A Response

Very Brief Outline of the Black Athena Project.

In my three volumes with the title Black Athena, I argue that the Ancient Egyptian civilization can usefully be seen as African. I also maintain Ancient Egypt and Semitic speaking South West Asia played fundamental roles in the formation of Ancient Greece. I do not claim the Ancient Greeks were Black or that the Ancient Egyptians all looked like stereotypical West Africans.

Greeks of the Classical and Hellenistic periods 500-50 BCE believed that their religion had come from Egypt that there had also been profound Egyptian influences on the formation of their philosophy and mathematics. Similarly they maintained that Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon and Northern Israel/Palestine had introduced cultural artifacts notably the alphabet.

I have called such beliefs, the "Ancient Model" of Greek origins. This Ancient Model was generally accepted until the beginning of the 19th century CE (AD). It then began to fall into disrepute and by the 1840s, it was replaced by what I have called the "Aryan Model." According to this, the Greek stories of their origins were mistaken and Greek culture was "in fact" a mixture of the soft but civilized natives of the Aegean basin and the dynamic Northerners who had conquered them. This mixture was seen as having created the perfect balance of Greek civilisation.

In Volume I of Black Athena I argued that the destruction of the Ancient Model was not the result of any new discoveries. Rather, it came from various ideological forces, one of which was the racism which made it intolerable that Greece, now seen as the pure cradle of Europe should have received its higher culture from Africans and "Semites."

The rise of the "Aryan Model" (which should be distinguished from the fall of the Ancient one) came partly for these reasons but also because, by the 1840s, it was generally recognised that the Greek language was closely related to Sanskrit and Latin. Furthermore, it was plausibly supposed that the Indo-European linguistic family to which they all belonged, had originated somewhere to the north of Greece. Therefore, the founders of the modern discipline of classics envisaged the Northern invaders as Indo-European speakers or "Aryans. Thus, although there were no Greek traditions of an invasion from the north and there was no archaeological evidence to suggest it, the case for such a conquest could be made on linguistic grounds alone. It was admitted that there were many Non-Indo-European features in Greek, but these were attributed to the language of the conquered early inhabitants or "Pre-Hellenes."

I do not advocate a return to the Ancient Model but to a Revised Ancient Model. This accepts the work by 18th and 19th century linguists who demonstrated that Greek is fundamentally an Indo-European language and hence that this indicates a substantial cultural influence possibly migration from the north at a very early period. However, I see no reason why this should conflict with the Greek traditions of settlements from the South and East during the 2nd millennium, which together with subsequent contacts introduced the Egyptian religion, the Phoenician alphabet etc. While both sides agree that the Greek language is a mixture, supporters of the Aryan Model see it as one made up of Indo-European and the unknown language (or languages) of the Pre-Hellenes. As I shall make clear in volume III, I see Greek as an admixture of Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic, both of which belong to the the Afroasiatic language family, onto an Indo-European base.


Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: Volume I: The Fabrication of Greece 1785-1985. Rutgers University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8135-1276-x; ISBN 0-8135-1277-8 (pbk).

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: Volume II: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence.

Rutgers University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8135-1583-1; ISBN 0-8135-1584-x (pbk).

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: Volume II: The Linguistic Evidence. Rutgers University Press, Forthcoming.

Cadmean Letters: The Transmission of the Alphabet to the Aegean and Further West before 1400 B.C. Eisenbrauns 1990

 ISBN 0-931464-47-1.