Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Herodotus-3

I’m up to II:98 or thereabouts. This is the book that Herodotus devotes to Egypt. What is striking here is that Herodotus seems to be anticipating the out of Africa and Black Athena ideology. He is impressed by the antiquity of the Egyptian civilization, which he rightly sees as older than that of the Greek. However, he seems to see this as meaning that the Egyptians passed on their gods to the Greeks. I don’t think this is correct. The little bit I know of Egyptian religion seems very distinct from the religion and practice of Greece. I don’t doubt that there was trade between Egypt and Greece, probably from a very early time on. Homer, if I recall correctly, has the gods going to a feast in Ethiopia, and I believe that there is more than one reference to Egypt in the Iliad.

If I’ve got my ancient chronology right the Egyptian dynasties start about 3200-3100 BC. Greeks appear much later, sometime in the Second Millenium BC. A more probable pattern of dispersal is that there was trade along the coastal regions of Greece, Asia, and Africa, and that there was a mutual dispersal of ideas with the trade in material culture.

I was able to find excerpts from Mary Lefkowitz’s book Not Out of Africa, and she says that modern historians tend to be skeptical of Herodotus. Herodotus doesn’t identify his sources, who could be Greeks living in Egypt, or Egyptians with a smattering of Greek, so unfamiliar concepts could have been misunderstood by Herodotus.

Another possibility is that because Herodotus knew that Egyptian civilization preceded his own that he looked upon it in a sort of awe. The Egyptians were able to gull him because of that awe, and he was unable to conduct a trulyy independent verification because he had no direct access to Egyptian documents. (The hieroglyphic system was not deciphered till the late 18th or early 19th century.)

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