Afer, Indian, and Aethiops as Equivalents of Maurus

“Although Aethiops is by far the most common generic word which the Greeks and Romans used to designate a Negroid type, Afer (African), Indus (Indian), and Maurus (Moor) are at times obviously equivalents of Ethiopian. The Moretum passages uses Afra of a woman about whose racial identity there can be no doubt. This usage of Afra is evidence that Afer which generally indicates African or Libyan origin, may refer also to a racial type that is unquestionably Negroid.”

“In spite of a common ancient confusion between east and south, both Vergial and Ovid seem to have applied Indi to Ethiopians, that is, African Negroes. The former refers to the Nile pouring down from the colored Indians; the latter to Perseus’ bringing Andromeda from the black Indians. Ab Indis, appearing in both cases at the end of the dactylic hexameter, seems to be a poetical tag, a convenient substitute for an intended Aethiopibus, metrically unsuited.”

“Mauri was also used at times both as the poetical equivalent of Aethiopes and as a broad term which included Ethiopians. S. Weinstock notes that the meaning of Mauri is not sufficiently clear and considers impossible the association which some ancients made between Mauri and the color of the people or the words for black. Manilius, for example, says that Mauretania received its name from the color of its inhabitants.”

“Further, Isidore preserves a similar tradition and adds that the Greeks designated nigrum by….. Martial’s retorto crime Maurus, a phrase clearly suggesting the kinky or frizzy hair associated with the Negro, however, and perhaps Juvenal’s nigri…Mauri provides classical corroboration of a tradition which Weinstock rejects. Claudian speaks of all the Moorish tribes (“omnes Maurorum… populos”) who lived beneath Atlas and of those whom the excessive heat of the sun cut off in the interior of Africa. Early Christian literature, as Den Boer has emphasized, also uses …in the sense of Ethiopian.”

Working Title/Artist: Neck Amphora: Hermes, Apollo, Leto
Department: Greek & Roman Art
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photography by mma 1986, transparency 4D
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“Most pertinent in this connection is the phrase ……(an Ethiopians black as soot), which has the proverbial force of the classical….. Further, a sixth-century A.D. papyrus from Hermopolis pertaining to the sale of a twelve-year-old girl seems to the point the practice of equating Μαυρός and Aethiop. In short, the Greeks and Romans on occasion grouped colored peoples together loosely on the basis of color and, ignoring certain other physical characteristics, used Maurus a comprehensive for various colored peoples of Africa; and from the first century, A.D. onwards at times also used Maurus as an equivalent of Aethiops.”

“On the basis of the Greco-Roman usage of Aethiops, we may safely assume that bearers of that cognomen were of a physical type denoted by that word. That Meroe should have been given as a name to some Ethiopian slaves is what would be expected in light of the importance of the Ethiopian capital of the same name. Such a practice is suggested by an epigram in which Ausonius referred to a tippler who received her name Meroe, not from the black color of those born in Nile-washed Meroe, but from her capacity to consume pure wine, unmixed with water.”

“Although the Meroe in question may have owed her name to a capacity for imbibing her drinks straight, there is no reason to doubt that other Meroe’s were so named because of their black color and origin in Nilotic Meroe. The association of After and Maurus with unquestionably Negroid types suggest that cognomina Afer and Maurus, though frequently given to non-Negroid types, might also have been used of Ethiopians. An interesting commentary on Maurus as a cognomen for dark persons is found in Ausonius’ observation that his grandmother was given te name Maura by her childhood friends because of her dark complexion.”

“In consideration of the Greek and Roman acquaintance with the Negroid type as revealed by the literary evidence, and in view of the use of the word Ethiopian, it is reasonable to assume that a given passage refers to a Negroid type in the following instances: (2) whenever a consideration of the evidence indicates that Afer, Indus, or Maurus is the equivalent of Aethiops; (4) whenever an individual is designated as belonging to one of the several Ethiopian tribes such as Blemmyes, Megabari, Troglodytes, Nubae, et cetera.”

Source: Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience By Frank M. Snowden

“Black” in the study Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500–1677 Imprints of the Invisible IMTIAZ HABIB is thus “Negro,” “Ethiopian,” “Egyptian,” “moor”/“blackamoor,” “barbaree”/“barbaryen,” and “Indian” (including orthographic variations thereof for all of them). The study’s use of the word also includes geographic names by themselves, such as Guyana or Guinea, where for the early modern English they function openly or implicitly as regional identifers of people of color. Anthony Gerard Barthelemy in Black Face, Maligned Race (pp. 1–17), Michael Neill in “‘Mulattoes,’ ‘Blacks,’ and ‘Indian Moors’” (pp. 273–77), and Margo Hendricks in “Surveying Race” (pp. 15–20) all offer useful demonstrations of the propriety of adhering to a taxonomic looseness in tracing sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English constructions of colored people. At the same time, hidden in the vast archives of parish churches within London and without, all through the Tudor and Stuart reigns, are voluminous cryptic citations of “nigro,” “neger,” “neygar,” “blackamore,” “blackamoor,” “moor,” “barbaree,” “barbaryen,” “Ethiopian,” and “Indian.” The discussions of the records are organized in five chapters dealing with records of black people in early sixteenth-century Britain, in Elizabethan London, in seventeenth-century London, and elsewhere in England, with the last two chapters examining records of black people in the English provinces, and East Indians and other people of color in London and in the countryside.”

Source:  Three principal tribes of Aethiopians, the Hesperi, Garamantes, and Indians

Philostratus claimed that “The Indians are the wisest of mankind. The Ethiopians are a colony of them”. Source: Philostratus Vit. Apol. II:33f.  

Source: Edmund Dene Morel, pages 141–142