The Jamaican chippie called Chalky

A late Roman history claims that Clodius Albinus, the 2nd-century Roman governor of Britain and self-proclaimed emperor of Rome, was named Albinus on account of his extraordinary whiteness at birth (From Carlisle to Cairo: Romans could be from anywhere, 8 August). But it should be pointed out that the Romans could be a bit Jim Davidson when it came to naming prominent black people. When Martial addressed a famous prostitute named Chione (“snowy”) in epigram 3.34, he explicitly described her as black (“nigra”).

Not exactly a new idea then.

7 thoughts on “The Jamaican chippie called Chalky”

  1. This appears to be the “hot new take” with the Left, that Roman Britain was completely vibrant and multi-ethnic, but that somehow that huge ethnic diversity disappeared rather rapidly, probably due to some sort of alt-Right progrom.

    Beats the trans nonsense anyway.

  2. Colour terms are about perception rather than fact, though. Aren’t people from the Caucasus “black” to the Russians?

  3. @HP: there are also uses of “black” to refer to some of the Gaels. It doesn’t mean negro.

    Mind you, I’ve also heard “black” applied to people from the Outer Hebrides in the sense of black-hearted, an allusion to the gloomy varieties of Presbyterianism and Roman Catholicism that they adopted from the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

  4. “These were often the same sources who said that Wyatt Earp’s family were from West Bromwich and Walsall (the local press ran an article that the last direct relative had died in the early 1990s).”

    You’re supposed to take whatever Aynuck and Ayli said with a large pinch of salt.

  5. Clodius was a plebeian and that sort of joke has been rather upper-class (upper-class is wider than the pure patricians) for millennia. So he probably was pallid – or, more likely, an ancestor was since Albinus seems to be a cognomen not a praenomen. (I await correction from some classicists if I’ve got this wrong).

  6. Bloke in Costa Rica

    You know what they call black people round here? Negros. I mean, it’s like being in an Uncle Remus story.

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