by Karl Earlson
During the course of my investigations into Nordic racial history, I have gathered together some rather
interesting material on the presence of the Nordic race in the Classical World. Of particular value, are the
researches of J. L. Angel, who performed an xtensive survey of all ancient Greek crania. Angel analysed
these skulls from a typological perspective, and because of the position he took on the reality of race, he
was subsequently much criticised by his contemporaries.
We may note that Angel (1944), calculated that during the Classical period of Greek history (650-150 BC),
27% of the Greek population had been predominantly Nordic in type. He observed that prior to the
Classical period, the Nordic element had been larger, and that after it, the element in question had
declined. [Angel (1943; 1944; 1945; 1946a, b, c.] Angel (1971), also noted that the immigrant Indo
-Europeans, were of Nordic subrace.
Peterson (1974), studied portrait busts of famous ancient Greek personages, and concluded that the
aristocracies of Hellas were a product of closely interbreeding, Eupatrid clans. These clans were mostly
Nordic in type, being largely descended from the Indo-European invaders. The demos, or common people
however, as well as most slaves, were of Mediterranean, Pelasgian descent.
The study of Greek literature which Sieglin (1935) performed, has demonstrated that many individuals in
the elites of ancient Greece, had blond or red hair. For instance, Alcibiades, Alexander the Great, Critias,
Demetrius of Phalerum, King Lysimachus, Ptolemy II Philadelphus and King Pyrrhus, were all fair-haired
individuals. Dionysius I, the ruler of Syracuse, had blond hair and freckles, whilst the Athenian playwright
Euripides, also had a fair and freckled complexion. [GΓΌnther (1956).] Some critics have attempted to
claim that the Greek word “ξανθός” (xanthos), means “brown-haired”, rather than” blond-haired”. However,
a recent article by Moonwomon (1994), on colour-meaning in ancient Greek, reveals that the word did in
fact mean blond.
There are also numerous interesting examples from Greek literature which can be cited. For instance, in
Homer’s Iliad, and Odyssey, whilst the aristocrats such as Achilles and Menelaus have blond hair, the
slaves Eurybates and Thersites are brunet. Indeed, the Greek orator Dio of Prusa noted that the Greek
ideal of beauty was a Nordic one. The Greeks, he said, admired the blond Achilles, but thought that the
barbarian Trojan Hector, was black-haired. [GΓΌnther (1956).] In his Argonautica, the Greek poet
Apollonius Rhodius, describes the hero Jason, and all fifty of the Argonauts, as blond-haired. [Sieglin
(1935).] When the heroine Electra, in Euripides play of that name, finds a lock of her brother Orestes hair,
on the grave of their father Agamemnon, she can tell that it is his hair, because of its distinctive blond
colour. It would appear that the nobility of ancient Greece was distinguished from the dark masses, by its
many blond members. [Ridgeway (1909).] The poet Bacchylides said that the women of Sparta were
blonde, and Dicaearchus said much the same thing about the women of Thebes. [GΓΌnther (1956).] For
the Greeks, the most beautiful woman who ever lived, Helen, was a blonde, as were those mythical men
such as Adonis, who were famed for their handsomeness. [Sieglin (1935).]
For more literary descriptions of pigmentation in ancient Greek poetry and prose, as well as craniological
evidence, I can recommend the following works: De Lapouge (1899), Jax (1933), Myres (1930), Reche
(1936) and Ridgeway (1901).
GΓΌnther’s works on the subject of Greek racial history (1927; 1928; 1929a, b; 1956; 1961), are
particularly valuable. GΓΌnther performed a detailed analysis of Greek history, from a biological
perspective. Utilising craniological, literary, and pictorial evidence, he reconstructed the racial structure of
ancient Greece. He concluded that the Nordic subrace formed something of an ideal for the Greeks, and
that the Nordic element was more influential than any other. At the summit of its achievements, Greece
possessed a large Nordic element, but as this element declined, so did Greek culture and civilisation.
Finally, we may observe that in the fourth-century AD, the physician and sophist Adamantios, described the
“true Greek” thus:
“Wherever the Hellenic and Ionic race has been kept pure, we see proper tall men of fairly broad and
straight build, neatly made, of fairly light skin and blond; the flesh is rather firm, the limbs straight, the
extremities well made. The head is of middling size, and moves very easily; the neck is strong, the hair
somewhat fair, and soft, and a little curly; the face is rectangular, the lips narrow, the nose straight, and
the eyes bright, piercing, and full of light; for of all nations the Greek has the fairest eyes.” [GΓΌnther
I do not personally believe that the Nordic racial element in ancient Greece was ever predominant, but I do
think that it was concentrated in the elites, and that it therefore probably had a disproportionately large
influence. It is easiest to study and trace the impact of this particular element, because of its distinctive
Angel, J. L. (1971) Lerna: A Preclassical Site in the Argolid, Volume II The People (Washington:
Smithsonian Institution Press).
De Lapouge, G. V. (1899) L’Aryen: Son RΓ΄le Social (Paris: Albert Fontemoing).
GΓΌnther, H. F. K. [G. C. Wheeler, trans.] (1927) The Racial Elements of European History (London: Methuen).
GΓΌnther, H. F. K. (1928) Platon als HΓΌter des Lebens: Platons Zucht- und Erziehungsgedanken und
deren Bedeutung fΓΌr die Gegenwart (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
GΓΌnther, H. F. K. (1929a) Rassengeschichte des hellenischen und des rΓΆmischen Volkes: Mit einem
Anhang Hellenische und rΓΆmische KΓΆpfe nordischer Rasse (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
GΓΌnther, H. F. K. (1929b) Rassenkunde Europas: Mit besonderer BerΓΌcksichtigung der Rassengeschichte
der HauptvΓΆlker indogermanischer Sprache (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
GΓΌnther, H. F. K. (1956) Lebensgeschichte des hellenischen Volkes (PΓ€hl: Verlag Hohe Warte).
Jax, K. (1933) Die weibliche SchΓΆnheit in der griechischen Dichtung (Innsbruck: Universitυts-Verlag
Myres, J. L. (1930) Who Were the Greeks? (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Reche, O. (1936) Rasse und Heimat der Indogermanen (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
Ridgeway, W. (1901) The Early Age of Greece, Volume I (London: Cambridge University Press).
Sieglin, W. (1935) Die blonden Haare der indogermanischen VΓΆlker des Altertums (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
Angel, J. L. (1943) “Ancient Cephallenians: The Population of a Mediterranean Island.” American Journal of
Physical Anthropology, I, 229-260.
Angel, J. L. (1944) “A Racial Analysis of the Ancient Greeks: An Essay on the Use of Morphological Types.”
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, II, 329β-376.
Angel, J. L. (1945) “Skeletal Material From Attica.”Hesperia, XIV, 279-363.
Angel, J. L. (1946a) “Race, Type, and Ethnic Group in Ancient Greece.” Human Biology, XVIII, 1-32.
Angel, J. L. (1946b) “Skeletal Change in Ancient Greece.”American Journal of Physical Anthropology, IV,
Angel, J. L. (1946c) “Social Biology of Greek Culture Growth.” American Anthropologist, XLVIII, 493β-533.
GΓΌnther, H. F. K. (1961) “Like a Greek God…. Translated by Vivian Bird from Professor Hans F. K. Guenther”s Rassenkunde des Hellenischen Volkes.”Northern World, VI (1), 5β-16.
Moonwomon, B. (1994) “Color Categorization in Early Greek.” Journal of Indo-European Studies, XXII, 37