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Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Volume 1) Paperback – February 1, 1991


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Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985, Volume 1) + Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (Volume 2: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence) + Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: The Linguistic Evidence, Vol. 3
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Product Details

  • Series: Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985 (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (February 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813512778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813512778
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A work which has much to offer the lay reader, and its multi-disciplinary sweep is refreshing: it is an important contribution to his 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, The Observer

"An astonishing work, breathtaking bold in conception and passionately written... salutary, exciting, and in its historiographical aspects, convincing." -- G. W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"The next far in book.... A formidable work of intellectual history." -- Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Martin Bernal is a professor of Government Studies at Cornell University; he was formerly a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge.

Customer Reviews

Bernal's shoddily researched and poorly reasoned book is just that.
louis ken oppen
If Greek/Egyptian/Roman civilizations were influenced by blacks--why don't any of the former cultures possess a (sub-saharan)Afro-language/culture?
K. Deyo
If there is anything one could take away from this book, it would be: Just because it's written doesn't mean it's true.
Bradley J. Morley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

220 of 289 people found the following review helpful By ghicks02@sprynet.com on August 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
By all reports Martin Bernal is a respected scholar. Although his professional studies have focused on China, he attacks the problems of ancient Mediterranean history, archaeology, linguistics, and modern European intellectual history with enormous verve, great erudition and amazing breadth. It's therefore fascinating to follow the thread of his argumentation and note at every turn just how wrongheaded it all is. Here is a serious scholar who seems to believe that everything written by Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries is corrupted by their conscious or unconscious racism, but that Greek myths or the self-aggrandizing monument inscriptions of Egyptian pharaohs are to be taken as literal truth. Yes, racism played a role in the development of 19th- and 20th-century historical thinking, but so did increasing knowledge. It was possible to imagine that Greek philosophy, religion and mathematics sprang from an Egyptian source when the Egyptian language was unreadable, but with a real understanding of Egyptian writings it became clear that the content and aims of Egyptian thought and religion were just not compatible with later Greek culture. Likewise, it was easy to imagine Egyptian military dominance, and perhaps even colonization, of broad swaths of Europe and Asia until decade after decade of careful archaeological excavation failed to reveal any more evidence of Egyptian presence than could be attributed to trade. But just as Bernal claims (not entirely correctly) that conventional scholarship was tainted by racist assumptions, twisting the evidence to favor the position that Greece developed without significant Semitic or African influence, so does Bernal pick and choose his evidence to support the opposite conclusion.Read more ›
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69 of 92 people found the following review helpful By J. Davies on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Few books have caused as much scandal and controversy in the cloistered world of the classics as Black Athena. In this book, Martin Bernal argues with great clarity and a formidable amount of learning that the roots of classical Greek civilisation depended to a far greater extent than is generally acknowledged in Egypt and Phoenicia and that, from the late eighteenth century onwards, the racism (conscious or otherwise) of European scholars resulted in a kind of academic "cover-up", to the extent that nowadays this Eurocentric tradition has become so firmly entrenched in the canons of classical scholarship that it has contaminated all subsequent research.
Therein lies the virtue of this book. Any work which comes along and challenges the basic assumptions of any discipline is of great intrinsic value, as it forces the scholars to sit up and reconsider the foundations of their beliefs, and since Black Athena was first published there has been much "soul-searching" done by many classicists and ancient historians. Unfortunately, the book is deeply flawed in numerous respects. Firstly, the quality of the evidence he quotes is, at a generous assessment, flimsy. Bizarre and deeply questionable etymologies from Egyptian and the Semitic languages are no substitute for the complete lack of any archaeological evidence for a significant Egyptian presence in Greece in the period in question. His "unholy trinity" of Christianity, Romanticism and political conservatism which created the Eurocentricism supposedly inherent in the classics does not work - the best example of a historical person who subscribes to these views he could find was the poet Shelley, who was a radical atheist.
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33 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
It is obvious that the thesis in this book is more an attempt to prove a hypothesis rather than to arrive at a conclussion through scientific research.
I was particularly disappointed to see that Mr Bental seems to have neglected to take into account facts that contradict his hypothesis while at the same time relying on some inaccurate research to prove it.
(e.g. Aristotle died 25 years before the library of Alexandria, from which Mr Bental claims Aristotle borrowed some of his ideas, was put together)
The book is unfortunately riddled with historical inaccuracies and although it makes an entertaining read fails to convenience the informed reader.
It is sad to see a bright academic deviating from scientific principles in support of cultural and ideological beliefs.
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38 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
There is a strange phenomenon in our society to not believe the obvious and to belief the absurd - i.e. we can't explain how Stonhenge was built so therefore it must be built by aliens. Bernal's shoddily researched and poorly reasoned book is just that. There should be a special section created in bookstores for books of this nature, it belongs with "Rosewell The Day After", and the host of other pseudo science & history books all too common these days.
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37 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
By all reports Martin Bernal is a respected scholar. Although his professional studies have focused on China, he attacks the problems of ancient Mediterranean history, archaeology, linguistics, and modern European intellectual history with enormous verve, great erudition and amazing breadth. It's therefore fascinating to follow the thread of his argumentation and note at every turn just how wrongheaded it all is. Here is a serious scholar who seems to believe that everything written by Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries is corrupted by their conscious or unconscious racism, but that Greek myths or the self-aggrandizing monument inscriptions of Egyptian pharaohs are to be taken as literal truth. Yes, racism played a role in the development of 19th- and 20th-century historical thinking, but so did increasing knowledge. It was possible to imagine that Greek philosophy, religion and mathematics sprang from an Egyptian source when the Egyptian language was unreadable, but with a real understanding of Egyptian writings it became clear that the content and aims of Egyptian thought and religion were just not compatible with later Greek culture. Likewise, it was easy to imagine Egyptian military dominance, and perhaps even colonization, of broad swaths of Europe and Asia until decade after decade of careful archaeological excavation failed to reveal any more evidence of Egyptian presence than could be attributed to trade. But just as Bernal claims (not entirely correctly) that conventional scholarship was tainted by racist assumptions, twisting the evidence to favor the position that Greece developed without significant Semitic or African influence, so does Bernal pick and choose his evidence to support the opposite conclusion.Read more ›
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