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"Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead."

~Lucille Ball

Red Heads through History

Several accounts by Greek writers mention redheaded people. A fragment by the Greek poet Xenophanes describes the Thracians as blue-eyed and red haired.

The Greek historian Herodotus described the "Budini" (probably Udmurts and Permyak located on the Volga in what is modern-day Russia) as being predominantly redheaded.

The Greek historian Dio Cassius described Boudica, the famous Celtic Queen of the Iceni, to be "tall and terrifying in appearance... a great mass of red hair... over her shoulders."

Also, several mythological characters from Homer's Iliad (themselves purportedly Greek) are described as being "red haired" including Menelaus and Achilles.

The Roman author Tacitus commented on the "red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia (Scotland)", which he connected with some red haired Gaulish tribes of Germanic and Belgic relation.

Red hair has also been found in Asia, notably among the Tocharians, who occupied the Tarim Basin in what is now the northwesternmost province of China. Many of 2nd millennium BC Caucasian Tarim mummies in China have been found with red and blonde hair.

Redheads are common among Germanic and Celtic peoples. Red hair is also fairly common amongst the Ashkenazi Jewish populations, possibly because of the influx of European DNA over a period of centuries, or in the original founding of their communities in Europe, although both Esau and David are described in the Bible as red-haired.

In European culture, prior to the 20th century, red hair was often seen as a stereotypically Jewish trait: during the Spanish Inquisition, all those with red hair were identified as Jewish. In Italy, red hair was associated with Italian Jews. Writers from Shakespeare to Dickens would identify Jewish characters by giving them red hair.

Today, red hair is most commonly found at the northern and western fringes of Europe; it is associated particularly with the people located in the United Kingdom and in Ireland (although Victorian era ethnographers claimed that the Udmurt people of the Volga were "the most red-headed men in the world").

Links and References