Amongst the Sun-Burnt Races
A discussion of how Africa was seen through European eyes FROM 600 BCE to the arrival of the Portuguese. A look at attitudes and approaches of the Europeans towards the Africans.
This paper examines the way that Africa and Africans were viewed by Europeans prior to the exploration of Africa by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The author discusses themes of culture and race, and the ways these were approached by the Europeans.
“From a banquet hall of the gods, to a fiery pit of hell, to a land of the Noble Savage, Africa has long provided the imagination of Europe with a good story. The story of a continent found, then lost, then misinterpreted, and finally found is a fairly good one in itself. Surely no two neighbors have ever been such strangers, and yet so intertwined as Europe and Africa were during Europe’s Middle Ages. The fact that the Greeks knew that Africa was surrounded by ocean, and the most learned scholars debated that fact more than a millennia and a half later show the interesting phenomena of lost history. All the while, the Arabs were safeguarding the information of the ancients, and it is little more than the naive self-importance of Christian Europe which kept them from learning more about their neighboring continent.”