Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Black Athena, the Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization

1987, 1991 Rutgers University Press edition
Martin Bernal
Black Athena, the Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: Volume I, The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985
Bought new for $15.95
Worn paperback

This book has a lot of flaws, although what bothered me about it is apparently not what bothers other people.  Let me start with what I thought was best.  His examination of the racist reasons behind celebration of Ancient Greece as the inspiration of Europe (and eventually of the U.S.) contains fascinating quotes, although I believe that similar material is handled much better in Ewen & Ewen's Typecasting (which I'll get to in 2008).  Whether or not what he calls the Aryan model (as opposed to "the Ancient Model" in which the Ancient Greeks themselves claimed to be inspired by the Egyptians and the Phoenicians) is plausible in light of more modern scholarship, it was launched at least partially for bad reasons.  (As was the concept of evolution, as Bernal points out.)

The worst part of the book is the first fifth, because of the confusing and dubious linguistics, which is ironic since Bernal is a linguist.  In fact, although he taught at Cambridge (U.K.) and Cornell, his grasp of English is shaky at times.  Not just phrases like "to the conclude" and "his conclusions are inconclusive," but a misuse of big words, from "numerate" (which does not mean "numerous") to "antidisestablishmentarianism."  (He says that a counter-revolutionary fought that concept, when in fact that would make the man a counter-counter-revolutionary.)

Unfortunately, most of Bernal's "evidence" for the Ancient Model is linguistic, so this is, not unlike Reign of the Phallus, most interesting for reasons other than the author intends, and I wish I could read a book about Ancient Greece that goes against the dominant images but is well researched, clearly written, and plausible.

I'm now on the next shelf, but since the books are going to have to be shifted around if and when I add 1991 to this bookcase, the divisions are temporary.

No comments:

Post a Comment