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Reviews145 task is explaining why the bifurcation occurred. In his third chapter, "Order, Hierarchy, and Culture," he walks a fine line: he shows the elite responding to forces of chaos and fragmentation resulting from rapid immigration and social and economic changes, but insists that the bifurcation did not simply result from a need for social control. Though it is difficult to explain the dramatic shift to cultural hierarchies, he provides valuable possible explanations of some of die reasons. Had the book simply focused on nineteenth-century history, it would have been worth reading, but the "Epilogue" offers additional controversy. Levine suggests that our own time continues to manifest the dynamic process ofculture and the permeable nature of labels. Noting the blurring of genres in contemporary works and the activities ofmuseums and symphonies trying to lure back diverse audiences, he rejects thejeremiads of Bloom and Bennett. He sees the current debate about university curricula and the canon as one between those "who 'know' what culture is and what it is not" and those who "believe that worthy, enduring culture is not the possession of any single group or genre or period" (p. 255). Though brief, his "Epilogue" brings the historical process into present debates about what we "should" know. Whitman CollegeJean Carwile Masteller BlackAthena: TheAfroasiaticRoots ofClassicalCivilization. Volume I: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785—1985, by Martin Bernal; 575 pp. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1987, $45.00 cloth, $15.00 paper. Martin Bernal's thesis is bound to raise a few eyebrows. He argues that we have systematically misunderstood ancient Greece, constructed a myth regarding its isolation from surrounding Semitic (Hebraic and Phoenician) and African (Egyptian) influences with which it was in fact in constant and thoroughgoing contact, and substituted in place of such cultural interpénétration the myth of its miraculous birth. The ancients themselves have been telling us about this "inmixing" for some two thousand years, he says, and Herodotus' obsessive references to Egypt are perhaps the most famous example. But suddenly at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century in Europe the demands of a progressivist epistemology, a revival of Christian thinking, romanticism, and development of a systematic racist ideology could no longer tolerate "the ancient model" and so a new "Aryan model" was con- 146Philosophy and Literature structed. It was invested with scientificity with the "discovery" of the IndoEuropean language groups (with Greek as a "charter member"), and has been faithfully taught as fact ever since—although the evidence for such isolationist claims is totally lacking. The idea that civilization could come from Africa, a great Black nationalist (C. A. Diop) is said to have remarked, has made whites quake with fear. This would be a terrifying prospect. Either Egypt is the root of civilization and not African, or it's African and not the root of civilization. And in the best of all worlds, of course, it's neither. Hence the "Greek miracle." What Bernal proposes is neither a scrapping of the "Aryan model" nor a return to the "ancient model" but a third revisionist position in which the achievements of each are sustained. Roughly 20 percent of Greek vocabulary is Semitic, roughly 20 percent is Egyptian, and an inordinately high proportion ofdivine, mythological, and place names—as high as 90 percent—are ofAfrican or Semitic origin. "Athena," for example, is probably an African name. We have long been content to dismiss these etymological curiosities as the product of "pre-Hellenic" peoples about whom we know nothing except that they occupied Greek mainlands before hordes of virile invaders swooped down from the north and displaced these softer indigenous populations. What Bernal argues is not that we throw out what we have but that we utilize this new understanding to enlighten us in areas in which traditional Indo-European scholars draw a blank. Needless to say, Bernal's thesis has proved controversial and a number of international conferences in Athens, Jerusalem, and in this country have been called to discuss his book. People are talking about it, although few as yet write about it, and a good many enthusiasts seem curiously eager to praise Bernal's overall conception...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 145-147
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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