I am interested in sources (reference author, work, paragraph/fragment) describing the view ancient Greeks held about people of African descent.
By that I mean those whom they called Αιθίοπες (Aithíopes), not the Egyptians or other North-Africans.
Are there attestations of racism (strictly because of skin color) or admiration in ancient Greek works?
Regarding admiration we have one account from Herodotos (3.20) who states the following:
These Ethiopians, to whom Cambyses sent them, are said to be the tallest and most handsome of all men. Their way of choosing kings is different from that of all others, as (it is said) are all their laws; they consider that man worthy to be their king whom they judge to be tallest and to have strength proportional to his stature.
See http://department.monm.edu/classics/Courses/CLAS240/Africa/homeronethiopians.htm for a collection of quotations from Homer about the Aethiopians [which basically meant black, sub-Saharan Africans], who are referred to respectfully e.g.:
"Iliad 1.423-4 (Thetis is speaking to Achilles.) Only yesterday Zeus went off to the Ocean River to feast with the Aethiopians, loyal, lordly men, and all of the gods went with him."
Another Example: While Ovid was a Roman, his collection of stories the 'Metamorpheses' was written based on the Greek myths and shows the considerable influence from Greek culture normal among educated Romans. In the story of Phaeton, Ovid says that the Aethiopians became the colour they are because the sun once veered dangerously close to the Earth and permanently charred them black. This suggests he and his audience regarded being black-skinned as something sufficiently different from what they knew as the norm to potentially require explaining, but he does not suggest that blacks were intrinsically inferior to whites.
Aristotle mentions some descriptions in Physiognomonica (look for Ethiopian. I'm not going to quote it… wow.)
Otherwise, I don't recall any mention of physical description of Africans (non-Northern Africans, i.e., Libyans, Egyptians, Cathaginians, etc.) in Thucydides, Xenophon or Plato, and only the reference from Herodotus you had. I don't see any reference to descriptions of physical attributes, but Herodotus also dicusses the Persian invasian of Kush (Sudan).
5 Ancient Black Civilizations That Were Not in Africa
Archaeologist Manfred Bietak conducted extensive research on ancient Greek civilizations and their connections to ancient Egypt. Bietak unearthed evidence from artwork as early as 7000 B.C. that depicts the early people inhabiting Greece were of African descent.
The Minoan culture of Ancient Greece reached its peak at about 1600 B.C. They were known for their vibrant cities, opulent palaces and established trade connections. Minoan artwork is recognized as a major era of visual achievement in art history. Pottery, sculptures and frescoes from the Minoan Bronze age grace museum displays all over the world. Palace ruins indicate remnants of paved roads and piped water systems.
Black African Origin Of The Ancient Greeks (Parts 1 and 2) – Dr. Anu Mauro
It was common knowledge in ancient times that the Greeks were a spin-off of ancient and most revered Ethiopians. The Greeks themselves recorded their much vaunted relationship with the ancient Ethiopians heros in their holy books which narrate accounts of mythological Ethiopian derived heros such as
Hercules, Persus, Athene, Cassopia, Andromeda etc.
Below are some relevant myths (edited) with ‘exploratory’ notes.
MYTH NO. 8 –THE GREEK MYTHS: VOLUME 1
According to the Pelasgians, the goddess Athene was born beside Lake Tritonis in Libya, where she was found and nurtured by the three nymphs of Libya, who dress in goat-skins. As a girl she killed her play-mate, Pallas, by accident, while they were engaged in friendly combat with spear and shield and, in token of grief, set Pallas’s name before her own. (hence the name PALLAS ATHENE) — Pg. 44
NOTE ON TEXT — By Robert Graves
1. Plato identified Athene, patroness of Athens, with the Libyan god-dess Neith, .. the aegis…. a magical goat-skin bag containing a serpent and protected by a Gorgon mask, was Athene’s long before Zeus claimed to be her father. Goat-skin aprons were the habitual costume of Libyan girls, and Pallas merely means ‘maiden’, or ‘youth’. Herodotus writes (iv. 189):
‘Athene’s garments and aegis were borrowed by the Greeks from the Libyan women, who are dressed in exactly the same way, except that their leather garments are fringed with thongs, not serpents.’ Ethiopian girls still wear this costume, which is sometimes ornamented with cowries, a yonic symbol.
— Robert Graves The Greek Myths: Published by Penguin Books
2…….Herodotus indicates that the loud cries of triumph, olulu, ololu, uttered in honour of Athene were of Libyan origin. . — Robert Graves: The Greek Myths.
NOTE by Anu Mauro
3. This noise producing activity in our time is now actually called
‘ullulation.’ It is the yodel like celebratory cry quite common all
across south Saharan Africa among contemporary African female populations.
Also use of this cry is still retained in the African descended cultures in the Levant (Palestine Syria Egypt etc. ) –Anu Mauro.
NOTE ON TEXT — By Robert Graves
4. Pottery finds suggest a Libyan immigration into Crete as early as 4000 B.C. and a large number of goddess-worshipping Libyan refugees from the Western Delta seem to have arrived there when Upper and Lower Egypt were forcibly united under the First Dynasty about the year 3000 B.C. The First Minoan Age began soon afterwards, and Cretan culture spread to Thrace and
Early Helladic Greece. —- Robert Graves The Greek Myths: 1
But then who were the Libyans and how are they also connected to Perseus and Andromeda and Ethiopians? …especially bearing in mind that Chemmis, located on the Nile was the name given to ancient Egypt and also translates as black or charred and that the entire continent of Africa west of Egypt
was know as Lybia in ancient times. The two word answer is ‘origins’ and ‘ancestry.’
GREEK MYTH 60 –THE GREEK MYTHS: VOLUME 1
a. KING BELUS, who ruled at Chemmis in the Thebaid, was the son of Libya by Poseidon, and twin-brother of Agenor. His wife Anchinoe daughter of Nilus, bore him the twins Aegyptus and Danaus, and a third son third son, Cepheus.
Aegyptus was given Arabia as his kingdom but also subdued the country of the Melampodes, (blackfeet) and named it Egypt after himself.
b. Fifty sons were born to him of various mothers: Libyans, Arabians, Phoenicians, and the like. Danaus, (who was) sent to rule Libya, had fifty daughters called the Danaids, also born of various mothers: Naiads, Hamadryads. Egyptian princesses of Elephantis and Memphis, Ethiopians, and the like.
c. On Belus’s death, the twins quarrelled over their inheritance, and as a conciliatory gesture Aegyptus proposed a mass-marriage between the fifty princes and the fifty princesses. Danaus, suspecting a plot would not consent and when an oracle confirmed his fears that Aegyptus had it in his mind to kill all the Danaids, prepared to flee from Libya.
d. With Athene’s assistance, he built a ship for himself and his daughters – the first two-prowed vessel that ever took to sea – and they sailed towards Greece together, by way of Rhodes.
i. Aegyptus now sent his sons to Argos, forbidding them to return until they had punished Danaus and his whole family. On their arrival, they begged Danaus to reverse his former decision and let them marry his daughters – intending, however, to murder them on the wedding night. When he still refused, they laid siege to Argos.
j. When the siege was lifted a mass-marriage was arranged, and Danaus paired off the couples: his choice being made in some cases because the bride and bridegroom had mothers of equal rank, or because their names were similar – thus Cleite, Sthenele, and Chrysippe married Cleitus, Sthenelus, and Chrysippus
k. During the wedding-feast Danaus secretly doled out sharp pins which his daughters were to conceal in their hair and at midnight each stabbed her husband through the heart. There was only one survivor on Artemis’s advice, Hypermnestra saved the life of Lynceus, because he had spared her maidenhead and helped him in his flight to the city of Lyncea, sixty furlongs away.
1. The murdered men’s heads were buried at Lema, and their bodies given full funeral honours below the walls of Argos ….Athene and Hermes purified the Danaids in the Lemaean Lake with Zeus’s permission. Lynceus later killed Danaus, and reigned in his stead.
Meanwhile, Aegyptus had come to Greece, but when he learned lphis sons’ fate, fled to Aroe, where he died, and was buried at Patrae in a sanctuary of Serapis
NOTE ON TEXT — By Robert Graves
l. This myth records the early arrival in Greece of Helladic colonists (from Palestine, by way of Rhodes, and their introduction of agriculture into the Peloponnese. It is claimed that they included emigrants from Lybia and Ethiopia, which seems probable. — Robert Graves The Greek Myths: 1
NOTE ON TEXT — by Anu Mauro
This myth also clearly suggests that the children of Dana-us i.e. the Danaids were of African or Ethiopic origin on both their maternal and paternal sides…note their mothers place origins, as well as the paternal connection with Aegyptus, Cepheus and Belus. –Anu Mauro.
NOTE ON TEXT — by James Brunson
” Throughout the Greek legends, an Africoid or dark-skinned people are associated with Danaus and the Danaids. (The poet) Aeschylus’s, “Suppliant Maidens”, describes the Danides as “Black and smitten by the “sun”. (In the poem) when the Danaids claim an ethnic kinship to Epaphos, son of Zeus, the Argive king Pelops, rebukes them:
Nay, strangers, what ye tell is past belief
For me to hear, that ye from Argos spring
For ye to Libyan women are most like,
And no wise to our native maidens here.””
—- James Brunson : The African Presence in the Ancient Mediterranean: Isles and Mainland Greece Pg. 48 African Presence in Early Europe– Edited by Ivan Van Sertima
NOTE ON TEXT — by Anu Mauro
So this places Ethiopics not only in the early migrant populations that settled in Greece but the Danaid link can also be used to connect Perseus himself to dark skinned Ethiopic elements not to mention Andromeda and her parents . This can be gleaned from the next installment of Greek myth (Part 3) wherein the great-grand father of Perseus, his grandfather as well as his mother are shown to have had Danaaid (hence African) connections.
House of Hades and Hades' Realm Helpers
Hades, who is not the god of death, but of the dead, is Lord of the Underworld. He doesn't manage the limitless Underworld denizens on his own but has many helpers. Some led their earthly lives as mortals -- specifically, those selected as judges others are gods.
- Hades sits on the Underworld throne, in his own "House of Hades", beside his wife, the queen of Hades' realm, Persephone.
- Near them is Persephone's assistant, a powerful goddess in her own right, Hecate.
- One of the attributes of the messenger and commerce god Hermes -- that of Hermes Psychopomp -- puts Hermes in contact with the Underworld on a regular basis.
- Personifications of various sorts reside in the Underworld and some of the creatures of death and the Afterlife appear to be on the periphery.
- Thus the boatman, Charon, who ferries the souls of the deceased across, might not actually be described as inhabiting the Underworld, but the area around it.
- We mention this because people argue over similar matters -- like whether Hercules went all the way to the Underworld when he rescued Alcestis from Death (Thanatos). For non-academic purposes, whatever the shady area in which Thanatos looms may be considered part of the Underworld complex.
*You may see the word katabasis instead of nekuia. Katabasis refers to a descent and can refer to the walk down to the Underworld.
What was the ancient Greeks view on people of African descent? - History
Not Out of Africa
Was Greek Culture Stolen from Africa?
Modern Myth vs. Ancient History
Excerpted from her book:
Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History
Why I wrote the book
In the fall of 1991 I was asked to write a review-article for The New Republic about Martin Bernal's Black Athena and its relation to the Afrocentrist movement. The assignment literally changed my life. Once I began to work on the article I realized that here was a subject that needed all the attention, and more, that I could give to it. Although I had been completely unaware of it, there was in existence a whole literature that denied that the ancient Greeks were the inventors of democracy, philosophy, and science. There were books in circulation that claimed that Socrates and Cleopatra were of African descent, and that Greek philosophy had actually been stolen from Egypt. Not only were these books being read and widely distributed some of these ideas were being taught in schools and even in universities.
Ordinarily, if someone has a theory which involves a radical departure from what the experts have professed, he is expected to defend his position by providing evidence in its support. But no one seemed to think it was appropriate to ask for evidence from the instructors who claimed that the Greeks stole their philosophy from Egypt.
Normally, if one has a question about a text that another instructor is using, one simply asks why he or she is using that book. But since this conventional line of inquiry was closed to me, I had to wait till I could raise my questions in a more public context. That opportunity came in February 1993, when Dr. Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan was invited to give Wellesley's Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial lecture. Posters described Dr. ben-Jochannan as a "distinguished Egyptologist," and indeed that is how he was introduced by the then President of Wellesley College. But I knew from my research in Afrocentric literature that he was not what scholars would ordinarily describe as an Egyptologist, that is a scholar of Egyptian language and civilization. Rather, he was an extreme Afrocentrist, author of many books describing how Greek civilization was stolen from Africa, how Aristotle robbed the library of Alexandria, and how the true Jews are Africans like himself.
After Dr. ben-Jochannan made these same assertions once again in his lecture, I asked him during the question period why he said that Aristotle had come to Egypt with Alexander, and had stolen his philosophy from the Library at Alexandria, when that Library had only been built after his death. Dr. ben-Jochannan was unable to answer the question, and said that he resented the tone of the inquiry. Several students came up to me after the lecture and accused me of racism, suggesting that I had been brainwashed by white historians. But others stayed to hear me out, and I assured Dr. ben-Jochannan that I simply wanted to know what his evidence was: so far as I knew, and I had studied the subject, Aristotle never went to Egypt, and while the date of the Library of Alexandria is not known precisely, it was certainly only built some years after the city was founded, which was after both Aristotle's and Alexander's deaths.
A lecture at which serious questions could not be asked, and in fact were greeted with hostility -- the occasion seemed more like a political rally than an academic event. As if that were not disturbing enough in itself, there was also the strange silence on the part of many of my faculty colleagues. Several of these were well aware that what Dr. ben-Jochannan was saying was factually wrong. One of them said later that she found the lecture so "hopeless" that she decided to say nothing. Were they afraid of being called racists? If so, their behavior was understandable, but not entirely responsible. Didn't we as educators owe it to our students, all our students, to see that they got the best education they could possibly get? And that clearly was what they were not getting in a lecture where they were being told myths disguised as history, and where discussion and analysis had apparently been forbidden.
Good as the myths they were hearing may have made these students feel, so long as they never left the Afrocentric environment in which they were being nurtured and sheltered, they were being systematically deprived of the most important features of a university education. They were not learning how to question themselves and others, they were not learning to distinguish facts from fiction, nor in fact were they learning how to think for themselves. Their instructors had forgotten, while the rest of us sat by and did nothing about it, that students do not come to universities to be indoctrinated --at least in a free society.
Was Socrates Black?
I first learned about the notion that Socrates was black several years ago, from a student in my second-year Greek course on Plato's Apology , his account of Socrates' trial and conviction. Throughout the entire semester the student had regarded me with sullen hostility. A year or so later she apologized. She explained that she thought I had been concealing the truth about Socrates' origins. In a course in Afro-American studies she had been told that he was black, and my silence about his African ancestry seemed to her to be a confirmation of the Eurocentric arrogance her instructor had warned her about. After she had taken my course, the student pursued the question on her own, and was satisfied that I had been telling her the truth: so far as we know, Socrates was ethnically no different from other Athenians.
What had this student learned in her course in Afro-American studies? The notion that Socrates was black is based on two different kinds of inference. The first "line of proof" is based on inference from possibility . Why couldn't an Athenian have African ancestors? That of course would have been possible almost anything is possible . But it is another question whether or not it was probable. Few prominent Athenians claim to have had foreign ancestors of any sort. Athenians were particularly fastidious about their own origins. In Socrates' day, they did not allow Greeks from other city-states to become naturalized Athenian citizens, and they were even more careful about the non-Greeks or barbaroi . Since Socrates was an Athenian citizen, his parents must have been Athenians, as he himself says they were.
Another reason why I thought it unlikely that Socrates and/or his immediate ancestors were foreigners is that no contemporary calls attention to anything extraordinary in his background. If he had been a foreigner, one of his enemies, or one of the comic poets, would have been sure to point it out. The comic poets never missed an opportunity to make fun of the origins of Athenian celebrities. Socrates was no exception he is lampooned by Aristophanes in his comedy the Clouds . If Socrates and/or his parents had had dark skin, some of his contemporaries would have been likely to mention it, because this, and not just his eccentric ideas about the gods, and the voice that spoke to him alone, would have distinguished him from the rest of the Athenians. Unless, of course, he could not be distinguished from other Athenians because they all had dark skin but then if they did, why did they not make themselves bear a closer resemblance the Ethiopians in their art?
Was Cleopatra Black?
Until recently, no one ever asked whether Cleopatra might have had an African ancestor, because our surviving ancient sources identify her as a Macedonian Greek. Her ancestors, the Ptolemies, were descended from one of Alexander's generals. After Alexander's death in 323 B. C., these generals divided up among themselves the territory in the Mediterranean that Alexander had conquered. The name Cleopatra was one of the names traditionally given to women in the royal family officially our Cleopatra (69-30 BC) was Cleopatra VII, the daughter of Ptolemy XII and his sister. Cleopatra VII herself followed the family practice of marrying within the family. She married her two brothers (Ptolemy XIII and XIV) in succession (after the first died in suspicious circumstances, she had the second murdered). Her first language was Greek but she was also the first member of the Ptolemaic line who was able to speak Egyptian. She also wore Egyptian dress, and was shown in art in the dress of the goddess Isis. She chose to portray herself as an Egyptian not because she was Egyptian, but because she was ambitious to stay in power. In her surviving portraits on coins and in sculpture she appears to be impressive rather than beautiful, Mediterranean in appearance, with straight hair and a hooked nose. Of course these portraits on metal and stone give no indication of the color of her skin.
The only possibility that she might not have been a full-blooded Macedonian Greek arises from the fact that we do not know the precise identity of one member of her family tree. We do not know who her grandmother was on her father's side. Her grandmother was the mistress (not the wife) of her grandfather, Ptolemy IX. Because nothing is known about this person, the assumption has always been that she was a Macedonian Greek, like the other members of Ptolemy's court. Like other Greeks, the Ptolemies were wary of foreigners. They kept themselves apart from the native population, with brothers usually marrying sisters, or uncles marrying nieces, or in one case a father marrying his daughter (Ptolemy IX and Cleopatra Berenice III). Because the Ptolemies seemed to prefer to marry among themselves, even incestuously, it has always been assumed that Cleopatra's grandmother was closely connected with the family. If she had been a foreigner, one of the Roman writers of the time would have mentioned it in their invectives against Cleopatra as an enemy of the Roman state. These writers were supporters of Octavian (later known as Augustus) who defeated Cleopatra's forces in the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.
Does Racial Identity Matter?
The question of race matters only insofar as it is necessary to show that no classicists or ancient historians have tried to conceal the truth about the origins of the Greek people or the ancestry of certain famous ancient figures. It has been suggested that classicists have been reluctant to ask questions about Greek origins, and that we have been so "imbued with conventional preconceptions and patterns of thought" that we are unlikely to question the basic premises of our discipline. But even though we may be more reluctant to speculate about our own field than those outside it might be, none of us has any cultural "territory" in the ancient world that we are trying to insulate from other ancient cultures.
Did ancient Greek religion and culture derive from Egypt?
The idea that Greek religion and philosophy has Egyptian origins derives, at least in part, from the writings of ancient Greek historians. In the fifth century BC Herodotus was told by Egyptian priests that the Greeks owed many aspects of their culture to the older and vastly impressive civilization of the Egyptians. Egyptian priests told Diodorus some of the same stories four centuries later. The church fathers in the second and third centuries AD also were eager to emphasize the dependency of Greece on the earlier cultures of the Egyptians and the Hebrews. They were eager to establish direct links between their civilization and that of Egypt because Egypt was a vastly older culture, with elaborate religious customs and impressive monuments. But despite their enthusiasm for Egypt and its material culture (an enthusiasm that was later revived in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe), they failed to understand Egyptian religion and the purpose of many Egyptian customs.
Classical scholars tend to be skeptical about the claims of the Greek historians because much of what these writers say does not conform to the facts as they are now known from the modern scholarship on ancient Egypt. For centuries Europeans had believed that the ancient historians knew that certain Greek religious customs and philosophical interests derived from Egypt. But two major discoveries changed that view. The first concerned a group of ancient philosophical treatises attributed to Hermes Trismegistus these had throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance been thought of as Egyptian and early. But in 1614 the French scholar Isaac Casaubon demonstrated that the treatises were actually late and basically Greek. The second discovery was the decipherment of hieroglyphics, the official system of Egyptian writing, completed by 1836. Before decipherment, scholars had been compelled to rely on Greek sources for their understanding of Egyptian history and civilization. Once they were able to read real Egyptian texts, and could disregard the fanciful interpretations of hieroglyphics that had been circulating since late antiquity, it became clear to them that the relation of Egyptian to Greek culture was less close than they had imagined. Egyptian belonged to the Afroasiatic language family, while Greek was an Indo-European language, akin to Sanskrit and European languages like Latin.
On the basis of these new discoveries, European scholars realized that they could no longer take at face value what Herodotus, Diodorus, and the Church fathers had to say about Greece's debt to Egypt. Once it was possible to read Egyptian religious documents, and to see how the Egyptians themselves described their gods and told their myths, scholars could see that the ancient Greeks' accounts of Egyptian religion were superficial, and even misleading. Apparently Greek writers, despite their great admiration for Egypt, looked at Egyptian civilization through cultural blinkers that kept them from understanding any practices or customs that were significantly different from their own. The result was a portrait of Egypt that was both astigmatic and deeply Hellenized. Greek writers operated under other handicaps as well. They did not have access to records there was no defined system of chronology. They could not read Egyptian inscriptions or question a variety of witnesses because they did not know the language. Hence they were compelled to exaggerate the importance of such resemblances as they could see or find.
Did the theory of the transmigration of souls come from Egypt?
Because he tended to rely on such analogies as he could find, Herodotus inevitably made some false conjectures. Herodotus thought that Pythagoras learned about the transmigration of souls from Egypt, when in fact the Egyptians did not believe in the transmigration of souls, as their careful and elaborate burial procedures clearly indicate. Herodotus tells us that he wrote down what the Egyptians told him but when they spoke, what did he hear? Since he did not know Egyptian, his informants could have been Greeks living in the Greek colony of Naucratis in the Nile Delta, or Egyptians who knew some Greek. How well-informed were his informants? On the question of origins, at least, it seems that neither group had any more than a superficial understanding of the other's culture. Perhaps someone explained to him about the Egyptian "modes of existence," in which a human being could manifest itself both materially, or immaterially, as ka or ba or a name, and that death was not an end, but a threshold leading to a new form of life. Belief in these varied modes of existence required that bodies be preserved after death, hence the Egyptian practice of mummification. Greeks, on the other hand, believed that the soul was separated from the body at death, and disposed of bodies either by burial or cremation. In any case, there is no reason to assume that Pythagoras or other Greeks who believed in transmigration, like the Orphics and/or the philosopher-poet Empedocles, got their ideas from anyone else: notions of transmigration have developed independently in other parts of the world.
Did Plato Study in Egypt?
Plato never says in any of his writings that he went to Egypt, and there is no reference to such a visit in the semi-biographical Seventh Epistle. But in his dialogues he refers to some Egyptian myths and customs. Plato, of course, was not a historian, and the rather superficial knowledge of Egypt displayed in his dialogues, along with vague chronology, is more characteristic of historical fiction than of history. In fact, anecdotes about his visit to Egypt only turn up in writers of the later Hellenistic period. What better way to explain his several references to Egypt than to assume that the author had some first-hand knowledge of the customs he describes? For authors dating from the fourth century and earlier, ancient biographers were compelled to use as their principal source material the author's own works. Later biographers add details to the story of Plato's Egyptian travels in order to provide aetiologies for the "Egyptian" reference in his writings. The most ironic anecdote of all is preserved by Clement of Alexandria: Plato studied in Egypt with Hermes the "Thrice Great" (Trismegistus). This is tantamount to saying that Plato studied with himself after his death . The works of Hermes could not have been written without the conceptual vocabulary developed by Plato and Aristotle, and is deeply influenced not just by Plato, but by the writings of Neoplatonist philosophers in the early centuries AD. In any case, whoever these teachers were, Plato seems never to have learned from them anything that is characteristically Egyptian, at least so far as we know about Egyptian theology from Egyptian sources. Instead, Plato's notion of the Egyptians remains similar to that of other Athenians he did not so much change the Athenian notion of Egyptian culture as enrich and idealize it, so that it could provide a dramatic and instructive contrast with Athenian customs in his dialogues.
Was there ever such a thing as an "Egyptian Mystery System?"
Even after nineteenth-century scholars had shown that the reports of Greek visitors to Egypt misunderstood and misrepresented what they saw, the myth that Greek philosophy derived from Egypt is still in circulation. The notion of an Egyptian legacy was preserved in the literature and ritual of Freemasonry. It was from that source that Afrocentrists learned about it, and then sought to find confirmation for the primacy of Egypt over Greece in the fantasies of ancient writers. In order to show that Greek philosophy is in reality stolen Egyptian philosophy, Afrocentrist writers assume that there was in existence from earliest times an "Egyptian Mystery System," which was copied by the Greeks. The existence of this "Mystery System" is integral to the notion that Greek philosophy was stolen, because it provides a reason for assuming that Greek philosophers had a particular reason for studying in Egypt, and for claiming that what they later wrote about in Greek was originally Egyptian philosophy. But in reality, the notion of an Egyptian Mystery System is a relatively modern fiction, based on ancient sources that are distinctively Greek , or Greco-Roman, and from the early centuries AD.
In their original form, ancient mysteries had nothing to do with schools or particular courses of study rather, the ritual was intended to put the initiate into contact with the divinity, and if special preparation or rituals were involved, it was to familiarize the initiate with the practices and liturgy of that particular cult. The origin of the connection of Mysteries to education in fact dates only to the eighteenth century. It derives from a particular work of European fiction, published in 1731. This was the three-volume work Sethos, a History or Biography, based on Unpublished Memoirs of Ancient Egypt , by the Abbé Jean Terrasson (1670-1750), a French priest, who was Professor of Greek at the Collège de France. Although now completely forgotten, the novel was widely read in the eighteenth century..Of course Terrasson did not have access to any Egyptian information about Egypt, since hieroglyphics were not to be deciphered until more than a century later.
Why claim that Greek philosophy was stolen from Egypt?
Perhaps the most influential Afrocentrist text is Stolen Legacy , a work that has been in wide circulation since its publication in 1954. Its author, George G. M. James, writes that "the term Greek philosophy, to begin with is a misnomer, for there is no such philosophy in existence." He argues that the Greeks "did not possess the native ability essential to the development of philosophy." Rather, he states that "the Greeks were not the authors of Greek philosophy, but the Black people of North Africa, The Egyptians." It is not hard to understand why James wishes to give credit for the Greek achievement to the Egyptians, even if there is little or no historical foundation for his claims. Like the other nationalistic myths, the story of a "Stolen Legacy" both offers an explanation for past suffering, and provides a source of ethnic pride.
But although the myth may encourage and perhaps even "empower" African-Americans, its use has a destructive side, which cannot and should not be overlooked. First of all, it offers them a "story" instead of history. It also suggests that African-Americans need to learn only what they choose to believe about the past. But in so doing, the Afrocentric myth seeks to shelter them from learning what all other ethnic groups must learn, and indeed, face up to, namely the full scope of their history.
What people on earth have had a completely glorious history? While we point to the great achievements of the Greeks, anyone who has studied ancient Greek civilization knows that they also made terrible and foolish mistakes. Isn't treating African-Americans differently from the rest of humankind just another form of segregation and condescension? Implied discrimination is the most destructive aspect of Afrocentrism, but there are other serious problems as well. Teaching the myth of the Stolen Legacy as if it were history robs the ancient Greeks and their modern descendants of a heritage that rightly belongs to them. Why discriminate against them when discrimination is the issue? In addition, the myth deprives the ancient Egyptians of their proper history and robs them of their actual legacy. The Egypt of the myth of the Stolen Legacy is a wholly European Egypt, as imagined by Greek and Roman writers, and further elaborated in eighteenth-century France. Ancient Egyptian civilization deserves to be remembered (and respected) for what it was, and not for what Europeans, ancient and modern, have imagined it to be.
What is the evidence for a "Stolen Legacy?"
James's idea of ancient Egypt is fundamentally the imaginary "Mystical Egypt" of Freemasonry. He speaks of grades of initiation. In these Mysteries, as the Freemasons imagined them, Neophyte initiates must learn self-control and self-knowledge. He believes that Moses was an initiate into the Egyptian mysteries, and that Socrates reached the grade of Master Mason. In his description of the Greek philosophy, he emphasizes the Four Elements that play such a key role in Terrasson's Memphis and Masonic initiation ceremonies. He speaks of the Masonic symbol of the Open Eye, which based on an Egyptian hieroglyph but in Masonry has come specifically to represent the Master Mind. As in the University/Mystery system invented by Terrasson, Egyptian temples are used as libraries and observatories.
What then are the Greeks supposed to have stolen from the Egyptians? Are there any texts in existence that be found to verify the claim that Greek philosophy was stolen from Egypt? How was the "transfer" of Egyptian materials to Greece accomplished? If we examine what James says about the way in which the "transfer" was supposed to have been carried out, we will find that that few or no historical data can be summoned to support it. In fact, in order to construct his argument, James overlooked or ignored much existing evidence.
Did Aristotle raid the Library at Alexandria?
No ancient source says that Alexander and Aristotle raided the Library at Alexandria. That they do not do so is not surprising, because it is unlikely that Aristotle ever went there. Aristotle was Alexander's tutor when Alexander was young, but he did not accompany him on his military campaign. Even if he had gone there, it is hard to see how he could have stolen books from the library in Alexandria. Although Alexandria was founded in 331 BC, it did not begin to function as a city until after 323. Aristotle died in 322. The library was assembled around 297 under the direction of Demetrius of Phaleron, a pupil of Aristotle's. Most of the books it contained were in Greek.
Did Aristotle plagiarize Egyptian sources?
If Aristotle had stolen his ideas from the Egyptians, as James asserts, James should be able to provide parallel Egyptian and Greek texts showing frequent verbal correspondences. As it is, he can only come up with a vague similarity between two titles. One is Aristotle's treatise On the Soul , and the other the modern English name of a collection of Egyptian texts, The Book of the Dead . These funerary texts, which the Egyptians themselves called the Book of Coming Forth by Day , are designed to protect the soul during its dangerous journey through Duat, the Egyptian underworld, on its way to life of bliss in the Field of Reeds. Both Aristotle and the Egyptians believed in the notion of a "soul." But there the similarity ends. Even a cursory glance at a translation of the Book of the Dead reveals that it is not a philosophical treatise, but rather a series of ritual prescriptions to ensure the soul's passage to the next world. It is completely different from Aristotle's abstract consideration of the nature of the soul. James fails to mention that the two texts cannot be profitably compared, because their aims and methods are so different. Instead, he accounts for the discrepancy by claiming that Aristotle's theory is only a "very small portion" of the Egyptian "philosophy" of the soul, as described in the Egyptian Book of the Dead . On that basis, one could claim that any later writer plagiarized from any earlier writer who touched on the same subject. But why not assume instead that the later writer was influenced by the earlier writer, or even came up with the some of the same ideas independently, especially if those ideas are widespread, like the notion that human beings have souls?
James also alleges that Aristotle's theory of matter was taken from the so-called Memphite Theology. The Memphite Theology is a religious document inscribed on a stone tablet by Egyptian priests in the eighth century BC, but said to have been copied from an ancient papyrus. The archaic language of the text suggests that the original dates from sometime in the second millennium BC. According to James, Aristotle took from the Memphite theology his doctrine that matter, motion, and time are eternal, along with the principle of opposites, and the concept of the unmoved mover. James does not say how Aristotle would have known about this inscription, which was at the time located in Memphis and not in the Library of Alexandria, or explain how he would have been able to read it. But even if Aristotle had had some way of finding out about it, he would have had no use for it in his philosophical writings. The Memphis text, like the Egyptian Book of the Dead , is a work of a totally different character from any of Aristotle's treatises.
The Memphite text describes the creation of the world as then known (that is, Upper and Lower Egypt). It relates how Ptah's mind (or "heart") and thought (or "tongue") created the universe and all living creatures in it: "for every word of the god came about through what the heart devised and the tongue commanded." From one of his manifestations, the primordial waters of chaos, the sun-god Atum was born. When Ptah has finished creating the universe, he rests from his labors: "Ptah was satisfied after he had made all things and all divine words."
In form and in substance this account has virtually nothing in common with Aristotle's abstract theology. In fact, in Metaphysics Book 11, Aristotle discards the traditional notion of a universe that is created by a divinity or divinities, in favor of a metaphysical argument. If there is eternal motion, there is eternal substance, and behind that, an immaterial and eternal source of activity, whose existence can be deduced from the eternal circular motion of the heavens. The source of this activity is what is called in English translation the "unmoved mover."All that this theory has in common with the Memphite theology is a concern with creation of the universe. On the same insubstantial basis, it would be possible to argue that Aristotle stole his philosophy from the story of creation in the first book of Genesis.
Is there a diversity of truths?
There are of course many possible interpretations of the truth, but some things are simply not true. It is not true that there was no Holocaust. There was a Holocaust, although we may disagree about the numbers of people killed. Likewise, it is not true that the Greeks stole their philosophy from Egypt rather, it is true that the Greeks were influenced in various ways over a long period of time by their contact with the Egyptians. But then, what culture at any time has not been influenced by other cultures, and what exactly do we mean by "influence"? If we talk about Greek philosophy as a "Stolen Legacy," which the Greeks swiped from Egyptian universities, we are not telling the truth, but relating a story, or a myth, or a tall tale. But if we talk about Egyptian influence on Greece, we are discussing an historical issue.
In historical and scientific discussions it is possible to distinguish degrees, and to be more or less accurate. As a classicist, I may overemphasize the achievement of the Greeks because I do not know enough about the rest of the Mediterranean world Egyptologists may be inclined to make the same mistake in the opposite direction. We recognize that no historian can write without some amount of bias that is why history must always be rewritten. But not all bias amounts to distortion, or is equivalent to indoctrination. If I am aware that I am likely to be biased for any number of reasons, and try to compensate for them, the result should be very different in quality and character from what I would say if I were consciously setting about to achieve a particular political goal.
Drawing a clear distinction between motivations and evidence has a direct bearing on the question of academic freedom. When it comes to deciding what one can or cannot say in class the question of ethnicity or of motivations, whether personal or cultural, is or ought to be irrelevant. What matters is whether what one says is supported by facts and evidence, texts or formulae. The purpose of diversity, at least in academe, is to ensure that instruction does not become a vehicle for indoctrinating students in the values of the majority culture, or for limiting the curriculum to the study of the history and literature of the majority culture. That means that it is essential for a university to consider developments outside of Europe and North America, and to assess the achievements of non-European cultures with respect and sympathy.
It is another question whether or not diversity should be applied to the truth. Are there, can there be, multiple, diverse "truths?" If there are, which "truth" should win? The one that is most loudly argued or most persuasively phrased? Diverse "truths are possible only if "truth" is understood to mean something like "point of view." But even then not every point of view, no matter how persuasively it is put across, or with what intensity it is argued, can be equally valid. The notion of diversity does not extend to truth.
Students of the modern world may think it is a matter of indifference whether or not Aristotle stole his philosophy from Egypt. They may believe that even if the story is not true, it can be used to serve a positive purpose. But the question, and many others like it, should be a matter of serious concern to everyone, because if you assert that he did steal his philosophy, you are prepared to ignore or to conceal a substantial body of historical evidence that proves the contrary. Once you start doing that, you can have no scientific or even social-scientific discourse, nor can you have a community, or a university.
Copyright © 1996 by BasicBooks All Rights Reserved
Mary Lefkowitz is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College. She is the author of many books on ancient Greece and Rome, including Lives of the Greek Poets and Women in Greek Myth , as well as articles for the Wall Street Journal and the New Republic . She is the co-editor of Women's Life in Greece and Rome and Black Athena Revisited.
|Not Out of Africa by Mary Lefkowitz - The book that has sparked widespread debate over the teaching of revisionist history in schools and colleges. Was Socrates black? Did Aristotle steal his ideas from the library in Alexandria? Do we owe the underlying tenets of our democratic civilization to the Africans? Mary Lefkowitz explains why politically motivated histories of the ancient world are being written and shows how Afrocentrist claims blatantly contradict the historical evidence. Not Out of Africa is an important book that protec ts and argues for the necessity of historical truths and standards in cultural education. Purchase from Amazon.com|
What was the ancient Greeks view on people of African descent? - History
The First Americans Were Black Indians of African Descent
Dr. David Imhotep, a respected historian and the first person in the world to hold a Ph.D in Ancient African Ancestry, argues that all humans originated from the continent of Africa and this includes Americans. Most books about American history begin with Cowboys and Indians, but that's not the beginning of American history. An overwhelming amount of evidence supports the fact that there was indeed a presence and legacy of Africans in ancient America.
In his book They Came Before Columbus, historian Ivan Van Sertima examinines navigation and shipbuilding cultural analogies between Native Americans and Africans the transportation of plants, animals, and textiles between the continents and the diaries, journals, and oral accounts of the explorers themselves to support the claim of an African presence in the New World centuries before Christopher Columbus arrive.
Several other historical accounts support this claim. For example, the launching of the great ships of Mali in 1310 (two hundred master boats and two hundred supply boats), the sea expedition of the Mandingo king in 1311, and many others. The unmistakable face and handprint of black Africans in pre-Columbian America, and their overwhelming impact on the civilizations they encountered is undeniable.
In The First Americans Were Africans, Dr. Imhotep also makes this same passionate and comprehensive case for a radical rewrite of orthodox history. He says that by examining the scientific and geological evidence, it can easily be determined that people of African descent were in America before the Vikings or Columbus.
Before Enslavement: Africa’s Ancient Diaspora
BY RUNOKO RASHIDI*
I have argued for many years now that the worst crime that we can commit is to teach our children that our history began with slavery. And yet, this is what many of us do in the Black communities of the Western Hemisphere. When Black History Month rolls around, we tend to celebrate the great heroes and sheroes who emerged after we were taken from Africa to the Americas. In the United States, we love Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass and Langston Hughes and Rosa Parks, and rightfully so. We might even talk Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines of Haiti, and perhaps even Zumbi dos Palmares in Brazil.
But so many of us seem to overlook that Africans had a history before enslavement. Indeed, Africa has an ancient diaspora that has no roots in slavery. This brief article is devoted to an overview of this ancient diaspora and provides a global dimension to Black history that is seldom emphasized and is devoted to the review of what has been referred to as “That Other African.” This is not the stereotypical African savage, but the African that first peopled the earth and gave birth to or significantly influenced the world’s oldest and most magnificent civilizations. This is the African who first entered Asia, Europe, Australia, the Pacific and the early Americas not as slave, but as master.
We now know, based on recent scientific studies of DNA, that modern humanity originated in Africa, that Black people are the world’s original people and that all modern humans can ultimately trace their ancestral roots back to Africa. If not for the primordial migrations of early African people, humanity would have remained physically Africoid, and the rest of the world outside of the African continent absent of human life.
The early African presence in Europe is somewhat well known, particularly the story of the Moors, but the early presence of Black people in Asia, before enslavement, has scarcely been written about. Even today, the presence of Black people in Asia, particularly in India, is often ignored. The Black presence in Australia and the Pacific Islands is largely downplayed from the perspective of being a significant component of the Global African Community, even though there were branches of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA-ACL there, as well as a Black power movement. As for the African presence in the Americas before slavery, in spite of the magnificent works of Ivan Van Sertima and more recent works by such scholars as Michael Imhotep, the idea that people of African heritage were the first visitors to the Americas and that African people contributed mightily to pre-Columbian America has not yet penetrated the popular imagination.
THE AFRICAN PRESENCE IN ASIA
The earliest modern human (Homo sapiens sapiens) populations of Asia were also of African birth. Here we are speaking of the Diminutive Africoids — the extremely important and much romanticized family of Black people phenotypically characterized by: unusually short statures skin complexions that range from yellowish to dark brown tightly curled hair and, in frequent cases (like many other Blacks), steatopygia. They are probably more familiar to us by such pejorative terms as “pygmies,” “negritos” and “negrillos.” Similar peoples who live today in southern Africa have been titled Bushmen.” More accurate names for these latter people are San (translated as “original inhabitants”).
Moving slowly and sporadically from their African birthplace, beginning perhaps 100,000 years ago and continuing through the millennia, untold numbers of Diminutive Africoids began to people Asia. Although they currently exist in limited numbers, and are generally found in heavily forested, barren, isolated or similarly forbidding terrains, the Diminutive Africoids were at one time the supreme lords of the earth. It is indeed unfortunate that the histories of the Diminutive Africoids, including distinct and fundamental contributions to monumental civilizations characterized by agricultural science, metallurgy, advanced scripts and urbanization, are so little understood.
Sumer (the Biblical land of Shinar) was the formative civilizing influence in early West Asia. Flourishing during the third millennium B.C.E., Sumer set the tone and established the guidelines for the kingdoms and empires that succeeded her. Frequently designated as, or linked with, Chaldea and Babylonia, Sumer embraced the Tigris/Euphrates river valley from the base of the Persian Gulf north to Akkad, a distance of about 300 miles.
While Sumer’s many cultural and technical achievements are much celebrated, the important question of her ethnic composition is frequently either glossed over or left out of the discussion altogether. Independent and objective study of the available data, however, reveals the very real question of whether the so-called “problem of Sumerian origins” is actual or artificial. The Sumerians did, after all, refer to themselves as “the Blackheaded people,” and their most powerful and pious leaders, such as Gudea, consistently chose very dark (and preferably black) stone for their statuary representations. There is also no doubt that the oldest and most exalted deity of the Sumerians was Anu, a name that loudly recalls the thriving and widely spread Black civilizers found at history’s dawn in Africa, Asia and even Europe. Eyewitness accounts, religious similarities, linguistic affinities, skeletal evidence, Biblical references, architectural patterns and oral traditions all point to an early African origin for the Sumerians of Iraq.
Elam was the first civilization of Iran (formerly called Persia), and shared Sumer’s eastern border. Diop points to the Africoid presence in early Elam, focusing especially on the region’s artistic and sculptural remains identified by Marcel Dieulafoy from his late 19th century excavations at Susa. The district of Susa was generally thought by the ancients to be the residence and capital city of Memnon — the illustrious Black warrior-king. The heroic story of Memnon — his courage and prowess at the siege of Troy — was one of the most widely circulated and celebrated of antiquity. Memnon is mentioned repeatedly in the works of such writers as Aeschylus, Apollonius of Tyana, Athenaeus, Catullus, Dio Chrysostom, Hesiod, Ovid, Pausanias, Philostratus, Pindar, Quintus of Smyrna, Seneca, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo and Virgil. Arctinus of Miletus composed an epic poem titled Ethiopia in which Memnon was the leading figure.
Phoenicia was the name given by Greeks in the first millennium B.C.E. to the coastal provinces of modern Lebanon and northern Palestine, although occasionally the term seems to have been applied to the entire Mediterranean seaboard from Syria to Palestine. Phoenicia was not considered a nation, in the strict sense of the word, but rather as a chain of coastal cities, of which the most important were Sidon, Byblos, Tyre and Ras Shamra. To the Greeks, the term Phoenician, from the root “Phoenix,” had connotations of “red,” and it is likely that the name was derived from the physical appearance of the people themselves.
The Phoenicians were a coastal branch of the Canaanites, who, according to Biblical traditions, were the brothers of Kush (Ethiopia) and Mizraim (Egypt): members of the Hamite, or Kamite, ethnic family. The Bible says that the Canaanites, Ethiopians and Egyptians were all Black and of Nile Valley origin.
The Arabian Peninsula, first inhabited more than 8,000 years ago, was early populated by Blacks. Before the advent of Islam, southern Arabia already possessed the sacred Kaaba sanctuary, with its black stone, at Makkah. The city of Makkah was considered a holy place and the destination of pilgrims long before the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad himself, who was to unite the whole of Arabia, appears to have had a prominent African lineage. According to al-Jahiz, the guardian of the sacred Kaaba, Abd al-Muttalib, “fathered ten Lords, Black as the night and magnificent.” One of these men was Abdallah, the father of Muhammad. According to tradition, the first Muslim killed in battle was Mihdja — a Black man. Another Black man, Bilal, was such a pivotal figure in the development of Islam that he has been referred to as “a third of the faith.” Many of the earliest Muslim converts were Africans, and a number of the Muslim faithful sought refuge in Ethiopia because of Arabian hostility to Muhammad’s teachings.
The ancient riverine civilization of the Indus Valley (named after one of its largest and most studied sites — Harappa) actually had extensions reaching from the river Oxus in Afghanistan in the north to the Gulf of Gambay in India in the south. The Harappan civilization flourished from about 2200 B.C.E. to approximately 1700 B.C.E. At its height, the Harappans engaged in regular commercial relations with Iraq and Iran. This much we know with certainty. We are equally certain that the founders of the Harappan civilization were Black. This is verifiable through the available physical evidence — skeletal remains, eyewitness accounts preserved in the Rig Veda, artistic and sculptural remains, the regional survival of Dravidian languages (including Brahui, Kurukh and Malto) and the essential role of these languages, which are now being used in the decipherment of the Harappan script. We should also take into account the prominence accorded the mother goddess in the Harappan cities and the sedentary nature of the Harappan people themselves. Walter Fairservis claims that the “Harappans cultivated cotton and perhaps rice, domesticated the chicken and may have invented the game of chess and one of the two of the great early sources of nonmuscle power: the windmill.”
Today, India has the greatest assemblage of Black people in any one country in Asia. I have even argued that India has the greatest concentration of Black people in any single nation in the world. Blacks were the original people of India and today can be seen in the people called Adivasis. They are the ancient people. And the overwhelming proportion of the people today known as Dalits or Untouchables would be sure to be racially profiled if they lived in the United States! Indeed, perhaps the most celebrated Dalit organization in India today is the Dalit Panthers named after the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense formed in the United States in the mid-1960s.
Eastern and Southeastern Asia
Certainly, traces of Blacks have been found in both the prehistoric and historic periods throughout the latitudes of northeastern Asia. A Japanese proverb states that “Half the blood in one’s veins must be black to make a good Samurai.” We also have knowledge, in Japan, of Sakanouye Tamura Maro (ca. 800 C.E.), the Black general who led the Japanese armies into battle against the Ainu. Tamura Maro’s successful generalship ultimately made him the first shogun of Japan.
In China, an Africoid presence is visible from remote antiquity through the major historical periods. The Shang, for example, China’s first dynasty, apparently had a Black background, so much so that the conquering Zhou described them as having “black and oily skin.” The famous Chinese sage, Lao-Tze (ca. 600 B.C.E.), was “black in complexion.” Lao-Tze was described as “marvelous and beautiful as jasper.” Magnificent and ornate temples were erected for him, inside of which he was worshipped like a god.
Funan is the name given by Chinese historians to the earliest kingdom of Southeast Asia. Its builders were a Black people known as Khmers, a name that loudly recalls ancient Kmt (Egypt). In remote antiquity, the Khmers seem to have established themselves throughout a vast area that encompassed Myanmar, Kampuchea, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Emerging during the third century, the kingdom of Funan spread over southern Kampuchea and Vietnam. A Chinese observer described the Funanese men as small and black, and noted the Khmer’s impressive libraries and high regard for scholars.
Following the early kingdom of Funan emerged the far more powerful Black nation states of Angkor in Cambodia and Champa in Vietnam.
The epic story of the African presence in Asia is one of the most exciting and, yet, least known aspects of the Black experience. It spans a period of more than 100,000 years and encompasses the largest single land mass on earth. Although many are startled by the notion, it is absolutely undeniable, that: as the first hominids and modern humans as simple hunter-gatherers and primitive agriculturists as heroic warriors and premier civilizers as sages and priests, poets and prophets, kings and queens as deities and demons of misty legends and shadowy myths and yes, even as servants and slaves, Black people have known Asia intimately from the very beginning. Even today, after an entire series of holocausts and calamities, the numbers of Blacks in Asia approach 200 million. The Black populations of Asia, what they have done and are now doing, are questions that beg and demand serious answers. These answers, which we must diligently seek to supply, cannot be sought merely to satisfy the intellectual curiosity of an elite group, but to further the vision of Pan-Africanism and reunite a family that has been separated far too long.
WEST PAPUAN LEADER-CHIEF BENNY WENDA
THE BLACK PRESENCE IN AUSTRALIA AND MELANESIA
The Black Presence in Australia: Fighting for Survival
Australia was settled at least 50,000 years ago by people who call themselves Blackfellas, and who are usually referred to as the Australian Aborigines. Physically, the Blackfellas are distinguished by straight to wavy hair textures, and dark to near-black complexions. In January 1788, when Britain began using Australia as a prison colony, an estimated 300,000 indigenous people were spread across the continent in about 600 small-scale societies. Each of these communities maintained social, religious and trade connections with its neighbors.
The dumping of British convicts into Australia proved catastrophic for the Blacks. Victims of deliberate poisonings, calculated and systematic slaughters decimated by tuberculosis and syphilis swept away by infectious epidemics their community structures and moral fibers shredded, by the 1930s the Blackfellas had been reduced to a pathetic remnant of about 30,000 people, and perhaps twice that number of mixed descent.
When the continent was invaded by Europeans in the 19th century, the white historians who wrote about Australia invariably included a section on the Blacks, and acknowledged that the original inhabitants of the continent had had a historical role. After 1850, however, few writers referred to the Blacks at all. The Blacks were thought of as a “dying race.” By 1950, general histories of the continent by European-Australians almost never referenced the indigenous people. During this period, the indigenous people, whether part or full blood, were excluded from all major European-Australian institutions, including schools, hospitals and labor unions. They could not vote. Their movements were restricted. They were outcasts in white Australia.
Today, the Blacks of Australia are terribly oppressed, and they remain in a desperate struggle for survival. Recent demographic surveys, for example, show that the Black infant mortality rate is the highest in Australia. The original people have the shoddiest housing and the poorest schools. Their life expectancy is 20 years less than Europeans. Their unemployment rate is six times higher than the national average. Aborigines did not obtain the right to vote in federal elections until 1961, nor the right to consume alcoholic beverages until 1964. They were not officially counted as Australian citizens until after a constitutional amendment in 1967. Today, the indigenous people constitute less than 2 percent of the total Australian population.
West Papua in Melanesia: The Struggle Continues
New Guinea is the biggest and most populous of the islands of Melanesia. Indeed, it is the largest island in the world after Greenland. It is tremendously wealthy in mineral resources, including: uranium, copper, cobalt, silver, gold, manganese, iron and oil. Now split into two by colonial design, New Guinea has until lately contained a racially homogeneous population of 5 to 6 million Africoid people. The eastern half of the island became independent in 1975 under the name of Papua New Guinea. The western half of New Guinea, however, along with a significant portion of the islands’ total population (estimated at 3 to 4 million people), has been seized by Indonesia as its 26th “province.”
For the people of West Papua, (the western part of New Guinea), Indonesia has been and continues to be a brutal and aggressive occupying power. Under Indonesian rule since 1963, the Melanesians have been prone to both physical and cultural genocide. Indonesians generally have a condescending view of Melanesians, who they consider their racial inferiors — except, of course, those who turn away from their own culture and choose to identify with Indonesian cultural values, behavior modes and language. Additionally, members of the Indonesian military and other high government officials possess considerable wealth in West Papua, and are firmly resolved not to share it with the Melanesians.
Melanesians living in the forest communities of West Papua have been subjected to forced labor schemes, while in urban areas Melanesians face overt racial discrimination. A major part of the Indonesian regime’s genocidal policy, in fact, is the physical replacement of Melanesians with Indonesian nationals. This poses the distinct possibility that the Melanesians of West Papua could become a minority in their own country. The struggle of the people of West Papua today is deserving of far more of the world’s attention, particularly the Black world.
AN AFRICAN PRESENCE IN EARLY AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS AND BEFORE SLAVERY
The Olmec were an early people of Meso-America, who settled the Mexican Gulf Coast. This ancient American culture been labeled the first civilization of the western hemisphere, as they surpassed their neighbors in an attempt to settle certain problems of living together — of government, defense, religion, family, property, science and art. In this endeavor, the Olmec laid the foundations of American civilization. No one knows whence the Olmec came or whether they were direct derivatives of the indigenous population but that much of their sculpture, especially the colossal heads, evidences an ancient Africoid presence in the Americas is beyond sane rebuttal. In fact, some scientists have concluded that the Olmec may have originally have been an African settler-colony that conquered the indigenous population of southern Mexico. Others are convinced that the Black presence among the Olmec merely consisted of a small but elite and highly influential community.
Sculptural and skeletal remains found in ancient Olmec sites provide the most conclusive evidence yet discovered concerning the presence of African people in America before Columbus. The most pronounced and widely acknowledged Africoid sculptural representations to appear in the ancient “New World” were produced by the Olmec. Nearly 20 colossal stone heads, weighing 10 to 40 tons, have been unearthed in Olmec sites along the Mexican Gulf Coast. One of the first European-American scientists to comment on the Olmec heads, archaeologist Matthew Stirling, described their facial features as “amazingly Negroid.”
In 1974, Polish craniologist Andrzej Wiercinski informed the Congress of Americanists that skulls from Olmec and other pre-Christian sites in Mexico (Tlatilco, Cerro de las Mesas and Monte Alban) “show a clear prevalence of the total Negroid pattern.”
Other scientists have found a host of cultural parallels between ancient Africans and Native Americans, including architectural patterns and religious practices. As for the latter, some Native American communities worshipped black gods of great antiquity, such as Ekchuah, Quetzalcoatl, Yalahau, Nahualpilli and Ixtliltic, long before the first African slave arrived in the New World.
During his third voyage, Columbus recorded that when he reached Haiti the resident population informed him that Black men from the south and southeast had preceded him to the island. In 1513, Balboa found a colony of Black men on his arrival in Darien, Central American.
All of these facts, buttressed by skeletons and sculptures, make it clear that African people have had a profound presence and influence in the America, before Columbus and before enslavement.
I would argue that if you teach a child that their history started with enslavement you cripple that child, perhaps for life. Indeed, you foster a new form of enslavement, an enslavement of the mind.
Let us not limit our history to the ugliest and most brutal and traumatic part of it. Let us start at the beginning. And that beginning does not begin with slavery. It begins with Black women and men as the masters of their fate and the arbiters of their destiny!
And for those who question the relevance of it all, I leave you with the profound words and wisdom of Nana KwaDavid Whitaker, who says: “What you do for yourself depends on what you think of yourself. And what you think of yourself depends on what you know of yourself. And what you know of yourself depends on what you have been told.” Well stated, Nana Whitaker. It is a clarion call and a profound philosophy of history, and I can think of no better words to end our overview here of Africa’s ancient diaspora, the African diaspora before slavery.
Greek philosophers who came to Africa to study.
Today many Africans trek to Europe and other places to study and work, but the reverse was true in the past when other nationals braced the peril of the seas and deserts to come to study in Africa. These included European intellectual and cultural icons who sat at the feet of African masters and went back to their native lands to spread the light they had seen from the so-called "dark continent". They came to learn the rudiments of science, mathematics, philosophy and all. But don't expect to find this in orthodox history books. Barima Adu-Asamoa takes us through the records.
It is interesting to note that the ancient Greeks knew much more about the cultural and racial identity of Ancient Egyptians than modern European historians, long before the coming of the Romans, Turks and Arabs. The primary aim of these modern Eurocentric scholars (modern Arab historians included) is to completely expunge black Africans from the "map of human geography" and world history. The ideological position has been, and still is, that nothing came out of Africa but powerless, defenceless, uncivilised, barbaric and primitive peoples and ideas.
If so, why did the great Greek philosophers cross the seas and deserts to study in Africa? Aristotle, one of the greatest of Greek philosophers, wrote in Physiognomonica that "the Ethiopians and Egyptians are very black". Herodotus (also a Greek historian) adds that the ancient Egyptians had "black skin and wooly hair". Why then is ancient Egyptian racial identity critical to Africa's self appraisal?
The logic, according to European hegemony, runs like this: To ascribe one of the world's greatest civilisations-Ancient Egypt-to Africans, undermines the notion of racial superiority necessary for the "Maafa" (European and Arab slave trade in Africa), and its attendant economic, spiritual and psychological onslaught. But Ancient Egypt is prior to Greece as Greece is prior to Rome, and Greece is credited with spreading civilisation in Europe. In his book, The Significance of African History, the African-Caribbean writer, Richard B. Moore, rightly points our that: "The significance of African history is shown . in the very effort to deny anything of the name of history to Africa and the African peoples. For it is logical and apparent that no such undertaking [falsifying African history] would ever have been carried out, and at such length, in order to obscure and bury what is actually of little or no significance."
There is sufficient evidence that the distortion of African history was deliberately planned and executed, and this has reaped dividends for the perpetrators. But to the African, this has led to a lack of self-confidence and a can-do-attitude hence the restoration of African history must be a critical component of an African renaissance.
The African Union should, therefore, create a restoration programme of African history and give it all the necessary importance. This would imply that the government of modern Egypt acknowledges the original creators of Ancient Egyptian civilisation and gives them their due place. It should stop being party to the denial which has gone on for so long. Ancient Egypt was, and still is, the cultural legacy of black Africans, not Arabs who were the last invaders of North Africa.
Indeed when the Muslim General Amr ibn al-As and his army of some 4,000 Arabs, ordered by Caliph Umar to invade Egypt (December 639AD), was asked what to do with the sacred African books found in the libraries of Alexandria and other cities, his reply has stood the test of time: "If its not in the Koran, its not worthy if its in the Koran, it is superfluous burn it." This statement would have shamed the followers of Bilal, the African companion of Prophet Mohammed. This implies that Africa has the moral duty to re-aculturalise all "foreign" cultural elements for its own self-preservation.
During the 18th century, there was a renewed interest by Europe in Egyptian gold and artefacts. This made possible the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone which was found in 1799 at the mouth of the River Nile by members of Napoleons expedition. On the Stone was a decree issued by Ptolemy Ephihanes V in Greek and Medu-Neter which was deciphered by the Frenchman Jean-Francois Champollion who, in turn, while still in Egypt, wrote about what he saw in the temples to his brother Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac.
Jean-Francois died in 1832. His brother, Jacques Joseph, who later became the icon of European Egyptology, published the full text of Jean-Francois' letter in 1883. The Europeans were baffled to discover a first hand account by the Ancient Egyptians themselves, pointing to Negro Egypt. It was at the same time that Europe was enslaving Negro Africans and sending them to the Americas. As a result, Europe could not admit to a Negro Egypt, the source of ancient Greek civilisation, even if the Ancient Egyptians themselves had affirmed this.
Jacques' publication of Jean-Francois' correspondence established a major piece of evidence from a European which should render all suppositions unnecessary regarding Negro Egypt. As early as 233BC (18th Dynasty), the Egyptians continuously represented the two groups of their own race in a manner that could not possibly be con-fused by anybody. Significantly, the order in which the four races then known to the Egyptians (Kemmui, Nahasi, Namou, and Tahmou) are consistently arranged in relation to the god, Horus, also bestowed on them their social hierarchy.
Jean-Francois affirmed this in his letter to his brother. He wrote:
"Right in the valley of Biban-el Moluk we admired like all previous visitors the astonishing freshness of the painting and the fine sculpture of tombs. I had a copy of the peoples represented on the bas-relief. According to legend, they wished to represent the inhabitants of Egypt and those of foreign lands.
"Thus we have before our eyes the images of various races of man known to the Egyptians, established during that early epoch. Men led by Horus, belong to four races the first, the one closest to the god, has a dark red colour, a well proportioned body, kind face, long braided hair, slightly aquiline nose, designated men par excellence.
"There can be no uncertainty about the racial identity of the man who comes next: he belongs to the black race designated Nahasi. 'The third man present a very different aspect his skin colour borders on yellow or tan he has a strong aquiline nose, thick, black pointed beard and wears a short garment of varied colours these called Namou.
"Finally, the last one, what we call the flesh-coloured, a white skin of the most delicate shade, a nose straight or slightly arched, blue eyes, blond or red bearded, tall stature, very slender and clad in hairy ox-skin, a veritable savage tattooed on various parts of his body, he is called Tahmou.
"I hasten to seek the tableau corresponding to this one in the other royal tombs and, as a matter of fact I found several, convincing me of that fact that the Egyptians were representing namely: (1) Egyptian, (2) Black Africans, (3) Asians, (4) finally (and I am ashamed to say so, since our race is the last and most savage in the series) Europeans, who in those remote epoch, frankly did not cut too fine a figure in the world.
"This manner of viewing the tableau is accurate, because on the other tombs, the same generic names reappear always in the same order. We find there, Egyptians and Africans represented in the same way, which could not be otherwise but Namou (the Asian) and Tahmou (Indo-Europeans) present significant and curious variants.
"I certainly did not expect, on arriving here to find sculptures that could serve as vignettes for history of primitive Europeans, if ever one has the courage to attempt it. Nevertheless, there is something flattering and consoling in seeing them, since they make us appreciate the progress we have subsequently achieved."
Amazing stuff, especially coming from a European.
There are two parts to the word "philosophy" as it comes to us from the Greek: "Philo" meaning brother or lover and "Sophia" meaning wisdom or wise. Thus, a philosopher is called a "lover of wisdom". The origin of "Sophia" is clearly in the African language, Mdu Neter, the language of Ancient Egypt, where the word "Seba", meaning "the wise" appears first in 2052BC in the tomb of Antef I, long before the existence of Greece or Greek.
The word became "Sebo" in Coptic, and "Sophia" in Greek. As to "philosopher", the lover of wisdom that is precisely what is meant by "Seba", the wise, in ancient tomb writings of the Ancient Egyptians. By all Greek and ancient accounts, philosophy as we know it, began first with the black Africans around 2800BC-that is, 2,200 years before the appearance of the first so-called Greek philosopher.
Learning was until the modern age pointed to Africa where higher education began. It is here that the seven "Liberal Arts" originated from-the Ancient Egyptian mystical teachings which formed the basis of the priesthood, the custodians of learning.
Each novitiate had to be up to speed with the 42 Books of Hermes specialising in mathematics, hieroglyphics, etc, followed by applied science revealed by the monuments, engineering, and social science such as geography and economics.
From the writings of Diodorus, Herodotus, and Clement of Alexandria (all of whom visited Egypt), we learn that there were six orders of the African priesthood, and in procession they appear as such.
First comes the "singer" (including royal praise singers) bearing an instrument of music (mbira-still in use in Africa). Next comes the Horoscopus carrying the horologium or sun-dial (the Zodiac sign was first invented in Egypt the first known zodiac was looted by Napoleon, it now hangs in the Musee du Louvre, Paris) followed by the Hierogrammat with feathers on their heads and papyrus (books) in their right hands, and the Pastophori carrying the symbol of the coiled serpent (or the original caduceus, the medical symbol). Next comes the Stolistes carrying a cubit of justices and a libation vessel. Then comes the Prophet carrying a vessel of water.
* Imhotep, 2700BC, was the first known recorded philosopher. Much of his writings have been looted or lost, but we know he was the builder of the first pyramid at Saqqara. Imhotep was also the first recorded physician, the first architect, and the first counsellor to a king recorded in history. The reports of his life and work on the walls of temples and in books indicate the esteem in which he was held. Among other notable African philosophers are:
* Ptahhotep, 2414BC, the first ethical philosopher. He believed that life consisted of making harmony and peace with nature. All discourse on the relationship between humans and nature must give credit to the life of Ptahhotep.
* Kagemni, 2300BC, the first teacher of right action for the sake of goodness rather than personal advantage. He came upon the human scene as an African philosopher nearly 1,800 years before Buddha.
* Merikare, 1990BC, he valued the art of good speech. His classical teachings on good speech were recorded and passed down from generation to generation.
* Sehotep-ibra, 1991BC, the first philosopher who espoused a sort of nationalism based on allegiance and loyalty to a political leader.
* Amen-emhat, 1991BC, the world's first cynic. He expressed a cynical view of intimates and friends, warning that one must not trust those who are close to you.
* Amenhotep, son of Hepu, 1400BC, was the most revered of the ancient Kemetic philosophers. He was considered the "son of God", a master-saint long before Jesus.
* Duauf, 1340BC, was seen as the master of protocols. He was concerned with reading books for wisdom, the first intellectual in the history of philosophy.
Thales of Miletus is considered the first Western philosopher. He travelled to Kemet as state by himself and advised his students to go to Africa to study. Deodorise Siculus, the Greek writer, came to Africa and stayed at Anu in Egypt. He admitted that many who are "celebrated among the Greeks for intelligence and learning" studied in Egypt.
When Africans finished building the pyramids in 2500BC, it was 1,700 years before Homer, the first Greek writer, began writing The Iliad, the European classic. Homer is said to have spent seven years in Africa, and studied law, philosophy, religion, astronomy, and politics. Many of the great European philosophers studied in Africa because it was the educational capital of the ancient world. Pythagoras is known to have spent over 20 years in Africa. When Socrates wrote of his studies in the book Bucyrus, he admitted categorically: "I studied philosophy and medicine in Egypt." He did not study these subjects in Greece, but in Africa!
In the area of medicine, the Africans (Ancient Egyptians) wrote such medical books as the Hearst Papyrus (7th Dynasty 2000BC), the Kahun Papyrus (12th and 13th Dynasty 2133-1766BC) which contains gynaecological treatments, and the Ebers Papyrus (18th Dynasty 1500BC).
On the walls of the Temple of Kom Ombo, they left records of the original medical tools they used in their operations. These tools consist of forceps, aircups, knives, sponge, scissors, triceps, a balance to weigh portions of medicine, retractor to separate skin, birthing or delivery chair, and the origin of the modern-day RX prescription symbol.
In 47BC, the medical doctors in ancient Kemet delivered Cleopatra VII's son named Caesarion ("Little Caesar"). The medical procedure performed by these African doctors in the BC era to deliver this boy-child was named after Little Ceasar, from which we now have the medical term "Caesarean Section".
When African doctors were writing these medical texts and performing all these medical operations, Hippocrates, the Greek (now said to be the "father of medicine") was not yet born, until 333BC, almost 2,000 years later.
Recently, Dr Jackie Campbell, a member of a British research team from the KNH Centre for Biological Egyptology at the University of Manchester, who examined medical papyri dating back to the 1500BC era-a whole 1,000 years before the birth of Hippocrates-affirmed that: "Classical scholars have always considered the Ancient Greeks, particularly Hippocrates, as being the fathers of medicine, but our findings suggest that the Ancient Egyptians were practising a credible form of pharmacy and medicine much earlier."
Imhotep, the world's first recorded multi-genius" is the real "father of medicine". He was born in 2800BC, so instead of modern doctors taking the derived Hippocratic Oath, medical students today should take the true, original Imhotep Oath.
The renowned African-American scholar, Molefi Kete Asante, states in his classic book, Ancient Egyptian Philosophers. "When the Egyptians crossed the Mediterranean, becoming the foundation of the Greek culture, Imhotep's teachings were absorbed there. Yet as the Greeks were determined to assert that they were the originators of everything, Imhotep was forgotten for thousands of years and a legendary figure, Hippocrates, who came 2,000 years after him became known as the Father of Medicine."
As a philosopher, Imhotep is credited with having written the slogan: "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die."
In the arena of city planning, the Africans/Kemites invented the concept of a province or district which they called a "Nome" there were 42 Nomes in ancient Kemet. The Greeks would later call these, "city states".
After the death of Aristotle, his Athenian pupils undertook to compile a history f philosophy, recognised at that time as the Sophia Wisdom of e Egyptians, which had become current and traditional in the ancient world. This history was later erroneously called Greek philosophy.
In fact, the mathematical system that is the spinal cord of the computer in our AD era was invented by the Kemites in the BC era-ie, the Binary mathematical system. These facts, therefore, prove that we cannot have a world of today and even a Europe of today if we did not have a Kemer ('land of the blacks", as Ancient Egyptians called their land) of yesterday in Africa.
Almost every Greek philosopher worth his salt, from the Ionian school consisting of Thales, Athenian school spent time in Africa or their tutors were taught by African philosophers. After nearly 3,000 years of prohibition against the Greeks, they were allowed to enter Kemer to study. This was made possible, first, through the Persian invasion and, secondly, through the invasion of Alexander the Great (from the 6th century BC) to the death of Aristotle (322 BC). When Egypt came under Roman control, they looted and ransacked the great libraries of Egypt in 1798 AD. Indeed, Democritus, another Greek historian, accused his fellow Greek, Anaxagoras, of having "stolen" the Egyptian mystical teachings on the sun and moon, and passed it round as his.
The death of Aristotle, who had inherited a vast quantity of books from the libraries of Egypt through his friendship with Alexander the Great, was naturally followed by the death of Greek philosophy which degenerated into a system of borrowed ideas, known by themselves as eclecticism.
The compilation of Greek philosophy (if not at the instigation of Aristotle himself, certainly students of his school) was not authorised by the Greek government which persecuted the Greek philosophers since it considered philosophy as African and foreign to Greek sensibilities, and thus could lead to the corruption of the youth.
As a result, Anaxagoras was indicted and fled from prison to exile in Ionia. Socrates was also executed for exhibiting some of the qualities mandatory for initiation into ancient African mystical teachings. Plato was also persecuted and fled to Megara for refuge.
* Thales of Miletus (624-547 BC): He left his country and studied with the wise men of Egypt, but was taken captive when the Persian king Cambyses invaded Ancient Egypt. His belief in reincarnation was formulated in Africa, a belief which is still prevalent in modern Africa, before the advent of Islam and Christianity. At the end of the sixth century, Thales lived in the city of Miletus, now western Turkey. According to Herodotus, Thales was of Phoenician descent. He moved to southern Italy, where he founded a community of philosophers. The Greek scholar, Iamblichus, wrote that Thales made it clear to Pythagoras that he (Pythagoras) had to go to Memphis, in Egypt, to study. Thales added that if the source of his knowledge came from his studies and tutelage under African masters in Egypt, Pythagoras could not afford not to go there.
Plato also records that Thales was educated in Egypt under the priests: "Thales was well and truly indebted to Egypt for his education." The science of geometry was invented in Africa by Africans, and Thales transferred the speculative science of geometry to Greece.
* Socrates: (469-399 BC): St. Clement of Alexandria, the Greek, stated that "if you were to write a book of 1,000 pages, you could not put down the names of all the Greeks who went to the Nile Valley in Ancient Egypt to be educated, and even those who did not go claim they went because it was prestigious". Socrates lived in Athens and wrote nothing himself, he was interested in ethics. It was his axiom that no one would knowingly do a bad thing. So knowledge was important, because it resulted in good behaviour, yet through his pupil Plato, Socrates has influenced the entire history of Western thought, culture and morality.
He travelled to Africa for his early education and was the most spiritually bent amongst the Greek philosophers that came to Africa. He was falsely accused and condemned to death at 70 years of age for "corrupting the youth of Athens" by drinking a cup of hemlock.
While awaiting condemnation in prison, he admitted to his pupils that he plagiarised (if not word for word) the work of the African philosopher, Aesop, the Ethiopian (560BC). Said Socrates: "I availed myself of some of Aesop's fables which were ready to hand and familiar to me and I versified the first of them that suggested themselves." He is credited with the axiom: "Man know thyself" (in Greek Hellenic language, "qnothi seauton"). The truth is that the original glory of these words were already written by ancient Africans on the outside walls of temples some 2,000 years before Socrates came to learn its spiritual import. He stayed for over 10 years in Africa, according to his own biography.
* Plato (428-347BC). He was one of Socrates' pupils and many of his writings (called "dialogues") contained conversations with Socrates. Plato's most famous work, The Republic, was chiefly concerned with the best form of life for men and states. He died aged 81 and was buried in Athens at the Academy, a school which he founded. Most of his doctrines are electric and point to Ancient Egyptian source. He copied his so-called four virtues: wisdom, justice, courage and temperance from the original African (Ancient Egyptian) spiritual belief system which contained 10 virtues. The Greeks re-named this belief system the "Mystery System".
After the death of socrates, Plato left for Egypt where he studied for a period of 13 years. His mentor was Sechnuphis (or Snefuru), a scholar and philosopher priest of Anu (Heliopolis). Strabo, the Greek historian who latter travelled through Egypt, states that his "Egyptian guide showed him where Plato had lived, it was how Plato learned the fable of Thoth (Djuhuti-African god of wisdom and sacred text) and Amun, which he wrote down in Phaedros".
* Pythagoras (5582-500BC). A native of Samos, he was born in circa 572BC. Like his contemporaries, he journeyed in his youth to Egypt where he studied for almost 15 years. He travelled to Egypt for the purpose of education, and took advantage of the friendship between his follow Greek Polycrates and Pharaoh Amasis. Polycrates gave Pythagoras a letter of introduction to Pharaoh Amasis. He pursued studies in astronomy, geometry, and theology under the tutelage of Egyptian priests.
However, more than 1,000 years before him, Africans (Ancient Egyptians) had correctly calculated the areas of rectangles, triangles, isosceles, trapeziums, and the area of a circle had also been obtained accurately. Iamblichus, a fellow Greek philosopher recorded in The Life of Pythagoras: "Thales laying stress on his advance age and the infirmities of the body, advised (Pythagoras) to go to Egypt to get in touch with the priests of Memphis (Menefa). Thales confessed that the instruction of these priests was the source of his own reputation for wisdom, while neither his own endowments nor achievement equaled those which were evident in Pythagoras. Thales insisted that, in view of all this, he (Pythagoras) should study with those priests, he was certain of becoming the wisest and most divine."
The Pythagorean Theorem is a theorem stating that the square of the hypotensue of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. Pythagoras travelled to Africa and was taught geometry by his African teachers (high priests) and was shown the proof of the theorem of the square on the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle. Africans had been using this principle for over 1,000 years before Pythagoras set foot on the continent. He did not discover this proof and it is therefore misleading to name the theorem after him (Herodotus Bk III, Diogenes BK VII).
* Aristotle (385-322BC). A pupil of Plato's, Aristotle was born in Thracia (now mostly Bulgaria) and joined Plato's Academy at the age of 18. After Plato's death, Aristotle left Athens and was afterwards invited by Philip of Macedonia to be a tutor to his son Alexander (who became Alexander the Great). Years later, Aristotle returned to Athens to found a rival School, the Lyceum, where he laid the foundations of various sciences including biology and zoology.
Aristotle's works include Metaphysics and Ethics. His main works are Prior Analytics (in which he described the rules of logic), Physics, Animal History, Rhetorics, Poetics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, and Politics. Considered by modern Western scholars as the most influential philosopher of all ages and the founder of modern science, he is supposed to have spent over 20 years as a pupil under Plato.
He accompanied Alexander the Great when he invaded and conquered Egypt. He is credited with writing 1,000 books on different subjects, a sheer impossibility for any individual in a lifetime.
* The Unmoved Mover (proton kinoun akineton): This doctrine, like the many others that the Greek appropriated, has been ascribed to Aristotle where he proves the existence of God. But according to the African-American writer, George G. M. James in his book Stolen Legacy, the "Unmoved Mover" is the essential trust of the sacred African text recorded Mover" is the essential trust of the sacred African text recorded in "The Memphite Theology" thousands of years before Aristotle was born.
It is the first recorded story of creation known in the world, now kept in the British Museum. During the region of Pharaoh Shabaka, the Nubian king, now Sudan, he ordered a copy of this story to be recorded on a slab, referred to as the "Shabaka Stone". It is from this theology that Aristotle derived and plagiarised his concept of the "Unmoved Mover".
The Memphite Theology is an African authoritative statement that contains the cosmology, theology and philosophy of the Ancient Egyptians (older than any religious text in the history of humanity) and should form the basis of classic African philosophy and taught in our universities, and not the carbon copies from Greece and elsewhere. The achievements of our forebears to the advancement of humanity need to be reclaimed, for it underscores how the world measures and values us.
Did the ancient Greeks get their ideas from the Africans?
It's well-documented that classical Greek thinkers traveled to what we now call Egypt to expand their knowledge. When the Greek scholars Thales, Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and others traveled to Kemet, they studied at the temple-universities Waset and Ipet Isut. Here, the Greeks were inducted into a wide curriculum that encompassed both the esoteric as well as the practical.
Thales was the first to go to Kemet. He was introduced to the Kemetic Mystery System -- the knowledge that formed the basis of the Kemites' understanding of the world, which had been developed over the previous 4,500 years. After he returned, Thales made a name for himself by accurately predicting a solar eclipse and demonstrating how to measure the distance of a ship at sea. He encouraged others to make their way to Kemet to study [source: Texas A&M].
In Kemet, Hippocrates, the "father of medicine," learned of disease from the previous explorations of Imhotep, who established diagnostic medicine 2,500 years earlier. This early renaissance man -- priest, astronomer and physician -- was described as "the first figure of a physician to stand out clearly in the mists of antiquity" by the British medical trailblazer William Osler [source: Osler]. In Kemet, Pythagoras, the "father of mathematics," learned calculus and geometry from the Kemetic priests based on a millennia-old papyrus.
None of this is to say that the Greeks were without their own ideas. On the contrary, the Greeks appeared to have formed their own interpretations of what they learned in Kemet. Nor did the Greeks ever deny the credit due the Kemites for their education. "Egypt was the cradle of mathematics," Aristotle wrote [source: Van Sertima]. But one could make the case that the Greeks also felt that they were destined to build upon what they'd learned from the Kemites.
The Kemetic education was meant to last 40 years, although no Greek thinker is known to have made it through the entire process. Pythagoras is believed to have made it the furthest, having studied in Kemet for 23 years [source: Person-Lynn]. The Greeks seem to have put their own spin on what knowledge they'd learned.
Plato's education may have expressed it best: The Kemetic Mystery System was based upon a wide array of human knowledge. It encompassed math, writing, physical science, religion and the supernatural, requiring tutors to be both priests and scholars. Perhaps the aspect of the system that best represents this merger of religion and science is Ma'at.
Ma'at (/mi 'yat/) was a goddess who embodied the concept of the rational order to the universe. "This idea that the universe is rational … passed from the Egyptians to the Greeks," writes historian Richard Hooker [source: Hooker]. The Greeks' name for this concept was logos.
In his "Republic," Plato describes a dichotomy between a higher and lower self. The higher self (reason) pursues knowledge, reason and discipline. The lower self -- the more prominent of the two -- is base, concerned with more crude aspects like sex, addiction and other self-serving pursuits. Reason must ultimately win over emotion for a life to be worthwhile. Thus the emphasis of reason over all else was born. And the concepts of spirituality and reason began to diverge.
It is the survival of the Greek interpretation of Ma'at over the Kemites' that may explain why schoolchildren learn that the Greeks provided the basis for our modern world.
Read about some other ideas about why the Kemites have been banished to antiquity on the next page.
The Principles of Slavery in Ancient Greece
Slavery in ancient Greece was widespread. No one thought that slavery was inhuman and cruel, it was an accepted practice. (Image: Anastasios71/Shutterstock)
Slavery came in different forms and levels. The ideal slave was an inhuman creature with no civic or even biological personality and was treated like a piece of property. But this type of slave did not exist as no one would fit into these classifications. However, there were different levels of slavery, a kind of hierarchy, or spectrum, in which slaves were divided, which was based on their qualities and conditions. Slavery was not an either/or situation, in which you were either free or a slave it was a continuum.
How Slavery Was Viewed in Ancient Greece?
There are very limited accounts of slavery from the point of view of slaves to portray how they felt about being a slave. But we do know how they spent their days as a slave. Regardless, we have extensive knowledge of how the slave-owners felt and thought. Having slaves was a universally accepted phenomenon for Greeks, and they grew up with their slaves forming a kind of friendship with them. It was a very normal practice, and no one considered it a cruel act that had to be abolished. If someone unconsciously felt that slavery was inhumane, instead of questioning its rightness, they would try to treat the slaves humanely and kindly. Even if we read in some works of literature like that of Crates, a vision of a technologically advanced future that no one needs to work, it is not an argument for putting an end to slavery. Even the greatest thinkers could not imagine a world free of slavery since it was such an established phenomenon interwoven in the cultural heritage of the nation.
In Politics Aristotle classifies slaves into two groups: slaves by nature and slaves by law. As their names suggest, the members of the first group were born into captivity while the second was captured or acquired as a result of wars or piracy. They were otherwise free human beings enslaved as a result of coincidence.
Aristotle believed that the natural-born slaves belonged to an inferior human race due to their deformed bodies. What Aristotle missed was that the slaves were not enslaved because of their misshapen bodies quite contrary, they had misshapen bodies because they were slaves and were forced to do grueling physical work.
He called them ktêma empsuchon, a piece of property that breathes. You would think that a bright mind like Aristotle is expected to have a more humane view on slavery, but it was the collective mindset in that era, and no one was able to think otherwise.
This is a transcript from the video series The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
The Number of Slaves in Greece
Clearly, there is not a formal register of the number of slaves in ancient Greece, but the historian, Paul Catledge, has estimated the number of slaves. Comparing data from modern slave societies like Brazil, the Caribbean, and the Antebellum South, he expects the number to be nearly 80,000 to 100,000. With the total population of 2,50,000 between 450 and 320 B.C.this means approximately one in four of the people in Athens were slaves.
Moses Finley was the first historian who investigated the history of slavery in ancient Greece. Embarrassed about the historical exploitations in their country, Greek historians did not study the subject. They just said that any person who was free and could afford to have slaves, would own a slave attendant to accompany him wherever he went, and a female slave for household chores. The number of slaves a person owned increased based on the wealth of that person. Basically, owning a car is the modern-day equivalent of owning a slave.
Slaves in ancient Greece had no identity of their own. They were tortured and beaten, forced to live at the mercy of their masters. (Image: Louvre Museum/CC BY 3.0/Public domain)
Slaves in ancient Greece did not have any human or civil rights. They were tortured for different reasons their owner could beat them whenever he wanted when their testimony was needed for a lawsuit, they were tortured into confessing to their own guilt or incriminate someone else. They were even forced to have sexual relationships without consent. They were just properties like a table or a chair. The only difference was that they were living things.
Common Questions about the Principles of Slavery in Ancient Greece
Slaves in ancient Greece were treated like pieces of property. For Aristotle they were ‘a piece of property that breathes’. They enjoyed different degrees of freedom and were treated kindly or cruelly depending on the personality of the owner.
The Athenian slaves belonged to two groups. They were either born into slave families or were enslaved after they were captured in wars.
People became slaves in ancient Greece after they were captured in wars. They were then sold to their owners. Other slaves were, by nature, born into slave families.
Creation Of The Negro
The name that you respond to determines the amount of your self worth. Similarly, the way a group of people collectively respond to a name can have devastating effects on their lives, particularly if they did not choose the name.
Asians come from Asia and have pride in the Asian race' Europeans come from Europe and have pride in Europe accomplishments. Negroes, I am to assume, come from negroland-a mythical country with an uncertain past and an even more uncertain future. Since negroland is a myth, where did the myth of the negro originate? The key to understanding what a negro is, is to understand the definition of that word and its origin.
The word negro is Spanish for black. The Spanish language comes from Latin, which has its origins in Classical Greek. The word negro, in Greek, is derived from the root word necro, meaning dead. What was once referred to as a physical condition is now regarded as an appropriate state of mind for millions of Africans.
Historically when the Greeks first traveled to Africa 2,500 years ago, the Egyptian civilization was already ancient. The Great Pyramid was over 3,000 years old and the sphinx was even older. Writing, science, medicine and religion were already a part of the civilization and had reached their zenith. The Greeks came to Africa as students to sit at the feet of the masters, and to discover what Africans already knew. In any student / teacher relationship the teacher can only teach as much as the student is capable of understanding.
Egyptians, like other Africans, understood that life existed beyond the grave. Ancestral worship is a way of acknowledging the lives of the people who have come before you, and their ability to offer guidance and direction to the living. Temples were designed as places where the ancestors could be honored and holidays (Holy Days) where the ancestors could be honored, and holidays (Holy Days) were the days designated to do so.
The Egyptians had hundreds of temples and hundreds of Holy Days to worship their ancestors. The Greeks thought the Africans had a preoccupation with death. The act of ancestral worship became known as necromancy or communication with the dead. The root word necro means dead. Another word for necromancy is magic - that Old Black Magic which was practiced in Ancient Africa. When the Greeks returned to Europe, they took their distorted beliefs with them and the word negro evolved out of this great misunderstanding.
Less than 300 years after the first Greeks came to Egypt as students, their descendants returned as conquerors. They destroyed the cities, temples and libraries of the Egyptians and claimed African knowledge as their own.
Not only was the African legacy stolen, but also the wholesale theft of African people soon followed. With the birth of the slave trade, it became necessary to dehumanize Africans and devalue their historical worth as a people in order to ensure their value as slaves.
So there you have it, the negro - a race of dead people with a dead history and no hope for resurrection as long as they remained ignorant of their past. This was a triple death - the death of the mind, body, and spirit of the African people.
It was strictly forbidden for negro slaves to learn to read and write. Such knowledge was the key to liberation and was placed firmly out of reach. As negroes became educated, however, they sought to redefine themselves.
The evolution of the word negro from colored, to black, to African represents a progression of self-awareness. As a free people, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and rediscover our Identities. Knowledge of self is the key to unlocking the door to the future.