Black Athena: The Linguistic Evidence
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Could Greek philosophy be rooted in Egyptian thought? Is it possible that the Pythagorean theory was conceived on the shores of the Nile and the Euphrates rather than in ancient Greece? Could it be that much of Western civilization was formed on the “Dark Continent”? For almost two centuries, Western scholars have given little credence to the possibility of such scenarios. In Black Athena, an audacious three-volume series that strikes at the heart of today's most heated culture wars, Martin Bernal challenges Eurocentric attitudes by calling into question two of the longest-established explanations for the origins of classical civilization. To use his terms, the Aryan Model, which is current today, claims that Greek culture arose as the result of the conquest from the north by Indo-European speakers, or “Aryans,” of the native “pre-Hellenes.” The Ancient Model, which was maintained in Classical Greece, held that the native population of Greece had initially been civilized by Egyptian and Phoenician colonists and that additional Near Eastern culture had been introduced to Greece by Greeks studying in Egypt and Southwest Asia. Moving beyond these prevailing models, Bernal proposes a Revised Ancient Model, which suggests that classical civilization in fact had deep roots in Afroasiatic cultures. This long-awaited third and final volume of the series is concerned with the linguistic evidence that contradicts the Aryan Model of ancient Greece. Bernal shows how nearly 40 percent of the Greek vocabulary has been plausibly derived from two Afroasiatic languages—Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic. He also reveals how these derivations are not limited to matters of trade, but extended to the sophisticated language of politics, religion, and philosophy. This evidence, according to Bernal, greatly strengthens the hypothesis that in Greece an Indo-European–speaking population was culturally dominated by Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic speakers Provocative, passionate, and colossal in scope, this volume caps a thoughtful rewriting of history that has been stirring academic and political controversy since the publication of the first volume.
propose to the Indo-European component of the Greek vocabulary involve Armenian and Latin. If the only Indo-European cognate to a Greek word is found in Armenian or Latin, it should be scrutinized with extreme care. The general belief that Armenian has a special genetic relationship within Indo-European has recently been seriously challenged. It should further be noted that the Armenian language was only first attested in the fifth century CE, when most of the early texts were religious
lexicographers of Afroasiatic, Vladimir Orel and Olga Stolbova, put forward a different scheme. They see the basic division as between two groups: First is between “Cushmotic” and others. Cushmotic includes all the Cushitic families and Omotic. Orel and Stolbova see this grouping not as genetic but as an ancient areal Sprachbund. The second division is between Chadic and Egyptian, on the one hand, and Berber and Semitic, on the other. Thus, for them the distinction between bi- and
primarily “little girl,” was reclassified from neuter to a new form of feminine. This change affected the whole system and “the neuter gender became a second feminine gender.”141 This gender bending is not as drastic a change as the Indo-European transformation from a two gender system of active-inactive to a triadic masculine-feminineneuter. Nevertheless, it does illustrate the possible attractive power of a single central word. Paul Brosman uses Miranda’s work to buttress his modified
considering the breakdown of Greek labiovelars in the Second Millennium, we need to look more widely at labiovelars and rounded morphemes. They are very common among the world’s languages. For instance, Christopher Ehret is convinced of a four-way set for Afroasiatic: * w * w g , k , Pw and k’w >.136 Allan Bomhard reconstructs a full set of rounded velars *gw, *kw[h] and *k >w for Proto-Nostratic. His case is persuasive at least as far as it concerns PIE, Proto-Kartvelian and
considering rounded labials. These are abundantly attested in Afroasiatic and other African languages. Interestingly, however, they have a relatively low profile in Omotic, Beja and Cushitic. This makes their strong presence in Ethiopic Semitic less likely to be an innovation than the preservation of a Proto-Semitic feature. For instance, the widespread Gurage form bwEr “main, important man” appears in the Akkadian b>6r which the semitist I. J. Gelb reconstructed as bua–rum “strong.” However, for