Black Athena book review and manipulation of history.

Aug 2014
481
Crete
#1
I was reading the threads ''History is a lie'' and ''What's with all the Black washing'' and it came to mind this book I have heard of but I haven't read... so I found this film...


I was waiting for any evidence in the whole film, but i didn't notice one, maybe the truth is hidden in the book. What is your thoughts about this book if you have read it or not
 
Mar 2017
870
Colorado
#2
Didn't read the book: just general comments.

I think anyone can see the current trend of Afro-Centrism: yes, historically, cultures from the interior have been ignored ... but a narrative is being pushed to exaggerate their influence.

Even the BBC, Discovery, and History channel play into this: it's what people want to hear, what people want to watch. News and "documentary" are less about the truth than playing to the masses desires, and consumerism.

Google "Cleopatra was black" and you'll find dozens of pages, despite the fact there is zero evidence. From 2009-2013 there are multiple newspapers and YouTube videos breathlessly announcing the discovery of Cleopatra's sister in Ephesus. "She has African features!" Which breaks down to a slightly elongated skull, with obvious European features. Except it can't possibly be her sister. The skeleton is clearly between 13-18 yrs old. ANY history book (including WIki) will tell you she was 27 when she died. The narrative keeps getting pushed ... don't let the facts get in the way.

The African cultures were impressive for their own time. I don't know why they have to make stuff up.

For the book, look at the sources. How did the author arrive at their opinion(s)? People "reason things out" with Cleopatra: "her mother was unknown, must have been black African" ... with no evidence at all. Did the author reason things out? Look at sketchy faded paintings? Or are there some cool historical documents we should be looking at that have been glossed over? Aristotle spent something like 20 yrs in Egypt under the Persians ... is there some kind of story with him in the interior?
 
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
#3
I read it (or at least read some parts and skimmed through others) a long time ago; a good deal of misplaced learning, often based on etmologies, over-literal interpreation of mythical traditions and that kind of thing. If I may repeat a former post of mine: "Bernal's treatment of myth would on its own prevent me from being able to take him seriously. He doesn't seem to realize that the the mythical genealogies are totally artificial creations, and give no indication whatever about the origins of the relevant Greek peoples; and if one were going to take them seriously as history, one would have to trace the origin of all the lines back to Greece itself, since even the branches that are placed in Egypt in the East were supposed to have originated in Greece. 'Black Athena' was published over 20 years ago now and has had virtually no influence on mainstream scholarship, one never sees it cited in specialist works relating to the various fields that it covers, not because people oppose his general theory (i.e. have an opposing agenda), but because they don't take the specific supporting arguments seriously. They are simply not illuminating."

I contrasted his lack of influence (except in specifically Afrocentric circles) with the extensive influence that has been exerted by Walter Burkert and M.L West who have also been concerned with foreign influences on Greek culture from the East. " The publications of Burkert and West about Eastern influences on Greek literature, religion and thought are solid and original contributions to classical scholarship, and have changed the way in which many issues are viewed. They are constantly cited in the scholarly literature (by contrast to those of Bernal), which is sufficient in itself to show that the views of Bernal and similar 'Afrocentrists' are not rejected because classical scholars have any objection in principle to the idea that Egypt and the East had a considerable influence on Greek culture."
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,588
Benin City, Nigeria
#4
Didn't read the book: just general comments.

I think anyone can see the current trend of Afro-Centrism: yes, historically, cultures from the interior have been ignored ... but a narrative is being pushed to exaggerate their influence.

Even the BBC, Discovery, and History channel play into this: it's what people want to hear, what people want to watch. News and "documentary" are less about the truth than playing to the masses desires, and consumerism.

Google "Cleopatra was black" and you'll find dozens of pages, despite the fact there is zero evidence. From 2009-2013 there are multiple newspapers and YouTube videos breathlessly announcing the discovery of Cleopatra's sister in Ephesus. "She has African features!" Which breaks down to a slightly elongated skull, with obvious European features. Except it can't possibly be her sister. The skeleton is clearly between 13-18 yrs old. ANY history book (including WIki) will tell you she was 27 when she died. The narrative keeps getting pushed ... don't let the facts get in the way.

The African cultures were impressive for their own time. I don't know why they have to make stuff up.

For the book, look at the sources. How did the author arrive at their opinion(s)? People "reason things out" with Cleopatra: "her mother was unknown, must have been black African" ... with no evidence at all. Did the author reason things out? Look at sketchy faded paintings? Or are there some cool historical documents we should be looking at that have been glossed over? Aristotle spent something like 20 yrs in Egypt under the Persians ... is there some kind of story with him in the interior?
The book (series) is not about "black cultures from the interior" (of Africa) or their influence, nor is it about how this or that person was "really" black. It's the author's attempt to show how West Semitic and Egyptian influence on Greece was downplayed or ignored.

The title may just have been used to get attention.
 
Mar 2017
870
Colorado
#5
I watched the video.

As I understand it, the controversial points are that instead of springing up out of nothing (like Athena jumping out of Zeus's skull), ancient Greek culture evolved from predecessors ... probably Egypt and Phoenicia had some influence. IMHO: I think this is more widely accepted than not, and that most of the controversy is "stirred up." "Oh! Look at how scholars are attacking him!!" This is nonsense, drummed up to make the video more interesting ... more controversial-ISH. I see that Linchoten, having read the book, points out some problems with his scholarship. In the video, it's clear that his amateur Egyptology would drive up Corvidius' blood pressure, and his amateur linguistics are laughable.

I've read an article that says there is little evidence that "philosophy" passed from Egypt to Greece, but many historians/scholars acknowledge transfer of the sciences from Egypt: medicine, mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, etc. THIS might be controversial as Egypt did have some philosophy, although they didn't isolate it as a discipline and the word didn't exist as such until Greece. Okasha el Daly says Egyptians wrote about evolution and natural selection around 2000 BCE ... is that philosophy or science? They couldn't experiment with it.

ANYWAY, Egyptian and Phoenician influence? This isn't anything new. No problem.

The last quarter of the video plays into Afro-Centrism. It's racist. It equates "African" with "black" (this is peppered throughout the early video as well). Africa is very big and there are a lot of people there. A lot of people that are different than each other. We had an Egyptian member quite upset about four months ago: "You don't know what you're talking about. I'm not black, I'm Egyptian." ... he continued with some scathing comments about how Egyptians consider the darker races.

"All Africans are black" has never been true since before the end of the Ice Age. There are many races in Africa. It's almost an evolutionary sampling tray. In ancient times, the North Africans like Mauretania & Numidia were quite light ... Greek looking. Northern Egyptians had a reddish color, a little darker than American Indians. As you move south on the Nile, the races get darker & darker. Nubians are always depicted as quite dark in paintings, but they're not related to the races in the interior of the continent: their DNA shows them to be related to other Africans only on the coast and to people in the Middle East. I'm not arguing they're "not black", that would be idiotic. My point is that "race" as such, even skin color, can't be dealt with as "one size fits all".

This is the only part of the video that's nonsense. Yes, there were black pharaohs ... for 88 yrs, 764-656 BCE. That's 200 yrs before "Classical Greece". The next dynasty was 139 yrs of reddish Egyptians: probably the ones with the Greek influence? Or would it be the next dynasty ... which would be ... Persians.

There was an American slavery thing: "one drop of black blood makes you black." They're using this to say that anyone on the African continent is black ... thusly, the ruling class of Egyptians (as opposed to the darker & darker Egyptians as you progress 1500 miles up the Nile) were black, despite 1000's of yrs of portrait evidence to the contrary.

If that's true, the "one drop thing?", then I'm black, too. I should start filling out forms that way. I thought I was a European mutt, but since all Homo sapiens sapiens have been traced to two emigrations from the African continent, I've got that drop that seems so important.

I love this picture. A very small sample of Africans.
 
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Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,919
Crows nest
#6
I'll refer to the first sentence sung by Ian Anderson, but the song title may also be applicable to the shoddy linguistics shown by Bernal, which may have had his maternal grandfather, Sir Alan Gardiner, spinning in his grave.

 
Mar 2012
2,351
#7
I have read volume 1 (apparently 2 and 3 are very poor, and cannot much be found). It isn't as bad as made out.

1) "Black" Athena is an intentionally provocative title. Bernal wanted it to be called "African" Athena. Bernal goes a little into certain Egyptian dynasties that he says are, in his words, "usefully black," but makes no claim that the Egyptians were completely or even primarily a "black" people. It is categorically NOT a "black Egypt" book.

2) What Bernal discusses is the very interesting idea that various Europeans going back to the ancient Greeks themselves claimed to have gained knowledge from ancient Egypt. He discusses Herodotus, the Hermes Trsimegistos writings, The Golden Ass, Freemasonry, and the play the Suppliants. In this sense, no actual evidence, per se, is presented, since he is not talking about actual Egyptian texts and knowledge, but only European perceptions in the classical era and beyond.

It merely poses some interesting questions, and offers some intriguing speculation.

I actually recommend it on that level. Great starting point, and from that I read The Golden Ass, the Suppliants, Not Out of Africa, and excerpts from Black Athena Revisited and Black Athena Answers Back before I somewhat lost interest in the debate. It did not, and will not re-write history, but I think it is worth at least consideration, whether you ultimately dismiss it or take it on board.
 
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
#8
Quite honestly I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who has no particular knowledge of Greek philology, and particularly of how to interpret ancient Greek mythological traditions (leaving aside all the highly questionable etymologies, always a special area of enthusiasm for pseudo-scholars). One just has to compare his work with that of the late Martin West, who published many article and books making many fundamental contributions to our understanding of how early Greek culture was affected by influences form the Near East, and showing how the mythical traditions that Bernal appealed to developed over the course of time, and are wholly artficial in nature (i.e. just because a mythical genealogy says that a Greek ruling line originated in Egypt or Phoenicia, that does not mean that this any historical foundation, quite the contrary), one can see why West's works are constantly cited in the academic literature, and why Bernal's works will forgotten as a historical curiosity.

It may pose some interesting questions, and make people reflect of theit own assumptions, but the speculations are largely valueless, being based on a predetermined agenda and, all too often, false methodology. The title is of course stupid and he should in now way have agreed to it, but is in fact all too revealing about the nature of his agenda and about the agenda of just about the only people who having been defending and pushing it. Most classical scholars have paid little attention to it simply because it is not illuminating, and because it is evident at first sight that the scholarship is frequently shoddy. In fact hardly anyone would be talking about it all if it were not for the nature of the thesis that it is advancing.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,919
Crows nest
#9
I've debated this divisive topic before here, and will "Sit this one out", except to point in the direction of "Not out of Africa" by Mary Lefkowitz, a classicist, who trashes Bernal, Diop and James.
 
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
#10
Lefkowitz's book is a good one (and is very enjoyable to read like all her works). Although this can indeed be regarded as a divisive topic, I would like to stress that I and others who would criticize Bernal's writings on scholarly grounds are not doing so because they would wish to advance an opposing agenda, i.e. would wish to deny that ancient Greek culture was strongly affected by influences from the lands to the East and SE. This is in fact generally accepted by classical scholars, and has been the subject of a great deal of research in the last sixty years in particular. So there is no reason whatever why the topic should be divisive, if people are willing to take a balance attitude and accept that ancient Greek culture was highly original in many ways while at the same time building on (and even depending on) ideas that had been introduced from outside. It is merely that it would be wiser to turn in this respect to scholars like West and Burkert, whose work is solidly based and has been extremely influential, rather than to the highly eccentric and highly ideological Bernal. And yet people who have no special interest in the classical world are far more likely to have heard of someone like Bernal than of a really great scholar like M.L. West! Precisely because his thesis can be summarized in a few words and accords with ideas which are fashionable in some circles. It is all very frustrating.