Black Athena Revisited

by Mary R. Lefkowitz

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Historical Context

Black Athena Revisited is a collection of essays by various scholars that form a singular refutation of Martin Bernal's theories in Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. One of the most common topics in Black Athena Revisited is Bernal's alleged misinterpretation of classical Greek mythology. Several scholars in the collection argue that Bernal took mythology readings out of their context in order to support his thesis that Greek culture was directly influenced by Near East and Egyptian cultures. The scholars cite several documented historical facts to support their arguments against Bernal's theories. They opine that mythologies and historical texts should be presented fully, in their original contexts, in order to accurately conclude that the Greeks were indeed influenced by Egyptian culture.

Historical Inaccuracies

In the same light, the scholars present several arguments that show Bernal presented several historical inaccuracies in Black Athena. For instance, some of the interpretations of historical events in Bernal's work were inconsistent with well-known facts; for instance, he assigned Greek cultural elements to incorrect eras. One of the most prominent examples pointed out in Black Athena Revisited is that there was no evidence that either the Phoenicians or Egyptians established a colony in ancient Greece. Cultural and historical archaeology scholars cite various studies showing that Bernal's assertions were not factual but were based on misinterpretations of cultural similarities between Greek and Near East and North African cultures.

Addressing Eurocentric Bias

One of the most incendiary assertions made by Martin Bernal was that world history was sanitized by European scholars, especially historians and archaeologists, in order to suppress the achievements of the Egyptian civilization, which had black pharaohs and citizens. Bernal believes that white, male-dominated academia tried to revise historical facts by editing mainstream history texts with a pro-European bias. The scholars refute this idea by citing various works by European scholars who recognize the impressive achievements of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and African civilizations. They also assert that their rebuttals against Bernal's theories do not stem from bias or systemic bigotry but are based on documented and well-studied facts. The contributors to Black Athena Revisited note that Eurocentric bias certainly exists in academia, but that Bernal actually undermines his own claims by relying on faulty premises and incorrect information to make his case. It is important to acknowledge and avoid Eurocentric bias, but fabricating examples is an example of both poor scholarship and manipulative writing.

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