Origin of Greek Civilization. Comparison of articles “Out of Africa” and “Not out of Africa: The origins of Greece and the illusions of Afrocentrists”

Both articles speculate on the origin of civilization. Begley explained the African and African American scholars’ perspective of civilization. According to Begley, Civilization originated from Africa. To support this observation, it was argued that the Pythagorean Theorem, pi concept, geometric formulas, screw and the lever originated from Egypt and not Greece as many intellectuals believe.

Western scholars dismissed all African achievements that they did not dispute. These include the sophisticated social, economic governance in the West Africa. Others argued that Egypt’s inhabitants were not originally Africans.

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Bernal (Professor at Cornell University) studied Hebrew antiquity, which led him to studying Greece as well. From his work, Bernal’s described classists as racists and anti-Semites. There is a feeling that acknowledging African contribution would impure Greece society. Thus, all the accounts that shaped Aegean civilizations were upheld.

From Aryan model, Greek Civilization begun when Indo-European speakers interacted with the pre-Hellenes. Bernal proved explicitly that civilization came from Africa and not from Greece. For example, he traced linguistic words and utterance of Egyptian origin with some of the words being closely associated with Egyptian culture.

There are some modern historians who surmise that Bernal’s etymologies could be plausible, but insist that the influence would be due to interactions from trade. Therefore, both articles argue that Afro centrists such as Euclid, Homer, Socrates and Cleopatra came from African Origin. Begley further expounded that Greece civilization have its cultural roots from acrostic cultures (Egyptian and Phoenician) (Begley 1).

What is of fact from the two articles is that Greek civilization came about as a result of contact between the Indo-European Language and cultural influence from Egyptian and Semitic languages. However, all the information pointing out to the Greek civilization as having come out of the Afrocentric culture is only an overview.

There is a vast amount of concrete evidence yet uncovered and unexplored regarding the Greek civilization. Further more, the results and conclusion of investigations carried out by historians such as Bernal proved extraordinary conclusions, bringing about contradictions such that their work could not be easily acknowledged (Begley 1).

Greek civilization was as an influence of the interaction of the Indo-European language, Egyptian and Phoenicians. For example, Bernal cited many of Greek words, which are of Egyptian origin. Some of those words are accepted widely in the current Indo-European etymologies.

More so, the interactions during trade influenced their cultural conduct. Diop affirmed the interaction in his work the African origin of civilization. The Senegalese man traced Egyptian influence from the prehistoric periods, such as Cecrops, and showed that it originated from Egypt. James suggested the means in which Egypt’s mysteries could have reached Greece. He suggested that Scholars such as Solon and Pythagoras could have carried the mysteries with them.

As James said, there is no concrete evidence of Greek’s colonization. Therefore, the notion that Egypt’s civilization as a whole was black is off beam. It had other mixed populations, like Queen Cleopatra was of Greek origin. Classist Frank Snowden explained that racism never existed in that ancient past. Reger seconded Frank’s contributions (Lefkowitz 1).

Classifying ancient classist as racist and anti-Semites is unfair. This is because there is a possibility that the classists had misinterpreted the facts about Greeks’ origin. There is a lot, which is clear about Greeks’ origin; the subject has become a popular discussion. For example, Bernal read widely to assess Egyptian contribution to the Greek civilization. His contributions began from unproven an argument that European Scholars had distorted all archeological documents and evidence.

He opted to stick to his “Aryan” and “Ancient Model”, i.e. Greeks obtained their religion and cultural influence from Egypt. Bernal tried to ascertain his argument by accounting on “Revised Ancient Model”. His investigations were derived from disparate and fragmentary sources. His work insufficiently provided illustrations and concrete visual evidence such as art and architecture producing incomplete packs which the modern historians continue relying upon.

More so, his Ancient Model relied too much on Herodotus work. He suggested a conspiracy between the Europeans to neglect recognition of Egypt as the root for Greek Civilization. What he failed to understand was that medieval beliefs on cultural and religious beliefs in antiquity were described based on myths and ancient anecdotal biographers’ works.

Although Bernal cited Herodotus’ work to describe the origin of civilization, he failed to discuss explicitly the habits and customs influenced on the Greek culture by the Egyptians. More so, his work failed to give all plausible explanations on the areas he pointed out. For example, he barely explained the irrigation system and how the knowledge of controlling water was learnt (Lefkowitz 1).

All the information pointing out that Greek civilization came for the afro centric culture is shallow and there is a feeling that much more needs to be covered in regard to digging out concrete evidence. There is little that is known about Greeks’ origin.

Most of the Greeks believed that their ancestors came from the land their descendants occupied. They insisted that the language they spoke was originally their own, and their writing system was intervened by their gods. Greeks dismissed other foreigners and were described to refer to foreigners as barbarians. They relied on their myths to give the origin of their unique identity. As we know, nothing much can be retrieved from the myths.

They give vague information and serve merely as a guide to historians to necessitate the formation of general opinion. There is information about Greeks’ movement to other parts of Asia Minor such as Egypt, Mesopotamia and Phoenicia to trade or for exploration. However, little is said about the interactions during their movements. Therefore, there must be a vast amount of evidence to be explored and be uncovered by the historians to support the claims of civilization roots being from Afrocentric (Begley 1).

Greeks certainly got influenced by other cultures for their civilization. It is irrefutable that they build a culture that is impressive for all civilizations and the most influential in western culture. Ancient Greece was a collection of Greek city states and colonies concentrated in the mainland Greece.

They also spread throughout the Aegean Sea, Asia Minor and Italy. Their culture and religion got influenced by the Phoenicians. Up to date, very little is known about the geographical origins of Greeks. Lefkowitz’s article “not from Africa” is more compelling than Begley’s “The Origin of Greece Civilization”. Lefkowitz expounded greatly and outlined his view noticeably and influentially.

Her arguments were against the biased use of skin color by Bernal. She also attacked the conflicting views by Bernal about the view that Phoenician civilization once colonized Greece and his efforts to convince readers that Egyptian and Phoenicians were not Mediterranean descendants.

What remains evident in the racial related issues in history education? For example, anthropologists’ efforts to trace human race from Africa struck much European cultural arrogance. Bernal acknowledged that his award-winning book was mainly to transform the European Cultural arrogance through re-examination of the origin of Western Civilization.

His contributions are respectable and had honorable intentions. We can only hope that his book will clearly define the degree of African culture on civilization. However, he did not deal with the racial issue squarely. He ought to have described Egypt as part of Africa but instead of determining the number of the dark-skinned people in the region.

This is especially in the respect of the ancient study where racism was unheard of. From Bernal’s contribution, many modern historians will continue to have the notion that the Greeks stole the Egyptian culture. However, the key question is, what exactly did the African culture really imply? Is claiming that African was the origin civilization a myth to seek self-ennoblement? Is it a mean to break loose from marginalization and enhances participation in common culture? (Lefkowitz 1)

However, the results must not be adequate. It might alter the main purpose of learning. The tendency to judge individuals as black or white, the origin as a measure to determine the value of the human race would result to great danger. Therefore, we should take pride in all Egyptian, Phoenicians or Greeks and other sources of civilization. This is because it brought great change and benefited all of us (Lefkowitz 1). It should also be noted all cultures have positive influences on civilization.

Works Cited

Begley, Sharon. “Out of Africa.” The Beast Daily 22 September 1991. Print.

Lefkowitz, Mary. Not out of Africa: The origins of Greece and the illusions of Afrocentrists. HighBeam Business, 1992. Web. Retrieved on 2 November, 2011 from: http://business.highbeam.com/4776/article-1G1-11825176/not-out-africa-origins-greece-and-illusions-afrocentrists


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