Black Athena is the works of Martin Bernal and describes the Afro-asiatic roots of classical civilization in ancient Greece. Martin examines the perception of ancient Greece in relation to its African and Asiatic neighbours especially in West Europe. This occurred in the 18th century onwards and exhibits the denial by the western academia and the influence of the Greek culture on civilization. In his work Bernin does not support the Greek civilization as being founded by the Aryan settlers whose trace is Europe.
He gives proves as to the arguments of the famous great Grecian thinkers like Plato, Socrates and Aristotle that Phoenician civilization originally colonized Greece. In this basis he comes up with a theory based on the methodology of these historians and this theory states that Greece was colonized by northern invaders with their existing colony established in Phoenicia. (Moore, 2001) He uses several examples to explain that countries of Africa like Egypt and those on the west are being admired by prominent European leaders because of their historical backgrounds.
The current Greek language spoken in classical Grecian world has its roots in the proto Greek language and influence from other Anatolian languages that were spoken nearby. The culture in Greece is believed to have been developed as a result of comparison of unity of elements. Bernam puts great emphasis on the elements of Africa that shaped the Grecian history. He compares the 19th and 20th century eurocentrism with the development of the western appropriation culture and its development.
He argues that the western world influenced the Modern Greek language terming the contact between the indo European languages and the culturally influenced Egyptian and Semitic languages as very key in the determination of the modern Grecian culture and language. He gives examples of some words being used in the modern language of Greece to have been from these origins. He estimates the introduction of the Greek alphabet to have been between the period 1800 and 1400 BC. (Moore, 2001) Bernal came to the conclusion that the relationship between ancient Greek and Egyptian influence should not be taken lightly.
His background traces to the interests he had on Egypt since childhood and the inspirations by his father. He is further encouraged to take this direction by the discovery of the works of Cyrus Gordon and Astour. Afrocentrism which is now the most felt model in the North American primary and secondary schools has been noted to be the most significant and challenging developments in higher education systems and curriculums. It’s a model which encompasses both multi cultural and Afro Hellenic orientations.
This simply means that it’s grounded in ethnic and cultural diversity and the aspect that it is attributed to Africa. In contrast with the black Athena which attributes the development of modern Greece to the western world, the Afrocentric model attributes it to be an abstract, intellectual civilization which is grounded in the traditional orientations of western civilization. Bernal’s discovery of the black Athena is the modern thinking of how the Greek world came into being but has been criticized as not with definite reasons as afrocentric movement.
His was of a different order that racist and anti Semitic scholars only showed the historical facts from the Bronze Age onwards making the culture of Greece to be a product of only Egyptians and Levantines. He argues that for the complete concealing of the origin of the Greek culture we need to consider the north of Athens and the medditerenian island of Crete, civilizations which took place in the third millennium. Bernal’s case is different from the afrocentric models because it rests upon on legend and myth. It relies upon the stories told by the ancient Greeks like Aristotle and Aristotle.
He interprets these stories as the memories of the Egyptian and Phoenician developments. There is a critic about this however because we need to ask ourselves ‘of what benefit is myths and legends? ’ (Bernal, 1987) Bernal attributes archaeology, myth and linguistic borrowings as evidence to the development in Greece. The history and development of Greece is of much importance to the culture adopted today in Greece. Without the historical base Bernal suggests that tracing of the Greek history and civilization would be very complicated.
Bernal claims that approximately 30% of Greek is of Semitic origin, 20% from Egyptian origin and the rest from the ancient Greek origin. Critics however have suggested that his demonstrations is only based on the resemblance merely and not the principles of linguistic adaptation. Bernal takes the similarity of a few words and tries to generalize. The afro centric orientation is based on the western world and argues that linguistic development in Greek civilization has been natural like the development of any other language. (Bernal, 1987)
The contention that the Egyptians were the greatest civilization in history is critically opposed by the Afrocentrists. Afrocentrists view the Egyptians as only blacks who cannot contribute anything to the civilizations which took place especially in Greece. Bernal regarded the developments of Greeks like the scientific and mathematical orientations as very important movements. It’s however criticized by the afrocentrics as a total disregard of the facts of chronology. Conclusion The black Athena and the afrocentric movements have had an influence to the history and civilizations of the current Grecian histories.
In our study of the two models we need to understand the fact that the current ancient civilization is as a result of amalgamation of the two models. Bernal in his book Black Athena: The afroasiantic roots of Classical civilization addresses the issues which have made the Greek world today be the way it is. Reference: Bernal, M. (1987) Black Athena: Afroasiantic roots of Classical Civilization, Rutgers University press. Moore, D. (2001) Black Athena writes back, Duke University press.
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