After receiving constructive criticism, the focus of this term paper will slightly differ from its initial intent. The previous title, The Kemetic [Egyptian] Origins of Greek Philosophy proved to be…let’s say problematic. After such criticism was taken into consideration, I was able to take a step back and look at what I was doing from a fresh and different perspective. As I did this, I realized the inherent problems within investigating the “origins” of this subject. For that matter, the discussion of the origins of any subject is a monumental task. Let alone, a subject such as philosophy is about as ambiguous as one can get.
What I now realize is that the discussion of origins creates a host of fundamental errors within its very framework before the investigation is initiated. There are a plethora of intangibles involved that would make sufficient evidence in a small term paper impossible to prove if it were my intentions to do so. Moreover, its very concept appears to be practically inconceivable for the scholarship not to be vehemently attacked or, at least, severely criticized without it truly taken into consideration beyond the title of the work. To alleviate myself of unwanted concerns, I found it in my best interest to reconsider my thesis. Rather than present a title that is problematic, I have chosen to readdress the premise of the topic. This reassessment enables the title to be judged on the supporting scholarship as opposed to being judged on preconceived notions. Hopefully, this alteration will prove to be fruitful. My intended goal is to let the scholarship speak for itself. Thus, the focus of the paper will not attempt to prove that Greek philosophy, which has been said to be the origins of Western Civilization, originated in Kemet. Instead, I will alter the nature of the investigation in an effort to provide a more sound argument. To do this, I will investigate The Kemetic Cultural Influence on Ancient Greek Philosophy.
“Nevertheless, it would long continue to initiate the younger Mediterranean peoples (Greeks and Romans, among others) into the enlightenment of civilization. Throughout Antiquity it would remain the classic land where the Mediterranean peoples went on pilgrimages to drink at the fount of scientific, religious, moral and social knowledge, the most ancient knowledge that mankind had acquired.”
–Cheikh Anta Diop
“Kemetic Africa played a major creative role in the cultural patterns that are uniquely thought of as Greek civilization.”
–Asa Hilliard, III
The above quotations introduce ideas that are not widely circulated amongst “traditional” Western academia. The two statements take into account the significant influence that Kemetic culture had on ancient Greece. More specifically, I propose that Kemet had a profound influence on ancient Greek philosophy.
However, before I delve into the proposed argument, I would like to address a not so related subject. This is the question as to whether Kemet was an indigenous African or Black civilization. Before speaking on this, I’d like to say that this subject can lead to an entirely different inquiry. Therefore, I will not allow myself to stray away too far.
Today, it would not be out of the ordinary to look back at the history of Kemet and say that it was ethnically and racially mixed. However, one has to keep in mind that in the span of history, Kemet remains as one of, if not the longest, continuous civilization. Conservatively speaking, it would be safe to say that it reigned for some 3000 years. This longevity allows for a mixture of people to develop over thousands of years. This mixture of people takes into consideration the numerous conquering invasions by nations outside the continent of Africa. This is an undeniable fact and a fact that I do not wish to challenge. However, as an example, one can also say that, at this time in history, the United States is a “melting pot” of ethnicities and cultures. But we must not forget that the population as we see it today is far different than how it was before the coming of the European. In a “pre-Columbus America,” the ways of life may have differed from one group of people to the next, but it was not the spectrum of hues and cultures that we bear witness to today. Moreover, the present day dominant race and culture was no where to be found pre-Columbus.
I used the above as an example to simply say that just because there may be a mixture of ethnicities and races at one time in history does not necessitate that the same took place a thousand years ago. Within the last 40 years, there has been sufficient scientific evidence (including, anthropological, linguistic and so forth) to show that ancient Kemet was an indigenous Black civilization. A civilization that is said to have inherited its own culture from its Ancestors from southern Africa. As stated by John Henrik Clarke, “…Egypt in turn borrowed from other parts of Africa, especially Ethiopia.” (Diop, pg. xviii, 1991)
There has been a significant amount of research by esteemed scholars (several books will be listed forthcoming) that have proven an indigenous Black Kemet. Their scholarship has been accepted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which can be considered the international vanguard of world history. And due to their scholarship, UNESCO has rewritten its history to include an indigenous Black Kemet. We must not allow ourselves to be led astray by the “traditional” European-centered scholars that have continuously misled the population at large as it relates to the history of the world, particularly here in the United States. […]
“While the population of KMT [Kemet] was somewhat ethnically and racially even in the early kingdoms, it was southern black African leadership that founded KMT and governed it during its golden ages. For example, out of thirty dynasties or kingoms, it was during the first seven dynasties that most of the pyramids were built. It was during the 18th dynasty that the most magnificent temples and tombs were built. It was during the 25th dynasty that there was a restoration of ancient ways. These were native African dynasties. Generally we may say that the native dynasties were Dynasties One through Twelve, Dynasty Eighteen, and Dynasty Twenty-Five.” (Van Sertima, pg. 378, 1994)
Here, we see that there is an admittance of racial and ethnic mixture during the span of Kemet. But we must not overlook that fact that Kemet was founded by southern Black Africans. Also, we must not overlook the fact that Kemet, more or less, inherited its culture from southern Africa, Which is an acknowledgement of their own. […] I can not begin to eloquently and clearly articulate the mountain of scholarship that surrounds this subject. Instead, I will direct the reader to the sources […]:
* The African Origins of Civilization: Myth or Reality by Cheikh Anta Diop,
* The Cultural Unity of Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop,
* Civilization or Barbarism by Cheikh Anta Diop,
* Egypt: Child of Africa edited by Ivan Van Sertima and
* Egypt Revisted edited by Ivan Van Sertima
These are, perhaps, some of the best scholarship available which discusses the indigenous African origins of Kemet. Be aware though that this is just a glimpse of the available scholarship. However, the late Cheikh Anta Diop and Ivan Van Sertima are excruciatingly meticulous and analytical in their respective scientific research. Therefore, they represent the best of the scholarship that I have been made privy to concerning the subject matter at hand.
Now that this point has been made relatively clear, I will move on with the intended argument of this inquiry. I propose the hypothesis that Kemet provided a significant cultural influence on what is commonly know as Greek philosophy. This was an accepted and conventional view of history in ancient times, including Greeks. But in recent history (around the nineteenth history, to be specific), the scholarship concerning this area has taken a different slant. Martin Bernal makes the following assertion.
“The Ancient Model had no major `internal’ deficiencies, or weaknesses in explanatory power. It was overthrown for external reasons. For 18th and 19th century Romantics and racists it was simply intolerable for Greece, which was seen not merely as the epitome of Europe but as its pure childhood, to have been the result of the mixture of native Europeans and colonizing Africans and Semites. Therefore the Ancient Model had to be overthrown and replaced by something more acceptable.” (Bernal, pg. 2, 1987)
Bernal goes on further to assert that the scholarship was shifted due to romanticism, racism and continental chauvinism. (Bernal, pg. 2, 1987)
These points will be discussed later. Nevertheless, it is my intention to revisit the notion of a Kemetic cultural influence on ancient Greek philosophy. In order to provide a sound argument, I will review these particular areas. First, I would like to briefly discuss the educational system of Kemet. I believe that reviewing this will give the reader a greater understanding of how sophisticated their level of knowledge was. Furthermore, this point of discussion will provide an account of the historical development of Kemet’s knowledge and education and its rise in popularity. Secondly, I would like to address the convergence of Greek students with Kemetic education and philosophy. I assert that many of the most esteemed Greek scholars either studied in Kemet or were, in some form or fashion, influenced by Kemetic education and philosophy. Thirdly, I will consider Bernal’s assertion of a reinvention concerning the history of ancient Greece.
This last point of discussion should allow a clearer understanding of why the argument I am presenting is not recognized by Western scholars any longer. As well, it should reinforce the validity of the previous two points of the argument.
Points of Discussion
“Long before the colonization of the African continent by European nations, and long before the first recorded invasions of the African’s continent by any nation outside the continent, Africans had developed the most sophisticated system of education to be found in early records. Those records show that the African system of education, especially its classical expression in ancient KMT (later called Egypt by the Greeks), was the parent of other systems of education, especially early European education, in Greece and Rome.” (Hilliard, pg. 117, 1995)
The Kemetic system of education permeated with philosophical discourse. This discourse was led by the well regarded priesthood. This priesthood, via their highly educated status, grew more prominent and respected as Kemet matured. Their prominence stemmed from their intimate understanding of knowledge. They were, perhaps, the first to have studied and surveyed the celestial body. As a matter of fact, their investigation of the celestial system was so accurate that our present day calender is modeled after the calender of Kemet. (West, pg. 94, 1993)
Furthermore, their in-depth study and understanding of the celestial system resulted in a highly developed cosmogony. Their cosmological system was created in order for a greater human comprehension of man, nature, the universe and their interrelationships. The Kemetic cosmogony became a metaphor for nature. Within the cosmogony came what was to be known as Neters. They were not “gods” as they are often misinterpreted as. The Neters (or principles of nature) were chosen to represent different aspects of nature and the universe. Again, they were applied to nature in order to provide a greater comprehension of the universe and the natural order of things.
This was an elegantly crafted cosmogony in which one of the earliest concepts of a divine utterance is found. (West, pg. 69, 1993) From this divine utterance, as issued by Atum, came the Grand Ennead (the nine original Neters) and the creation of the universe, including the earth, nature and humankind. (West, pg. 55, 1993) This cosmogony manifested one of the earliest, if not the first, sign of a holy trinity known by the Neters Ausar, Auset and Heru (Osiris, Isis and Horus to the Greeks). Also, one of the earliest, if not the first, madonna and child (Auset and Horus). Moreover, we witness one of the earliest, if not the first, depiction of the resurrection of a slain “god” that ascended to “heaven”. That being the resurrection of Ausar after being slain by his evil brother Set. Just as important as the previously mentioned Neters is Ma’at. She symbolizes truth, justice, righteousness, reciprocity and balance. At the “Weighing of the Heart,” Ma’at’s feather is weighed on a scale against the heart of the deceased to determine whether they are righteous enough (without sin) to become immortal. This action is judged by Ausar, ruler of the “Underworld.” The Neter Tehuti, Ma’at’s brother, records the “Weighing of the Heart.” He represents speech, writing, scientific knowledge and wisdom in Kemetic cosmogony. Many books have been written that describe the Kemetic cosmogony. The following is a listing a just several of the many sources available.
* The Egyptian Book of the Dead translated by E.A. Wallis Budge,
* The Egyptian Miracle: An Introduction to the Wisdom of the Temple by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz,
* Sacred Science by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, and
* Serpent in the Sky: the High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt by John Anthony West
A relevant issue that I might address here concerns the Kemetic cosmogony. It was presented to the general society as a religion which resulted in a large following over a significant amount of years. In particular, by the general population of Kemet (those not initiated into the way of higher knowledge). The Kemetic priesthood possessed an esoteric level of knowledge that was not divulged to the uninitiated. Hence, there was the religion of Kemet which was a general system of belief followed by the population at large. And there was the Kemetic cosmogony, a higher level of understanding, that only the initiated priesthood was aware of.
In any event, this is but an abbreviated version of Kemetic cosmogony (and religion). It is important to note the popularity and acceptance of the Kemetic religion included a devoted following by foreign nations as well. So popular was this religion, Hilliard asserts that “until the rise of organized Christianity, Kemetic religion was a major if not the major religion of the Greco-Roman world.” (Hilliard, pg. 215 1995) Additionally, so popular was the Kemetic religion in Greece that “the Egyptian mother goddess Isis, for instance, had been worshipped in Athens since the 5th century, not merely by resident Egyptians but by native Athenians.” (Bernal, pg. 116, 1987) To further substantiate the promotion of Kemetic religion, Bernal states the following.
“…starting in the 5th century at the latest, Egyptian deities began to be worshipped under Egyptian names – and following Egyptian ritual – throughout Greece, the East Mediterranean and later the whole Roman world. It was only after the collapse of Egyptian religion in the 2nd century A.D. that other Oriental cults, notably Christianity, began to replace it.” (Bernal, pg. 23, 1987)
Nevertheless, this minute fragment of Kemetic religion and cosmogony is cited to make observation of the development of a philosophical discourse that evolved over thousands of years. I assert that this can be labelled as philosophy because, as Obenga states, “the concept of philosophy embraces the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom as well as acts of speculation, study and the investigation of truth and nature.” (Obenga, pg. 31, 1995) Many of which is aforementioned. Therefore, Kemetic cosmogony and religion can also be regarded as philosophy. This philosophy being an integral part of the Kemetic educational system.
Other areas of Kemetic development that contributed to a philosophical discourse were the numerous papyri that have been found that date back thousands of years. These papyri allude to an elevated level of Kemetic understanding around the areas of geometry, medicine and other indepth philosophical investigations. Obenga asserts “the works of Imhotep (around 2660 B.C.), Kagemni and Ptahotep (ca. 2600 B.C.) and texts found in the pyramids (since 2350 B.C.) constitute the first written ethical, philosophical and metaphysical texts on the African continent.” (Obenga, pg. 11, 1995) Moreover, one can browse through many architectural history books and bear witness to some of the most magnificent architectural edifices ever constructed. Technologically advanced wonders that continue to bewilder today’s civilization as to how they were constructed to such sophistication by an ancient society. These architectural edifices can be viewed as the culmination of Kemetic philosophical development expressed through the architectural form. It is suggested by Obenga that these were expressions of the Kemetic priesthood’s philosophical endeavors. (Obenga, pg. 18, 1995)
Volumes of scholarship have been written on Kemet. Indeed, we are indebted to their knowledge. As mentioned before, the initiated priest was meticulously educated and trained to have a total comprehension of Kemetic philosophical thought. Obenga tells us that “Egyptian priests were highly trained in religious ideology as well as in the study of celestial bodies and the act of symbolic writing [Meter Neter or hieroglyphics as called by the Greeks].” (Obenga, pg. 18, 1995) Moreover, the popularity of their educational system spread to foreign lands. Over time, Kemet began to be known as one of, if not, the greatest sources of knowledge and education. “Egypt was the center of the body of ancient wisdom, and their religious, philosophical and scientific knowledge spread to other lands through student Initiates.” (James, pg. 12, 1954) So popular was their system of education, that students from these foreign lands began to matriculate to Kemet to study. Here is where we find the Greek convergence on Kemet and their “universities” which is the second point of discussion.
Only the initiated person was able to be educated and trained in the Kemetic way of thought. The Greeks had long been enamoured by Kemetic civilization. In general, Kemetic civilization was highly attractive to foreign visitors. Bernal informs us that “Egypt had by far the greatest civilization in the East Mediterranean during the millenia in which Greece was formed.” (Bernal, pg. xiv, 1987) Although, they had been banned from the universities, the Greeks still sought admittance. According to George G.M. James, the Greeks had been prohibited to enter Kemetic universities for thousands of years (James, pg. 1, 1954). They sought out Kemet, perhaps, because, “the Greeks saw Egypt, an African country, as the cradle of wisdom and knowledge.” (Asante, pg. 64, 1990) Eventually, Greek students were able to enter into the Kemetic universities. Initially, however, only a small number of Greeks travelled across the Mediterranean Sea to Kemet in order to be educated. The first is said to have been Thales. Afterward, many of Greek’s most esteemed scholars travelled to Kemet to learn.
Thus, Thales is said to have become the first of the Greeks to be schooled in Kemet. Therefore, he became “the first Greek philosopher” as it is generally understood in Western philosophy. He is said to have learned “astronomy, land surveying, mensuration, engineering and Egyptian theology.” (James, pg. 42, 1954) Hence, we have the “first” recognized philosopher of Greece having received his education in Kemet. In turn, Thales is said to have influenced Pythagoras to pursue his education in Kemet as well. Again, according to Obenga, “Thales urged Pythagoras to sail across the sea to Egypt in order to get more knowledge from Egyptian priests at Memphis and Thebes than could be attained anywhere else.” (Obenga, pg. 39, 1995) If this is true, Pythagoras, “the father of mathematics,” also received his education in Kemet. As quoted by Bernal, Isokrates asserts that “on a visit to Egypt he [Pythagoras] became a student of the religion of the people, and was the first to bring to the Greeks all philosophy.” (Bernal, pg. 105, 1987) Bernal goes on to say that Pythagoras established his school on the basis of his studies in Kemet. And “the close connections between Pythagoras and Egypt were accepted by all in Antiquity.” (Bernal, pg. 72, 1987).
Thales and Pythagoras were not the only Greeks to have been instructed by Kemet priests. Plato, Aristole, and Isokrates were all said to have been educated or dramatically influenced by Kemetic priets and their philosophy. As for Plato, Bernal has established his tenure in Kemet to have taken place around 390 B.C. (Bernal, pg. 106, 1987) In relation to Plato and the Kemetic priesthood, Bernal claims “Egyptian priesthoods had in fact appealed to conservative thinkers at least since the time when Plato had modelled his Guardians on them.” (Bernal, pg. 25, 1987) Aristole is reported to have spent sixteen months in Kemet as well. (Bernal, pg. 108, 1987) “The Greeks (i.e., Alexander the Great, Aristole’s school and the succeeding Ptolemies) converted the Royal Library of Alexandria into a center, by transferring Aristole’s school and pupils from Athens to this great Egyptian Library, and therefore the students who studied there received instructions from Egyptian priests and teachers, until they died out.” (James, pg. 46, 1954) Isokrates is believed to have been just as influenced by Kemetic philosophy as the others. Bernal quotes him as saying “philosophers who undertake to discuss such topics and have won the greatest reputation prefer above all others the Egyptian form of government…” (Bernal, pg. 105, 1987) Furthermore, it is said that Isokrates “admired the caste system, the rulership of the philosophers, and the rigour of the Egyptian philosopher/priests’ (education) that produced the (contemplative man), who used his superior wisdom for the good of the state.” (Bernal, pg. 104, 1987) The inquiry could go on and on. However, it is not as important to become bogged down by listing the numerous Greek students and philosophers who studied in Kemet. A critical overview of several of the esteemed Greek philosophers seems sufficient enough to substantiate the proposed argument.
According to Obenga, “the ancient Greeks traced almost all human inventions to the Egyptians, from Calculus, Geometry, Astronomy, and Dice Games, to Writing.” (Obenga, pg. 45, 1995) Indeed, if this is the case, one can understand why Greeks made their pilgrimages to Kemet to be educated. Both Isokrates and Plato “maintained that the great lawgivers and philosophers like Lykourgos, Solon and Pythagoras had all brought back Egyptian knowledge.” (Bernal, pg. 107, 1987) All in all, the Greeks were familiar with the source of their philosophy and religion. They did not attempt to cloak the significant influence that Kemet had on their civilization. Bernal makes the following assertion.
“The Ancient Greeks, though proud of their recent accomplishments, did not see their political institutions, science, philosophy or religion as original. Instead they derived them – through the early colonization and later study by Greeks abroad – from the East in general and Egypt in particular.” (Bernal, pg. 120, 1987)
He goes on further to state, “Greek writers had written at length about their debts to Egyptian religion, and other aspects of culture.” (Bernal, pg. xiv, 1987) Hence, there is a firm understanding that the Greeks, themselves, saw their culture and philosophy as having been abundantly dependent on Kemet. Their acknowledgement of this is vividly clear according to the aforementioned. Therefore, it is plausible that Greeks were comfortable with the notion that they were culturally dependent on Kemet. This, according to Bernal, is how the “Ancient Model” was seen and generally accepted. At this point, it is conducive to begin the third point of discussion. The third point being the reinvention of ancient Greek history.
“According to it [the Ancient Model], Greek culture had arisen as the result of colonization, around 1500 B.C., by Egyptians and Phoenicians who had civilized the native inhabitants. Furthermore Greeks had continued to borrow heavily from Near Eastern cultures.” (Bernal, pg. 1, 1995)
Bernal, in particular, is extremely critical of the shift in scholarship as it concerns the history of Greece. According to Bernal, in ancient times in was typically accepted that Greek culture was shaped by “Near Eastern” cultures, Kemet in particular. If this is the case, the argument of a Kemetic cultural influence of Greek philosophy is not inconceivable. Bernal makes this point; “the Classical and Hellenistic Greeks themselves maintained that their religion came from Egypt, and Herodotos even specified that the names of the gods were – with one or two exceptions – all Egyptian.” (Bernal, pg. 72, 1987) In addition, a complete cultural influence is seen in Greek mythology. According to Herodotos’ Histories:
“The names of nearly all the gods [Neters] came to Greece from Egypt. I know from inquiries I have made that they came from abroad, and it seems most likely that it was from Egypt, for the names of all the gods have been known in Egypt from the beginning of time.” (Bernal, pg. 99, 1987)
One can infer from Herodotos’ statement that he had a high respect and regard for Kemet’s antiquity. If only a portion of what Herodotos stated is true, then one can conclude that Kemet had some type of cultural influence on Greece. Even a small cultural influence is significant to be aware of within the framework of Greek cultural and philosophical development. Again, referring to Bernal, he asserts that “…his [Herodotos’] statement strongly suggests that in the 5th century B.C. it was generally believed that Greece had been colonized from Egypt at the beginning of the Heroic Age.” (Bernal, pg. 75, 1987) Hence, one can make a confident argument that the “Ancient Model” (as Bernal labels it) believed that Greece had a cultural legacy that was influenced by the Kemetic civilization. Obenga suggests that “since the time of Homer, Egyptian Antiquity functioned strictly as a highly memorialized component of Greek history.” (Obenga, pg. 45, 1995) He goes on to say that “Herodotos said it, Plato confirmed it, and Aristotle never denied it.” (Obenga, pg. 45, 1995)
With such a historical precedence set, why then is there a shift in scholarship? The inquiry of Bernal suggests that it was primarily during the last two centuries that European scholars began to obliterate the cultural ties between Kemet and Greece. More specifically, Bernal states that the reinvention of Greek history began in the 1840s and 50s. (Bernal, pg. xv, 1987) They did this although history warranted a cultural sharing by Kemet with Greece. This model of history is what Bernal terms “the Aryan Model”. (Bernal, pg. 1, 1987)
The result of this shift in the scholarship of history was the demotion of Kemetic reputation and the elevation of Greece’s. Additionally, Greece’s genealogy received an ethnic cleansing, enabling Greece to be pure of any cultural and racial mixtures with Kemet or any of the other “Near Eastern” civilizations. Now Greece could be viewed as the “childhood” of Western civilization. Hence, a cultural development that extend from ancient Greece to modern Western Civilization. This model of Greece directly relates to Bernal’s argument of racism within the scholarship of history. Bernal states:
“The paradigm of `races’ that were intrinsically unequal in physical and mental endowment was applied to all human studies, but especially to history. It was now [end of 18th century] considered undesirable, if not disastrous, for races to mix. To be creative, a civilization needed to be `racially pure’. Thus it became increasingly intolerable that Greece – which was seen by the Romantics not merely as the epitome of Europe but also as its pure childhood – could be the result of the mixture of native Europeans and colonizing Africans and Semites.” (Bernal, pg. 29, 1987)
The above draws a distinct picture of why the denial of Kemet’s cultural influence on Greece began to be strategically implemented within the textbooks. The European scholars did not want to have any association with Kemet or any other civilization that could not be identified as purely European. In addition, the experience of the African Holocaust [misappropriately referred to as “the African slave trade”] forced Europeans to justify their kidnapping, enslavement and murder of thousands upon thousands of African people. They had to deny African’s humanity. There were many ways that they accomplished this, however, it is necessary at this time to only view one. Europeans needed to reconstruct the perception of African people and civilizations to one of disdain and disgust. Bernal asserts, “…after the rise of black slavery and racism, European thinkers were concerned to keep black Africans as far as possible from European civilization.” (Bernal, pg. 30, 1987) It may be concluded that European racism was one reason of the denial of Kemetic influence on ancient Greece.
However, racism was not the only characteristic that Bernal suggests was exhibited. He also considers European romanticism as being another attribute to Kemet’s fall from grace. According to Asante, “Bernal has also argued that the idea of progress and romanticism also assisted in the supplanting of Egypt and the rise of Greece.” (Asante, pg. 103, 1990) Although maybe not as distasteful as Bernal’s suggestion of racism, romanticism was still as effective in destroying the Ancient Model that had been generally accepted. Thus, it can be inferred that racism and romanticism were the major determinants in the writing out of Kemet’s cultural influence on Greece. Asante states that “Greece gained prominence while Egypt fell in reputation due to a combination of European racism and chauvinism.” (Asante, pg. 102, 1990) He goes on to add that the antiquity of Kemet was no longer considered “a valuable credit” but rather a “debit.” This statement suggests that Kemet’s tremendous historical legacy was also ridiculed by the Aryan Model.
Thus, the third point of discussion posits the theory that, primarily, racism and romanticism, beginning in the 1840s and onward, resulted in the denial of a Kemetic cultural influence on Greece. Accordingly, many scholars still repudiate the notion of a Kemetic cultural influence on Greece. I propose that had this not been an accepted theme, then there would not be a question as to whether Kemet had a primary, secondary or any role in Greece’s cultural and philosophical development. However, because of this accepted model, it can be said to have distorted history and denied Kemet’s proper contributions to Greece’s [evolution]. I contend that the third point of discussion works towards substantiating the argument of a Kemetic cultural influence on Greek philosophy.
“As constant admirers of Egyptian civilization, the Greeks always acknowledged the anteriority of the country of the Pharaohs as far as civilization and the progress of humanity in ancient times was concerned. They never broke up their intellectual and scientific geneology by separating it from that of Pharaonic Egypt, and that genealogy continued from its Egyptian origins through Greek antiquity to the Graeco-Roman period.” (Obenga, pg. 46, 1995)
“He [Diop] shows that Roman history is Greek, as well as Roman, and both Greek and Roman history are Egyptian because the entire Mediterranean was civilized by Egypt…As Diop explains, Africa came into the Mediterranean world mainly through Greece, which had been under African [Kemetic] influence.” (Diop, pg. xviii, 1991)
The two previous quotations by Dr. Theophile Obenga and Dr. John Henrik Clarke seem to be an appropriate way to conclude this argument. It should not be unsettling to suggest that ancient Kemet had a dramatic cultural influence on Greek culture, particularly its philosophy. A part of studying history is the inquiries that are continually made as to the sharing of cultures and ideas between different civilizations. Therefore, if, indeed, Kemet did have a cultural influence on Greek philosophy, it should be portrayed as such. With the three points of discussion previously articulated, it is my conclusion that Kemet did have a “teacher-student” relationship with Greece. A relationship in which Greek students willingly and eagerly absorbed as much of the Kemetic philosophy as they were able to retain.
The first point of discussion briefly describes the Kemetic priesthood and their philosophical discourse. As stated by Hilliard, “it cannot be denied that African Kemetic (Egyptian) civilization is older than the Greco-Roman by at least 2000 years.” (Hilliard, pg. 215, 1995) Reaffirming this idea, Asante says that “since Egypt preceded the civilizations of Greece and Rome in antiquity it is only natural that it would be the source of much Greek knowledge, even the names of towns and deities.” (Asante, pg. 100, 1990) Thus, with Kemet predating Greece, one can draw the conclusion that Kemet shared with young Greece a historical legacy that had been developing for thousands of years. Their vibrant educational and philosophical discourse drew accolades and admirers from afar. And because of its attraction, Greek students were well aware of Kemetic universities. Therefore, they sought to enter these universities so that they could cultivate their intellect. Hilliard suggests that “before the Greek invasion, Greek students and settlers had been going to KMT [Kemet] for years to learn religion, architecture, and the arts and sciences.” (Hilliard, pg. 124, 1995) He goes on to say that “…the philosophers of Greece, as celebrated as they were, won still more popular admiration when one could find an Egyptian sojourn at the source of their knowledge.” (Hilliard, pg. 178, 1995) Asante also states that “the celebrated writers became more popular if they could proclaim they had been educated by the priests in Africa.” (Asante, pg. 65, 1990) Hence, one can determine why many of Greece’s most esteemed scholars travelled to Kemet to further their education.
Secondly, it has been seen in historical accounts that many of the venerated Greek scholars studied in Kemet. Intellectual giants such as Thales, Pythagoras, Aristole, Plato and Isokrates were are either initiated into the Kemetic priesthood or dramatically influenced by its philosophical discourse (as in the case of Isokrates). Asante states, “both Solon and Plato crossed the Mediterranean to pay homage to ancient Egypt.” (Asante, pg. 64, 1990) He continues by asserting the following:
“Thales, Pythagoras, Oenopidos, and Euxodus are only a few of the early Greek thinkers who found it necessary to study in Africa. Indeed, according to Diogenes Laerce in Thales we find that Thales learned his astronomy and geometry from the Egyptian priests. We also know that Pythagoras spent twenty two years in the temples of Egypt. Olympiodorus in his Life of Plato and Strabo in his description of Egypt say that Plato spent thirteen years in Egypt learning geometry and theology.” (Asante, pg. 65, 1990)
In particular, Thales, being the “first” Greek philosopher “naturally became founder of the first Greek school of philosophy and science. (Obenga, pg. 30, 1995) Hence, there can be a reasonable conclusion that Kemetic education and philosophy was, at the least, somewhat influential in Greek philosophical development. Consequently, many esteemed Greek scholars had the impetus to seek out Kemetic training and philosophy. This second point of discussion provides a sound argument in substantiating the idea of a Kemetic cultural influence on Greek philosophy. If it is true that Greece’s own scholars sought to obtain Kemetic education and philosophy, then it must be concluded that Kemet had an influence on Greek philosophy.
Additionally, the third point of discussion supports the thesis. This point concentrating on the development of racism and romanticism within the scholarship of history. I assert that this distortion led to the erroneous misconception of Greece receiving no cultural influence from Kemet or any of the other “Near Eastern” civilizations. Conversely, the Aryan Model depicted “an invasion from the north – unreported in ancient tradition – which had overwhelmed the local `Aegan’ or `Pre-Hellenic’ culture.” (Bernal, pg. 1, 1987) Moreover, Bernal contends that the Aryan Model views the Greek civilization “as a result of the mixture of the Indo-European-speaking Hellenes and their indigenous subjects.” (Bernal, pg. 1, 1987) According to Bernal, these ideas contradict the Ancient Model that had been generally accepted since time immemorable. Furthermore, these inventions of Greek history demean Kemet by inferring that a civilization that is not of a European legacy could not have contributed to Greece’s culture. Therefore, it may be concluded that the reinvention of Greek history denied Kemet its proper position as having contributed to Greece’s cultural and philosophical development. Hence, the third point of discussion demonstrates a rationale as to why Kemet is no longer widely accepted as having contributed to ancient Greek philosophy. Moreover, this third point furthers the argument.
In conclusion, I contend that Kemet played an important role in the development of Greek philosophy. Considering the aforementioned scholarship, it may be deduced that a sound argument has been provided to support the thesis. It has been seen where the educational system of Kemet was revered in ancient times and permeated with philosophical discourse. Its reverence resulted in the attraction of foreign students, the Greeks in particular. And many of Greece’s most admired scholars travelled to Kemet to learn. Also, the reinvention of Greek history has enabled scholars to deny the cultural influence that Kemet had on Greek philosophy. I will end with a quote from Plato that he reports was made to Solon by an aged Kemetic priest. I believe that this quotation makes an excellent point in summing up this argument. “You Greeks are always children: there is no such thing as an old Greek…You are always young in soul, every one of you; For…you possess not a single belief that is ancient…” (Bernal, pg. 208, 1987)