Magazine article New African

Greek Philosophers Who Came to Africa to Study

Magazine article New African

Greek Philosophers Who Came to Africa to Study

Article excerpt


Today many Africans trek to Europe and other places to study and work, but the reverse was true in the past when other nationals braced the peril of the seas and deserts to come to study in Africa. These included European intellectual and cultural icons who sat at the feet of African masters and went back to their native lands to spread the light they had seen from the so-called "dark continent". They came to learn the rudiments of science, mathematics, philosophy and all. But don't expect to find this in orthodox history books. Barima Adu-Asamoa takes us through the records.


It is interesting to note that the ancient Greeks knew much more about the cultural and racial identity of Ancient Egyptians than modern European historians, long before the coming of the Romans, Turks and Arabs. The primary aim of these modern Eurocentric scholars (modern Arab historians included) is to completely expunge black Africans from the "map of human geography" and world history. The ideological position has been, and still is, that nothing came out of Africa but powerless, defenceless, uncivilised, barbaric and primitive peoples and ideas.

If so, why did the great Greek philosophers cross the seas and deserts to study in Africa? Aristotle, one of the greatest of Greek philosophers, wrote in Physiognomonica that "the Ethiopians and Egyptians are very black". Herodotus (also a Greek historian) adds that the ancient Egyptians had "black skin and wooly hair". Why then is ancient Egyptian racial identity critical to Africa's self appraisal?

The logic, according to European hegemony, runs like this: To ascribe one of the world's greatest civilisations-Ancient Egypt-to Africans, undermines the notion of racial superiority necessary for the "Maafa" (European and Arab slave trade in Africa), and its attendant economic, spiritual and psychological onslaught. But Ancient Egypt is prior to Greece as Greece is prior to Rome, and Greece is credited with spreading civilisation in Europe. In his book, The Significance of African History, the African-Caribbean writer, Richard B. Moore, rightly points our that: "The significance of African history is shown ... in the very effort to deny anything of the name of history to Africa and the African peoples. For it is logical and apparent that no such undertaking [falsifying African history] would ever have been carried out, and at such length, in order to obscure and bury what is actually of little or no significance."

There is sufficient evidence that the distortion of African history was deliberately planned and executed, and this has reaped dividends for the perpetrators. But to the African, this has led to a lack of self-confidence and a can-do-attitude; hence the restoration of African history must be a critical component of an African renaissance.

The African Union should, therefore, create a restoration programme of African history and give it all the necessary importance. This would imply that the government of modern Egypt acknowledges the original creators of Ancient Egyptian civilisation and gives them their due place. It should stop being party to the denial which has gone on for so long. Ancient Egypt was, and still is, the cultural legacy of black Africans, not Arabs who were the last invaders of North Africa.

Indeed when the Muslim General Amr ibn al-As and his army of some 4,000 Arabs, ordered by Caliph Umar to invade Egypt (December 639AD), was asked what to do with the sacred African books found in the libraries of Alexandria and other cities, his reply has stood the test of time: "If its not in the Koran, its not worthy; if its in the Koran, it is superfluous; burn it." This statement would have shamed the followers of Bilal, the African companion of Prophet Mohammed. This implies that Africa has the moral duty to re-aculturalise all "foreign" cultural elements for its own self-preservation. …

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