British Museum

King Memnon, the legendary black African leader who, according to Greek mythology, died defending Troy during the Trojan War, is flanked by two Cushite soldiers on this sixth-century B.C.E. black-figure Greek vase.

Unrest in Egypt during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. brought Greek mercenaries to Egypt, where large numbers of Greeks and black Africans met for the first time. In the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., Cushite mercenaries began to serve throughout the Greek world, and Greek artists depicted heroic Cushite soldiers and their mythological ancestors on vases. (The Greeks called the Cushites and other black Africans Ethiopians.)