Martin Bernal “Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization”

In the introduction to “Black Athena:  The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization,” Martin Bernal carves out space for a new paradigm of thought regarding Greek history, which disrupts the prevailing notion that ancient Greece is the foundation of Western civilization.  Bernal distinguishes between the Ancient and Aryan models of Greek history, the first of which posits that Greek culture resulted from colonization by Egyptians and Phoenicians of native inhabitants and the second of which posits that Greek culture resulted from the mixture of Indo-European-speaking Hellenes due to invasions from the North of ‘Aegean’ or ‘Pre-Hellenic’ culture. He explains that throughout history, Europeans have perpetuated the Aryan model in order to repress the truth of the matter, which according to Benal, is that Egyptians and Phonecians, which were intentionally categorized as a dark, non-European, barbaric race, played a major role in the formation of “Greek” culture. He offers a “Revised Ancient Model,” which posits that Greek culture actually resulted from both colonization and invasion, yet insists that original population existing in Greece was less “Greek” and more Indo-Hiitite—acknowledgement of which means accepting that our entire foundation of thought that considers Greece a Western culture and the birth of Western civilization is based on a racist and continentally chauvinistic fabrication of Ancient Greece.  For scholars in rhetoric, that means also acknowledging that the foundation of our discipline is based on the work of people, mostly “Caucasion” men (including Artistotle), who were/are actively protective of and adamant about Greece’s Hellenic superiority and subsequent others who since the 15th century have reifed the notion that rhetoric is founded in Western thought.


 Key Quotes:


“…[M]odern archaleogists and ancient historians of this region are still working with models set up by men who were crudely positivist and racists” (9).




According to Malea Powell, we need to:


            take what we do best as a discipline—reflect, rethink, revisit, and revise the             stories that create who we are….We reimagine ourselves, our pedagogies,             our scholarship, our             discipline in relation to a long and sordid history of             American imperialism….[I]n coming to terms with our relationship to the             colonizing consequences of writing in our past, we will begin, indeed, to tell             new stories of  “who and what, and that we are” (“Rhetorics” 428). 


I would also say we need to reimagine ourselves, our pedagogies, our scholarship, our discipline in relation to a long and sordid history of cultural imperialism dating back to ancient Greece and European imperialism.  How has our discipline been and how is our discipline still complicit in the dominant paradigm of Eurocentric intellectual thought, which for centuries has upheld the West, the “first world,” as the center and apex of civilization?  What does it mean that the lens through which we study all persuasive practices is comprised of deeply embedded layers of imperial and racist ideologies?  How do we shatter this lens?  And even more, importantly, how do we begin to see the persuasive world through a new lens, a new paradigm of though?  If so, what would that new paradigm entail?  Are we constructing it as we speak?



Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

4 responses to “Martin Bernal “Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization”

  1. Jeff Wallick

    Bernal lost me with his label “Aryan Model”. Of all the most negatively charged terms he could have used. He could have used other descriptors: 19th century Model, Romantic Model, Classical Model, etc. This clearly shows an intense bias and an attempt to smear.

    And I am not even going to start addressing his sloppy scholarship, if you can even grace with such a dignified term as that.

    But, then, why try to be objective when a smear campaign will usually sell so many more books?

    • Ambrose

      A smear campaign? Isn’t that what the book is claiming? So you’re invalidating his claims by hijacking his thesis and using it against him? What problem did you have with Aryan Model exactly? Can you explain a little further why this is such a problem?

    • Professor Bernal’s SCHOLARSHIP is hardly “sloppy”; his choice in labeling the canon of literature that purports to convey the progression of civil ideas as uniquely Caucasian is mostly viewed as a scholastic corrective measure. We, as those who do not realize the adversities, subtle and nonsubtle, that an incorrect body of (accepted) knoweldge can have on those on whom the body of accepted knowledge purports to leave, or inadvertantly, inferiorizes.

  2. Praise GOD-ALLAH.
    I think the WORK of Professor Bernal is not only the result of a personal, inherant honesty. And this can be seen as a vindication of (modern) “Caucasian” scholarship as it relates to the march of time and the true and positive progession of modern civilization.

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