NOT OUT OF AFRICA REVISITED: HOW EUROCENTRISM BECAME AN EXCUSE TO TEACH HISTORY AS MYTH has demolished Mary Lefkowitz's many myths in her book, NOT OUT OF AFRICA.
SAMPLE FROM BOOK:
WAS SOCRATES BLACK?
Lefkowitz believes that Socrates was White, as she claims that he belonged to the same race as other Athenians. She seems to think that there were no Blacks and other races in Athens.
As she has pointed out, “In portrait sculptures dating after his lifetime, Socrates is shown with a snub nose, broad nostrils, and a wide mouth, features that may also be found in portrayals of Ethiopian types on vase paintings” (NOA, p. 29).
According to Lefkowitz, if Socrates were Black, some of his students would have been sure to point it out. Martin Bernal responded by saying that Socrates’ students, Plato and Xenophon, compared him to a silenus.
The Athenians portrayed the silenus with Black features: broad nostrils, snub noses and wide mouth. The silenus, of course was a fabled creature, half man and half horse, noted for its wantonness and often depicted with an erect penis. It is possible that this creature is a caricature of Blacks, in the same way that the ogres of Europeans history are a caricature of the Black Huns (see David MacRitchie) and Formorians. Similarly, the leprechauns, brownies, fairies, dark elves, dwarfs, pixies etc. are the “Pigmies” or Twa of European history. In the same case, it can be logically deduced that those White Athenians who decided to make fun of Blacks turned them into the silenus.
Lefkowitz says: “Saying that Socrates looks like a silenus means that Socrates looks like a silenus, not like an African. If we were to use his resemblance to a silenus as an indication of his origins, it would clearly be equally logical to infer that he was descended from bearded men with horse’s ears and tails” ( NOA, p.30).
Trying to brush off Socrates’ origin in this facetious manner does not solve the issue. Of course, there are ancient portrait sculptures of Socrates showing him as a Black man, or Ethiopian, with broad nostrils, snub-nose, and a wide mouth. Socrates describes himself as “snub-nosed” in Xenophon’s Symposium. Also, Socrates’ pupil, Alcibiades (in Plato’s Symposium) compares him to a Silenus and a satyr (215b).
According to Lefkowitz , these features of the Silenus in Athenian vase paintings are not “exclusive characteristics of African types” and that the Greeks even considered the Scythians, who lived in south Russia, to be snub-nosed. The homeland of the Scythians, she says, is “about as far from Africa as anyone at the time could have been imagined to live.”
Lefkowitz seems to think that being a Scythian is equivalent to being White. Indeed there are White Scythians. But, as we shall see, the ancient term “Scythian” no more describes a race than the term “Barbarian” does.
In criticizing J.A. Rogers’ classification of Aesop, Hannibal and Terence as Blacks, Lefkowitz says that Rogers presumes that anyone born in Africa was black, “and uses the term black to describe anyone who has African blood, or who can by virtue of location be presumed to possess it.” ( of NOA, pp. 30-31).
In a similar vein, one can assert that Lefkowitz appears to think that anyone who was born on the continent of Europe was White, “by virtue of location.” Thus, in her view, the Scythians, living in present-day South Russia, could only have been White.
We must take a closer look at the Scythians. Just who were the Scythians of antiquity? Scythia is the name given to the entire area of north and northeast of the Black Sea, and also the Caspian Sea. The Scythians were a large number of loosely connected people who lived in that area.
Colchis was located on the shores of modern-day Georgia and the Colchians were also Scythians. Mary Lefkowitz fails to take into account the fact of human migrations. Strabo, in his Geography dwells on the importance of migrations in history and says that “Egyptians settled Ethiopa and Colchis.”
Herodotus says in reference to the Blacks of Colchis:
… it is undoubtedly a fact that the Colchians are of Egyptian descent. I noticed this myself before I heard anyone else mention it, and when it occurred to me I asked some questions both in Colchis and in Egypt, and found that the Colchians remembered the Egyptians more distinctly than the Egyptians remembered them. The Egyptians did, however, say that they thought the original Colchians were men from Sesostris’ army. My own idea on the subject was based first on the fact that they have black skin and woolly hair… (Book Two, 104)
Herodotus referred to the Colchians as black-skinned (melagchroes) and “woolly-haired” (oulotriches).
Some scholars believe this statement of Herodotus to be a mistranslation, and that melagchroes should be translated “dark-skinned” while oulotriches may not refer to the really kinky hair of Black Africans. In any case, there are still Blacks living in the Black Sea area. While most are thought to have been relatively recent arrivals, the Abkhazian Nart Epic, thousands of years old, mentions a hundred Black horsemen who arrived in that area.
As far back as 1884, the Scottish historian, David MacRitchie, wrote in the first volume of his two
volume work, Ancient and Modern Britons:
The word “Scythian” is, however, delightfully vague, and is becoming or is already out of date. It was used to include all the nations to the north and east of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and indeed all the unknown North-European races…(p.23)
The Scottish historian quotes other authorities to prove that some of the Scythians could have been Anarian, Allophylic, Mongolian, Aryan, Tartars, Huns, Vandals, Goths, Alans, etc. MacRitchie continues: “It is thus apparent that the term “Scythian” is too comprehensive to be of much use…” (Ibid., p.24).
In other words, they could have been of any race, and the author makes it clear that the “Huns are said to be of a dark complexion, almost black.” Concerning the term “Tartars,” he says that it refers to the Scandinavian title for Gypsies. The early Gypsies were Blacks and he has made it abundantly clear in his book.
It is worthwhile to note that David MacRitchie mentions “…a large and important nation of “Scythians” who were not only styled black,” but who were actually so. And, therefore, knowing how numerous they were, and how they spread themselves like a flood over Europe, it is to them we must look if we want to learn something of the history and manners of what may be called the material ancestors of the melanochroi (Ibid., p. 33).
Thus Mary Lefkowitz’s imagines and conjectures that the Scythians lived too far from Africa to be Blacks or to include Blacks. Such an assumption defies the facts of history. If the Greeks considered the Scythians to be snub-nosed, as Lefkowitz has admitted, and we can see from an examination of history that the term “Scythian” does not describe a race, and there were numerous people spread across Europe who were Black Scythians, then it is logical to assume that the Athenians considered Socrates to be Black because he was actually so.
If Socrates was portrayed in sculpture as Black, it means exactly that: he was Black.