The thinking of ancient Greece about African Greece more specifically the ancient Egyptians forms the theme of this paper. The book "Black Athena" by Martin Bernal shed lights on ancient Greece and justify why the Ancient Egyptians were black. Western academia has severally denied what the Ancient Egyptians and Phoenician believed that they colonized ancient Greece. Bernal strongly defends this issue and rejects Aryan model which states that Greek civilization was founded by Europeans.
The question of whether ancient Egyptians were black or white confused people and scholars for a long time. Martin Bernal has, therefore, discussed some instances which clearly show that they were blacks. The Author argues that Ancient Egypt influenced a lot in the growth of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (Martin 5-100). Despite that, it helped in the enlightenment of 18th century which was a way of avoiding Antiquity. Bernal stands firm and protects the evidence that African elements specifically from Egypt have largely constituted the ancient Greek culture.
He argued that most of the Greek culture, religion, and philosophies originated from roots of Egypt in Africa. Black Athena point of Eurocentrism has a foundation on the ancestral, cultural and religious history of Bernal work in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Greeks themselves had a belief that they were descendants of Egyptian stocks. They knew that Egyptians were intelligent and were associated with them was an advantage to them. The Egyptians have dominated the Greek culture for quite some time. This superiority made the country of Egypt to become an interesting area of research by many scholars including Alexander the Great. In the early 18th Century, Egypt was not seen as an Africa country. Its history and artifacts were associated with Greeks. This notion did not stay for long, it later became fully recognized as one of the African state.
Bernal describes four forces which relate to each other and have widely influenced the ancient model which acknowledges the influence of Egyptian to Greece in 18th and 19th centuries. These forces support the ideologies of classical scholarship discussed by the author. Firstly, the Christian reaction favored the Greeks where they were seen being more than. This led to the formation of Christian alliances with other believers like the protestant. The second force was the idea of progress which discouraged earlier cultures in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Thirdly, racism increased the issue of colonization. Earlier on, it was difficult to distinguish whether the Egyptians were black or white. Later, the Ancient Greeks decided to separate from Ancient Egypt hence becoming black and Africa identity. Lastly, romanticism led to division among human based on origin, national characteristics, and language. The Greece had to go through the Greek war of independence to liberate themselves.
Martin Bernal received a lot of criticisms concerning his work.
Firstly, he was criticized concerning the origin of his ideas. G, James argued that Bernal stole his ideas from Egypt. There was also an argument that it is false to say that cultures in various parts of the world give rise to independent ideas.
Secondly, according to Kathryn A., the subject of race as addressed in Black Anthem is irrelevant. She argues that ancient Egyptians were not people to be associated with race since they were neither Sub-Saharan blacks nor Caucasian whites. They were farmers, and the issue of race was not supposed to be attached to them since it did not exist in the ancient times. The Author also generated a lot of political opinions in his book based on the unjustified Afrocentric views.
Thirdly, Frank Snowden also accused Bernal of taking the concept of race as monolithic by the use of words such as "African," "Black" and "Egyptian" to mean the other. Realistically, Africa was not a monolithic continent since racial zones were many. For instance, we have southern, northern and central Africa which represents all the countries within the continent. The continued use of three mentioned terms, i.e., Africa, Egyptian and black is making things complex and maintaining the precolonial era.
Fourthly, Mary Lefkowitz also criticizes the work of Bernal as full of errors and omissions from the beginning to the end. She, therefore, likes the research of Alexander the great though according to Bernal, Alexander had to steal what he has written from the Egyptian culture.
Fifthly, there are no facts to justify that ancient Egyptians colonized Greece. From the history, Greeks only did trading together with Egyptians and nothing more. There was also no invasion by the Egyptians to the Greek people as Bernal claimed. Most of the author's work is speculative. It lacks clear evidence such as archaeological facts to show that Egyptians for real colonized ancient Greece.
Sixthly, Bernal claimed that Greeks already knew and believed that their culture originated from ancient Egypt. Gordon responds to this claim by saying that the belief was not universal to the Greeks themselves. She goes ahead to claim that Bernal ideas were not fitting in the classical world. Martin was forcing his ideas to people to adopt them, but this was not possible since their culture cannot allow that.
Lastly, according to John Coleman, Bernal argument of Egypt influencing Greek religion was wrong. This is because there is no evidence confirming that Egyptian god or doctrines are enshrined in Greek documents and books. Egypt since the ancient time remains with its own region beliefs and have not been influenced by any factor.
In conclusion, we cannot dismiss all ideas Bernal is trying to bring out. He strongly brought changes in education, politics and social lives of people. Africans cannot stop to say that western society has dominated their way of life. Almost all spheres try to copy a lot from western including religion, education system, legislature, and business. Bernal did not watch other scholars to criticize him; he sent a strong message accusing them also to stop prejudice based on Eurocentric. History requires evidence, failure to which all stories a scholar gives are deemed to be irrelevant. The author has greatly contributed to the development of world history and his work despite criticism still has significant impacts. He overemphasized Egypt hence making it a center of interest to many scholars both in history and other disciplines. Regarding history reference, a lot has to be done to maintain its reputation. Therefore, more emphasis is to focus on gathering facts when explaining a phenomenon. Despite Egypt being in North East Africa, it still presents the whole Africa in a distinguished historical manner. Bernal can only be remembered for his courage of popularizing the perception of ancient Greece colonized by ancient Egyptians and also remaining firm despite criticism by other scholars
Bernal, Martin, ed. Black Athena: Afroasiatic roots of classical civilization; Volume III: The linguistic evidence. Rutgers University Press, 2006. 5-100
Bernal, Martin. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Volume I Rutgers University Press. New Brunswick, New Jersey. 1987. Lefkowitz, Mary. Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth As History. New York: The New Republic and Basic Books. 1996. 2-28
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