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Mary Beard 'aggressively' trolled over ethnic diversity in Roman Britain

'It’s a bit of a bleak outlook for how we might talk about modern ethnic diversity'

Rachael Revesz
Monday 07 August 2017 13:58 BST
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Ms Beard said black man as high-ranking solider in Roman Britain was 'pretty accurate'
Ms Beard said black man as high-ranking solider in Roman Britain was 'pretty accurate' (Rex Features)

Mary Beard has spoken about the “Twitterstorm” of abuse she received after arguing that Roman Britain was ethnically diverse.

The historian and television presenter said she received a “torrent of aggressive insults” for days after she said a BBC schools video that depicted a high-ranking solider and a father of a Roman Britain family as being black to be “pretty accurate”.

She argued that the character in the BBC cartoon was loosely based on “Quintus Lollius Urbicus, a man from what is now Algeria, who became governor of Britain.”

She spoke against the “rubbish” arguments about genetic evidence from alt-right commentators and their “desire for certainty” when it came to historical information that was not always possible to ascertain, such as the population of Britain during the Roman empire and the ethnic make-up.

“It also feels very sad to me that we cannot have a reasonable discussion on such a topic as the cultural ethnic composition of Roman Britain without resorting to unnecessary insult, abuse, misogyny and language of war not debate (and that includes one senior academic)," she wrote in the Times Literary Supplement.

She was referring to comments from Nicholas Nassim Taleb who accused her of “bullsh*tting”.

“It’s a bit of a bleak outlook for how we might talk about modern ethnic diversity,” she added.

Various high-profile figures came out in support of the historian.

J K Rowling tweeted: “A historian gave her expert opinion on ethnic diversity in Roman Britain. What Happened Next Will Not Amaze You.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted: “Man alive @wmarybeard takes some crap on here. Remember women keep being clever and opinionated that's what decent people see and admire.”

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