Black Athena Debate

Martin Bernal said that the Greek culture has been misrepresented as Indo-European in origin when in fact it is largely African or Semitic. His explanation for this which has been discussed is that history was revised in order to flush out the African contribution to Greek Culture. Bernal contends in the late 1700's the anti-Semitic and anti-African sentiments of the time, resulted in those cultures being eliminated from establishment history. To prove his thesis Bernal defined three models of accepted history. Furthermore Bernal also legitimated his thesis by showing distinct links or borrowings of religion from the Egyptian civilization. Specifically he connected the Cretan Bull Cult of Minos and the Minotaur to origins in the Egyptian god Min who frequently required bovine sacrifices.

The Three Models of History Referred to By Martin Bernal

1. Ancient Model
The Ancient model was the one that was held by the Greeks, citizens of the Mediterranean and Egyptians in ancient times up until about 1790. Essentially he contends that previous to the restructuring of history by German scholars in the late 18th century Greeks recognized their roots in Egypt. The Ancient Model is that previous to the Institution of The Aryan Model Greeks felt that their culture had its roots in Africa. Essentially this model holds that Greece was settled about 1500 B.C.E. by Egyptians and Phoenicians. The supposition is that Greeks directly borrowed their mathematics, governmental system, language, writing, philosophy, and religion directly from African and Semitic sources.

2. Aryan Model
The Aryan Model had its genesis in Protestant North Germany between 1790 and 1830. At this time the new discipline of "Altertumswissenshaft" (Science of Antiquity) was born. The model is rooted in German nationalism and feelings of repugnance concerning the French Revolution. This model holds that Greece was settled by Indo-European stock. The focus of the new model was on the Greek ideal. The Greek ideal was reflective of German nationalism. The constant cultural borrowing and at times thievery of culture inherent to the Ancient Model were inconsistent with the assertions of the German intellectuals. In order to justify a German purity the Greek ideal was modified to show it an exemplar of sorts. By limiting the apparent influence of outside cultures and races in the Aryan Model neatly accomplished its goal. This model also gives faulty Aryan Invasion theory.

3. New Ancient Model
Bernal says that the racism and Anti-Semitism that characterized The Aryan Model are increasingly unacceptable. He proposes that Greek culture in general was heavily influenced by Northern African (specifically Egypt) and Phoenician culture. He also allows for the Indo-european element in the form of periodic invasions. In essence he restores the image of ancient Greece as a culture that has its roots in Egypt but also shaped many of those cultural icons in a fashion that is distinctly Greek. He sees it as a midpoint between the Greek idea of interaction but not origin in Africa, and the racial purity and anti-African tendencies of the Aryan Model.

Not out of Africa Model
Martin Bernal’s book, Black Athena, provoked much discussion ranging from simple academic debates to heated disputes on Afrocentrism, racism and Euro-centrism in classical scholarship. The principal figures in this debate are Bernal himself and Mary Lefkowitz. Lefkowitz published a response to Bernal’s book entitled Not Out of Africa, which was nearly as controversial as the original. Later on, Lefkowitz also published Black Athena Revisited, a collection of responses to Black Athena. The scholarly world was fairly evenly split, in terms of being for or against the argument proposed in Bernal’s book and by many Afro centrists. However, they often disagreed about exactly how one side or the other was wrong. These are a few of the issues raised in the reactions to Black Athena and how scholars responded to them.
Essentially, the argument is that both advocates and opponents of Afrocentrism have used faulty techniques to prove their points. Bernal clearly accuses Lefkowitz of errors , and at the same time acknowledges that the Afro-centrists have made similar errors.


Origins of Ideas
Another interesting idea raised in the aftermath of Black Athena is that of the origins of ideas. This idea was first presented in G. James’ Stolen Legacy in which James proposes that Plato, Aristotle and other major Greek philosophers "stole" their ideas from Egypt. Lawrence Tritle mentions the Afro-centrists’ take on this concept in his review of Not Out of Africa: "[Afro-centrists] adhere to a diffusionist understanding of culture, that ideas are created or born in one place and radiate outward. The idea that cultures in different parts of the world could develop similar ideas independently and contemporaneously seems regarded as an unlikely occurrence: someone must have first ‘created’ the idea which was then ‘given’ to someone else". Tritle says Lefkowitz asserts that ideas cannot actually be "stolen."

The most important reaction to Black Athena is the political opinions generated by its publication. Afrocentrism was a little more political correct than Euro-centrism, and criticizing the Afrocentric point of view was to put oneself at risk of being labeled a racist, as Bernal points out: "Mary Lefkowitz believes that another and more significant reason why her colleagues let her down, was the fear of being labeled as racist." Perhaps in an effort to assure readers of her book’s unbiased nature, Lefkowitz says in her preface to Black Athena Revisited, "the authors of the essays in this book are young and old, black and white, male and female, European and American, and within the United States, from all parts of the country."

In Black Athena Revisited, Kathryn A. Bard gives reason as to why the subject of race might be irrelevant after all: "Ancient Egyptians were Mediterranean peoples, neither Sub-Saharan blacks nor Caucasian whites but peoples whose skin was adapted for life in a tropical desert environment.... Egyptians were the indigenous farmers of the Lower Nile Valley, neither black nor white as races are conceived of today." The modern ideas about race and the stigma often attached to one race or another simply did not exist in ancient times. The Egyptians may not have even been what we consider today to be "black people." Furthermore, as Lawrence A. Tritle notes, why should Egypt "stand for the rest of Africa?" He says, "Just because people lived on the same continent as the Greeks and Romans does not mean that they shared in the cultural achievements of either antecedent."
Martin Bernal argues that Euro-centric archeologists in the 18th and 19th centuries failed to give credit to what he believes was the extensive influence that Egyptian and Near Eastern cultures had on classical Greek culture, specifically in the context of mythology.
EVIDENCE OF THE CRETAN BULL CULT
Before we can examine he origins of the Cretan Bull cult, we must first go over the evidence which proves it existed in the first place. It is commonly accepted among archaeologists that a bull cult did exist in Crete and had rituals concerning fertility; a ritualistic practice consisted of young women "proving" their fertility by jumping over the horns of a charging bull. In addition, according to Bernal, "the use of explicitly bovine Egyptian religious symbols in Crete in the early 2nd millennium can be seen in the 'horns of consecration', a sacred motif used so frequently that its function sometimes seems merely decorative in Cretan palatial culture".


THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MIN AND PAN
Bernal hypothesizes that the Greek god Pan is the counterpart of the Egyptian God Min.
"The great god of flocks and shepherds among the Greeks, usually called a son of Hermes, was originally an Arcadian God; and Arcadia was always the principal seat of his worship. From the country his name and worship after wards spread over other parts of Greece; but at Athens his worship was not introduced till the time of the battle of Marathon. He is described as wandering among the mountains and valleys of Arcadia…Pan…was dreaded by travelers, to whom he sometimes appeared, and whom he startled with sudden awe or terror. Hence sudden fright, without any visible cause, was ascribed to Pan, and was called a Panic fear. In works of art Pan is represented as a sensual being, with horns, puck-nose, and goat’s feet, sometimes in the act of dancing, and sometimes playing on the syrinx."
Bernal establishes early associations between Egypt and Crete, before the existence of the bull cult, by examining the ways in which Min and Pan could be connected.

Evidence that Bernal presents for this connection is as follows:

  1. "Diodoros Sikeliotes, an ancient historian, named the gods of the Ethiopians of Meroe…as Isis, Pan, Heracles, and Zeus" . He says that the ancient geographer Strabo also confirmed that they worshiped Pan.

  2. Min was associated with fertility and growth in Egypt, unlike his cult as a divinity of the desert. His dual aspects of a desert deity and fertility are a result of his worship having traveled from Punt to the Eastern Desert to Upper Egypt, and in Upper Egypt he became assimilated to the ancient fertility god of Koptos ( which means Bull of his Mother). Thus, Min became associated with the bull through his assimilation with Koptos.

  3. He explains that the god Min, whose token animal is the bull, became associated with the god Amon, whose token animal is the ram/goat, who then became associated with the god Pan, whose token animal is also the ram/goat. Bernal says that "Pan's derivation from Min would seem to be confirmed, not only by his great phallus, his association with the fertility of stock and his living in the wilderness and the negroid blackness with which he, like his attendant satyrs, was often portrayed". Thus, Min--Amon--Pan.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MIN AND MINOS
"[King Minos was]….king and legislator of Crete, and after death one of the judges of shades in Hades…He was the husband of Pasiphae. In order to avenge the wrong done to his son Androgeos at Athens, he made war against the Athenians, and compelled them to send to Crete every year, as a tribute, 7 youths and 7 maidens, to be devoured in the labyrinth by the Minotauros. The Minotaur was a monster, half man and half bull, and the offspring of the intercourse of Pasiphae with a bull."
Furthermore, King Minos was the son of Europa and Zeus, a maiden who was kidnapped and seduced by Zeus when he assumed the form of a white bull.
Bernal's evidence for Minos' origin in Min is as follows:

  1. Minos' role as the judge of shades in the afterlife is consistent with the role of the Egyptian god Osiris, also the "judge of the dead man" (Bernal 170). Minos can be connected to Min through Osiris because of Osiris' connection with Amon, who, by the 7th century B.C. , was "assimilated with Osiris", and then, through Amon's 'fundamental affinity' with Min, can be connected further to Min. Min and Amon "were associated at Thebes since the 11th Dynasty and by the New Kingdom. Amon and Re seem in many cults to have been fused with Min as a single massively endowed ithyphallic figure" . Thus, Minos--Osiris--Amon--Min.

  2. The name "Mn" was used by "an important pharoah early in the 1st dynasty and in later times Mn was universally considered to be the founder of dynastic rule" . Diodoros, an ancient historian that Bernal cites elsewhere, connected the pharoah called Mn with King Minos by saying that "'according to the tradition he claimed that Hermes had given the laws to him…just as the Greeks they say that Minos did in Crete…[Minos] saying that he had received his laws from Zeus…'" . Bernal states that the connection between King Minos and the Pharoah Mn can be taken further to associate, again, King Minos with the god Min by establishing a connection between the pharoah and the Egyptian god, stating that "there were occasions in Egypt when [Mn] and [Min] were worshipped together" . Thus, Minos--pharoah Mn--god Min.

  3. As for the labyrinth of King Minos, Bernal makes a linguistic argument: he states that "from the earliest times, there has ben considerable confusion in Egyptian among the three biconsonantals mr, mn, and nm" All three sounds are associated with cattle, which is an obvious potential connection with the bull cult; in addition, the phonetic nm is also connected with the meaning of "winding wall" in Late Egyptian. Therefore, the biconsonantal nm is associated both with cattle and a "winding wall". Here, then, is linguistic evidence that indicates Egypt as being the origin of King Minos' labyrinth. Thus, mn--nm--labyrinth.

  4. Other similarities between Minos and Min: Minos was renowned for his lechery, which is a trait of the god Min; Min had a white bull consecrated to him, and Minos' wife Pasiphae was impregnated by a white bull; and finally, the depiction of the Minotaur as a man with a bull's head can be compared to the manner in which the Egyptians portrayed their gods as having men's bodies and the heads of animals.

Conclusion
We have seen the arguments, as we can see neither side will agree to the other. No place is an Island in the world as far as movement of people or movement of influences or movement of legends. More Independent view is required to ascertain the facts. But that is impossible now as both sides are not willing to give in on any neutral authority and cling on to their beliefs. Today the issue is more political one than Academic one.

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4 comments:

  1. Ancient Athenian NEVER X blacks!
    but if someone(100% stupid) only depend on the color that painted on a white statues, than.... you know what they are;) a African painted with white face will be recognized as white ancestor by aftermath people, who have such POOOR brain+ eyes.

    Did anybody have archaeological found of ANY African skeletons found as any mainstream Greek royal people in Greece? if that "was" the case, why white-mixed skin are almost seen everywhere in half of the global instead of Black skin mixed people?

    Ancient Athenian NEVER blacks!
    Greeks ≠ blacks

    Stop been stupid African people!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People will be stupid if they listen to your baseless Arguments

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    2. You are a moron, Yu Pig. If you need TO INSULT AN ENTIRE RACE OF PEOPLE JUST TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF, THEN YOU'RE A FOOL. The whole point , that you clearly missed,is that eurocentrics fools, like yourself (except smarter) re-wrote history to minimize African influence in World history.

      Delete
    3. 'African influence' is an oxymoron.

      Delete

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