Black Athena Revisited

By Mary R. Lefkowitz; Guy MacLean Rogers | Go to book overview
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Frank J. Yurco

Volumes 1 and 2 of Martin Bernal's Black Athena have issued a broad challenge to established Egyptological and classical scholarship. His position is that from the late eighteenth century onward the "Ancient Model" of Mediterranean history was displaced by an 'Aryan Model." Briefly summarized, the Ancient Model was a reflection of the views of Greek and Roman writers, who in Bernal's opinion were far more willing than their modern counterparts to admit the influence of Egypt on the development of Greek civilization, as well as influence from the Mesopotamian and Levantine civilizations of antiquity. The Ancient Model, he claims, was later displaced, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, by an Aryan Model championed by European scholars who by contrast saw the ancient Greeks as Aryans, ethnically, and also as the earliest ancestors of Western civilization as a whole. Advocates of the Aryan Model thus downplayed or denied outright any substantial formative influence on ancient Greece from Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Levantine cultures. Bernal further posits that European--American racial attitudes that evolved in the slaveholding era of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries sustained the Aryan Model and encouraged its further development. Thus the Egyptians, being Africans, the Mesopotamians and Levantines, including Jews, Phoenicians, and Arab peoples, all speakers of Semitic languages, faced not only the desire of the Aryan Model to view ancient Greece as the real originator of Western culture, but also the growing European racism and anti-Semitism that peaked in the colonial era. How could the peoples of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Levant have contrib


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