Black Athena Writes Back

Martin Bernal Responds to His Critics

Black Athena Writes Back

Book Pages: 576 Illustrations: 15 figures Published: September 2001

African Studies, Pre-Modern Studies > Classical Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In Black Athena Writes Back Martin Bernal responds to the passionate debates set off by the 1987 publication of his book Black Athena. Producing a shock wave of reaction from scholars, Black Athena argued that the development of Greek civilization was heavily influenced by Afroasiatic civilizations. Moreover, Bernal asserted that this knowledge had been deliberately obscured by the rampant racism of nineteenth-century Europeans who could not abide the notion that Greek society—for centuries recognized as the originating culture of Europe—had its origins in Africa and Southwest Asia.
The subsequent rancor among classicists over Bernal’s theory and accusations was picked up in the popular media, and his suggestion that Greek culture had its origin in Africa was widely derided. In a report on 60 Minutes, for example, it was suggested that Bernal’s hypothesis was essentially an attempt to provide blacks with self-esteem so that they would feel included in the march of progress.
In Black Athena Writes Back Bernal provides additional documentation to back up his thesis, as well as offering persuasive explanations of why traditional scholarship on the subject remains inaccurate and why specific arguments lobbed against his theories are themselves faulty.
Black Athena Writes Back requires no prior familiarity with either the Black Athena hypothesis or with the arguments advanced against it. It will be essential reading for those who have been following this long-running debate, as well as for those just discovering this fascinating subject.


“[Black Athena Writes Back] will garner wide readership and spark interest in [Bernal’s] previous books.” — Vanessa Bush , Booklist

“The Black Athena controversy rumbles on. . . . [Bernal’s] critics may believe that they are destroying his arguments, but in fact they are giving them new depth and subtlety.” — Thomas Harrison , TLS

"Black Athena Writes Back is a definitive defense by Bernal. It should be in the reference sections of all serious scholarly libraries." — Richard Lobban , International Journal of African Historical Studies

"[T]he book provides fascinating and informative reading, whether as a study of historical evidences and their interpretation, a methodological study, or an intellectual and cultural event." — Yaacov Shavit, Journal of World History

"[T]he topic is important to a number of academic fields, politics, and different constituencies; and thus until the issues are ‘resolved,’ the debate must continue. As always, Bernal raises fascinating problems concerning what is ‘fact’ and who decides it in a complicated world."
— Tammi J. Schneider , Religious Studies Review

"Bernal forces classicists to confront the history of our discipline." — Jeremy McInerney , History: Reviews of New Books

"Bernal is developing a consistent and detailed alternative history of the ancient eastern Mediterranean. . . . [A] great and essential read, even if one has no knowledge of any of the previous volumes and debates." — Anthony Lowstedt , New African

"This is an erudite, richly scholarly book. . . . [W]ell written and organized. . . ." — Emeka Aniagolu , The Historian

Named one of The Independent’s Books of the Year. “I follow with continuing fascination the astonishing academic debate on deep history in Martin Bernal’s Black Athena Writes Back—one of the strangest intellectual confrontations of our time.” — Margaret Drabble , The Independent (UK)

Black Athena must be the most discussed book on the ancient history of the eastern Mediterranean world since the Bible. . . . [It] enjoys such continued attention because it raises important scholarly questions, and because it makes a difficult subject available to a large audience.” — Mario Liverani, in Black Athena Revisited

“[F]ew books published about the ancient world since World War II have provoked as much interest both inside and outside the discipline of classics as has Black Athena.” — Guy MacLean Rogers, in Black Athena Revisited

“A fascinating and important debate. As a lay reader I find both the scholarly arguments and the human differences very gripping. Bernal tells the story of the process of academic diffusion very vividly and gives us the kind of background we don't usually discover.” — Margaret Drabble


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Price: $33.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Martin Bernal is Professor of Government and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. The first two volumes of Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (“I: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785–1985”; and “II: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence”) have been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, French, and Swedish and will soon be available in Greek and Japanese.

David Chioni Moore is Assistant Professor of International Studies and English at Macalester College.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Transcriptions and Phonetics

Maps and Charts


I Egyptology

1. Can We We Fair? A Reply to John Baines

2. Greece is Not Nubia: A Reply to David O’Connor

II Classics

3. Who is Qualified to Write Greek History? A Reply to Lawrence A. Tritle

4. How Did the Egyptian Way of Death Reach Greece? A Reply to Emily Vermeule

5. Just Smoke and Mirrors? A Reply to Edith Hall

III Linguistics

6. Ausnahmslosigkeit über Alles: A Reply to Jay H. Jasanoff and Alan Nussbaum

IV Historiography

7. Accuracy and/or Coherence? A Reply to Robert Norton, Robert Palter, and Josine Blok

8. Passion and Politics: A Reply to Guy Rogers

9. The British Utilitarians, Imperialism, and the Fall of the Ancient Model

V Science

10. Was There a Greek Scientific Miracle? A Reply to Robert Palter

11. Animadversions on the Origins of Western Science

VI Recent Broadening Scholarship

12. Greek Art Without Egypt, Hamlet Without the Prince: A Review of Sarah Morris’s Daidalos and the Origins of Greek Art

13. One or Several Revolutions? A Review of Walter Burkert’s The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age

14. There’s a Mountain in the Way: A Review of Martin West’s The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth

15. Phoenician Politics and Egyptian Justice in Ancient Greece

VII. A Popularizing Effort

16. All Not Quiet on the Wellesley Front: A Review of Not Out of Africa





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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2717-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2706-6
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