The First Ethiopians

The Image of Africa and Africans in the Early Mediterranean World
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Dimensions and Pages: 240 x 170 mm, 400 pp
  • EAN: 9781868144990
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 100.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 39.95

… an original and interesting contribution to the scholarship on European views on Africa. Particularly valuable is its detai led discussion of Egyptian and Classical texts dealing with north-east Africa and their relationship to later European racial discourse. The book is well written and likely to appeal to a broad academic and non-academic audience. – Stanley Burstein, California State University, Los Angeles

The First Ethiopians explores the images of Africa and Africans that evolved in ancient Egypt, in classical Greece and imperial Rome, in the early Mediterranean world, and in the early domains of Christianity.

Inspired by curiosity regarding the origins of racism in southern Africa, Malvern van Wyk Smith consulted a wide range of sources: from rock art to classical travel writing; from the pre-dynastic African beginnings of Egyptian and Nubian civilisations to Greek and Roman perceptions of Africa; from Khoisan cultural expressions to early Christian conceptions of Africa and its people as ‘demonic’; from Aristotelian climatology to medieval cartography; and from the geo-linguistic history of Africa to the most recent revelations regarding the genome profile of the continent’s peoples.

The research led to a startling proposition: western racism has its roots in Africa itself, notably in late New- Kingdom Egypt as its ruling elites sought to distance Egyptian civilisation from its African origins.

Kushite Nubians, founders of Napata and Meroe who, in the eighth century BC, furnished the Black rulers of the twenty-fifth Dynasty in Egypt, adopted and adapted such dynastic discriminations in order to differentiate their own ‘superior’ Meroitic civilisation from the world of ‘other Ethiopians’. In due course, Archaic Greeks, who began to arrive in the Nile Delta in the seventh century BC, internalised these distinctions in terms of Homer’s identification of ‘two Ethiopias’, an eastern and a western, to create a racialised (and racist) discourse of ‘worthy’ and‘savage Ethiopians’. Such conceptions would inspire virtually all subsequent Roman and early medieval thinking about Africa and Africans, and become foundational in  European thought.

The book is richly illustrated and concludes with a survey of the special place that Aksumite Ethiopia – later  Abyssinia – has held in both European and African conceptual worlds as the site of ‘worthy Ethiopia’, as well as in the wider context of discourses of ethnicity and race.

Malvern van Wyk Smith is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Table of contents

  • Chapter 1. Ethiopia, Egypt and the Question of Africa
  • Chapter 2. Who were the Egyptians?
  • Chapter 3. The Egypt of Africa: African Resonances in Predynastic Egypt
  • Chapter 4. The Egypt of the Rock Artists
  • Chapter 5. Africa in Egypt: Proto- and Early-Dynastic Manifestations
  • Chapter 6. Africa in Egypt: Dynastic Responses
  • Chapter 7. Africa in Egypt: Later Dynastic Encounters
  • Chapter 8. The First Ethiopians
  • Chapter 9. Ethiopians in the Greek and Ptolemaic World
  • Chapter 10. Ethiopians in the Roman World
  • Chapter 11. The ‘Ethiopia’ of the Early Christian World
  • Chapter 12. The ‘Real’ Ethiopians

[scribd id=28548919 key=key-kck5zpa8z13swm0geu1 mode=list]

Related titles

Comments are closed.