Monday, August 04, 2008

Deep Roots

what little i know about revisionist history and the fictional divide between "east" and "west":

during the first half of Greek empire everything came from Egypt and Persia: food, music, technology, philosphy, mathematics, astronomy, religion, medicine, fashion, etc, etc, etc, etc. and it was not until the second part of the empire that the Greeks started coming up with their own ideas - and even then, very much influenced and inspired by Egyptian, Semitic, South Asian (Indian), Middle Eastern (Iranian), and East Asian (Chinese) thought and practice.

the myth that Greece developed more or less by itself, as the beginning of "progressive" and "modern" "western" civilization, was largely a product of 19th century racist revisions of history. German and English scholars began erasing Egypt and Semitic cultures out of history; and in America powerful industrialists apply sweeping education reforms across America, firing professors that did not tell their version of the story, and installing yes-men that propagated the idea that "the West" was something different, and of different origions, from "the East".

the propagation of this fictional dichotomy between the "occident" and "orient" has always been politically motivated, provides a foundation for racism, distrust, and divide which furthers the aims of the ruling elite -- and is still instrumental today (the structural basis for "the war on terror", which also may be seen as the latest expression of these false ideas)

much of this train of excavations can be found in this book, derided by the ignorant and the brain-washed (just look at the ratings and comments on amazon):

from Amazon:

What is classical about Classical Civilization? In one of the most audacious works of scholarship ever written, Martin Bernal challenges the whole basis of our thinking about this question. Classical civilization, he argues, has deep roots in Afroasiatic cultures. But these Afroasiatic influences have been systematically ignored, denied, or supressed since the eighteenth century--chiefly for racist reasons. The popular view is that Greek civilization was the result of the conquest of a sophisticated but weak native population by vigorous Indo-European speakers--or Aryans--from the North. But the Classical Greeks, Bernal argues, knew nothing of this "Aryan model." They did not see their political institutions, science, philosophy, or religion as original, but rather as derived from the East in general, and Egypt in particular. Black Athena is a three-volume work. Volume 1 concentrates on the crucial period between 1785 and 1850, which saw the Romantic and racist reaction to the Enlightment and the French Revolution, and the consolidation of Northern expansion into other continents. In an unprecedented tour de force, Bernal makes meaningful links between a wide range of areas and disciplines--drama poetry, myth, theological controversy, esoteric religion, philosophy, biography, language, historical narrative, and the emergence of "modern scholarship."

Could Greek philosophy be rooted in Egyptian thought? Is it possible that the Pythagorean theory was conceived on the shores of the Nile and the Euphrates rather than in ancient Greece? Could it be that much of Western civilization was formed on the "Dark Continent"? For almost two centuries, Western scholars have given little credence to the possibility of such scenarios.
In Black Athena, an audacious three-volume series that strikes at the heart of today's most heated culture wars, Martin Bernal challenges Eurocentric attitudes by calling into question two of the longest-established explanations for the origins of classical civilization. To use his terms, the Aryan Model, which is current today, claims that Greek culture arose as the result of the conquest from the north by Indo-European speakers, or "Aryans," of the native "pre-Hellenes." The Ancient Model, which was maintained in Classical Greece, held that the native population of Greece had initially been civilized by Egyptian and Phoenician colonists and that additional Near Eastern culture had been introduced to Greece by Greeks studying in Egypt and Southwest Asia. Moving beyond these prevailing models, Bernal proposes a Revised Ancient Model, which suggests that classical civilization in fact had deep roots in Afroasiatic cultures.

This long-awaited third and final volume of the series is concerned with the linguistic evidence that contradicts the Aryan Model of ancient Greece. Bernal shows how nearly 40 percent of the Greek vocabulary has been plausibly derived from two Afroasiatic languages--Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic. He also reveals how these derivations are not limited to matters of trade, but extended to the sophisticated language of politics, religion, and philosophy. This evidence, according to Bernal, greatly strengthens the hypothesis that in Greece an Indo-European-speaking population was culturally dominated by Ancient Egyptian and West Semitic speakers. Provocative, passionate, and colossal in scope, this volume caps a thoughtful rewriting of history that has been stirring academic and political controversy since the publication of the first volume.

About the Author
Martin Bernal, formerly a fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and professor of Government and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University, is now retired.


Nightlight said...

Hi there.
Though I haven't read the book and I don't have much knowledge on the subject, I have to say (just by being from and living in Greece) that NO ONE here thinks that the ancient Greek civilization was influenced by 'Aryan', 'indo- european', etc. people. The most common expression for this (and also of greeks' arrogance and retro-nationalism) is that "When we were building the Parthenon, they were gathering oaks from the trees"...
Our main debts are to Cretans, also Greeks but going far back in time and having commerce with and influences by and over all east Mediterranean, Egyptians of course, as well as the civs of Mesopotamia.

zhao said...

i assume by "Aryan" you mean the original Aryan, or Iranian/Persian.

thanks for the note. makes sense... the lies run deep.

zhao said...

wait. after reading again i'm not sure what exactly you are saying... that most greeks reject the "Aryan model"? but what do they believe exactly? that Greek civilization was "original"? or largely came from other sources?

Nightlight said...

No, by 'Aryan' I was referring to the 20th century imposed 'Warrior of Thule' model... Though all such models are irrelevant when handled by people who don't know much about them, right?

What I said is that yes, Greeks can be THAT stupid to believe that before them there were no advanced civs worth talking about, except the Cretans who are consider Greeks anyway, and the Egyptians and the Phoenicians, half-heartedly. All of this comes from cleverly cultivated nationalist propaganda, rather needed in the 19th century to help the just liberated "nation" to grow again. Though it now sounds as absurd as Nazi groups in Moscow, it's as real as they are (and equally fast in spreading and multiplying).
Fortunately, some people have different opinions.

What I wanted to imply was that this east-west controversy on the origin of civilization is... well, too western to begin with. In Greece we know that we had influences from "the East", because we can see them in statues, in talk, on our faces, in everyday life. Hell, for most Europeans we also are "of the East". This Rennaissance obsession with classical Greece created a idealist's vision of a nation we are not actually sure if it existed as such, much less if it produced culture of the same ... quality. Sparta's military model has nothing to do with commerce based city states of the Aegean Sea. The cultural spreading, "philosophical", colonies sucking Athenian model had no real influence on the nomadic pot-smoking tribes of Thrace who worshiped dark Gods from the depths of Asia.
Naming everything "Greek" and putting it in the same bag is an easy way to create "history" and redefine your culture (when against an enemy, most of the times) and that's what Europeans did back then and still do now, but it doesn't have much to do with what really happened, right?

Nightlight said...

And anyway, even Plato, the beloved of the Christians in Europe was supposed to have acquired "vast" knowledge in Egypt...

zhao said...

thanks nightlight, for your input. good to read thoughts coming from Greece on this subject :)

zhao said...

plato, yes. and my favorite one, from whom the name of this and the music blog comes from, derived a lot of his ideas from India...