Black Athena Revisited

By Mary R. Lefkowitz; Guy MacLean Rogers | Go to book overview
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David O'Connor

Martin Bernal has published in part, and continues to work on a major reevaluation of the interrelationships between Greece and the Aegean, on the one hand, and Egypt and the Levant on the other. His basic thesis is stated with great clarity, that "there is a real basis to the stories of Egyptian and Phoenician colonization of Greece" which were current among Greeks of the Classical and Hellenistic ages. This colonization began in the first half of the second millennium B.C.E., and "Greek civilization is the result of the cultural mixtures created by these colonizations and later borrowings from across the East Mediterranean." In addition, Indo-European speakers who invaded or infiltrated Greece from the north were also an important element ( BA 1:2).

Elsewhere Bernal restates his thesis in a slightly different way, namely, that there is a real "possibility of a massive Semitic component in the Greek vocabulary"; that there were "possible Egyptian colonizations of Greece"; and that it is an arguable hypothesis "that Egyptian language and culture played an equal or even more central role" (as Semitic languages and cultures) "in the formation of Greek civilization" ( BA 1:37).

This thesis is put forward in the context of an elaborate and fascinating analysis of the changing scholarly and public ideas about the origins of Greek civilization during the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries of the present era. These changes led to the rejection of the idea that the Levant and Egypt had contributed in any significant way to the development of Greek civilization. Bernal, however, has forcefully restated the earlier proposition, which he terms the "Ancient Model," as


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Black Athena Revisited


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