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From: Black Athena

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CONCLUSION 583 CONCLUSION T he purpose of these volumes is to refute this widespread conventional view repeated by Roberts. I hope to have demonstrated that neither Ancient Egypt nor the pagan Levant were dead ends. Both of them, through Greece and Rome and the civilizations of the monotheist religions, have been central and crucial to western history. This volume is the last in the series. Originally I envisaged three but later toyed with the idea of writing four. I have now returned to the original number. The pattern has, however, changed. In the Introduction to Volume 1, I proposed that the second volume would encompass, archaeology, Bronze Age documents, place-names and vocabulary of Egyptian and Semitic origins! The third was to be concerned with mythological parallels. While writing Volume 2, I realized that I had bitten off far more than I could chew and that language required a separate volume. At the same time, however, I was taking so much material from the draft of the volume on mythology that what was left would be more appropriate for articles than for books. Hence, this final volume has been more or less restricted to language. In its early chapters, I consider language families. Other scholars have convinced me that (1) Afroasiatic and Indo-European are, at a deep level, The spectacular heritage of Egypt’s monuments and a history counted not in centuries but in millennia stagger the critical sense and stifle criticism. Yet the creative quality of Egyptian civilization seems, in the end to miscarry . . . it is difficult not to sense an ultimate sterility, a nothingness, at the heart of this glittering tour de force. . . . Egypt’s military and economic power in the end made little permanent difference to the world. Her civilization was never successfully spread abroad . . . —J. M. Roberts, The New History of the World (2002, p. 86) 584 BLACK ATHENA genetically related, and (2) that there were lexical exchanges between northern Afroasiatic and PIE. The focus of this book is, however, on connections between specific languages: Egyptian and West Semitic, on the one hand, and Greek, on the other. I have looked for possible Afroasiatic influences on Greek at four levels : phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. The first two attempts were largely unsuccessful. Certain phonemes, notably prothetic letters, have become far more frequent in Greek than in other Indo-European languages, as a result of lexical borrowings from Egyptian and Semitic. Nevertheless, no new phonemes developed from the latter. Similarly, only relatively few Greek morphological features can be derived from Afroasiatic. The introduction of Egyptian particles has somewhat influenced Greek syntax. Nevertheless, the major effect has been on vocabulary , and three-quarters of this volume has been devoted to this. When facing those who suggest Semitic origins for Greek words, classicists have been known to respond along the lines of “it is always possible to pull Semitic etymologies out of a hat.” I argue that these possibilities come about precisely because so many such etyma actually exist. Behind the orthodox objection lies the belief that if one is sufficiently loose in phonetics and semantics one can find Afroasiatic derivations for any Greek word or name. My counter to this is that the etymologies proposed in the volumes of Black Athena have generally followed phonetic regularities. I have not, however, even attempted to create rigidities, partly because, when considering loans, one can never establish the elegant equations often possible within language families. Even more importantly, it is simply impossible to establish one-to-one phonetic correspondences among three languages, all undergoing different phonetic shifts during the three thousand years in which they were in contact. The flexibility that this allows does not mean that “anything goes.” For example, I cite a word and a name: anthro\pos “man” and the god Dionysos. Both are central to Greek culture and both lack Indo-European etymologies, but I cannot find an Afroasiatic origin for either. Limits have been imposed. Nevertheless, after thirty years studying these topics, I am more than ever convinced that approximately 40 percent of the Greek vocabulary and an even greater proportion of proper nouns can be derived from Afroasiatic languages. I do not accept the mantra often repeated by orthodox historical lin- CONCLUSION 585 guists that “a few certain etymologies are worth more than thousands of uncertain ones.” This idea assumes that there is no connection between languages x and y and that any argument to the contrary needs to have “proof.” I am convinced...


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