Was Hannibal Black?

I read in a magazine that they’re going to do a Hannibal movie with Denzel Washington. Wasn’t Carthage more of a Mediterranean area than a black African area, no matter what continent Carthage was on?

Well, they were Phoenicians, so maybe more Middle Eastern in appearance. But so much of that area was overrun by Arabs, Greeks, and Turks that it’s too hard to say what they looked like.

So, in short…why not Denzel? He’s a good actor.

Carthage was of course in North Africa, but like Neurotik said the Carthiginians were descendants of Phonecians, a society that spoke a semtic language, like the Israelites (of course moden-day Hebrew is a resurrection of this) and Arabs, and who came from Lebanon.

Seeing as the other rumor had Vin Diesel, I’ll certainly favor Denzel. I was just curious about the historical accuracy (as much as it will probably exist in Hollywood).

I just wasn’t sure I was happy with “Africa, therefore black”

Vin Diesel would have made a great Hannibal. Imagine him putting his elephants on snowboards and then snowboarding down the alps, outracing avalanches.

I’d watch that movie.

Although the historical Carthaginians probably resembled present Mediterranean populations rather than sub-Saharan ones, IMO having Denzel play Hannibal isn’t much more of a stretch than having Charlton Heston play Moses.

I am curious, however, as to whether all the rest of the Carthaginians will also be played by blacks?

As Neurotik pointed out, it’s hard to say. For one thing Carthage was a bit of a melting pot. But it was likely that the Syro-Phoenician ruling class from which Hannibal sprang were your “typical dark-haired Mediterranean caucasian” types. For what it’s worth here are a couple of profiles from Carthaginian coins:



  • Tamerlane

I can see a bunch of screaming if Mr. Washington were to play his name sake, George. Lots of us have too much invested in old “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen” to quietly sit back and see George Washington played by an actor who doesn’t look like the guy in the Gilbert Stuart portrait displayed in our third grade classroom and on the one dollar bill. But Hannibal of Carthage? Who cares?

Would be interesting. However, more than half of Hannibal’s forces weren’t even ethnic Carthaginians, IIRC. Many were Celts, Iberians, and Nubian slaves (presumably black…). Some ex-Roman slaves also served under Hannibal. He had quite a multicultural army.

I can’t wait to see the Battle of Cannae on the big screen, though.

And who will play Scipio Africanus? Ah, the possibilities…

I am sure Hannibal was probably beige or olive skinned, not “black”.

In the past, there was a tendacy to make Ancient Egyptians, Carthaginians, Israelites, and others into very white, even nordic types in films or literature, He would have Charleton Heston playing Hannibal if the film was made in the 1950’s! I think that would have been a bit inaccurate.

Today we have swung on the opposite end of the spectrum, which is probably a good thing. I think Americans should realize that most of the world’s people are neither “white” nor “black” (in the sense that most Americans narowly define those rather hazy terms), and people in the ancient world especially didn’t think in those terms. I think a racially ambiguous actor like Vin Diesel would have been a good choice.

Then again Denzel Washington is a better actor. But I am not sure if this film is going to be a weighty historical drama that needs a high caliber actor, or a more action-adventure oriented flick. In that case, maybe The Rock would also be good as Hannibal. He’d look cool on an elephant.

Keep in mind that Carthage was a colony of the Phoenicians, who are classified as Canaanites. There are talmudic references I believe to the Canaanites being dark skinned.

So Denzel couldn’t play him, but Halle Berry could? :slight_smile:

Are you guys crazy? Only Anthony Hopkins can play Hannibal.


I bet it’ll be amazing. With the technology used in TTT’s 50,000 warrior battle of Helms Deep and the promised 100,000 climax in Return of the King (see: the latest edition of Popular Science), who knows what the limits are anymore.

I’ve just finished a good book on Hannibal so I did a search on the message boards.

Nothing wrong with Denzel playing Hannibal so long as there isn’t an effort to “afrocentrize” the man. Hannibal wasn’t black insofar as he was not sub-Saharan African. He looked more like a 21st century greek or Libyan than anything else. To suggest otherwise is to ignore an awful lot of history.

Heston as Moses is a good example but Denzel as Hannibal would be a more extreme one.

My real concern though would be Hollywood making the movie and portraying Africanus as the “bad guy” who wins through deceptive means.

Was Hannibal black? Based on these photos, I’d say no.

“Cartago delenda est” = Never lose your blackness!

Sigh. I fucking knew I shouldn’t have clicked…

For the record, the part of Hannibal will be played by none other than Vin Diesel.

Wasn’t Hannibal Semitic?