Black Athena must be the most discussed book on the ancient history of the eastern Mediterranean world since the Bible. Nearly a decade after the publication of the first volume ( 1987), and with the second ( 1991) now long since in circulation, professional historians are still being asked to evaluate it. I have to confess that my first reaction is annoyance. How many other books much more professional in style, sound in conclusion, and innovative in methodology have been denied comparable attention? However, this reaction is naive: Black Athena enjoys such continued attention because it raises important scholarly questions, and because it makes a difficult subject available to a large audience. Professional ancient historians generally avoid the most fundamental questions about their subjects. They know too well how problematic those questions actually are, and do not dare to do without or go beyond the proven methods of classical philology.
Now that the first of the storm over Black Athena has dissipated and successive reviews have clarified the factuality and motivations of the book, we can perhaps evaluate its basic meaning and place it in proper cultural and historical context. I take it as given that it is filled with too many logical and methodological inconsistencies, historical and philological mistakes, and documentary and bibliographical omissions to discuss here in detail. It is not with the details of Bernal's work, but with his basic historiographical principles that I propose to disagree.