Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization Volume I: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985 (Paperback)
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Winner of the 1990 American Book Award
What is classical about Classical civilization? In one of the most audacious works of scholarship ever written, Martin Bernal challenges the foundation of our thinking about this question. Classical civilization, he argues, has deep roots in Afroasiatic cultures. But these Afroasiatic influences have been systematically ignored, denied or suppressed since the eighteenth century—chiefly for racist reasons.
The popular view is that Greek civilization was the result of the conquest of a sophisticated but weak native population by vigorous Indo-European speakers—Aryans—from the North. But the Classical Greeks, Bernal argues, knew nothing of this “Aryan model.” They did not see their institutions as original, but as derived from the East and from Egypt in particular.
In an unprecedented tour de force, Bernal links a wide range of areas and disciplines—drama, poetry, myth, theological controversy, esoteric religion, philosophy, biography, language, historical narrative, and the emergence of “modern scholarship.”
About the Author
MARTIN BERNAL (1937-2013) was a British scholar of modern Chinese political history and a Professor of Government and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His celebrated Black Athena trilogy is a controversial series which argues that Ancient Greek civilization and language are Eastern and Egyptian in origin.
"A monumental and path-breaking work."
— Edward Said
"Martin Bernal’s Black Athena is nothing short of a monumental achievement in scholarship that re-oriented and transformed serious study of ancient civilizations. It remains a soaring accomplishment of classical erudition of the Afroasiatic foundation of Greek history."
— Molefi Kete Asante
"Black Athena is a powerfully written and brilliantly researched book that relentlessly unveils the historical and cultural African origins of Western civilization. Still a must read for all those in search of truth."
— Ama Mazama
"In a spectacular undertaking, Martin Bernal sets out to... restore the credibility of what he calls the Ancient Model of the beginnings of Greek civilizations... Bernal makes an exotic interloper in Classical studies. He comes to them with two outstanding gifts: a remarkable flair for the sociology - perhaps one should say politics - of knowledge, and a formidable linguistic proficiency... The story told by Bernal, with many fascinating twists and turns and quite a few entertaining digressions, is... a critical inquiry into a large part of the European imagination... a retrospect of ingenious and often sardonic erudition."
— Perry Anderson
"A work which has much to offer the lay reader, and its multi-disciplinary sweep is refreshing: it is an important contribution to historiography and the sociology of knowledge, written with elegance, wit, and self-awareness... a thrilling journey... his account is as gripping a tale of scholarly detection and discovery as one could hope to find."
— Margaret Drabble
"Bernal's material is fascinating, his mind is sharp, and his analyses convince."
— Richard Jenkyns
"A formidable work of intellectual history, one that demonstrates that the politics of knowledge is never far from national politics."
— Christian Science Monitor
"An astonishing work, breathtakingly bold in conception and passionately written... salutary, exciting, and, in its historiographical aspects, convincing."
— G. W. Bowersock
"Bernal's work and the stir it has occasioned have caused ancient historians and archaeologists to undertake a major reexamination of methods and motives."
— Robert L. Pounder
"His book should be welcome to both classicists and ancient historians, most of whom will, now at least, be inclined to agree with him."
— R. A. McNeal
"Colossal.... Bernal aims to revise current understanding of Ancient Middle Eastern history by taking seriously the ancient Greeks' legends that portrayed much in their civilization as originating in the Middle East, especially Egypt."
— New York Times Book Review
"[Bernal's] multifaceted assault on academic complacency is an important contribution to the development of a more open, historical, and culturally oriented post-processual archaeology."
— Current Anthropology
"A breathtaking panoply of archaeological artifacts, texts, and myths."
— Toronto Star
"Bernal's enterprise - his attack on the Aryan model and his promotion of a new paradigm - will profoundly mark the next century's perception of the origins of Greek civilization and the role of Ancient Egypt."
"Challenges the racism implicit in the recent 'cultural literacy' movement."
— Socialist Review
"[Martin Bernal] has forced scholars to reexamine the roots of Western civilization."
"Martin Bernal has managed to make the subject of Ancient Greece both popular and controversial."
— Baltimore Sun
"Demands to be taken seriously... Every page that Bernal writes is educating and enthralling. To agree with all his thesis may be a sign of naivety, but not to have spent time in his company is a sign of nothing at all."
— Times Literary Supplement
"A serious work that deals in a serious way with many of the principal issues of Aegean history in the second millennium B.C., and one can ask little more of any historical work."
— Stanley M. Burstein, California State University
“Bernal has ample justification for calling into question many widely accepted hypotheses…. He shows that Egypt and its culture were misrepresented or simply ignored by European writers.”
— Mary Lefkowitz