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Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization Volume One:The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785-1985 Vol 1 Paperback – 21 Nov 1991

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (21 Nov. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099887800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099887805
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"His account is as gripping a tale of scholarly detection and discovery as one could hope to find" (Margaret Drabble Observer)

"Bernal makes an exotic interloper in Classical studies. He comes to them with two outstanding gifts: a remarkable flair for the sociology – perhaps one should say politics – of knowledge, and a formidable linguistic proficiency… The ‘fabrication’ of Ancient Greece…will never pass as a natural identity again" (Guardian)

"The value of the book lies in his massive and meticulous demonstration of how scholarly views of the past are moulded (and repeatedly modified) by the changing political environment in which scholars pass their lives... Black Athena is certainly a stimulus to thought" (London Review of Books)

"Has the virtues of force, clarity, wealth of ideas and a voracious intellectual curiosity" (Times Higher Educational Supplement)

"A swashbuckling foray into the very heart of racist, Eurocentric historiography... Already one can hear the knives being sharpened against Bernal" (City Limits)

Book Description

Winner of the American Book Award and a Socialist Review Book Award.

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.


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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 38 people found the following review helpful By DavidB on 1 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
Martin Bernal believes that the civilisation of ancient Greece was heavily influenced by the ancient Egyptians. This, he says, was the view of the Greeks themselves, and it continued to be accepted by most historians through to the 18th century. However the growth of racism and romanticism in the 19th century made it increasingly hard for classical scholars to accept the idea of any influence from Africa (including Egypt); or indeed from any other non-IndoEuropean source such as the Semitic Phoenicians. Instead they developed what Bernal calls an Aryan model of Greece, which saw the Greeks as the archetypal pure white European super-race. In this project they were bolstered by their increasingly confident use of positivist approach to the study of history based on the methods of the "hard" sciences.
This is just the first volume of a planned 3(?) volume work designed to revive the traditional view of Greek origins by looking at evidence from myth, language, place names etc. However the present volume, which tells the story of how racism and antisemitism became mainstream in the academic world, is the one that is most likely to be of interest to the lay reader.
Black Athena was fiercely attacked by people who conflated his views with those of the lunatic-fringe Afrocentrist school of history. Don't let any of that put you off - this book will open your eyes to the secret history of ancient Greece and classical scholarship.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mr. James C. Ford on 14 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most controversial books in modern Classical Scholarship. Bernal, somewhat unsystematically, presents an argument which highlights the prejudice inherent in modern Classics. Although his work has been subsequently dismissed by prominent scholars such as Lefkowitz (Not out of Africa/Black Athena Revisited) it is important for any student of Classics to be aware of the critiques made towards their field.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D. E. Chukwumerije on 17 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
In this book Martin Bernal examines the destruction of what he terms the "Ancient Model" of Greek history (which recognized the contribution of ancient Egyptian and Phoenician societies to the formation of Greece) and the fabrication of an "Aryan" model (which was purely Eurocentric). While the Ancient Model had been the belief of the ancient Greeks themselves and had survived up till the 18th century, it had been replaced by a more Eurocentric version as a result of, amongst other things, the rise of racist thinking in Western intellectual circles. Bernal presents a brilliant analysis of the sociology of modern knowledge systems, revealing the interactions between the dominant social and cultural biases of the time and what was enshrined as academic "fact" by scholars. This work is not about Afro-centrism. Rather, it is a well-researched and objective explanation of why 18th century Europe decided to inteprete known facts of ancient history the way it did and why this intepretation may not provide an accurate representation of the origins of Greek (and, consequently, European) history. It is a difficult book to read because of the high levels of technicality. However, it is defintely worth the trouble.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Smith on 25 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Black Athena" by Martin Bernal is the first volume of his controversial three volume work which challenges and attempts to replace what he claims is the mainstream view on the origins of Greek civilization. This volume covers the vast topic of the historiography of Greek origins, the way in which its history has been written over time, using a wide range of sources.

Bernal identifies an Afroasiatic group of languages, originally spoken between Ethiopia and Iraq. He claims speakers of these, principally Egyptians and Phoenicians, made significant contributions to the development of Greek civilisation; that their contribution was generally acknowledged up to early modern times; that from the late 18th century this contribution was denied or deliberately hidden by European scholars infected by racial superiority and antisemitism; and, finally, that the largely "Aryan" origins of Greek civilisation were was accepted by most scholars of European origin before he wrote "Black Athena". Bernal identifies himself with the Afroasiatic group because of his Jewish heritage.

Bernal begins by summarising his proposed second and third volumes, then claims that about half the linguistic elements and myths of Hellenic culture came from the Middle East or Egypt. Much of this claimed influence dates from the Bronze Age before about 1200 BC, a poorly known period, so the significance of his evidence is debatable. As Greece suffered a Dark Age between about 1200 and 750 BC and Bernal refers to roots of Classical Civilization, he had to explain the transmission of any early Afroasiatic influences across those centuries. He does so by, for example, backdating the invention of the Greek alphabet to many centuries before there was any evidence of it.
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11 of 18 people found the following review helpful By KNel on 9 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
The author here clearly has made a desperate attempt to sell by creating controversy and using the black-white thing to his advantage. Shielded by the latest wave of political correctness this book is politically dangerous to criticize and that's why you don't hear people smashing the hell out of it. Serious scholars prefer to just ignore it. Don't waste your time and don't contribute to the wealth of this failed scholar. You don't need to analyze the racism of the 18th and 19th century to understand the Greeks. The Greeks told their history themselves 2000 years ago. Read Aristotle, Herodotus and Thukydides if you really want to educate yourself on the classics. All these books are all in the public domain and are free. Download the ebooks from Amazon and print them out or read them on your kindle.
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