5 Ancient Greek Civilization ‘Firsts’ That Were Not


The Greek Alphabet

New research suggests the Greeks borrowed their system known as alphabetic numerals from the Egyptians, and did not develop it themselves as was long believed, the BBCreports.

Greek alphabetic numerals were favored by the mathematician and physicist Archimedes, the scientific philosopher Aristotle and the mathematician Euclid, among others.

A 2003 analysis by Stephen Chrisomalis, Ph.D., a linguistic anthropologist at McGill University in Montreal, showed striking similarities between Greek alphabetic numerals and the Egyptian demotic numerals, used in Egypt from the late eighth century B.C. until around A.D. 450.

Both systems use nine signs in each “base” so that individual units are counted 1-9, tens are counted 10-90 and so on. Both systems also lack a symbol for zero.

Chrisomalis proposes that an explosion in trade between Greece and Egypt after 600 B.C. led to the system being adopted by the Greeks.

Greek merchants may have seen the demotic system in use in Egypt and adapted it for their own purposes.

Pythagorean Theorem

Pythagorean Theorem

Since the fourth century A.D., Pythagoras has commonly been given credit for creating the theorem in geometry that states that in a right-angled triangle the area of the square on the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares of the other two sides—that is, a^2 + b^2 = c^2. This is commonly called the Pythagorean theorem.

But the theorem was known and previously used by the Babylonians, Indians and Egyptians.  The way in which the Babylonians handled Pythagorean numbers implies that they knew that the principle was generally applicable, and knew some kind of proof, which has not yet been found in the (still largely unpublished) cuneiform sources.

Because of the secretive nature of Pythagoras’ school and the custom of its students to attribute everything to their teacher, there is no evidence that Pythagoras himself worked on or proved this theorem. For that matter, there is no evidence that he worked on any mathematical or meta-mathematical problems, says Walter Burkert, a German scholar of Greek mythology and cult.

Greek Architecture

Greek Architecture

In his book, “The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality”, Cheikh Anta Diop argues that even Greek architecture has its roots in Egypt.  Proto-Doric columns, the Egyptian cliff tombs of Beni Hasan, were found dating back as early as the 12th dynasty.

Greco-Roman monuments are mere miniatures compared to those built by the Egyptians. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, with all its towers, could easily be placed in the hypostyle hall of the temple of Karnak; the Greek Parthenon could fit into those walls even more easily.

Fathers of Modern Medicine

Fathers of Modern Medicine

The Egyptians — not the ancient Greeks — were the true fathers of medicine, according to a study that pushes back the origins by at least a millennium, writes Roger Highfield, science editor for the U.K. -based The Telegraph.

Scientists examining documents dating back 3,500 years say they have found proof that the inception lies not with Hippocrates (460 B.C. -370 B.C.) and the Greeks, but in ancient Egypt and the likes of Imhotep (2667 B.C. – 2648 B.C.), who designed the pyramids at Saqqara and was elevated to the god of healing.

The research team from the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester discovered the evidence in medical papyri written in 1,500 B.C. — some 1,000 years before Hippocrates was born.

Rosalie David, professor of biomedical Egyptology and director of the KNH Centre, said: “These results are very significant and show that the ancient Egyptians were practicing a credible form of pharmacy long before the Greeks.”

egyptian philosophy

Originators of Philosophy

Philosophy is a classical Greek creation, at least that is what we are supposed to accept if we are to believe prominent European scholars like Martin Litchfield West. However, the ancient Greek philosophers themselves gave the Egyptians credit for creating the discipline.

Molefi Kete Asante, Ph.D., scholar, historian and philosopher, said: “There is a common belief among whites that philosophy originates with the Greeks. The idea is so common that almost all of the books on philosophy start with the Greeks as if the Greeks pre-dated all other people when it came to discussion of concepts of beauty, art, numbers, sculpture, medicine of social organization. In fact, this dogma occupies the principal position in the academies of the Western world, including the universities and academies of Africa.”

“Diodorus Siculus, the Greek writer, in his ‘On Egypt,’ written in the first century before Christ, says that many who are ‘celebrated among the Greeks for intelligence and learning, ventured to Egypt in olden times, that they might partake of the customs, and sample the teachings there. For the priests of Egypt cite from their records in the holy books that in the former times they were visited by Orpheus and Musaeus, Melampos, Daedalos, besides the poet Homer, Lycurgus the Spartan, Solon the Athenian, and Plato the philosopher, Pythagoras of Samos and the mathematician Eudoxos, as well as Democritus of Abdera and Oenopides of Chios, also came there.’”

Get More Right To Your Inbox!

  • It only makes sense. Egyptian civilization was around since long before the Greek, Mycenaean or Minoan civilizations began.

    However, it’s a gross overgeneralization to give Egyptian (and Nubian) civilization the epithet of “African”, as though it were an achievement of the continent a whole, as these developments were pretty much restricted to the area around the Nile and the Red Sea.

    The only other pre-Islamic civilizations recorded in the whole continent were D’mt → Axum → Zagwe → Ethiopia, the North African kingdoms that were eventually conquered by the Roman Empire, and the mysterious Nok culture of Northern Nigeria.

    • timewarper

      there’s quite a bit of old stuff in southern Africa too…check it out,it’s all over the place

      • I’ve only heard about the Great Zimbabwe, and that was a relatively recent civilization (XI to XIV centuries).

        Earlier civilized or even agricultural societies in Southern Africa? Beats me, I’ll have to look it up.

        • timewarper

          good man…michael tellinger is on it

    • Libra Libra

      “However, it’s a gross over generalization to give Egyptian (and Nubian) civilization the epithet of “African”

      Egypt is called Egypt, Africa and therefore is an African civilization. Is it that hard to understand? The Egyptians are said to be of Ethiopian origin by the Greeks and in fact the Greeks said the Ethiopians resided on the east and the west. The Greeks also said that India’s civilizations were of African origin and they said that the entire south coasts of Asia and the “mid-east” were of African origin and the people who lived near the black sea, Colchians. Civilizations don’t develop over night and African human skeletons have been found that are very OLD. The knowledge of the Egyptians was ancient and perhaps more ancient than civilization itself. The knowledge of the Egyptians is not self taught and the Pygmies who live in the forest have MIND BLOWING knowledge about science and they have a story that is parallel with Adam and Eve. The pygmies of the Ituri forest said that their ancestors had advanced civilizations beyond todays standards and technology but they lost it because their hearts became too GREEDY[I am paraphrashing] This can be found in the book “Pygmy Kitabu” by Jean-Pierre Halle. KNOWLEDGE of the Egyptians came from Africa and the INTERIOR of Africa and the KNOWLEDGE of the Egyptians pre-dates them. The knowledge of medicine and how to use herbs and nature was learned in the forest.

      So to try and divide Africa is ignorant when we know that Africans are the only race that are not immigrants to their continent they are from the FIRST MAN and there is no trace of Africans immigrating into that continent, they were already there…Africa is a big family…THE FIRST HUMAN FAMILY. You don’t get to determine which African is this or that or come in with your CONQUEST MENTALITY and try and divide and conquer. You find gold artifacts in Egypt, you find them in Ghana, you find them in Nigeria, you find them in South Africa. You find in South Africa cultures like the Lemba who are HEBREW and the Zulu who say they come from eGYPT. You find in Mali, the Dogon who say they come from Egypt and they have ANCIENT KNOWLEDGE unknown by westerners at the time until they invented telescopes powerful enough to see the stars and confirm it. Africa is Africa.

      • Well, by that reasoning, I’m African, you’re African, everyone is African!

        What the ancient Greeks called “Ethiopia” is certainly not the same thing as we meant to day. To them, “Asia” was a region of Anatolia, not a whole continent. Similarly, what the Romans called “Africa” was a specific region in today’s Libya. Most likely the Greeks didn’t know firsthand what was beyond the Sahara desert, and I doubt they knew much beyond the Ethiopian highlands and the Horn of Africa.

        You say you’re against dividing Africa. Well, I’m against putting different eggs on the same sack. Civilizations develop different characteristics based on many factors, most importantly the ability to survive in different environments.

        Africa, like all continents, is very diverse. The Ethopian highlands are very different to the Egyptian desert landscape, and such people needed different ways of organization in order to survive in these places. Same with the East African savannas, the Kalahari desert, the Congo rainforest, the Sahel, the Mediterranean lands of extreme North Africa, etc.

        Knowledge is not static, and it certainly doesn’t come from ancient times unchanged. Humans need to learn and adapt to new environments in order to survive. The herbs from the forest aren’t readily available in the desert, you know. You have to find new herbs in the Nile, you have to do with what is available around you.

        And, as you learned how to live in the desert and you became an agricultural nation based on the seasonal flooding of a river, the ancient knowledge of life in a forest environment is of no use for you anymore, so it’s eventually forgotten.

        I don’t get to determine which African is this and that; you’re right about that. However, you’re wrong to assume that I support a specific idea of what is “African”. My opinion, in fact, is that there’s not a single “African” identity, but many of them, developed in different places at different time periods. Most of them have little to do with each other, though there’s always cultural exchange between cultures, either through migration, trade or even conquest.

        Those people you say that came from Egypt? They’re probably right, I have no reason to doubt that. In fact, according to current scholarly understanding, the Zulus and other Bantu people from Southern and Eastern Africa did come from an ancestral homeland between Nigeria and Cameroon. They certainly exchanged knowledge with the people they found along the way (including Cushitic and Nilotic people) and brought it with them on their way to the South.

        But they’re all different.

        • Libra Libra

          They are all different but they also share commonalities. The people
          called “Bantu” consist of 100 million+ people all throughout Africa.
          “Bantu” is not a homogenous race of people, the “Bantu” themselves
          consist of different ethnic types. Among the “BANTUS” are people who say
          they come from Egypt, Hebrews[like the Lemba]. The west has defined
          these people but when the Zulus were asked directly where they come from
          they have said they come from what is believed to be Mars and their
          planet was rendered uninhabitable because of war. When the Dogon people
          are asked where they come from they say they are from the Sirius star
          system and they in fact knew about the system prior to telescopes
          including knowledge about the weight of the star, the numbers of stars
          in the system, 2 of which are invisible to the naked eye. On the
          contrary to the diverse origins that the Africans claim, if we base our
          knowledge of Africa on what Europeans say about it then we get: North
          Africa vs. Sub Saharan Africa and East Africa vs West Africa and we get
          the ISOLATIONIST THEORY which you have presented as well : “My opinion,
          in fact, is that there’s not a single “African” identity,
          but many of them, developed in different places at different time
          periods. Most of them have little to do with each other, though there’s
          always cultural exchange between cultures, either through migration,
          trade or even conquest.”

          So I can see that you are leaning towards an isolationist’s perspective, am I correct?

  • imzy

    I wish there were more on Iraqi (Mesopotamian) civilization as well as Indian (Indus Valley), Chinese and Bengali (WAari-ateshwar/Gangaridai) civilisation.