Race In Black Athena

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Ever since the publication of Martin Bernal’s Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilizations, the question of race has occupied a prominent place in the scholarly discourse on ancient Egyptian culture. Bernal’s famously asserted that the culture of ancient Greece, which has been frequently seen as the birthplace of European culture, was itself influenced by ancient Egyptians. Central to Bernal’s thesis was a claim that Thus, by positioning the Egyptian culture at the origin of Greek civilization, Bernal aimed to accomplish a double goal: to dispute the controversial claim that the Egyptians were a part of the “White Race” and put forward another controversial claim that the “White Race” had its origins in a non-White culture.…show more content…
Thus, the Egyptians defined themselves not as people of a particular race but as agricultural peoples of Kmt (Bard 104). Other scholars largely concur with Bard’s point while challenging some of her assumptions. For instance, Audrey Smedley and Brian D. Smedley, in their article “Race as Biology is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem is Real: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Construction of Race,” note that people of the Egyptian empire exhibited varied facial features, hair textures, and skin colors (18). However, unlike Bard who characterizes the Egyptians people, Smedley & Smedley point out that such a racial melting pot came about as a consequence of conquest and assimilation of diverse populations. Race and skin color played minimal role in this process of cultural incorporation; rather, language and religions were considered to be the chief factors determining a person’s identity (Smedley & Smedley…show more content…
Following the conquest, Alexander founded the prosperous city known as Alexandria-by-Egypt, which came to occupy a central role in the culture of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Under the Greek rule, the ancient Egyptian society acquired a character of “split personality” that continued until the end of Roman rule. In this heterogeneous culture, traditional Egyptian culture and Hellenistic Greek culture existed side by side while enjoying a relative autonomy. With regards to iconography, the Egyptians continued to maintain their cultural identity through their artistic production even under the constraints of the Greek rule. Thus, in spite of the radical social transformations that took place as a consequence of Alexander the Great’s conquest, the ancient Egyptians were able to keep their cultural identity, which was already consolidated at this point. This identity was not grounded in race, however, but in language, iconography, and regional
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