Black Athena

Black Athena: Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization; Volume III: The Linguistic Evidence

Martin Bernal
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 848
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    Black Athena
    Book Description:

    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.

    InBlack 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 speakersProvocative, 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6441-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. Transcriptions and Phonetics
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Maps and Charts
    (pp. xxi-xl)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)

    In 1879 the pioneer anthropogist E. B. Tylor published his famous article comparing the Mexican game patolli with the Indian board game pachisi. He argued that the two were not independent inventions but the result of diffusion from one to the other.¹ He based his case on the great number of similarities between the two games. As he wrote in a later article: “The probability of contact increases in ratio to thenumberofarbitrarysimilar elements in any two trait-complexes”² [my italics]. Volume 3 of this project is based on this principle. It is concerned with language, different aspects...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Historical linguistics and the image of Ancient Greek
    (pp. 28-38)

    Nineteenth-century historical linguistics established—and was obsessed by—the idea of language “families.” Unlike the eighteenth-century Enlightenment concern with spatial arrangement and classification, nineteenth-century intellectuals were concerned with time and development. As positivist progressives living in the age of capitalist expansion across the world, they believed in increase and ramification in all things, and, as romantics and geographical determinists, they liked to see simple roots nourished by native soils. Thus, the image of a tree growing and spreading through the ages became dominant in the development of species, or “races,” and languages. Above all, they insisted that good languages were...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The “Nostratic” and “Euroasiatic” Hyper- and Super-families
    (pp. 39-57)

    Linguists seem to have stopped, or at least suspended, the debate over whether there was a single or multiple origin of all existing languages. A consensus that all existing languages are ultimately related to each other now appears to have emerged. Bitter debates remain, however, as to whether it is possible to demonstrate specific relationships or to reconstruct any aspect of the original ancestral language. In general terms, the division is between those crudely identified as “lumpers” and “splitters.” Lumpers look for the common features manifested in different phenomena, while splitters are more concerned with the distinctions among them. Splitters...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Afroasiatic, Egyptian and Semitic
    (pp. 58-89)

    Before considering the rise and spread of Afroasiatic, I should like to look at linguistic and agricultural developments in Africa as a whole. As mentioned in the last chapter, Joseph Greenberg usually used the method of mass lexical comparison. He compared word lists for basic things, qualities and processes, generally corresponding to the Swadash list, from hundreds of languages and dialects. This technique has roused suspicion and hostility from more conventional linguists who have traditionally preferred to compare languages two by two or better still, to examine morphological parallels. As I argued in Chapter 1, while morphological parallels are preferable...

  10. CHAPTER 4 The Origins of Indo-Hittite and Indo-European and Their Contacts with Other Languages
    (pp. 90-115)

    This chapter is concerned with the origins and development of the Indo-Hittite language family and those of its subset Indo-European, which today is the most widely spoken in the world. The chapter also deals with the linguistic contexts in which the two families were formed and the exchanges among these and other languages. As a whole this book is about the impact of two Afroasiatic languages, Egyptian and Western Semitic, on one Indo-European one, Greek. Before being able to isolate these, it is necessary to consider exchanges between these Afroasiatic languages and Proto-Indo-Hittite (PIH) and Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The results of...

  11. CHAPTER 5 The Greek Language in the Mediterranean Context: Part 1, Phonology
    (pp. 116-154)

    The next three chapters are concerned with supposed and actual influences of Egyptian and West Semitic on the development of Greek. As will be seen below, this inquiry gives very different results at the different levels of the Greek language. Greek phonology shows only a few signs of any Afroasiatic impact. Some morphological influences, treated in Chapter 6, can be seen and these explain a number of problems that have puzzled Indo-Europeanists. The introduction into Greek of certain Afroasiatic particles and conjuctions has significantly affected syntax. This aspect, considered in Chapter 7, is, however, linked to the great number of...

  12. CHAPTER 6 The Greek Language in the Mediterranean Context: Part 2, Morphological and Syntactical Developments
    (pp. 155-164)

    This chapter is concerned with the middle of the spectrum of changes expected in a language that has experienced substantial, but not overwhelming, influence from one or more other languages. In Chapter 5 we saw how insignificant outside influence was on Greek phonology. From Chapter 7 on, we shall see the massive influx of Afroasiatic words and names into the Greek vocabulary. In this chapter, we shall see a few instances of morphological forms taken from Semitic or Egyptian and rather more syntactical changes often brought about by lexical borrowings.

    The drastic loss of cases in early Greek has been...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Greek Language in the Mediterranean Context: Part 3, Lexicon
    (pp. 165-186)

    This chapter is divided into three sections, each concerned with the possibility or probability of lexical borrowings from Afroasiatic languages into Greek. The first part examines the present state of the study of this subject. Second is a consideration of whether Greeks in the Archaic and Classical periods had any conception of having borrowed from other languages and the third studies the reliability of postulating Indo-European roots when the only attestations are from Greek and Armenian or Greek and Latin. Such similarities may, in fact, merely be the results of common borrowings from Semitic or Egyptian. Much of this last...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Phonetic Developments in Egyptian, West Semitic and Greek over the Last Three Millennia bce, as Reflected in Lexical Borrowings
    (pp. 187-208)

    This chapter is concerned with lexical borrowings from Egyptian and West Semitic into Greek and in particular with their relation to the changes that took place in the two Afroasiatic languages during the more than three thousand years from 3000 bce to 300 ce. To assess the phonetic plausibility of loans from the two Afroasiatic languages into Greek, we must first outline what is known about the shifting phonetics of the three languages.

    In estimating the possibility or probability of a loan, I have tried to reduce subjectivity—though not, of course, eliminating it—by applying a method devised by...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Greek Borrowings from Egyptian Prefixes, including the Definite Articles
    (pp. 209-244)

    This chapter deals with some Egyptian particles and reduced nouns that integrated with the nouns or verbs they were modifying to the extent that they were taken into Greek as simple words. English shows a similar pattern of borrowing. By far the most common derive from Arabic words beginning with the definite article>al: alchemy, alcohol, alcove, alfalfa, algebra, algorithm, alkali and almanac. With the assimilation of>alothers, such as “assegai” and “aubergine,” can also be found.

    The first sections of this chapter treat the Egyptian definite articles. The development ofp3, t3andn3 n(y)was described above...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Major Egyptian Terms in Greek: Part 1
    (pp. 245-275)

    This chapter and Chapter 11 treat the ramifications in Greek of a number of terms central to Egyptian civilization. As such, they are precisely those that one should expect to have been exported. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that they do in fact provide many plausible origins for Greek words with no, or only very improbable, Indo-European etymologies.

    The hieroglyphic fornṯr(R8) was a cloth wound round a pole, an emblem of divinity used broadly for gods, including deceased monarchs, and for the life force in general. Even more difficult to define isk3(D28) “embracing arms”:...

  17. CHAPTER 11 Major Egyptian Terms in Greek: Part 2
    (pp. 276-299)

    This chapter is concerned with just two Egyptian terms: First,nfr(w)“good, beautiful” with the additional meanings of “zero, base line.” Second,ms (i)“child, giving birth.” Both are central to Egyptian culture and had major and intertwined ramifications in Greece. These ramifications require considerable detailed attention.

    The two Egyptian terms are linked in this section because of the intertwining of nymphs and Muses in Greek mytholology. Before considering these together, however. I shall turn tonfrand the Greeknephroí“kidneys.” Pokorny, supported by Ernout and Meillet, attempted to link this form to a stem*negh-rós “kidneys, testes” found...

  18. CHAPTER 12 Sixteen Minor Roots
    (pp. 300-311)

    Calling these Egyptian words “minor” is a misnomer. They were important words in the Egyptian language and significant concepts or artifacts in Egyptian life. They are only labeled in this way in comparison to the words and roots discussed in the previous two chapters.

    1. ἰmn ἀμείνων. Orel and Stolbova postulate an Afroasiatic root *Yamin “right hand” found in Berber and Egyptian and throughout Semitic.¹ It also was used for cardinal directions. Semitic speakers facing east saw Yemen to the south, whereas Egyptians, for whom the principle direction was south, saw the west asἰmntwith the final -t of the...

  19. CHAPTER 13 Semitic Sibilants
    (pp. 312-324)

    In Chapter 8 I looked at the progress of the Egyptian letter conventionally transcribed /š/ from /ḫ/ to /š/. I drew an analogy from transcriptions from the Hebrew /š/ into Greek χθ, σχ, χσ, and σ.¹ The situation of sibilants within Semitic is even more complicated than that. At this point, I shall not be treating the voiced or emphatic sibilants, which will be considered with individual loans. I shall restrict myself to those that are unvoiced and unemphatic. It is generally recognized that Proto-Semitic had three of this type, conventionally labeled /s¹/, /s²/ and /s³/. It has also been...

  20. CHAPTER 14 More Semitic Loans into Greek
    (pp. 325-339)

    When I began this project in 1975, I focused exclusively on Semitic loans into Greek, that is to say I was unconcerned with Nostratic, with Semitic loans into PIE or with Egyptian loans into Greek. By the mid-1980s, when I wrote the first drafts of what became Volume 1; I had realized that the first two factors could also explain parallels between West Semitic and Greek. By this time, I believed that some 20 percent of the basic stems in the Greek vocabulary came from West Semitic and an equal number from Ancient Egyptian. Further research made me modify this...

  21. CHAPTER 15 Some Egyptian and Semitic Semantic Clusters in Greek
    (pp. 340-379)

    Previous chapters have been largely concerned with phonology, that is attempts to find systematic phonetic parallels among Egyptian, Semitic and Greek words or roots. In this and the next three chapters the focus will be on meaning. As mentioned in Chapter 14, previous scholars have set out well various loans from Semitic into Greek, although they have largely restricted their investigations to concrete nouns.¹ The list of Greek words with Egyptian etymologies has been far more exiguous. Apart from the work of Peter Viktorovitch Jernstadt and Constantin Daniel in eastern Europe, proposals of borrowings from Egyptian have generally been restricted...

  22. CHAPTER 16 Semantic Clusters: Warfare, hunting and shipping
    (pp. 380-404)

    In the late nineteenth century, Heinrich Lewy discarded abstract and broad-ranging nouns, adjectives and verbs from his list of Semitic loans into Greek. In Chapter 7 I discussed Michel Masson’s approval of this step.¹ To remedy the gap left by this self-denying ordinance, in the next two chapters, I shall concentrate on Greek borrowings from both Egyptian and Semitic in precisely the semantic fields ruled out by earlier scholars. These include weapons, warfare, hunting, shipping, society, law, politics and philosophy and religion. In this chapter I focus on the first three.

    In each section, I shall separate the two source...

  23. CHAPTER 17 Semantic Clusters: Society, Politics, Law and Abstraction
    (pp. 405-424)

    This chapter is concerned with what in modern universities are considered the social sciences: Society, politics, law and abstraction. Greek civilization has generally been accepted, at least by Western cultures, as preeminent in these semantic areas. The number of aspects of these topics in which modern European languages draw upon Greek vocabulary is illustrative of this acceptance. Therefore, it is particularly interesting to see that many such terms that are familiar to non-Greek speakers ultimately have Afroasiatic origins.

    In some ways this section can be seen as a “grab bag,” that is to say, a list of etymologies that cannot...

  24. CHAPTER 18 Religious Terminology
    (pp. 425-452)

    Subsequent chapters deal with specific aspects of religion. Chapter 19 is concerned with proper nouns, the names of gods and other mythological figures. Chapter 20 focuses on geographical features. Chapter 21 concentrates on the gods and cults of Sparta and Chapter 22 does the same for Athens. This chapter is restricted to religious terminology under the following headings: sacred structures, personnel, rituals, mourning, paraphernalia, sacrifice, incense, flowers, aura and mysteries. As the Semitic and Egyptian components in this semantic region are approximately equal, they will be treated together, thematically rather than alphabetically.

    Before considering the structures, we need to consider...

  25. CHAPTER 19 Divine Names: Gods, Mythical Creatures, Heroes
    (pp. 453-484)

    The two quotations above demonstrate that the general claims made in this chapter are neither new nor entirely out of fashion. Furthermore, Herodotos and other ancient writers paired Egyptian with Greek deities: Ammon with Zeus, Neith with Athena, Ptah with Hephaistos and so on. The second passage illustrates that some modern scholars still entertain such general views. What is new in this project are descriptions of the modes by which specific Greek divine names derived from Egyptian prototypes.

    In Chapter 5, I argued that the inordinate number of prothetic vowels in Greek can be explained as the result of massive...

  26. CHAPTER 20 Geographical Features and Place-Names
    (pp. 485-511)

    Place-names are, if anything, more durable than words. They can tell one as much or more than language about both prehistory and history. Unlike other words, they often survive the disappearance of the languages that formed them. Their linguistic provenance can provide important evidence on the languages of the populations or rulers in the distant past. In the United States and Canada, for instance, eighteen states and three provinces have names not amenable to analysis in any European language. As they stretch from Quebec and Massachusetts in the east to Utah and Idaho in the west, one could deduce—without...

  27. CHAPTER 21 Sparta
    (pp. 512-539)

    In this chapter, I shall range widely on the strong Afroasiatic connections of what has generally been seen as the most “Aryan” of the Greek states. The first section deals with the derivation of the name Sparta from the Egyptiansp3t“nome, district” and the district’s capital. The second is concerned with the Egyptian jackal god Anubis “Lord of Sp3,” guide for the dead, and his Greek counterpart Hermes.

    The chapter continues with a consideration of the meanings of the names Lakōn and Lakedaimōn as “howler, biter” and “howling biting spirit” and with the importance of canines in Spartan tradition....

  28. CHAPTER 22 Athena and Athens
    (pp. 540-582)

    The names Aθῆναι, Athens, and ’ Aθηναία, Athena, have puzzled the curious for more than two millennia. Today orthodox scholars simply consider them to be pre-Hellenic. More imaginative or fanciful observers have proposed that the names are metatheses of Athena’s Canaanite counterpart ‘Anat or Athena’s Egyptian equivalent Nt or Nēit (in Greek transcription).¹ Athena’s identification with the latter was assumed by all ancient writers. In this chapter, I shall attempt to demonstrate that the names Athens and Athena both derive from Ḥt-nṯr (nt) Nt “temple or city” of the goddess Nt or Nēit. In all my previous works, I had...

  29. Conclusion
    (pp. 583-586)

    The purpose of these volumes is to refute this widespread conventional view repeated by Roberts. I hope to have demonstrated that neither Ancient Egypt nor the pagan Levant were dead ends. Both of them, through Greece and Rome and the civilizations of the monotheist religions, have been central and crucial to western history.

    This volume is the last in the series. Originally I envisaged three but later toyed with the idea of writing four. I have now returned to the original number. The pattern has, however, changed. In the Introduction to Volume 1, I proposed that the second volume would...

  30. Notes
    (pp. 587-694)
  31. Glossary
    (pp. 695-712)
  32. Greek Words and Names with Proposed Afroasiatic Etymologies
    (pp. 713-730)
  33. Letter Correspondences
    (pp. 731-740)
  34. Bibliography
    (pp. 741-796)
  35. Index
    (pp. 797-807)
  36. Back Matter
    (pp. 808-808)