SourceAfricans in Britain 2000 years ago. The former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, declared some years ago that the English (or was it the British?) were all “homogenous Anglo-Saxons”. Really? As Africans in Britain celebrate Black History Month this month (October), we put Mrs Thatcher’s words to the test.
Many peoples from many parts of the world, not only Europe, have settled in what became known as “Britain” – for thousands of years. But while some might acknowledge Italian, or Spanish, or French ancestry, few will accept that their forefathers might have come from Africa and what used to be called Mesopotamia, and is now for reasons unknown, called the “Middle East”.
So who were the early Britons? The earliest Roman historians did not ignore the many who had settled on this island: for example, Tacitus wrote of the “dark complexion of the Silures or Black Celts and [their] unusually curly hair”. According to Herodotus, the ancestors of the Picts (in the north of the island) were a regiment of the African army of the Egyptian king, Sesostris II (1980-1935BC), who had attempted to conquer West Asia. The regiment had settled near Colchis and became known by that name. Colchis is near the Black Sea.
Some recent research proves from archaeological and linguistic analyses that the Picts hailed from Scythia, the area between the Caspian and Black Seas – that is, near Colchis. A major trade route passes through this area, mixing the peoples of the East and West and the South and North. It is not surprising therefore that some of the Pict carvings in Scotland depict the great goddess of the Ossetes (in the Caucasus region), who is believed to be the same as the Indian goddess Lakshmi and the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar.
One panel of a sarcophagus in St Andrews (Scotland) illustrates the story of Gilgamesh, an epic known from Mesopotamia in the east to the western reaches of the Mediterranean. The elephants on many Pict carvings sometimes depict the live animals and sometimes the skin of the animal worn in order for the wearer to take on the characteristics of the animal. This Asian custom was also practised in North Africa during Roman times.
Pliny, another Roman historian, described Britons of the second century AD as having “Ethiopian complexions”. Did they acquire these dark skins from the Africans who came with the conquering Romans who first arrived in 55BC? The incorporation of Britain into the Roman Empire dates from 43AD by Emperor Claudius.