoples, and so much crossing of cultural boundaries. I think our perceptions of race have very little to do with that ancient reality.

That said, I'm living now, so our hangups can't entirely be ignored...

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, its me again. Wow, now I noticed you are a well known writer, interesting.

So first I would like to take back claim that Didobal was Iberian. I did read on wiki and few forums that she was a daughter of Iberian king, but I wasnt able to find any quotation of the source. Except of that that name sound quite Phoenician - I think Dido was founder of Carthage, right? What did you use as a source for Hamilcars biography?

So its pretty hard to tell how he really looked like, probably some mix.

3:17 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hi Anonymous,

Now this gets interesting! Okay, yes, I'm a "well known" writer. Quite a conditional term, though. If you never heard of me you've never heard of me, so I'm not so well known. But to those that have - four books published in eight foreign languages, the UK, blah, blah - I'm doing alright.

That's not the interesting part, though. I was struck by your use of Didobal's name. I may be wrong about this - and if you can find any documentation of it let me know - but as far as I can remember I MADE THAT NAME UP!

There was always a little bit of info on Hasdrubal in any bio of Hannibal, but not much. I don't recall ever reading an account of who Hannibal's mother had been, other than a vague mention that the Barcas were an established aristocratic Carthaginian family. When I did have names I'd use them, even if - as in the case of Hannibal's sister Sapanibal - they were only mentioned once. But this mother figure was a blank. I combined the "bal" structure at the end of so many Carthaginian names with Dido, but... that's my authorial license at play also. Dido is the name given to Carthage's mythical founder by Romans - as in the Aeneid. In Carthaginian lore the same character is call Elissa. In my book I use Elissa as the founding queen, but as a bit of play with the fact that so much Carthaginian history came to us via Roman sources I combined their version with a Carthaginian name and come up with Didobal. If I got that name from any other source I don't recall doing so. I'm pretty sure the name is mine.

I just Googled the name and found mostly references to my own work/comments. I didn't see any mention of that name on Wikipedia. I did see that a person on some forum about Hannibal's race mentioned Didobal and that she was Iberian, and that amuses me greatly. In my novel Didobal is not Iberian. But I also don't think Didobal exists anywhere but within my fictional pages. Whomever that person was has some garbled version of this stuff - a version that includes a fictional character that wasn't even depicted in the way he thinks!

Classic.

For info on Hamilcar I mostly referenced books about Hannibal and the Second Punic War. I detail them at the back of PRIDE OF CARTHAGE - and in a list that's on this blog somewhere. I did read a book on the First Punic War by JF Lanzenby that dealt with Hamilcar quite a bit. Even that was pretty spotty on familial details, though.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all why do people act as though black africans just stayed within the boundaries of their continent there are pyramids all over the world who built them europeans.Barcelona means town of Barca it was named for hannibal's fathe Hamilcar Barca. If vhis mother was Iberian why do u assume she was white since africans had ruled the Iberian peninsula for thousands of years why is it when ever someone is great they can never be black.The phoenicians were black the ancient Egyptians were black the Numidians were black there were no whites in america 400 to 500 hundred years ago so why does everybody act as though there were no blacks in north africa 1000's of years ago the romans minted coins with Hannibal seated on an elephant with dreadlocks and big earrings what the fuck do u have to do to be black nowadays.

4:37 AM  
Anonymous the barron said...

By the way no one is black we are shades of brown so what is a brown man in africa a blackman in Harlem.Semitic is a language group not a race 90% of all the semitic languages spoken in the world today are on the continent of Africa those include languages of Ethiopia Somalia and the Sudan and Arabic is just one of them all semitic languages originated on the african continent and spread outward the so called Phoenician alphabet is a form of the ancient Egyptian alphabet so is hebrew africans had the only writing systems in the ancient world and threw migration they spread throughout the earth.There was a time when the only people on the planet were so called blacks people should read.The greeks tell u exactly what these people looked like and there customs always descibing them as wooly headed and black were the ancient greeks blind.People hate black people so much that they say the most ridiculous things the moors were arabs if the moors were arabs why did the Visigoths call them the blacks why not call them arabs the word moor means black.It's funny the only moor most people have ever heard of is Othello and he is never called an arab but Shakespeare continually calls him an African or a black man look at portraits of shakespeare and u will notice a moorish earring in his ear there were plenty of moors in europe.Read the accounts of the moorish invasions of Spain and u will read the descriptions of the moors when they entered the country they were said to b as black as pitch or as king Roderick described them like big black penises wrapped in white cotton.Some whites claim everything as their own yet they are the last civilizations to grace the world stage inferiority masked as superiority Hannibal was black St.Augustus was black St.Tertullian was black and pope they also were all Carthiginians.People need to grow up the truth is the truth.white people behave like children and people of colour need to stop pampering them science math architecture animal husbandry and ocean navigation were all created by black people not because they were black but because they were human and until people see their humanity and not their own insecurities and stupidity they will b lost.racism is a disease and the truth is the cure wake up.

5:15 AM  
Anonymous The Barron said...

Why is it that no one ever has to prove that some one is white,strange!

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David:

I want to say that your piece was well written and thought provoking. I like the way how you stated that there was no definitive information however circumstantial information may suggest certain attributes but more importantly those attribute were not as important as his effect on the world stage.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hannibal it appears was Black based on the coins found in Italy.

Source:

http://www.retakeyourfame.blogspot.com/

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Phoenicians were not black Africans they were the ancestors of the Lebanese.Genetic tests have proved this,check out Phoenicia.org.The Carthaginian and Phoenician busts which are few in number,but do exist don't depict themselves as black.North Africans at Hannibal's time were ancestors of the Berbers who are grouped with Southern Europeans.They tend to have tan or light skin.Tests have shown that most have little if any black ancestry,because of the Sahara which still is difficult to cross.The idea that Africa is full of only black people is without scientific merit and can be considered racist by some,especially North Africans.Technically speaking he'd be considered an Arab by modern standards with tanned skin.Many of the websites people have posted are Afrocentric and have opinions that have been proven wrong, J.A Rogers is considered racists by many.The Romans never depicted Hannibal as black,they depicted him like themselves and they had no idea of racism with its modern standards,if he was black they'd depict him as such.Septimus Severus,who is often claimed as black was of Berber,Italian,and Phoenician and in his family portrait he is depicted with light brownish skin,not black The coins showing black African male and an Indian elephant are discounted by serious historians who doubt its even from the 2nd Punic War,though some people like to say its dated to 212 BC.Besides the Syrian who was Hannibal's personal elephant was long dead by then if it is from 212.It might depict an elephant driver who was black which would leave more of an impression upon the Italian tribes.Maybe it was of high ranking officer truth is we have no authentic depiction of Hannibal.The idea that he was black first got started in the Black Power movement of the 70's.The idea that he was black has no positive truth and is a racist lie.Apparently many Italians are even offended by it.Its like saying Alexander the Great was Asian because he lived so long in Asia Though I have not read Pride of Carthage I heard that David makes no mentions of race and is fair with dealing with it.I would love to read it,if I could find it.I want go to college to be a historian and would love to read your book,I heard its pretty accurate.Have ever thought about writing a book about Alexander,Caesar,or especially Pyrrhus of Epirus who was Hannibal's favorite military commander,to little is wrote about this great historical figure and I'm sure you'd be great at it.Anyways I look forward to reading Pride of Carthage and many more of your books David.Good Luck.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are coins of Hannibal found in Spain.The Barcids had the made themselves.They were minted in 221 BC,the year he became general.

7:39 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I'd love it if a coin had a clear image of Hannibal and was also clearly marked as such. I haven't seen this, though. Yes, in plenty of books they'll show a coin and call it Hannibal. That's fine if you only read one book. But then a while later, if you compare and contrast enough, you'll find the same coin in another book claiming it's someone else, or that it "may" be so and so. As I understand it, none of these coins is confirmed beyond a doubt. Perhaps one of them does have Hannibal on it. But they may not.

I traveled in Spain and Italy researching this book. (And drinking lovely wine and having a great time.) One thing that's obvious is that various sources will tell you a lot of things, especially if there's a dollar to be made from it. Choosing to believe is an act of faith and wishful thinking - not historical accuracy.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a good chance those coins found in Spain might have Hannibal's likeness.Many historians think so.Some coins might show the god Melqart,but some the coins look different from others.The oldest dated coin from 230 BC is a man with a beard who is probably Hamilcar.Coins from 228 bc to 221 bc probably show Hasdrubal the fair. The next coins dated 221 BC do look a little different from one another but are basically the same and are probably Hannibal at 26 the age he became general which was cause to celebrate and print coins to show who was in charge.The coins during the 2nd Punic war show a man with a diadem which is sort of like a royal band around the head which the Greeks started,he is probably Hasdrubal who was commander of Iberia.Then when Scipio conquered Iberia the coins show a roman like figure and are made of a different metal.They could be gods,but with the different likenesses of each ruler because Alexander the Great put his image on coins of Heracles and ever one wanted to be like Alex.The coins with a black man on them found in Italy are doubted to date to the 2nd Punic war and they are made of a different metal than those printed in Spain which Hannibal had plenty of and would have taken them to pay for mercenaries.Hannibal would be like today's Lebanese who have striking homogeneous to the ancient Phoenicians,plus the Carthaginians didn't marry much into the native North Africans.For the guys who said the Ancient Iberians and Numidians were black they were never described as black by Romans or Greeks and were always depicted in paintings not much different than the Romans with relatively light skin and caucasoid facial features,just like today's Spanish and Berbers.There is no evidence black people ruled Spain during ancient times and the ancient Libyans who are along with the Numidians are ancestors of the Berbers were described and depicted as white by the Greeks and Egyptians.The Numidians were described as a little bit swarthy.For the guy who said people hate blacks it can be said the exact opposite that blacks hate other races,how you act is an example and saying whites were the last to have a civilization learn about the Minoans who are one of the oldest civilizations and the Heliknakion pyramid in Greece if that is how spelled which is 100 years older than the oldest Egyptian pyramid.For the guy who said people don't think blacks could spread out in would be hard cause of the Sahara which has been the same is 1400 BC and was a little bit smaller before that,but still pretty big.The reason Moors were described as black is because moor comes from a Greek word meaning dark.Black in ancient and medieval times meant dark not literally black skin,brown meant a person with a tan,Arabs were described as black and tanned Europeans as brown.The moors were depicted as a little bit darker than Europeans by the Spanish and Byzantines.The Moors themselves depicted themselves as tanned and were lead by Arabs,composed mostly of Berbers,and had Christian converts to Islam.There were black Moors,but relatively few.Listen no offense,but chill.All humans need to learn to get along.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Aric said...

Open your eyes and see the Phoenician name. Not too many Ethiopians worshipped The false god ba'al. Hanni-ba'al.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Aric said...

Anyone can say that Phoenicians were darker skinned human beings.
But to say that they were in fact dark is pure falacy. A simple example is that Barack Hussein Obama(A Domestic Enemy of the Constitution) is half African and half European, yet his skin tone is not exactly dark and he is a half breed at that. The Phoenicians may have been a mutt mix of races, but the odds of every other mate of choice being olive, then black and olive then black for a great number of years is slim to nill. Hannibal wasn't dark. Phoenicians were basically Phillistinian Greeks who migrated to Egypt from Crete before Abrahams days.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've been looking at some of the other forums (i hadn't even known there was such a big fuss over it) and there are people arguing that vin diesel shouldn't play hannibal because he's white, while others claim that denzel shouldn't be cast as he's black and hannibal, according to them, wasn't black. perhaps they should do what the filmmakers did for the docu-drama "hannibal; rome's worst nightmare" and get a guy who is somewhere in between with brown hair and skin etc. (but with nice shiny teeth... do you think they had teeth that good back then?). anyway, we really have no idea what he looked like, or even who he was as a man. nevertheless, someone will invent a timemachine or less obtrusive way of looking back at the past and then we'll know everything that happened! Or we could go look for his body around libyssa where he killed himself, though no doubt the romans, who seem to have a real fetish for fire, cremated him.

12:02 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

A time machine would be awesome. I can't pretend to know for sure what we'd see, but I'm quite confident the reality would not be exactly what any of us imagine.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous MD said...

Interesting choice of actors --Vin diesel is of mixed race , a manof color by his own admission-not white...so I don't see a problem there. I am not an academic, so I think I fit right in here other than the author :). I think Hannibal is a man of color. In America that means black. Elsewhere, that can mean all the shades in between...but peoples from the middle east, north african parts of the world are conveniently enveloped into the white race when they see fit. At other times...racial epithets abound linking them to blacks...its all a big joke, only less funny because of the historic atrocities performed because of it.

10:52 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

MD,

Yep.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous son of chenu said...

appreciating all the comments that have lent themselves to this "hotly" debated topic. so far i find D.A.DURHAMS book to be very fulfilling in many different ways, especially his giving such a vast swath of interesting colour and complexities to these otherwise rather mundane historical characters. let us understand that the concept of race is a modern invention and convention, that definitely did not exist 2,250 yrs ago...for more info look up johannes blumenbach...plz check the spelling..the so called debate can be handeled really rather easily...considering the phonecian canaanite connection, the origin and etymology of both words mean "black" or veeery dark
to call him a semite in those days is not so ambiguous either, being that the original semites were "black" also, or very dark. the word semite comes from shem who was essentially one of the descendants of abraham who came from the the city of ur in the chaldees . truth be told aboriginal blacks in africa looked at whats now called africa and the arabian penninsula as one place, and we populated the whole of it...."fact" . the bible has no problem with calling these groups of ppl of canaanite stock i.e. black...being that ham was his ol' man..both meaning black.....ok so what he's a melanated man....big deal....white ppl ...u still are in power !!!!!right.....and besides that you still have elvis...:0

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phoenicians are originally from India. They left India many thosands years ago due to war with another aryan group. They settled down in Lebanon cost. Phoenicians are traders. They are called in India Pani or Bania, means traders. These Bania community still exist in Gujrat India.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are no "two camps" about it in the Mediterranean where it happened. (There might be two camps in the US but we do not give a toss about American PC or otherwise)

Here in the Med we KNOW that Carthage was a daughter city of Phoenicia and these people are really today's Lebanese. The Carthaginians mixed with the Berbers who call themselves the "White tribes of Africa" Their leader at one time Hannibal Barka took on the might of Rome which resulted in the destruction of Carthage and its rebuilding as a Roman city.

To be blunt, we consider the Phoenicians as white (but not European), the Carthaginians likewise and the Amazigh (Berbers) too. And everyone in North Africa calls Blacks "abid" or "servant/slave" because that is what they mostly were.

10:18 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Your opinion has been noted.

4:25 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

As I considered whether or not to respond to the last anonymous commenter, I realized that this blog post is so old that I didn't have any images on it. I've updated it with a few, namely the covers for the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish editions of Pride of Carthage. I tossed the US cover in for good measure.

There are quite a few other foreign language editions, but I wanted to feature the ones published near the Mediterranean. All three of those versions of the book did quite well - the Italian and the Spanish in particular. They both had hardback and modestly bestselling paperback editions. They're still in print, still being read by people, still earning me royalties.

So... I guess there are, in fact, many thousands of people in "the Med" that are interested in this American's engagement with their history.

I'm quite proud of that.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand the logic of the "Hannibal was black" argument. When have there ever been black people in North Africa?

Just take a look at North African people today to see what Hannibal looked like. Maybe Muammar Gadaffi could have played Hannibal if he were still around.

Same goes for the "ancient Egyptians and Jesus were black" arguments.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if WE ALL consider the “one drop rule” being no longer believed or substantial, YOU are ALL RiGhT…

10:28 PM  
Blogger twin mama said...

Oh for goodness sakes. Can everyone calm down already. An Africn is an African. Ok. In modern day what is it about people and color? In ancient Africa and todays modern African we are all differnt colors. Over the course of time people, tribes and cultures move about from one geographical plave to another.People intermarry and setup settlemants for themselfs. Ancient Africa had differnt types of people. Non of them were actually pure white. But differnt shades of brown and black. Hair types also ranged and atill range from curly to coily to kinky. Hannibal was African OK? Skin color does not matter. Africans can lay claim to him full stop.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all: love the book. It’s the best of the many Hannibal novelizations I’ve read. I just want to add my 2 cents to a couple of rather peripheral misconceptions I see bounced around here. First of all the Romans didn’t ‘wipe out’ the Carthaginians – the inhabitants of the city perhaps, but Punic culture and colonies spanned the western Mediterranean. Punic culture was spoken as far afield as Spain for centuries and in the 4th century St Augustine mentions that the people living around Hippo Regius still named themselves as their ancestors had: Kn’nm – Chanani, Canaanites.
The other is that the Romans had a prejudice against fair skin or hair. You won’t find a Roman source to corroborate that, I think some earlier Greek comparisons of their ‘ideal’ colouring to northerners and ‘Ethiopians’ gets wrongly attributed assumed to be shared by Romans. We know from literary and especially art sources that the Romans were like modern Italians in colouring, predominantly dark-haired (as all Europeans are) but just as likely to be fair or ruddy skinned as the stereotypical ‘olive-skinned’ variety. There were also blond/red-haired ethnically Roman people (as opposed to culturally Roman as the majority were). The early Emperors Augustus, Caligula and Nero are examples (granted they’re all extended family). Roman noblewomen also dyed their hair red and blonde according to fashion. They certainly looked down on the long or bizarrely dressed hair of Celts and Germans, but not the colour of it.

3:30 AM  
Blogger scott davidson said...

Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from wahooart.com, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT7K6

3:28 AM  
Blogger Larry Edwards said...

Just as Napolean destroyed the nose of Sphinx in Egypt it shows that Europeans hate to see African heritage as greatness. Of course Hannibal being African of dark skin made them destroy records and place themselves in Hannibal spot

10:41 PM  
Blogger Vanessa Riddick said...

how could anyone want to believe that Hannibal no matter what he was mixed with come out of Africa was anything but black all life as we know it started in Africa ...... all human life is a derivative of the African seed ..... you can have white skin but B of black blood .......and you can have blackskin a of Caucasian blood but you at the end of the day are black because it all started Black .......that's why Caucasian have an inherit instinct to tan themselves ...... you may want to study the science of melanin.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Vanessa Riddick said...

and this comment it being for anonymous 9:26 p.m. ....... it's clear to me where you hail from it a small part of our planet with small minded people and you yourself may not realize that you're a descendant of these people from Jackassastan...... the birthplace of all the jackass..... racist piece of s*** .

1:57 PM  
Blogger Vanessa Riddick said...

go get yourself some coffee and wake up ........ have a good day

2:08 PM  
Blogger Hobo Habilis said...

i never knew this was such a hotly debated issue. I always considered Hannibal as just Carthagenian and Carthagenians as a mediterranean race, be they Phoenician, Numidian, Assyrian or whichever not white or black. Much like any race of peoples boardering the mediterranean today. Mediterranean lands have always been an ethnic crossroads. Yes carthage was founded by Phoenicians and we all have an idea of their physical characteristics based on modern day Lebanese Traits. I personally wouldn't trust depictions based on coinage as David has said without minted proof. I think the closest we will get to a photographic likeness of Hannibal may lie in Egyptian frescoes of the time which clearly show skin pigment and facial features of mediterranean people at the time of Hannibal. I also think Alexander Siddig was well cast to play Hannibal in Romes worst nightmare, (incidentally he was born in Sudan) I think Vin Diesel would be perfectly acceptable to play Hannibal being of multi ethnic origin.
as a footnote I'd like to say I have myself walked from Sagunto to Italy to learn what it must have been like for Hannibal, his 37 elephant and 26000 men. Here's my findings. www.hannibillica.com

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except we have writings from the 15th century that attest to the destruction of the nose to an iconoclast named Mohammed Sa'im al-Dahr in the 1300s. Some ~400yrs before Napoleon.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Ezzeddine Benchaouche said...

This is an insult to me and all the Tunisian people hannibal was a berber from phoenician decent just like me and the other 90% of the tunisian peole we are neither black nor white we are our own race it's called BERBER ! why do black people feel the need to steal and appropriate other race national hereos ? you did that to the egyptians now the tunisians are next ??

4:17 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Happy New Year, Ezzeddine!

This year, try to be happier and maybe more relaxed and positive.

I'll do the same.

4:36 PM  
Blogger DarrinMagnus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:19 PM  
Blogger DarrinMagnus said...

WELL said there, friend. I think you may find the comment I just submitted as a Lebanese to be to your liking. :)

5:53 PM  
Blogger DarrinMagnus said...

OUT of all the comments here, that made me smile. It is the most accurate and does the Lebanese (I'm one of them) and the Berbers proud.

6:55 PM  
Blogger DarrinMagnus said...

BEING a Lebanese it is extremely important for me to help safeguard our Phoenico-Canaanite heritage from those seeking to arrogate and racialize it by my posting the link to this upload wherever it is required to refute the misinformation being disseminated about us. This is necessary on account of black academics of the extreme Afrocentrist bent in particular attempting to "claim" it as their own. To inspire and empower blacks while denigrating whites, they seek an historic racial role model in the person of our Hannibal who they perceive could well have put a halt to the beginnings of European imperialism in its infancy in the form of Republican Rome during the second of the Punic Wars (Lat. Bella Punica, lit. Phoenician Wars). And to this end they also even cite the pseudohistory that, because of the father's location of birth and the non-European element of their ethnic extraction, Septimius Severus, who was of Phoenico-Roman descent with some possible Libyan patrilineage and born in the Maghgreb, and his eldest son and successor, Caracalla, who was half Syrian, were the first black African emperors of Rome.

In an attempt to prove this wrongful claim they often selectively use a few Carthaginian coins, for example, featuring the head of a Negro and an elephant on the reverse to lend credence to the falsehood that both our Hannibal and the Carthaginian citizenry to which he belonged were sub-Saharan Africans. Mintings that very well may simply symbolize that the Phoenicians who colonized much of North Africa and even circumnavigated the Dark Continent were familiar with this race and animal type. The obvious problem with them is twofold in that there is no written identifier on the coins with an exergue that one can attribute as even representing the great general or one of his fellow citizens, and also that the portrayal on such coins are both rare and atypical of the Caucasoid morphology of the people in question. In reality the ethnic group which founded and peopled this city-state and others like it throughout the Mediterranean were Phoenicians, whose motherland is in modern-day Lebanon, located in the northern portion of ancient Canaan.

They also don't take into consideration that the peoples of North Africa differ from those of sub-Saharan Africa in that, then as now, they are primarily Caucasoid in race and of the Mediterranean extraction, and share more in common with the Middle East than they do the rest of the Dark Continent. They wrongly assume that it was among a Negroid people that we settled instead of a Caucasoid one, and that we knew not how to practice endogamy to perpetuate ourselves, thus we became assimilated and mixed and "black," as if being a brown-skinned mulatto would even make one a Negro. If they were familiar with the extant histories, they would know that it was the physically similar native Numidae (mod. Berbers) that we conquered and ruled from Carthage and her civic satellites as a dominant minority. They would also know that the ancients differentiated between us and the half-bloods that we engendered with the locals, called Libyphoinikes, and that neither Hannibal nor the upper-class Carthaginians to which he belonged were ever referred to as being anything other than full-blooded Phoenicians (Lat. Poeni, Gr. Phoinikes, i.e. mod. Lebanese).

It is due to the facial reconstruction of a skeletal find such as this at the submitted YouTube link as well as DNA mapping and sites like Phoenicia.org that provide the evidence necessary to prove exactly who our olive-skinned ancestors were, as well as to affirm that their direct descendants are alive and well today and living in their motherland of Lebanon.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Arish, the Beloved, of whom we in the Lebanon are most proud:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJiMvJlg39w

3:44 PM  
Blogger easmachine said...

There was no such thing as agreek during Abraham's time. You just made that up. Hamlcar and Hannibal have the names of 2 gods from the Canaanite pantheon. Melqart and Baal. Canaanites were desc robed in Babylonian midrash as having black skin kinky hair red eyes and I quote "elonga ted members. Remember that Canaanites biblically descend from Ham the black son oh Noah.

7:35 PM  
Blogger darrell eason said...

Thank you Mr. Durham for you information, very insightful. How very sad, that we as human beings, cannot have an intelligent discourse without disparaging another group, or the person delivering the information. I am not terribly hopeful of humanity.

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm tired of racists trying to steal black history. Hannibal was black. Current populations don't always have something to do with historical populations. You have white Europeans that claim to be Jews because they intermingled and accepted the Jewish faith, but they don't have the original appearance of the Jews. The oldest depiction know of Jesus looks like a black man. One of you mud rats got a lot of nerve calling black people monkeys. You're not from the true race of Hannibal and never will be.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Moester said...

Wealthy elites fear mora than anything that working class whites and blacks will unite as one force. The wealthy elites are very good at divide and conquer and we at the bottom are too stupid to figure it out.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Moester said...

David I will check to see if any of your books are at my local library. You're a damn good American David!

7:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sounds to me like you have a real race problem. You only see color and therefore you are a racist. It doesn't matter what color hanabil was he was one of the worlds greatest generals. And if you cannot except that man's actions far exceeds what color he was then you my friend have a real problem

7:57 PM  
Blogger larry bradley said...

Sounds to me like you have a real race problem. You only see color and therefore you are a racist. It doesn't matter what color hanabil was he was one of the worlds greatest generals. And if you cannot except that man's actions far exceeds what color he was then you my friend have a real problem

8:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

U make no since

10:16 PM  
Blogger 1111jb said...

People 2,000 years ago pretty much look the same as they do now where ever they came from if u came Fri. Europe u were probably white if u came from mid southern Africa u were probably black if u were from china u were probably chinese that's just the way it is every race has done great things people are to sensitive

10:23 PM  
Blogger 1111jb said...

No one knows anything really from 2,000 years ago

10:24 PM  
Blogger 1111jb said...

No one knows anything really from 2,000 years ago

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The History Channel and other public media continually strive to falsely insert people of that part of Africa that are black or negroid into history for reasons that can only be attributed to an attempt to enhance the significance of the blacks in the past. Using the term "African" as rationale that Hannibal was black ignores the fact that people of northern Africa were anything but black but as stated in other comments above were Semitic. This same tendency to insert blacks into history in the U.S. is becoming more and more apparent. If one can find one black involved in some historical event suddenly the scene is populated with numerous blacks as if this was a much larger number that were actually involved. From my viewpoint the problem with this is the distortion of history, a rewriting of history that destroys the facts.

4:49 AM  
Blogger gconeyhiden said...

I think your comments are fair and true enough, however I do worry about the accuracy or the leaps of faith by some "black" writers when citing evidence when much more is actually needed to make firm case. many seem motivated to rewrite history and accuracy is sacrificed for emotional reasons. of course all sorts of writers do this very thing. the movie Selma takes liberty to seemingly rewrite history, and some applaud this saying they got it right. No they didn't, they got it wrong, they just couldn't find a way to get it right. that is the fault of the director. MLK said "we did not walk alone" or something to that effect, but there they are all black all alone. this is the kind of history I hate, exacting but imprecise. I want real history not baby food history produced for what seems like creative expediency or whatever its called. I have looked at many ancient Carthaginians coins and while my observations doesn't address skin color many facial features are suggestive of very straight Mediterranean rather then Sub Saharan features. Is this not any indication of what Hannibal may have looked like? Are not any of his relatives on a coin? your right the whole world is too often seen in only black and white. this is a human cognitive disability. like you suggested, you want the truth go dig for it, and dont stop digging. much of these arguments fall into semantics.

2:47 AM  
Blogger joseph john said...

If Alexander the great was born in africa still white people wouldn't agree of his hertage, people are mad Hannibal was born in tunia in North Africa his family are birth Tunisian almost 3800+ years ago but people won't believe his was black, it's sad all our history is being stolen we believe in white jesus and white god white allah.no need for anger all will die just living my life the history is history we live in the presence now we only need essence of life

2:09 PM  
Blogger joseph john said...

If Alexander the great was born in africa still white people wouldn't agree of his hertage, people are mad Hannibal was born in tunia in North Africa his family are birth Tunisian almost 3800+ years ago but people won't believe his was black, it's sad all our history is being stolen we believe in white jesus and white god white allah.no need for anger all will die just living my life the history is history we live in the presence now we only need essence of life

2:11 PM  
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11:31 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have it on good authority from scholars in China that ancient Chinese merchants were also present in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Thus, according to their conclusion, Hannibal was at least half Chinese.

9:56 AM  
Blogger astardustparade said...

What difference does it make what his race was?? He was a brilliant general. That's all that really matters.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Myself, I always believed Hannibal was Black, or mostly Black, and I am Slavic White! It did not hurt my self-esteem to believe that way either! It will all come down to when, one of the digging archaeologists discover his tomb, and obtain Hair or tooth samples, and upon DNA analysis, determine what he was in Genetic terms! I wait for that day, but since more active diggings occur in Africa and not Italy, where he poisoned himself, the truth may take a while, that is if Roman rulers didn't destroy evidence of his existence! Maybe some relatives who claim to be his descendants, will come forward one day and have a DNA analysis conducted, which might not prove too much even if they really are real descendants? One of Hannibal's 3 other brothers' tombs might be discovered in Spain, or elsewhere, and finally solve the question!

12:46 PM  
Blogger the debunker said...

I believe the coins found in Italy that depict a black African is Hannibal
people must remember that Hannibal was in Italy for 15 years which is an extremely long time

Hannibal spent most of his life in Italy
however he was in Spain very briefly

so i expect to see Hannibal's coins in Italy rather than Spain

the Carthaginians were also only in Spain for 20 to 25 years

11:01 PM  

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