patched together from novels, folktales,rnand wishful thinking.rnMuch of the argumentation will bernfairly obvious to educated people;rnin fact, we know a great deal about whatrnthe Greeks looked like, how they developedrntheir culture, and what theirrnattitude to foreign cultures was. A generationrnor two ago, when most halfeducatedrnpeople had read the ancientrnclassics, if only in translation, no MartinrnBernal could have humbugged the readingrnpublic with the absurdities of BlackrnAthena. Central to Bernal’s thesis (andrnto the case made by most Afrocentrists)rnis the idea that the Greeks wouldrnhave been unwilling to admit their culturalrndependency upon Africa. But, asrnLefkowitz shows, Herodotus was credulousrnto the point of gullibility in believingrnwhat the Egyptians said about theirrninfluences on Greek civilization. SincernEgypt was virtually a closed book, beforernthe 19th century when some progressrnwas made in the decipherment of hieroglyphics,rnthe vision of Egypt handedrndown to Afrocentrists is essentially arnGreek creation.rnSome of the more amusing discussionsrnconcern the claims that Socratesrnand Cleopatra were African. RegardingrnSocrates, the only evidence comes fromrnbusts made of the philosopher generationsrnafter his death. The depiction,rnvaguely Negroid, probably does not gornback to any life-portraits; it is obviouslyrnbased on his own self-description (inrnPlato) as snub-nosed and resembling arnsilenus (a humanoid with horse’s tail andrnears).rnPericles’ citizenship laws of 451 reservedrnAthenian citizenship to peoplernwhose father and mother were bothrncitizens. This obviously excludes Ethiopians,rnand since the comic poets (particularlyrnAristophanes in the Clouds)rnridiculed Socrates for every other peculiarityrnof his, it is utteriy fantastic to supposernthey would have ignored “thernfact” of his being a Negro. “Saying thatrnSocrates looks like a silenus means thatrnSocrates looks like a silenus, not like anrnAfrican. If we were to use his resemblancernto a silenus as an indication of hisrnorigins, it would clearly be equally logicalrnto infer that he was descended fromrnbearded men with horse’s ears and tails.”rnThe ease for Cleopatra is equally substantial,rnturning on the anonymity of onernof her grandparents—the other threernwere Greco-Macedonian as far backrnas can be traced. Joel Rogers, in thernAfroeentrie classic World’s Great Men ofrnColor, clinches his argument for arnblack Cleopatra by misinterpreting arnpassage in Antony and Cleopatra. Butrneven if he were right, what sort of arn”scholar” treats Shakespeare as a sourcernfor ancient history?rnThe most fascinating sections ofrnNot Out of Africa are not ProfessorrnLefkowitz’s refutations of Afrocentristrnmythology, but her discussions of thernsubterranean tradition of Egyptian mysteryrncults. According to George James,rnthe author of Stolen Legacy, the Egyptiansrnwere possessed of secret mystic lorernwhich they communicated to Greek visitorsrnwho subsequently used it as the basisrnof their philosophical systems. Unfortunately,rnthere is no evidence of any formrnof mysticism, philosophical or otherwise,rnamong the Egyptians. What evidencernwe have of so-called mystery cults inrnEgypt makes it clear that they were importedrndirectly from Greece, where suchrnrites as the Eleusinian Mysteries were arndistinctive form of Greek popular religion.rnThe myth of Egyptian mysteries isrnlargely based on the so-called Hermeticrnwritings, a literary forgery of sorts, attributedrnto an ancient Egyptian, HermesrnTrismegistus, but actually written inrnGreek in a period much later than thatrnof the philosophers supposedly inspiredrnby the Hermetica. The great scholarrnIsaac Casaubon revealed the truth inrn1614, but the 17th century was a civilizedrnage in which evidence and logicrnhad some bearing on cases of fact.rnEven more bizarre than the fantasy ofrnEgyptian mysteries is the Masonic traditionrnthat revived and elaborated on thernmyth. The vehicles of this cultural transmissionrnwere works of art: Sethos, a threevolumernfictional biography by Abbe JeanrnTerrasson, and the many novels and operasrnthat it spawned. The greatest monumentrnto Afroeentrism is Mozart’s ThernMagic Flute—an apotheosis of Masonicrnmumbo-jumbo. I take it as a tribute tornmy good sense that I always sided withrnthe Queen of the Night against thernblowhard Sarastro, who—if he were aliverntoday—would probably be running thernVatican Bank from behind the scenes.rnHow black Americans like FrederickrnDouglass picked up these stories in thern19th century and used them to explainrnaway African nonhistory makes a lessrninteresting story; in fact, ProfessorrnLefkowitz does not trace her story as farrnback as it can go. The eariiest AmericanrnAfrocentrist argument I know of occursrnin an 1829 pamphlet of David Walker, arnformer slave, but she has little patiencernfor these self-serving follies. Every ethnicrngroup has made its share of “terrible andrnfoolish mistakes,” she says, asking, “Isn’trntreating African-Americans differentlyrnfrom the rest of humankind just anotherrnform of segregation and condescension?”rnYes and no. Yes to the extent that wernare using a double standard in toleratingrnnonsense in the guise of history andrnhate-mongering in the form of Africanrnnationalism and black pride. On thernother hand, our treatment of the past isrnnot an exclusively rational affair. If I werernnot of European background, I am not atrnall sure that I would have spent so muchrntime—even if I were born in America—rnlearning Greek and Latin, to say nothingrnof the languages and histories of more recentrnEuropean nations. Europe is ourrnmetropolis; the British are our culturalrnparents; the French, Germans, and Italiansrnour cousins; the Greeks and Romansrnour grandparents. Even the Russians arernat least second cousins once removed. Irnadmire the Chinese and the Japanese,rnfrom what I know of them. I would likernto know more, but my European self-absorptionrnalways draws me back to thernfounders of my own civilization.rnBlack Americans have it tough. ProfessorrnLefkowitz avoids the difficultrnquestion of who the Egyptians were, butrnwhoever they were, they were not blacksrnfrom sub-Saharan Africa. They are nornmore the ancestors of present-dayrnAfrican-Americans than St. Augustine orrnCallimaehus, both of whom are Africanrnin the geographical sense. It is hard notrnto have some sympathy for African-rnAmericans looking for a usable past. Therntrouble is, this search is motivated asrnmuch by resentment of European-rnAmerican culture as by ancestral piety. Arnreal study of African culture revealsrnstrengths and beauties that black andrnwhite people in America might well envy,rnand an Afroeentrism that started withrnthis reality might be forgiven for stretchingrnthe point.rnProfessor Lefkowitz is a hard-mindedrnscholar who does not share my sentiments,rnbut her book is one of thernstrongest weapons that any teacher andrnparent can have to defend the minds ofrnour children against the racist poisonsrnbeing poured into their ears in Black HistoryrnMonth. The least that we can do asrncivilized readers is to buy this book.rnJUNE 1996/37rnrnrn