Feature Articles – Egypt: origin of the Greek culture
For centuries, scholars have identified the Greek culture as the source of the western civilisation. But what if the Greek culture itself was a legacy – a colony – of the ancient Egyptians?
by Philip Coppens
Schools still teach that the Western civilisation is a child of Greece. Until a few decades ago, many schools did not mention the cultural achievements of Egypt or Sumer – and many schools in Europe still pay no attention to the Inca’s, Toltecs, etc. But when it comes to the Greek and Egyptian civilisations, it was made painfully clear that the Egyptian civilisation was “primitive” when compared to the cultural and specifically philosophical achievements of the Greeks.
This situation is now slowly beginning to change, though the chasm between the Greek and Egyptian culture remains. Though geographically both countries are close to each other, and whereas many Greeks would later travel to Egypt, it is assumed that the Egyptians, a civilisation that predates the Greek civilisation by two millennia, never used that time to sail in the opposite direction. Though the ancient Egyptians had seaworthy boats – e.g. the funerary boat in the boatpit on the Gizeh plateau – the status quo is that they never sailed the Mediterranean Seas to Greece. Richard Poe in “Black Spark, White Fire” argues that the assumption that the ancient Egyptians did not sail across the Mediterranean Sea is a carefully constructed scientific myth. Evidence that the ancient Egyptians did just that is similar to the volume of evidence that the Phoenicians and Minoans sailed that sea. Scientists willingly accept those cultures’ seafaring capability, yet illogically limit the ancient Egyptians’ capability to do the same.
Still, there is powerful evidence to show that the Egyptians did venture beyond the Nile. It is also known that they possessed a large fleet. And Thor Heyerdahl showed that even their “primitive boats” were able to master the currents of the oceans – thus very well equipped to master the much calmer waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The same veil of ignorance is maintained when it comes to philosophy. Both Plato and Pythagoras, identified as icons of Greek philosophy, stated that they and other great Greek philosophers had studied and learned that knowledge in Egypt. Many had studied many years at Egyptian schools, to return to Greece as the “first philosophers”. Thales of Milete Iamblichus wrote that Thales of Milete had to make it clear to Pythagoras that the latter had to go to Memphis, in Egypt, to study. Thales added that it were the Egyptian priests that were a veritable source of knowledge and information. Thales stated this at a time when he himself was Greece’s most famous and applauded philosopher, even though it would be his protégé Pythagoras who is currently best remembered as the “first philosopher”.
After Socrates’ death, Plato left for Egypt, where he studied for a period of 13 years. His mentor was Sechnuphis, a priest of Heliopolis (modern Cairo and thus near the Great Pyramid).
Years afterwards, Strabo would travel through Egypt. His Egyptian guide showed him where Plato had lived. It was how Plato learned the fable of Thoth and Amun, which he wrote down in Phaedros. Despite its clearly Egyptian source, many “scholars” interpreted that treatise as a “typically Greek” text. They “explained” their anomalous thinking by arguing that the Greeks “bragged”. They argued that the Greeks wanted to make their philosophy appear to be much older than it actually was. Though possible, it is clear that the available evidence (of which we have not even presented one percent) in this case does not warrant such a conclusion. If the Greeks stated they learned their philosophy from the Egyptians, why not simply accept that?
The answer is clear: whereas the ancient Greeks were completely comfortable with their inheritance of the Egyptian philosophy, modern scholars were not. As a result, they have had to jump through hoops to explain certain of Plato’s writings. Plato Though many will look towards the story of Atlantis and its Egyptian source, it is actually Plato’s philosophy that is the best example of this anomaly. Plato stated that many souls of the deceased reincarnated, both in animals and humans. This concept was unknown in Greece, where it was believed that death signalled the end; only an “underworld” lay behind the veil of death. It were the Egyptians who believed that death was only a passing, the soul continuing to exist beyond that event. Greek myths take the evidence further. They clearly state that the first “Greeks” were Egyptians, who had colonised the Greek isles and mainland. Diodorus Siculus wrote that Kekrops originated from Egypt and founded Athens as a colony of the Egyptian town of Sais. The goddess Athena was in truth the Egyptian Neith, matron of the city of Sais. Two Greek families, the Eumolpidae and the Ceryces, were said to descend from Egyptian priests. The two families were tasked with the rituals of the goddess Athena. They stated: “and their offerings and their old ceremonies were practiced by the people of Athens in the same manner as it was held with the ancient Egyptians. [These two families] are the only Greeks who swear to Isis and they resemble both facially and in mannerisms the Egyptians.”
Martin Bernal adds that Neith was written as “Ht” in Egyptian. This was pronounced “Ath” or “At”. This means that even in Sais, the ancient goddess Neith was addressed as “Athanait”, with the Greeks later chosing to call the “nait” ending for Neith, rather than the “Athan” for “Athena”. Such verbal gymnastics aside, it is known that the Greek writer Charax of Pergamon, in ca. 200 AD, wrote that the inhabitants of Sais referred to their town as “Athenai”. Athena Neith Apart from Athens, Dodona was another Egyptian idea. Herodotus wrote that the Greeks knew and stated that the Mysteries of Dodona originated in Egypt. On his travels in Egypt, the priests told him that two priestesses were abducted by the Phoenicians. One of these victims was said to have founded the sanctuary of Dodona. Herodotus thus stated that both in Greece and in Egypt, he heard repeatedly how the Greek civilisation was a child of the Nile. How do scholars approach this conundrum? Herodotus was duly given the reputation of being a “liar” – a worse fate than Plato suffered, who is only labelled as having “imagined an ideal world” when he spoke of Atlantis. Dodona Still, it is said that the Mysteries of Demeter in Eleusis were also of Egyptian origin. They were traced back to Erechteus, who was said to have created the Mysteries at Eleusis as a copy of the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris. But, once again, scholars argued that the Greeks were wrong. After all, was it not known that all myths and legends were not based in reality, but in flights of fancy? Who created the “veil of ignorance” that guards over the separation of ancient Greece and Egypt as a scientific Iron Curtain? The answer is to be found at the end of the 19th century, and the racial situation of that era. The central question is what race the ancient Egyptians were. The relationship between blacks and white Europeans was a powerful social issue in the United States and Great Britain; in 1879, Britain ruled one quarter of the world. It was at this time that scholars began to awaken to the realisation that the Egyptians possessed a powerful culture; it was at this time that Greece was identified as the cradle of western civilisation. It were largely white scholars who would do anything to make sure that blacks would find no place in history… after all, it could lead to serious social consequences. Blacks surely could never be at the roots of that wonderful Greek civilisation? That “had” to be erroneous. It was simply impossible…
However, the argument was difficult to maintain, and even the myth of Atlantis was called into play to try and salvage the problematic situation: if Atlantis had existed, it would have been a “white race”, and it was this “white race” that had settled into Egypt and had given the native black people its civilisation, its culture and its philosophy. Problem solved… This attitude is the opposite of the Greek attitude, however difficult it is to believe, after more than a century of brainwashing about ancient Greek thinking. The Greeks had no problem in stating their knowledge originated from an African origin; nowhere do they make references to “white deities” or “white leaders” amongst the black culture that gave them their philosophy.
Poe and other analysts argue that modern archaeology, shaped as it is by western thinking, cannot live with the concept that the Greek culture – and western civilisation as a whole – is a legacy of black Egypt. This has resulted in almost hilarious debates as to how the ancient Egyptians could not possibly be African – or a more general attitude that seems to prevail today, which leaves their racial identity unspecified. After all, the Arab race is now the predominant race in Egypt (specifically in the north), and references such as “our ancestors” often imply that the ancient Egyptians were Arabs. The facts are vastly different and radically speak against any such revisionist thinking. The Greek city of Thebes was founded by two brothers, Amphion and Zethos. They were claimed to be the sons of Zeus, with a mortal, known as Antiope. It was a typically Egyptian concept for the king to state that he was born of god. This was purely symbolic – but it should be realised that it was symbolic for the ancient Greeks also.
In 1971, Greek archaeologist Theodore Spyropoulos began his dig on the Amphion hill, which was the legendary burial place of the twins. He soon discovered a stone chamber, deep within the funerary mound. It contained jewellery, including four golden hangers in the shape of lilies… a typically Egyptian motif. He also discovered a vaulted tunnel that ran in several directions. Spyropoulos labelled it a “typically Egyptian tomb”. Further research showed that the tomb dated back to 2900-2400 BC, placing this Greek discovery as a veritable anomaly: there was no Greek civilisation at this time… though there was already an Egyptian civilisation.
It was not the first archaeological discovery that showed such evidence. Greek legend holds that an Egyptian king Danaos landed in Apobathmi, in the Peloponnesus with a great fleet. He made himself ruler and ordered the natives to call themselves “Danaans”. Homer states that the Greeks do not call themselves Greeks or Hellenes, but Danaans. Coincidence? In Graeco-Roman times, tourists made pilgrimages to Apobathmi and even went as far as to argue that the exact date of the landing can be dated to 1511 BC, using an inscription on the Parian Marble.
Several Egyptian pharaohs claimed ownership over “Haunebut”, which means “Behind the Islands.” The Greek portion of the Rosetta Stone text clearly translates the phrase Haunebu – meaning “the people of Haunebut” – as Greek or Hellene. And Greece does lie “behind the islands” of the Aegean Sea, when viewed from Egypt. Thutmosis III boasted that he had “trussed… the Haunebut” and struck those that lived “in the midst of the Great Green Sea” (the Mediterranean Sea). In a single year, he claimed to have collected 36,692 deben of gold from his conquered subjects – the equivalent of three metric tons – of which 27,000 kilos is specifically said to have come from the Asian provinces and the Isles in the Midst of the Great Green Sea (the Greek islands).
In 1946, Spyridon Marinatos, best known for his work on Thera (Akrotiri), had found a series of grain silos in Boiotia. Marinatos also believed that the Mycenaeans helped the Egyptians to expel the Hyksos and were rewarded with the gold that has been found in the so-called shaft tombs in Mycenae. These tombs date from the first 80 years after the expulsion of the Hyksos. Some tombs show Egyptian influences, although the Mycenaeans were much more careless with their dead than the Egyptians. On the topic of the grain silos, Marinatos stated that they greatly resembled Egyptian silos. Of course, his colleagues were unable to accept such a comparison.
One of these silos measured 30 metres high and 100 metres wide. The entire grain production of Argolid could be stored in this complex; only an organised state could and would resort to such a mechanism. But Greece did not have an organised state when the silos were built and used. The logical conclusion that the Greek land was used as a supply of grain that was exported to Egypt was “of course” impossible, for we all “know” that Greece’s cultural development was completely independent of anything that happened anywhere else in the world… This article originally appeared in Frontier Magazine 5.3 (May-June 1999) and has been slightly adapted.