THE ORIGINS OF EUROPEAN PHILOSOPHYHesoid's Theogony (116-135)
The Rise of the Olympian Deities
Giovanni Reale: no evidence that any Greek, who had linguistic competence to read an Asian book or understand an Asian priest.
Buddhist priests came too late--3rd Cent. BCE.
Still, the parallels in reincarnation theory (esp. Plato) strongly suggest some Indian influence. But no textual, linguistic, or archeological evidence.
Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (Rutgers, 1987). Government professor at Cornell.
Reviews by Mary Lefkowitz, "Not Out of Africa: The Origins of Greece and the Illusions of Afrocentrists," The New Republic (2.10-92), 29-36; and Emily Vermeule, "The World Turned Upside Down," The New York Review of Books (3-26-92), 40-43.
Bernal regrets the title. "African Athena" would have been better. Attempts to link Athena with the goddess Neti. Bernal's linguistic argument the weakest: Large portion of Greek comes from Egyptian sources. About half of it is non Indo-European, but that does not mean that part is Egyptian.
Two major discoveries of Classical Greece: democracy and writing of history. The Sophists were the most radical. Distinctively modern vs. premodern Egypt.
Solon and Herodotus' trips to Egypt. Thales was supposed to have practiced philosophy in Egypt before coming to Asia Minor. (Others gave him Phoenician background.) His idea that the earth floats on water may have come from Egypt. Also Thales held a theory about the flooding of the Nile, and made measurements to prove it.
Contact, yes, but not necessarily influence. Early Greek settlements might well have been Egyptian colonies. Knowledge of math and geometry, but not philosophy as the Greeks practiced it. Furthermore, Egyptian and Babylonian math and geometry were practical, not abstract, sciences.
Orphism is Egyptian? No, says Reale, Herodotus notwithstanding. No precedents for these doctrines. But neither is it in Homer or Hesiod. 6th Cent. phenomenon in Greece and India.
"Wisdom" literature of the Bible and savior religion of a dying and rising God (Osiris) also have Egyptian roots. An Egyptian Book of Proverbs existed long before the Hebrew version and there are many similarities between them. The Hebrew Proverbs are considered an essential part of the Wisdom literature.
The Masons of the Enlightenment attempted to bring back the original philosophy and religion of Egypt and displace the importance of Hellenism and Christianity. The Masons claimed that the ancient Egyptians were white and not Negroid, but detractors held otherwise.
Newton and others led an attack against Egypt to maintain a pure Hellenism and Christianity. Tied to the racism of Locke, Montesquieu, and Hume. The Greeks had to be pure "Caucasians," a term invented in the 18th Cent. to denote a superior white race, untainted by African or Asian influence.
Late 18th Cent. discovery of Sanskrit as mother Aryan tongue led to the elevation of ancient Indian civilization at the expense of China and Egypt. The notion of an Indo-European language family aided in isolating and demoting non-Aryan cultures. 19th Cent. linguistics devised theories which made Chinese the most primitive of languages. According to Baron Christain Bunsen, both Chinese and Egyptians were antedeluvian (before Noahs Flood), and therefore did not even belong to history.
Champollion's decipherment of the hieroglyphics was ignored for a half century because of anti-Egypt sentiment.
PERSIA: THE INFLUENCE OF ZOROASTRIANISM AND THE MAGI
Ruhi Muhsen Afnan, Zoroaster's Influence on Greek Thought and Zoroaster's Influence on Anaxagoras, the Greek Tragedians, and Socrates (Philosophical Library, 1969).
J. Duchesne-Gullemin, The Western Response to Zoroaster (Greenwood, 1958), Chap. V ("Iran and Greece").
In 512 BCE Darius I crossed the Hellespont into Scythia and conquered Thrace and Macedon. In 494 he then defeated the Ionian fleet, composed of Greek city states who rose up against Persia. But in 491 at Marathon the Greeks, numbering only 20,000, defeated a Persia force of 100,000 with the Persians losing 6,400, while the Greeks lost only 192.
In 480 Xerxes crossed the Hellespont on a pontoon bridge and conquerer all of Greece, but at Salamis the Greek fleet defeated Xerxes, the Persians losing 200 ships to the Greeks' forty. Meanwhile on land the Greeks recovered and beat the Persians at Plataea on the Boeotian plain. Herodotus says 260,000 Persians were killed as opposed to 159 Greeks, but Plutarch puts the numbers at 100,000 to 1,360.
"The Greco-Persian War was the most momentous conflict in European history, for it made Europe possible. It won for western civilization the opportunity to develop its own economic life--unburdened with alien tribute or taxation--and its own political institutions, free from the dictation of oriental kings. It won for Greece a clear road for the first great experiment in liberty; it preserved the Greek mind for three centuries from the enervating mysticism of the East, and secured for Greek enterprise full freedom of the sea. The Athenina fleet that remained after Salamis now opened every port in the Mediterranena to Greek trade, and the commercial expansion that ensued provided the wealth that financed the leisure and culture of Periclean Athens. The victory of little Hellas against such odds stimulated the pride and lifted up the spirit of its people; out of very gratitude they felt called upon to do unprecedented things. After centuries of preparation and sacrifice Greece entered upon its Golden Age" (Will Durant, The Life of Greece, p. 142).
WHO WAS ZOROASTER?
Zoroaster ("Zarathusthra" in his own language "Gathic," which is the Iranian equivalent of Sanskrit) was a prophet whose ancestors shared the same gods and religious practices as the ancient Indians before they entered Northwest India (ca. 1500-1200 BCE). These ancient Indo-Iranians, as far as we can tell, worshiped a trinity of high gods of very high moral character. After a major break in their religious communion, the Indians focused their worship on an amoral god named Indra (a major god of the Rig-veda), while the forerunners of Zoroaster kept to the older moral theism. In Zoroaster (fl. ca. 1,000 BCE) this theology was codified in a sophisticated ethical monotheism with individual moral responsibility, retributive justice in a heaven and hell, and a fully developed idea of Satan. (None of these concepts existed in Israel at this time.)
Although the Greeks knew of Zoroaster and praised him highly, they did not appear to taken much at all from him. The Greek Solon visited the early Persian capital, Cyrus' Sardis. Pythagoras was also supposed to have visited Zoroaster in Babylon, along with, according to Herodotus, "all the sages of Greece" (I, 29).
Themistocles (banned 461) joined the Persians and, and from previous association with Anaxagoras, came to support Persian ideas. Aristides spoke of divine attributes which were more Zoroastrian than Olympian. The Persian army was stopped at the Hellespont, but Medianism came over first to Thrace and thence to the rest of Greece. Media and being Zoroastrian became synonymous in Greek literature. Protagoras and Democritus also might have had Zoro. influence.
Aristotle acknowledges that the Magi (Zoroastrian priests, the wise men of Jesus' Nativity) believed that the "first geneator [was] the best thing" (Met. N4, 1091b8)--i.e., the creator God was also a moral God. The second person of the Zoroastrian heptad (two trinities under the Godhead) is Vohu Manah (lit. "Good Mind"; one can see the Latin mens=mind) similar to Logos in Gk. phil. and New Testament).
POSSIBLE BORROWINGS FROM PERSIA
Spiritual creation of forms first, then material creation later (New Testament parallels clearer than in the Greeks). Kosmos noetos and kosmos aisthetos. In the Timaeus, however, the forms are equiprimordial not created.
In the Symposium (189dff.), the first being was an androgynous spheriod, just like Gayomart, the Zoroastrian Adam.
Ethical individualism? Nietzsche used Zoroaster's Persian name in his great work Thus Spake Zarathustra. Here Nietzsche is recognizing Z. as the first discoverer of ethical individual and also most likely ethical monotheism (at least 300 years before the Hebrew prophets). For most western thinkers, ethical individualism was a great discovery, but for N. it was a fatal mistake.
Kronos derived from Persian Zuran? But the latter is late 4th Cent. In one school of late Zoroastrianism, the creator God Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) is preceded by primorial time.
Fire as a symbol of cosmic law and order. Fire is the principal element in Heraclitus, but there is no cult of fire in Heraclitus or in Greece in general. The magi were known for their fire worship, something that Zoroaster himself did not support. Based either on a misunderstanding (it was a symbol not a god) or represented an actual corruption of original beliefs.
Did the idea of Universal Mind (Anaxagoras' Nous) or World Soul come from Persia, as Afnan's suggests? Was Socrates' alien God really Ahura Mazda or Vohu Manah?
SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PERSIAN AND GREEK PHILOSOPHY
All in all, very tenuous intellectual connections between Greece and Persia. Significant differences are:
Generation of opposites out of each other (Phaedo) definitely not in Zoroaster. Greek idea of dialectic of opposites vs. Zoroastrian dualism. (Empedocles' Love and Strife an exception?) Evil is a positive force (Persia) vs. Plato's view that it is a simple privation.
For Zoroaster the body and the world are good, but for Plato the body is a prison and the world is mere appearance. Resurrection of the body in Zoroaster (and Hebrews), but reincarnation in Plato. Socrates was very happy about the prospect of getting rid of the body entirely.
ANAXAGORAS AND PERSIA (drawn from Afnan)
A Persian citizen. 480-430 in Athens. Came into contact with Pericles and Themistocles. His admirers called him "Nous." World order not by chance nor by necessity, but by intelligent design (like Zoroaster). Archelaus (Soc. became his student at 17) and Euripides also influenced by Zoroaster. Unkind remarks by Soc. associating Pericles' corruption with Anax. (269e)
A new law had to be passed so that Anaxagoras could be charged successfully. "Impiety" as any teachings which do not conform to the religion of the city or purports new things about the sky. A. believed that the sun and moon were not gods. He was charged with both impiety and Medism. Soc. was prosecuted under the same law, and Meletus accuses him of denying the deity of the sun and the moon. Soc.'s answer is that you have confused me with Anaxagoras!
So was Athenian impiety really "Medism" (from the "Kingdom of Persians and Medes). The law under which Soc. (Aspasia and Anaxagoras earlier) was tried was passed right after the Persian wars to protect against Persian religious influences. 5th Cent. divides in half: Persian influenced natural philosophy (Anaxagoras) and Persian inlfuenced moral and religious philosophy (Socrates), according to Afnan.
Aspasia, Ionian wife of Pericles. Secret authoress of the famous funeral oration? Socrates would visit her, and called her "his excellent mistress in the art of rhetoric" (Dialogue called Menexenus[235e]) She might be described as a missionary of Persian philosophy. Connected to Anaxagoras as well. Accused of impiety, but she was acquitted.
Was Socrates influenced by Persian ideas? He studied with Anaxagoras, but rejects his cosmology as well as all other speculative theories. Universal mind (nous) does not become one of his principles. He rejects Anax. astronomy in the Apology.
Persian influence on Anaxagoras?